We all have faith in something. Even people who say they don’t believe in anything have faith that their understanding, their intellect, their concept of “not god” is correct, true, powerful, and is going to get them where they need to go.
But we’re here today to talk about the mystical non-saying of Jesus: “Faith fixes everything.”
Someone’s heart just skipped a beat. But, but, but, I’ve gotta have faith, right? Even George Michael knew that.
Well, Jesus did say that we should have faith but he never said that it would resolve everything in our lives.
We’re told that having faith brings salvation, that having faith is better than not having it. But having faith doesn’t necessarily mean that everything will come up roses.
“Faith fixes everything” is the kind of rote saying that comes out of well-meaning Christians’ mouths when someone they know is going through a dark moment. Instead of just being with that person in the midst of their struggle, we sometimes say stupid things that don’t make sense or we twist things that are actually true into something they’re not meant to be.
In the case of “faith fixes everything,” we take this good thing – faith – and we make it the cure all for all of our troubles. When we say faith fixes everything, we make God into that waiter in the restaurant who sits over there, but who comes to fulfill our requests and get us what we want. When we say that faith fixes everything, we make faith about us rather than about God.
Faith isn’t quantifiable, and it doesn’t automatically do anything for us, while it changes things in us. Things like our attitude, our awareness, our compassion, our hope.
So what is this faith thing? To unwrap this gift of God, let’s consider one of the most famous passages in the Bible that is specifically about faith – Hebrews 11.
The author of the book writes that faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we don’t see. Wow. Faith is confidence and assurance even when we don’t see it.
Faith, says Hebrews 11, helps us understand that God formed everything out of nothing. That’s a fair representation of the first few chapters of Genesis – in one verse! [Sidebar: Isn’t that the first of many roadblocks people have to overcome to believe in God? That is – the belief in a Creator. As Tobymac sings in “Undeniable”: “Which is harder to believe that You don’t exist Or that You orchestrated all of this, living in the world that is so confusing.” It seems like we all do have faith in something…]
But that’s when it gets tricky in Hebrews, when the wheels start to fall off of the bus of the whole faith=groovy argument. Because, just after the world was created in Genesis, we get the story of Abel.
Hebrews 11:4 says that Abel’s sacrifice or offering to God was better than Cain’s because Abel was faithful and that by faith, Abel still speaks. That Abel’s offering was commended by God. But get this – Abel is still dead, still murdered by his brother who was less faithful who was not too keen on the whole ‘God thing.’ So Abel is more faithful but he’s ultimately … dead.
Faithful, still dead. Still murdered.
Okay, but there’s Enoch, right? He’s faithful so God takes him straight to heaven. Whew! Someone’s faith directly results in them having a bettered situation.
But… then we get Noah. He built an ark it says “in holy fear” (11:7) and became “heir of righteousness” by keeping the faith. He still had an alcohol problem, still was ridiculed by one of his sons, still… died.
Okay, so far, one positive example of faith equalling ‘the good life,’ and two with varying degrees of not exactly proving to carry the “faith fixes everything” banner.
So, there’s Abraham, who was faithful, did everything that God expected of him – even being willing to sacrifice his own son on the altar. Abraham picked up and went, leaving his father and familial rights behind. He lived as a stranger, and waited and waited and… waited to have a son, even though God kept promising that he would be the father of many nations. He worshipped God, he prayed to God, he believed in God – and he still fought in wars with other nations, still lied to protect himself, and still couldn’t figure out how to save towns that he thought he should. [For the record, Abraham is still dead.]
Consider the people who aren’t listed here but could’ve been:
-King David, stood up for God in the battle with Goliath, and represented the entire nation of God, but watched his entire family (sans Solomon) fall apart. One of his sons even lead a rebellion against him. Faithful – troubled life.
-Mary, the mother of God who was willingly used to be the Son of God’s mother. She was, yes, honored with being Jesus’ mother, but her opportunity allowed her to … watch her son hang on the cross. Faithful – emotionally crushing situations.
-Peter, famously rejected Jesus and then claimed him. He was declared the rock on which Jesus would build his church. Some believe he was crucified upside down because he said he wasn’t worthy of being killed in the same manner as Jesus. Faithful – martyred.
Hebrews 11:37-38 says that these people were “put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” Fun times, right?
Hebrews 11 says that all of those people lived by faith – and then they died (except for Enoch). Even in those days, not dying was obviously a big deal! In the days that the New Testament was written, the believers were holding onto hope that Jesus would return during their lifetimes – they wanted to see Jesus’ return from front row seats. Hebrews recognizes that the desire of believers has always leaned toward not dying. We want our lives to be easier, but what if we’re faithful and they’re not?
Hebrews says that these faithful people did not receive the things they were promised, but that they recognized the payoff was still “not yet.” Hebrews says that they recognized that the payoff was still hoped for and believed that it would be.
Faith is believing in what we cannot see, but it doesn’t predicate an easy life or even a happy one. Faith means that we can hope even in the midst of suffering and hardship. It’s not just Hebrews though – it’s Jesus.
In John 16:31-33, Jesus says to his disciples that “a time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
To his disciples, to the people who had shown the most faith and were most willing to sacrifice everything, Jesus said: Look, there will be trouble but this isn’t the end.
Friends, there will be trouble. There will be cancer, divorce, sickness, job loss, death, and shame. But Jesus said that if we had faith, we could overcome anything – that if we had faith that we would recognize that God was with us at all times and in all things.
You can depict faith however you want – a journey, a house, a story. But whatever language you use, consider this: faith promises that something better awaits.
Faith promises that God will overcome evil with good.
Faith promises that the bad days won’t outweigh the beautiful ones when we can see the past from our glorious future.
Faith promises that when we follow God, that God is always with us.
Faith promises that while everything might not be “fixed,” God will give us a way through it by changing our attitudes and boosting our courage.
In the end, faith won’t fix everything, but faith in the right thing will make all the difference.