My name is Bob, and I have a confession to make: Even though I work in a church, I don’t like churchy words.
You know what I’m talking about. Head-scratchers like “sanctification” and “born again” and “consecration” and “transubstantiation.” Words that nobody ever uses except in church. Throw out enough churchy words, and you seem … pious. Intelligent. Faithful.
Come to think of it, “faith” is one of those churchy words that gets tossed around like a fruit salad. We make it sound like the Holy Grail, capable of curing diseases, destroying armies, and crushing sea monsters. “You must have faith, my son,” the pastor says to the boy who has just lost his mother. “Your faith will make you well,” the elder says to the cancer patient.
Tell you what … faith sounds like an awfully powerful thing, perhaps too powerful to be wielded by mere mortals. And I have to wonder: Do we even know what faith is?
Is it belief? Nah. It’s got to be deeper than that. Trust? Closer maybe, but not there yet.
In my desperate attempt to discover the meaning of faith, I turned to that wellspring of knowledge known as the Internet, where I discovered a guy named Edward Teller. Now, as far as I can tell, Edward Teller was a physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb. Apparently he was an author, as well. Teller penned the following quote about faith.
“When you get to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”
Wow. What a powerful quote. As eloquent as it is profound, with phenomenal phrasing and rhythm. I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes. Just … beautiful.
There’s only one problem. IT. IS. WRONG.
I know, I know. How DARE an intellectual lightweight like me challenge one of the world’s most famous quotes about faith? I mean, this was written by a man smart enough to blow up an entire continent.
Actually, I’m not challenging the quote. James is. Yes, THAT James. The guy who gave up a lucrative fishing career to follow Jesus. Same guy who wrote a chapter in this book you may have heard of called the Bible. Here’s what James has to say about the subject of faith.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
This is the part that gets me every time I read it.
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Man, I LOVE James! Talk about practical advice for real life. James is THE MAN!
Do you see the difference? Teller says faith is BELIEVING you will be taught to fly if you jump off the cliff. James says you have to actually JUMP OFF THE CLIFF!
Allow me to share a real-life example with you.
Many years ago, when I was a submariner in the U.S. Navy, I knew a guy whose wife had this incredible integrity and inner strength. Not only was she able to hold the family together while her husband was away for months at a time, she also could really run a household. When her husband would go to sea, he would take advance pay so that she could pay all the bills. Now, I don’t know about you, but I would have trouble stretching that much money over such a long period of time. For many wives, it was a disaster … the temptation to spend all that money was just too great. But this woman had the discipline and skill to make it last until her husband returned from sea, when the paychecks would begin rolling in once again.
During one particular patrol, however, some unexpected hardships came her way. She had to pay for a few repairs around the house that weren’t anticipated, and with two weeks to go until her husband returned, she had just five dollars left. She also had a two-year-old boy to feed, and the cupboards were beginning to get a little bare.
Now she found herself in church. The offering plate was coming her way, which meant she faced a true dilemma. Should she give? Or should she do the “smart” thing and hold on to her money? After all, nobody would dare say a word to her if she just passed the plate without contributing. Who in their right mind would question a young mother hanging on to her last five dollars so she could feed her little boy? Or maybe she could give 50 cents or a dollar.
Before she knew it, the plate was in her hands. Decision time.
With fear in her heart, she put all five dollars in the plate, offering a quiet prayer that God would help her find a way to feed her little boy.
She jumped off the cliff.
A couple of days later, she went to the mailbox. In the box was an envelope … inside was a check from the electric company. They were returning the family’s deposit of $150, paid a year earlier. Faith rewarded. Tears flowed as she praised God – $150 may not sound like much, but she could make it last a month if she had to! Some would call it merely a coincidence. Even if that were the case … she didn’t know that check was coming when she put her last five dollars in the plate.
That, my friends, is what faith is all about. Taking the step. Jumping off the cliff. And you know what? Like a baby eagle who steps out of the nest to soar for the very first time, we receive a tremendous gift when we have the courage to actually live our faith. It’s called freedom.
In case you were wondering, the woman in this true story is my wife, Elaine.
Now go jump off a cliff.by