What is Faith and True Spirituality?
What is faith? In today’s world, most people think of faith as believing in something such as the existence of God or believing some facts about God. However, in the Scriptures it is more often used as a synonym for trust. What is trust? Is it, a belief or an emotion? It’s both; but it is more. It is a spiritual concept similar to hope and love. The apostle Paul speaks of faith, hope, and love and says the greatest of these is love. All three of these concepts of faith, hope, and love are spiritual concepts that are difficult to understand and this should be expected for they are not logical or reasonable. Now, that is not to say they are unreasonable or illogical, but it is to say they are outside the realm of logic or reason. Once a person experiences these concepts, they then become reasonable to that person. In fact, they actually become more real and rational than the material creation.
Like all spiritual truth, faith cannot be explained with objective truth like a math equation. The reason for this difficulty is that the spiritual is another dimension where most men have little or no experience. When we begin to talk about the spiritual dimension, the majority of men immediately think of religion or morality, failing to see that religion and religious people may or may not be spiritual. At its best, religion can only point one toward the spiritual and at its worst, it can become a vaccination against true spirituality. Others believe that being spiritual is being a moral or a responsible person. The Pharisees were some of the most moral, religious, and responsible people who ever existed, but they were not spiritual. Still others believe that being spiritual is being sinless or a nice guy or gal. Well, it’s not. Some people did not think that Jesus was a nice guy. Remember the people in the temple who were selling their wares and Jesus made a whip and drove them out of the temple area? Nice guy?
The question is, “How can we talk about and know something that we cannot experience directly with our senses?” We do it with the use of stories, metaphors, and similes. This is why Jesus often used stories and parables. One of His favorite expressions was “the kingdom of God is like…” Jesus compares the unseen kingdom of God (Reign of God) with a physical and known thing, which His listeners had experienced. In this, the metaphor or simile became a bridge between the spiritual and physical, uniting the two dimensions.
To explain faith, hope, and love or anything that is spiritual with logic or reason would be like trying to explain the color lavender to a blind man. The nearest you could come to it would be to say that it is like silk compared to wool or it is like whispering compared to yelling. Of course, the atheist would say that because the blind man could not see the color lavender, and we could not explain it to his complete satisfaction, it simply doesn’t exist.
There is no doubt that the spiritual is hard to understand, but it is not impossible. As we seek, we must remember the words of the apostle Paul, that in the realm of the spiritual we will always “see through a glass darkly.” However, by contrasting the spiritual with the known, or pointing out their similarities, we can come to know the spiritual to the degree where we are able to say, we understand the things of God. An example of this is found in First Corinthians 13 where the apostle Paul speaks of love and defines it by comparing it with certain behavior and telling us what it does and does not do. Herein he explains it without the use of logic, reason, or a list of objective truths. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (I Cor. 13:2-8).
After reading Paul’s words, I may not be able to explain love logically, but I can surely recognize it when I see it, and I can also recognize the absence of it. This is an example of tacit knowledge or what we might call background knowledge. The more I practice at picking things out of my background knowledge, the more skilled I become at it. We call this skill discernment. It is discernment that allows a person to pick God out of his background knowledge and say, there He is. Finding God in your background knowledge is the first step toward the kingdom of God.
In view of this, we must raise the question of who is spiritual or a person of faith. Well, we’re back to square one. You cannot explain true spirituality with a list of objective facts. Let’s try some comparisons. Being spiritual is like having a close relationship with a friend whom you love dearly. You trust your friend; you believe your friend, and you would do everything in the world not to hurt your friend. You enjoy being with your friend, and you love talking with them. You want to know more and more about your friend. If you hear someone putting him down, it angers you, and you go to his defense. Do you get it? To be spiritual is to be a friend of God. Everything that was just said about a relationship with a friend, we see in the relationship that Jesus had with His Father in heaven. To be spiritual is to be a friend of God and to be like Jesus. You see; Jesus is a living metaphor of what it means to be a friend of God and to be spiritual.
With the help of one of Jesus’ similes, let me give you a tool to help you discern your spirituality. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” There is little doubt what Jesus is saying about the kingdom of God in this verse, but there is something else inferred. What does the passage say about the person who finds the kingdom? Is it not inferred that a person who has found the kingdom is filled with joy, excitement, and enthusiasm about the Kingdom? The question is, are you excited and enthusiastic about God? If not, most likely you have not found the right God or there something wrong with your relationship with God. It could be that your god is too small or maybe you found the wrong kingdom.
How do you get true faith? Jesus said that faith is the work of God. However, it seems to come to those who humble themselves and seek God. It surely does not hurt to read the story of Jesus in the Scriptures. The apostle Paul says that “faith comes from hearing the words of Christ.” There is something about the words of Christ, which tends to create and strengthen our faith. LD
- We now know that there are different parts of the brain that perceive different aspects of reality. These parts of the brain can be developed and underdeveloped by use or the lack of use. This corresponds with what the Scriptures say about mankind. In the Scriptures, mans’ being is made up of three parts. He is made up of body, soul, and spirit. It is inferred in a number of Scriptures that the soulish man, that is the man controlled by his soul (governed by his reason, emotion, or appetite), cannot perceive the things of God. It is the man controlled or governed by His spirit that can understand the things of God. That is the man who has developed the part of his brain that perceives God.
- (Mark 4:30-34) Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? (31) It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. (32) Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”
(33) With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. (34) He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
(Matt 13:44) “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”