Columnist: Remember your faith heritage
It is said that Frederick Douglas was giving a speech in upstate New York and Harriet Tubman, the captain of the Underground Railroad, was in the audience. During the speech, as Douglas’ zeal appeared to be flagging, she stood up and shouted, “Frederick, Frederick, is God dead?”
Whenever I observe the fires of faith burning low, I think of that inspiring call to arms. And today I do sense the fires of faith burning low; people are desperate for meaning, people are leaving the church, people seem more materialistic, more pleasure-oriented, more nationalistic and more despairing.
So, why are the fires of faith burning low in our time? Of course, there are numerous reasons, but I will mention only several of those possible causes.
Initially, our separation from the Scriptures! For sure, we have access to bibles, but many of us have lost touch with the stories within. The great truths of the Christian faith are always biblically based. But in our separation from the Bible, we have tended to water these great truths and faith has waned.
Another cause of our loss of faith is wars, disasters and the accompanying suffering! This could be labeled “the silence of God.” How can a good God permit something like this? Why did God let this happen to me? These are very human cries. When trouble comes, we longingly look for some little ray of light, some special insight, some voice to speak, but in listening we hear only silence. “Truly,” as Isaiah observed, “You are a God who hides himself” (Isaiah 45:15).
A world of increasing knowledge has caused people to lose faith! John Killinger, noted pastor/professor, recalled a distraught graduate student of history. She made staight A’s as an undergraduate and had begun her doctoral program with high promise. But one day as she sat reading in the library, she simply flipped out at the realization of all there is to learn. “I thought I heard all the books on the shelves talking at once,” she said. “It was a terrifying experience. I got up and ran outside.”
In a world filled with so much information, people do not know what to believe or who is responsible. Different religions have different belief systems. And then there is science and all our technological advancements-wonder drugs, organ transplants, test-tube babies and so much more. And all the time the presence of God is further removed. Suddenly, God has become “a God of the gaps” or no God at all.
The doubts of others have contributed to this loss of faith! If we live under a steady bombardment of secularism, atheism, agnosticism, relativism, skepticism, and humanism, with no corresponding emphasis on the transcendent, chances are we will not be great believers. If we live among people who do not read the Bible, pray, attend worship, assist others in ministry or saying grace, chances are we will not be people of great faith.
Well, enough of these fires of faith burning low, what can we do about it? Briefly, the following advice is what Paul advised the young Timothy when his faith was burning low.
First, remember your heritage! Timothy’s faith was a faith which appeared, dwelt in, and was alive in his grandmother, Lois; then in his mother, Eunice; and now in him. Timothy had not only heard the gospel,he had actually seen the gospel lived out before him.
Many of us have also been blessed with a marvelous faith heritage. I know I have!
Second, fan the flame!
Paul said to Timothy, “Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…” (II Timothy 1:6). While the Greek word may mean “rekindle” or “relight,” here it means “agitate” or “stir-up.” Keep ablaze the gift of faith that is within you.
Basically, we have only two options concerning the gift of faith within us. We either keep on stirring up our gift or our gift decays. When the fires of faith burn low, fan the flame.
Third, resolve to trust God’s hold on you! One of the best understandings of faith is, “Faith is being grasped by God.”
Have you ever wondered how in the world the church which began in an upper room so long ago and so far away has survived to this hour? Why has it not been smashed by all the Caesars of the world? Why has the burning bush not been consumed? It is because in the midst of the church there has stood and still stands the reigning God of this universe, and He is totally able.