The Wilderness of Faith
Edited by John Sillito
“The Power of Faith”
Hugh B. Brown
… The predominate sense in which the word faith is used throughout the scriptures is that of full confidence and trust in the being, purposes, and words of God. Such trust, if implicit, will remove all doubt concerning the things accomplished or promised of God, even though such things be not apparent or explicable by the ordinary senses.…
We do not teach the principle of faith merely for what it will do for one in the next world. We believe that there is real practical value in mental concepts which increase one’s self respect and effectiveness here and now.…
Eternal life means more than merely continuing to exist. Its qualitative value will be determined by what we believe and do while in mortality and by our conformity to eternal law in the life to come. Eternal existence would be most undesirable if that existence became fixed and static upon arrival there. “It is hope and expectation and desire and something ever more about to be” that gives lilt and verve to mortal and immortal life. We cannot imagine, nor would we desire, an eternity without opportunity for growth and development. We believe in eternal progression.
Faith in God and the ultimate triumph of right contributes to mental and spiritual poise in the face of difficulties. It is a sustaining power when a confining or antagonistic environment challenges one’s courage. Similarly if one has a vivid sense of his own divinity, he will not be easily persuaded to deprave his mind, debauch his body, or sell his freedom for temporary gain. Goethe is right when [p.172] he makes Mephistopheles, his devil, say, “I am the spirit of negation.” Negation always bedevils life.
Thus we recommend faith as a present, living power for good here and now as well as for what it will do for us in achieving salvation hereafter.
Wherever in life great spiritual values await man’s appropriation, only faith can appropriate them. Man cannot live without faith because in life’s adventure the central problem is character building—which is not a product of logic but of faith in ideals and sacrificial devotion to them. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews saw the intimate relationship between the quality of faith and the quality of life and called upon his readers to judge the Christian life by its consequences in character.
We cannot avoid looking ahead and to some degree basing our activities upon things which we cannot see. But bit by bit we gain assurance. We have some knowledge of what that is and of what has been. But it is necessary that we have faith in that which is yet to come.
In this universal venture of life, its full meaning can be understood only by the application of faith, wherein the best treasures of the spirit are obtainable only through courageous open-heartedness and the kind of character which is possible to all men of deep conviction.
But every discussion of faith must distinguish it from its caricatures. Faith is not credulity. It is not believing things you know are not so. It is not a formula to get the universe to do your bidding. It is not a set of beliefs to be swallowed up by one gulp. Faith is not knowledge; it is mixed with lack of understanding or it would not be faith. Faith does not dwindle as wisdom grows.
Above all faith is to be contested with pessimism and cynicism. Those who say they have become disillusioned with life are lost without faith. Faith is confidence in the worthwhileness of life. It is assurance and trust. Perhaps the greatest contrast to faith is fear. Jesus often said to his followers: “Be not afraid.…”
To believe that we do not stand alone, that we are fellow laborers with God, our human purposes comprehended in his purposes—God behind us, within us, ahead of us—this is the solid rock upon which all rational religion rests.…
No message short of religion has ever met man’s need in this estate. Faith that God himself is pledged to the victory of [p.173] righteousness in men in the world, that he cares, forgives, enters into man’s struggle with transforming power and crowns the long endeavor with triumphant character—such faith alone has been great enough to meet the needs of men.
When faith in God goes, man loses his securest refuge and must suffer. Strong men broken in health, men who have lost the fortunes of a lifetime, families with long illness, mothers who have wept at children’s graves—these and other staggering blows test the faith of good and bad alike. Nothing but religious faith has been able to save men from despair. As Jesus said the rains descend and the floods come and the winds blow, whether man’s house be built on rock or sand. It is faith which makes the difference.…
God help us to rise to a point where we can retain faith in the future, whatever it may hold. When suffering, we need most of all to remember there is an explanation, although we may not know exactly what it is.
Religious faith gives confidence that human tragedy is not a meaningless sport of physical forces. Life is not what Voltaire called it, “a bad joke”; it is really a school of discipline whose author and teacher is God.
Faith is a rod to truth, without which some truths can never be reached at all. The reason for its inevitableness in life is not our lack of knowledge but rather that faith is as indispensible as logical demonstration in any real knowing in the world. Faith is not a substitute for truth but a pathway to truth.
However undecided men may appear, they cannot altogether avoid decision on the main matter of religion. Life will not let them. For a while the mind may hold itself suspended between alternatives. The adventure of life goes on and men inevitably tend to live either as though the Christian God is real or as though he is not. This then is the summary of the matter. Life is a great adventure in which faith in God presents the issues of transcendent import. And on these issues life itself continually compels decisions.…[p.175]