by Tracy Manno
When I was younger my parents would call me a day dreamer. I spent a lot of time living in the deep recesses of my imagination. When I was in that place I was master of the universe! I accomplished everything I set my desires on! I built machines that would let me fly, amusement parks where I was always first in-line, performed in front of massive crowds as the drummer for my own band, was the first child to go to the moon, and even achieved world peace as President. Those were some good years.
As important as those times were for our development growing up – exploring and creating through our imaginations – the practical advantages of our imaginations are of little use until we move from thought to action.
My point in telling you all of this is to highlight an element of our faith with a concept I believe we readily misunderstand.
Hebrews 11 says…
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
Faith starts as an internalized experience. It is something that originates and is first considered within our hearts and minds. Our faith supports the things we hope for. It takes concepts we would ordinarily relate to our imagination – the unseen – and connects them with the inner workings of our brains and decision making processes. It allows us to grab hold of otherwise unimaginable ideas, like the creation of the universe, and make sense of how something came out of nothing. Faith can be a powerful facilitator to the reality in which we live.
But faith alone doesn’t give us the complete picture. Or maybe better said, there are two sides of the faith “coin”. There is what I like to call “internal faith” and “external faith”. And though internal faith may provide us with understanding and conviction, the Bible tells us there is more necessary to translate faith into practical advantage.
The full benefits of faith, for completing its intended purposes, are achieved through our participation; through our actions.
Hebrews 11 goes on to say:
“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice”
“By faith Noah … constructed an ark”
“By faith Abraham obeyed... [and] went to live in a foreign land”
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac”
The reason scripture says these are a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) is not because they only experienced the faith they believed internally, but because they acted upon that faith externally.
James 2 says…
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
I fully recognize the heated debate this verse has caused over the centuries in regard to faith, works, and our salvation. But as I have grown in my understanding of scripture over the years I have come to adopt a bit of a different view of these verses than the traditional explanations. In fact, I do not find these verses speaking about our eternal salvation at all, but rather they speak about living the new life we have in Christ now – practical to us for today!
What is the purpose of faith? Is it not to bridge the gap from our understanding to God’s understanding. To save us from the futility of that which King Solomon wrote is the human experience, absent relationship and meaning with the author and source of our existence. Or more simply put, to save us from ourselves.
Faith is our bridge to the Divine. By faith we receive forgiveness through Christ’s work on the cross and enter the salvation of our souls. By faith alone we are able to please God and find that our works have meaning, purpose, and eternal significance. By faith we participate in the plans and callings that God wrote about our lives long before we were born. It is by faith that we connect with the thoughts, desires, and imagination of the One who created the entire universe.
And although our faith is the evidence we have to the yet-to-be-seen things of God, the completion of that evidence is accomplished through our active participation. (see James 2:22)
For years I have spoken about the concept that God desires our participation with the works He has planned for us to do. He gives us the desires of our hearts and it is up to us to cultivate those desires, pursue the calling, and take personal responsibility for the gifts and talents He has given to us. He is looking for us to bring about the interest on those talents (see Matthew 25:14-30). But just as faith without works is dead, any work we do outside the conviction of faith are dead also. They are two sides of the same coin.
We can take this idea and apply it to our life of worship, as those who are to offer their lives a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12). As Abraham offered his son through faith, he made intentional steps in that offering. He gathered firewood, climbed a mountain, setup an altar and laid his most precious son upon it, all before he made the transition from faith to action as he started to bring the knife down on his son.
We all know the end of the story; God never wanted him to kill his son. Instead we read that God desires the heart transition from believing faith to actionable faith. It was only when Abraham made the transition from faith-internal to faith-external that God intervened.
My faith may cause conviction about putting money in the offering-tray every Sunday morning, but there are steps I must take to actually bring that about. I need to remember to put my checkbook on the counter the night before. I need to find a pen to write the check out with. I need to put the check in my pocket before I leave for church. But my offering, my outward expression of my faith, isn’t effective until I transition from intent and preparation to transferring ownership.
When Abraham started to bring the knife down on his son he had effectively transferred ownership to God of what he was offering. When we bring the knife down on our offering, whatever it may be that day, we are transferring our ownership rights to God and taking action on our faith.
These verses tie together the concepts of faith, offering and worship. Is it any wonder why we are told “without faith it is impossible to please God”? The offering is always the end result of where our faith points us, and the process of transition is our reasonable act of worship (see Romans 12:1).
These are weighty concepts to which we could go into much deeper study, but simply stated; walking a life of faith requires a life of offering, which is our spiritual worship. Making that offering is the action, the outward work of our faith. And it is this offering to which Paul spoke the words “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23).
God proportions our faith with intent for us to walk in it, or more accurately, walk it out. Our portion is given for each day, for whatever you do, not just the big moments and the grand gestures. And as we walk in His portion for us He desires to bring us from one level of faith to the next (see Romans 1:17). But it always comes at the cost of giving Him more and more ownership to the direction and workings of our lives. Transferring ownership of our talents, our gifts, and the rights we feel we have to do what we want with them.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
No great invention, no history changing movement and no life-altering decision has ever been accomplished without first going through the creative processes of the imagination. The outcome and benefits of the sacrifices required are always set before us, imagined and felt first (see Luke 14:28). The influences of the imagination bring about the convictions needed to persevere to the end. But unless that influence is acted upon, it will benefit no one.
Likewise, our faith provides the motivation, conviction and understanding we need to make the offering of all we have and all we are, to the finishing and perfecting of that faith. But unless we make the transition from what we believe inside to what we do outside, the completion of that faith will remain only in our thoughts.
Tracy Manno is an author, speaker, worship pastor, recording artist, and founder of His Way Worship where he provides artist coaching and teaching resources on practical application for living the new life we have in Jesus Christ. . – You can find more resources available at HisWayWorship.com