The Journey of Faith

“The Christian experience, from start to finish, is a journey of faith.” ~Watchman Nee

The original idea behind this blog was to blog about journeys–whether they be physical journeys or spiritual journeys or journeys through time or over great distances. For the Christian, the most important journey is the journey of faith. It is a spiritual journey that also leads to many physical journeys, whether it is a walk to the local grocery store or flying half way around the world to stand atop the Eiffel Towel in Paris. However, the journey itself is much more than just arriving at a physical destination.

In an article titled, Our Faith Journey,” from The United Methodist Member’s Handbook, revised and expanded by George E. Koehler, (pp. 62-63), he states:

What’s the bedrock of life for Christians? Is it Bible reading? Church participation? Prayer? Is it a belief that Jesus is God’s Son?

The foundation of Christian living is faith in Christ. Faith is the central loyalty that gives purpose and direction to our lives. Christian faith is grounding our lives in the living God as revealed especially in Jesus Christ.

This faith does not happen overnight. It’s a journey. From birth to death we’re growing in faith. There are ups and downs — and sometimes long flat stretches where we seem to be stalled in our journey. But little by little, most of us deepen our relationship with God.

In part, this growth in faith is a gift. Through our participation in the community of faith, through our openness to God’s love, we receive this marvelous treasure. But faith is also a choice we make, an often difficult decision to put God and God’s reign first in our lives, no matter what the cost.

We cannot say that some people are “ahead” in the journey of faith and others “behind.” Faith is not something we possess by degrees. The journey is complex, different for each traveler and involving at least four intertwined pathways:

Trusting

First and foremost, faith is trusting. To be a person of faith is to rely on God, to know that “the Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23). It’s to rest confidently in the power and care of the living, loving Lord who’s revealed in the Bible and in our own experience. Faith is to give ourselves to the movement of God’s Spirit in our lives and in our times, not knowing where it will lead….

Believing

Faith is also believing in someone. In the Apostle’s Creed, for example, we say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” This is not the same as saying, “I believe that God the Father Almighty exists.” Rather, we’re confessing our confidence in God, our devoted loyalty, and our allegiance. Such belief may involve going beyond what we’re sure of and taking a “leap of faith.”

Following

There’s more to faith than trusting and believing. Faith is more active, a matter of doing as well as being. So Jesus said to his first disciples, “Follow me.” To be faithful is to follow Jesus Christ. It is to be one of his disciples, seeking to understand his will and his way — and to do it. Such discipleship is not an easy matter. Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25)….

Hoping

Christian faith is also a matter of hoping, of leaning into the future that God has promised. It’s living with the assurance that God is bringing in the time of shalom, God’s reign here on earth. As Easter people, we have a hope born of the Resurrection: God has already conquered sin and death, and the kingdom of love, righteousness, peace and justice is even now breaking in. To abide in hope is to watch and pray for God’s future and to join in the ministries through which it will be realized.

Surrounded by the love and encouragement of the community of believers, we persevere on the journey of faith, ever trusting, believing, following and hoping. (Quote source here.)

Perseverance is the major component in our journey of faith. In James 1:2-12, James makes this point very, very clear:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-12)

In a 2011 article titled, The Spiritual Marathon: The Two Sides of Perseverance,” by Mike McKinley, senior pastor at Sterling Park Baptist Church, he states:

Perseverance is hard. As one who has fought a losing battle with the practice of running, I can only gape in slack-jawed awe at those who have the spirit and endurance to run a 10k, let alone a marathon. Hence, it is a sobering comparison for me to acknowledge that our  journey of faith is a spiritual marathon, not a sprint. The exhaustion of life can easily weigh us down, tempting us to throw in the towel and give up the race. Thankfully, Scripture does not leave us in the dark about how to endure these struggles. In the book of Jude, we find two realities about perseverance that we must keep in tension if we are to persevere in faith.

Perseverance is the Believer’s Responsibility. If we as believers do not take the time and energy to remain faithful, we will fall away. It is not feasible to simply float along for a lifetime on the euphoria of a conversion experience and early faith. It takes hard work on our part to avoid falling away. This is mentioned several times in the New Testament. 1 Tim. 6:12 calls us to “fight the good fight of faith,” and Heb. 10:35-36 confirms that we “have need of endurance.”

Perseverance is God’s Work. We cannot live a full life of faith on our own. God plays a huge role in our perseverance. Jude reminds us that the Lord is able to “keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24). God does not foist the entire responsibility of faith onto our shoulders. “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

Believers can’t expect to sail effortlessly through life’s spiritual marathon. Life gets exhausting and gritty even for the most faithful followers. We have to make a conscious and painful effort to keep running after Christ and not collapse. But if we seek diligently to endure, God will provide us with the strength to persevere and keep running onward toward the goal. (Quote source here.)

As Christians, our journey in life may include some very scenic views from landscapes all over this world, but the journey of faith is about perseverance, so that we may become mature and complete. . . . not lacking anything, as James noted above in James 1:2-12. Let us strive (as in persevere) to be found faithful. And let us also remember, as Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) states . . .

We can make our plans . . .

But the Lord . . .

Directs our steps . . . .

YouTube Video: “I’ll Take You There” (1972) by The Staple Singers:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here