Misspelling Faith image

Misspelling Faith

‘Faith,’ you’ll often hear it said, ‘is spelled R-I-S-K’. Beyond the obvious linguistic point that it isn’t spelled like that at all, however, is a deeper one - thinking of faith as synonymous with risk is dishonouring to the God we claim to have faith in.

I know what people are trying to say, of course; following God often involves doing things which the world would consider risky to the point of foolishness, and saying you have faith but not acting on it is no faith at all. Peter’s faith called him to step out of a perfectly safe boat in the middle of a lake. David’s faith called him to stand alone before an angry giant armed only with a few stones. Mary’s faith called her to undergo an inexplicable pregnancy at a time when extra-marital sex could cost her her life.

The demands of faith look incredibly risky, but only if you can’t see the whole picture. Was it risky for Jesus to step out onto the water? Not in the least! Preposterous idea. To imagine Jesus was in the slightest danger of sinking would be to question his divinity. He was able to walk on water because he is Lord over the water. Peter, knowing his Lord, trusting him to be able to keep Peter safe, did not take a risk when he stepped out of the boat, he took a step which carried no greater danger than stepping out of his front door on an average morning.

David couldn’t understand why the Israelites thought he was taking a risk in facing Goliath. To his mind, God had proved himself again and again, and was certainly stronger than some Gentile giant. Standing before Goliath carried no more risk than standing before a money spider.

Mary’s response to the life-changing, earth-shattering news she received was one of total, unquestioning trust. “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Knowing her God, she had absolute faith that he could be trusted, and accepting his call on her life was not a risk at all.

If we know who God is - all-knowing, all-powerful, all good, the God who provides, the God who saves, slow to anger, abounding in love, creator of all things - and we know his voice, there is no risk at all in obeying his commands.

That’s not to say, of course, that following God in faith never leads to pain - Mary, so far as we can tell, lived the rest of her life far from her home and family, and had to watch her son being tortured and executed. David’s faith left him in fear for his life on many occasions as he was pursued by a jealous King Saul. Peter was persecuted, imprisoned and crucified.

To paraphrase CS Lewis, faith isn’t safe, but it is good.

On the other hand, it could be argued that lack of faith - the failure to trust in the promises of God - is the really risky course of action. Sarah didn’t really believe God could give Abraham a son, and in unfaith she worked to engineer things to try to fulfil the promise in her own way, with dire consequences. If Noah had not had faith in God’s seemingly-ridiculous word to him, it would have been disastrous for the whole human race. And we all know what happened to the Israelites when they failed to trust God’s ability to overcome their enemies – they spent 40 miserable years in the desert and died there when a little faith in the God who had proved himself powerful beyond their wildest dreams would have seen them safely installed in the Promised Land.

It’s not faith that is spelled R-I-S-K, it’s doubt.
Faith is spelled O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E, H-O-P-E and J-O-Y.

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