Hiking – and Living – By Faith
The righteous shall live by faith. Romans 1:17
As my son and I were recently hiking in the mountains, we decided to go off trail, making our own way. We bushwhacked for an hour up to the top of a steep ridge and then had a choice to make. We knew how to get back from that point. We could take the safe route, by simply turning around. Looking at the map on my phone though, we could see that we could also get back to our starting point by going down the other side of the ridge, following a dry creek bed out to the river, and then following the river back to the parking lot. It didn’t really make any sense from what we knew of the terrain, but the map said it was true.
At that point, we had a choice to make. We could trust the map or not. If we hiked down the ridge, followed the creek, and then realized we’d have to turn around and go back the way we came, it would turn into an all-day hike and an exercise in misery. In the end, our faith was well-placed as the map was right, leading us exactly where we wanted to go. We had a grand adventure and got safely back to the car.
Paul, in today’s passage said that the righteous – those who follow Christ – live by faith. What does it meant to live by faith? Using the hiking metaphor, I’d say that faith meant believing in the map (and in the maker of the map) and then following it with our feet. We could believe the map was true, while taking the safe route back, but that wouldn’t have been faith. It simply would have been a belief in our heads that we never applied to our lives. We didn’t live out that belief – or practice faith – until we actually followed the map.
A lot of us find ourselves standing on that ridge, but instead of pressing on, exercising faith in the map, we turn around and take the safe way home. Sure, we believe in our heads that the map is true, but we never practice faith by following it. We claim to follow Jesus, but we don’t exercise faith by living out his commands. We simply follow ourselves and so, we only have knowledge in our heads. Saying I believe this to be true isn’t the same as living as though it’s true. If we actually follow Christ, then we will live by faith, not just believing in him, but by doing what he says.