Faith. It is more than a warm fuzzy, or a sentiment that helps soothe the aches of life. Ideally, it is a source of peace, an awareness of the security and provision of God in our lives. In reality, though, our faith can be confronted by any number of external challenges. Often our self-talk is full of doubt about God, our culture devalues anything that cannot be empirically supported, and the natural yearning of our soul is for immediate resolution.
Living an authentic, faith-based life can be our greatest challenge. Fortunately, God’s work in us to grow our faith is very much connected to grace. When Paul was challenged to what felt like a breaking point, he was reminded, “My grace is sufficient” (2 Cor. 12:9). We don’t know the exact nature of his thorny issue, but it was significant enough for Paul to pray repeatedly for it to be removed. Greater than the irritation, though, is God’s grace. Being willing to embrace that “grace is greater” is an act of faith.
The author of Hebrews speaks glowingly of the heroes of faith, and ends the commentary acknowledging these heroes did not realize the full benefits of faith in their lifetime, but will, with us, enjoy a far greater – read “disproportionate” – blessing for living by faith. In other words, the best is yet to come. That sounds like grace!
What captures my attention is not just the delayed nature of this blessing, but it is delayed for communal benefit. I love this translation, “. . . so that they would be made perfect together with us” (Heb 11:40 NET). The completion of our faith, the ultimate realization of the promises of God, is not something that will happen to us just individually, but also corporately, as a community of faith. In this simple observation we find a significant clue about living by faith: we can never do it alone.
If the reward of faith will be shared collectively, it makes sense (and is consistent with the rest of Scripture) that our living by faith is best accomplished by living in community. This isn’t the sell-your-house-and-move-into-a-commune kind of community. It is a gracious, mutually-supportive, walking together with God. Gracious. Mutual. Supportive. Together. This is the life of faith. Sometimes, walking graciously with some people can be a faith issue!
Faith cannot mature in isolation. Faith is a work of God’s grace, and God’s grace often comes packaged in people. Those who encourage us, correct us, teach us, serve us and allow us to do the same to them. This is risky business. But faith demands courage. How do we change our self-talk about God, find courage to live counter-culturally? By walking together in our pursuit of God. Let’s continue to support each other, encourage each other and serve each other as channels of God’s grace to each other, and ultimately those who do not yet know Him.