Faith and Fear
Continuing yesterday’s discussion on faith and fear, I’d like to suggest that faith is a muscle or tool to be used and strengthened through that use, not a porcelain trinket that must be protected and hidden away.
When we protect our faith from all attacks, real or perceived, we run the risk of actually turning it into an idol, lifting it above the God with whom our faith is meant to be the vehicle of relationship. It is like sleeping with a marriage license and keeping the spouse in a file cabinet.
Paul called our faith a shield for quenching fiery darts, and sometimes believers seem to prefer to keep it polished in storage so it won’t get scratched. Then, logically, if we are not carrying it with us, we become afraid to come out.
There is a second mistake believers make with our faith shield. We hunker down behind it because the rest of our armor is missing or we don’t feel we know how to use it. We are afraid to use the sword of Scripture because we feel we aren’t prepared for the clever tricks of the enemy attempting to disarm us, so we curl up and let our faith get beat on or run from the engagement.
Again, this is all summed up in the one word, fear. Robert Kiyosaki of “Rich Dad” fame calls fear, “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Not bad, even with the strong whiff of aged cheddar coming off of it. But that is exactly why Paul talks about Scripture being a sword, testing for truth versus falsehood. Faith without truth is under siege. Faith with truth advances.
In college, I took a fencing class and loved it. I’ve always been fascinated by swords and swordplay. One thing about swordplay, you are limited by the number of strokes or moves you know. If you only know one way to block an attack, then your opponent will use others and you become defenseless. If you only know one type of lunge or slash, your opponent quickly learns how to block you completely. To become proficient, you need different teachers who teach different styles, you need to spar with different opponents, you need to be familiar with different types of blades, and so on.
It is the same with our study of the Bible. Most of us do not speak ancient Hebrew or Koine Greek. We don’t understand the different approaches to translation and the effect of the translator’s theology on the nuances of translation. We listen to just a few Bible teachers and come to rely on them rather than critically evaluating what they say. We don’t spend time in commentaries or reading theologians with whom we disagree. We don’t discuss with each other the hard things and examine them in a safe, controlled environment before facing them in life.
As a result, we become very one-dimensional in our ability to apply Scripture to the challenges of our lives and the challenges by our culture and education, and thus have less proficiency in addressing difficult issues. We become afraid, and our faith shrivels or becomes the only tool we have and try to make it do more than it is meant to. This is not the abundant life to which Christ calls us.
The solution? Practice with your sword like your life depends on it. It does.