FAITH

In a world where change; both good and bad; takes place all the time; much faith is needed, in order to lead a steadfast, and effective, Christian life.
 

In Milton Keynes, where much physical change is taking place; and where changes in parish and circuit boundaries, are likely to affect us, before the next two years are out; a good deal of faith is needed to 'keep on keeping on'.
 
We say that much faith is needed, but what is 'faith'?
 
Very often, like a fisherman trying to tell doubting listeners about ‘the one that got away', we tend to think of faith, in terms of size, or, rather, quantity.
 
I have heard people speak about the faith of a particular person, and say, with a wistful sigh: ‘If only I had faith like that!’.
 
Christians often behave strangely in this matter. They say, on the one hand, that all are equal in the sight of God; and that the Lord provides qualities necessary to the needs of particular situations ...
 
... yet, on the other hand, they tend to feel that things are a bit unequal after all; because the other fellow seems to have so much more of this thing or that; - especially of faith.
 
All the while that Christians think along those lines, they miss the point; that God gives according to need; and that what is given, must be seen in terms of quality, not quantity.
 
Some while ago, I asked: ‘Have you ever considered that your faith is a perfect thing?’. You may remember that, alongside the question, the following example was given.
 
I once lived in a manse, at Lydd, on the Romney Marsh; and self-sown poppies grew in the garden, in great profusion. One day, I noticed that the poppies growing at the back of a long, and very wide, flower-bed, were tall; anything up to four feet; and smothered with blooms ...
 
... whereas those at the front of that same bed, were quite small; mostly less than a foot tall; but equally covered with blooms. The difference in size may have had to do with a changing soil-quality.
 
Whatever the reason was; this is what I really noticed: in terms of poppy-perfection; the little ones at the front, were every bit as perfect as the big ones at the back of the flower-bed.
 
The principle of poppy-perfection, was unaffected by size, or quantity; and I suggest that the same applies to Christian faith. The principle of Christian faith's perfection; lies in relation to its quality; and is entirely unaffected by size; amount or quantity.
 
Our faith may be perfected, even when everything else about us may seem, to us, to be a bit rudimentary, and fragmentary.
 
Our attainments, even under God's grace, may seem to us to be nothing very special - but our faith may be perfect.
If we utterly trust, not ourselves, or other people; not the world all around us; not the Church and its systems, and practices; not even scripture; nothing and no-one, save God alone, in Christ; then how can our faith be bettered?
 
If it cannot be bettered; then, no doubt; it is already perfect in terms of the principle of its quality.
 
When the principle of faith's quality is recognized for what it is; and rejoiced in, as a gift from God; then the whole question of the quantity of faith, ceases to be of importance, and no longer claims our attention.
 
A faith that is perfect in its principle of quality; is a glad-to-be-alive! attribute; which sees something of the light of God's truth, reflected in all of creation; and takes joy in the gift of life.
 
The ‘glad-to-be-alive' attitude, puts a bit of extra shine on the Christian's face; and puts an extra bit of spring, in his or her footsteps. Such a faith is, somehow, infectious; and makes sense of the saying that: ‘Faith is not so much taught, as caught’.
 
Christian gladness, should be matched by thankfulness; with our hearts and minds very much aware of how things might have been, were it not for God's mercy, love and grace in Jesus.
 
We should be particularly glad for all that Jesus means to us; and for all past and present blessings; received through the Lord's provision.
 
'Glad-to-be-alive' thankfulness, helps make Christian faith expressive. The expression of faith; is essential to its continuance. Other people's expression of their faith, perhaps long ago, helped to make us the people of faith that we are, today.
 
And it is the expression of our own faith, that will help bring new Christians into being, now, and tomorrow.
 
Scripture teaches us that the finest expression of who we are; and what we believe; is undertaken in the service of others.
 
Such sharing, through service, confirms to us, and expresses to others, the quality of our faith in God, through Jesus Christ.
 
Here is a thought. Most other, great religions, do not have sharing as an emphasis. Instead, most of them take a 'you-must-go-it-alone’ view of the believers within their ranks.
 
For example, Hindu gurus teach an individualistic belief. Not only that; they do not give a lead; instead, they point out a general direction.
 
In great contrast, Christianity is all about togetherness and sharing; with Christ leading; and his people responding, and gladly following.
 
Christian faith is 'glad-to-be-alive', and thankful. It is expressive, through the togetherness upon which it stands, and, through sharing and service, it gives great encouragement.
 
We all need encouragement, and we are all quite capable of giving it. Indeed, at Romans 12. we find encouragement listed as one of the practical ways of demonstrating faith. It is also a spiritual enduement, that helps build and strengthen the Church, and make it effective.
Encouragement adds something of a 'keep-on-keeping-on' quality to our faith, and makes it all that bit more meaningful.
 
Lastly, such a faith is a rewarded faith. The promises made in relation to faith, and our best hopes of it, are, eventually, fulfilled; and, because God is no man's debtor; the fulfilment is always greater than anticipated.
 
From time to time, we may ponder our own, personal faith; or ask ourselves questions about the future of our church. Important though these questions may appear to be, they stand in relation to a much greater, and far more important thing: our Christian faith.
 
Our share in the Church-wide Christian faith, may, already, be a perfect thing, in the principle of its quality; because it is vested in God alone, through Christ ...
 
... and our ‘glad-to-be-aliveness' and thankfulness, give us a desire to express ourselves towards the Lord, in ways that are pleasing to him.
 
Through the teaching of Christ, we know that we are called to be caught up in the service of God's needy world; and so we offer our lives in service of each other, and all with whom we have to do.
 
As we share, and serve, we find ourselves encouraged, and the quality of our faith take on that extra 'keep-on-keeping-on-ness', that is leading us in the way that we should go.
 
As we continue to make our way in the direction given us, through God's guidance in the Spirit, and through Christ’s personal lead ...
 
…we know that; come what may; good can be drawn from all changing situations; and that we have a future in which; in his own time and way; the Lord will honour and bless us.
 
Amen.