Sunday, March 13, 2011

Keeping the faith

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:6 (RSV)
I attended a small, private high school that struggled to compete athletically. When you have only a few students to choose from, your teams went in each game as the underdog each time. Then one year we got a new football coach. I remember the first pep rally. The entire student body cheered as the coach stepped to the microphone. On the wall behind him was a banner with a new slogan: “Keep the faith.” To me that meant believing this team would eventually emerge the winners. I don’t remember whether they did or not, but I never forgot the slogan.
But what does “keep the faith” mean? 
First, let’s look at the word “keep,” which can mean to hang onto something, not lose it or give it back; for example, “keep the change.” It can also mean to take care of or guard. A housekeeper, for example, takes care of the house, a zookeeper takes care of the zoo, a gatekeeper guards the gates.
Next, let’s look at the word “faith.” Hebrews 11, of course, is the famous “Hall of Faith” chapter of the Bible. The writer defines faith in the very first verse: “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (NLT). 
Faith, then, is more than a system of beliefs. Faith is more than the doctrine you believe in and adhere to. Faith is personal. It’s believing, first of all, that God exists and is all the Bible says He is, even if you don’t understand everything perfectly. Second, faith is taking God at His word and believing His promises.
But let’s bring that word a little closer to home: What does faith mean to you? How has it added value to your life? Our pastor asked that very question one Sunday morning during his sermon, then took a microphone around the congregation. Here are some of the answers:

  • It gives me a sense of purpose.
  • It gives me emotional stability.
  • It opens my eyes to the truth.
  • It helps me to face the storms of life and not be afraid.
  • It gives me hope for the future.
  • It helps me to cope with change and face the uncertainties of life.
  • It gives me a reason to live.
Faith, then, gives us purpose, stability, understanding, courage and hope. A lot like the two builders in Jesus’ parable: When the storms came, the house built on the rock withstood the tempests, while the one built on sand collapsed, “and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:27 RSV).
As Mother Teresa once said, “Faith keeps the person who keeps the faith.”

Are you keeping the faith?
Help me, Lord, to keep the faith, because with it, I cannot please You. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Matthew 7:24-27

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