Do I Have Faith?
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.
If you are like me, at some point, in your recurrent failures, you have come to question the authenticity of your faith. The thinking goes like this: My faith is supposed to make me a better person but I do not feel like I am a better person. Am I a charlatan? Is God even real (gasp)?
At my lowest point in life, I came to ask these questions. What kind of faith did I have that I abused drugs to the point of such disaster? How can a Christian behave like that? I had a profound problem and I desperately needed to figure out what faith meant to me. Did I follow God or did I follow me?
I told myself that I believed in God, but practically, my belief was just an intellectual acknowledgment. Forgiveness then, meant I had my ticket to heaven and grace meant I had a license to do as I pleased. If God will forgive me anyway, why not just enjoy all life has to offer?
This thinking was a symptom of the immaturity of my faith, which was revealed when I spectacularly followed self to destruction. At that point, it was absolutely necessary that I examine myself to see if I was in the faith. It was probably the most important question of my life. Only I could answer the question and the answer lay only between God and me.
What does it mean to be in the faith? This still, is not an easy question to answer. It may be easiest to start with what I found faith not to be.
For years, I treated faith as a head knowledge that, once accepted, gained me entrance into the afterlife. Faith was an acknowledgment of the reality of God but it did not necessarily change my behavior. I knew God existed but my feet followed me.
In my destruction then, I came to fear that I may not be bound for heaven. What if I overdosed? Where would I go? I became motivated by the afterlife. While that is not wrong, focusing on something so intangible and far-off, was actually unhelpful as it just motivated me to pursue a magic ticket for heaven. Faith is for here and now though. Faith is about how I live today, not just about where I live after death.
I realized then, that my faith had not changed my behavior. As James insisted that faith without behavioral change is dead (James 2:17), I had to go out and prove my faith. If Christians teach Sunday School, then I will teach Sunday School to prove my faith. This was backwards. Changed behavior was to flow out of faith. I did not earn God by my good behavior.
What then, is faith and do I have it? Again, this is a question you must ask yourself and it is not something I can answer for you. For me, I came to understand faith this way: Faith is keeping my eyes on God, making my feet follow him instead of me. Though I often fail, as I am in the faith, I am forgiven. I do not do it perfectly, but in faith, I make a daily effort to deny self and point my life at Christ. Changed behavior flows out of my belief in and my love for God.