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Word to the Wise: June 10

by Neal Windham, Spiritual Formation Pastor

Note: In keeping with the father-to-son flow of the Book of Proverbs, the devotions this week come from Musings of a Prodigal Father, which I wrote for my son Luke upon graduation from high school in the late 90s.

Scripture
“The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, and the good man rewarded for his.” - Proverbs 14:14

From Musings of a Prodigal Father
Luke, I grew up in the Western Hemisphere and am a child of the Enlightenment, heir of German rationalism and English sensibilities.  This is to say that faith doesn’t come easily when people - their progress, achievements, and capabilities - are the measure against which all things are judged.  You too have grown up in a world of scientific progress and human industry. The recent explosion of knowledge evidences our settled preoccupation with what we, the creature, can do, what we’re capable of.  Thanks be to God, we’re using our God-given minds, but I sometimes wonder, are we also building a modern Tower of Babel?

Faith is weird and hard for modern people. It is also the most desperately needed corrective in the modern world.  How can I say this? Professor Jim Strauss once said to me that science removed God from the universe in the eighteenth century; philosophy then removed God from the human mind in the nineteenth century; and psychology removed God from the human heart in the twentieth century. Okay, that's an overstatement, but the question remains, “Is there any room left for God today?”  Nietzche said, “God is dead. God is dead, and we have killed him.”  Freud made God out to be nothing more than a projection of ourselves, an idol made in our image.  

Do you see then why faith is so hard to achieve in our times?  Actually, it has always been difficult.  The disciples were constantly being told that they were dull and hard of hearing.  More than once Jesus asked them, “Don’t you get it?” And, clearly, they didn’t get it. These men who walked with the miracle worker from Galilee didn’t get it.

So, why is faith so hard?  Clearly, God wants us to have it.  Why doesn’t He just give it to us?  In truth, He has.  Jesus is God’s faithfulness in the flesh, His supreme gift of faith to all humanity, a rescuing promise answered.  But, like all good gifts, this one must be received, and it is precisely here that modern people have so often failed. Rather than receiving Jesus in faith, modern people have hedged their bets on their own capacity to build a better world.

Two world wars and a Holocaust later, in the midst of renewed racial hatred, and crimes of every awful description, the world stands on the edge of a new millennium [remember, this was written in 1998], wondering with endless anxiety, “What’s next?” 

Thoughtful people keep coming back to faith, not as a sign of weakness, but because of the failure of our own modern arrogance. The truth is that our gracious God is patiently reclaiming every last ounce of his fallen creation for his glory.  His patience would alone, I think, be cause for belief.  But he has also called us to believe in his Son, and this is the heart of the matter.  When asked what I believe, my response is this: Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, died for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead on the third day.  His blood is the basis for my forgiveness, his burial means that he really died, and his resurrection is the sole grounds for my hope in eternal life.  This thing didn’t happen in a corner.  By the fourth century, the whole Roman world was largely Christian, not by force, but by the blood of the martyrs and the risen Lord before them.  Blissful ignorance cannot hide the facts, and I both embrace them and stake my life and its work upon them.

Prayer
Lord, many of us moderns do believe. Please help our unbelief. Now, more than ever, we need you! In Jesus’ name. Amen.