Our Challenging Faith
Without doubt, the Christian faith is a challenging faith. It changes lives and the course of human history. It gives new meaning to life, and revolutionizes a person’s whole philosophy of life. C.S. Lewis, a well-known English philosopher, who, as an agnostic searched for truth in the Bible, was challenged by the Christian faith. He became convinced that Jesus is the Son of God who came to redeem us from our sin. After his conversion, Lewis wrote many books, testifying to how he had come to the deep conviction of his faith. For certain, accepting Jesus as the only way to God requires faith! And faith can be both challenging and wonderful at the same time.
What is faith?
So what is faith and why do we need it? Faith is defined in Heb. 11:1 as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” It implies putting one’s trust in a person or on some fundamentals that one believes to be valid. For example, in childhood you trust your parents will take care of providing you food and won’t starve you to death. You have full confidence in them because there is a bond relationship between you and them. Another simple example is brushing your teeth twice per day. You do this because you trust such a habit can protect you from tooth decay. This act concerns your physical body. But how about your spiritual life, the relationship between you and the Creator God or Heavenly Father? If you evade this reality of life, you are making your existence on this earth transient, self-deceived, and of no true value— because real living involves having a relationship with the Ultimate Being, to whom we all are accountable.
Reasons for the Christian faith
A contemporary Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, observes that every worldview must answer four basic questions: origin, meaning, destiny, and morality. In his opinion, Christianity provides the best answers for these questions.
The origin of the Christian faith starts with God himself. When our ancestors sinned against God, He already had His plan to send His only begotten son to save us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Also, the Christian faith is based on the claims and work of Jesus. He claimed He was the promised one as told by prophets to the fore-fathers. He claimed He and the Heavenly Father are one. When He was baptized by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit descended on Him in fulfillment of God’s promise. When Jews rejected Him as the Messiah and crucified Him on the cross, He was able to rise from the dead; He had paid the price for our sins!
Jesus’ entire ministry demonstrated He was from God. He had the power to heal the sick, perform miracles, forgive sins, and overcome the power of death by His resurrection. Thus, the origin of the Christian faith is directly from God, different from any man-made religion.
Truth seekers may ask about the meaning of committing oneself to a Jewish carpenter of 2000 years ago. To understand and appreciate the meaning, one only has to critically examine the impact of Jesus on people who have encountered Him.
In John 8:12, Jesus says “I am the light of the world.” Such a claim means that He can enlighten people, give them direction in life, and guide them to their final destiny. Believers through the centuries have testified that Jesus has been the guiding force of their life, and has given them direction to return to the Heavenly Father.
Also, John 6:35 reads, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and He who believes in me will never be thirsty.” These are extremely bold claims that Jesus makes, implying that He is the source of life. Undoubtedly, He is the one who can satisfy our innermost hunger.
Jesus promised His followers, “whoever comes to me will find forgiveness of sins, true rest, and also an abundant life” (paraphrased). No religion has ever given promises like Jesus gives. And, no religion can give joy and peace like Jesus gives.
Destiny answers the question of where a person goes after this life. Other faiths do not have a “Savior,” able to conquer death. Only Jesus has overcome death and promises to raise us with a transformed body after this life. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25). The moment we take Jesus as our Lord and Savior we already have a regenerated life that lives beyond this physical life. He gives us a truly meaningful life on this earth, and He promises us we have an eternal home with Him.
Morality refers to a person’s code of life. No religion elevates a person to high morality as does the Christian faith. Such high standards must come from the perfect God who has absolute holiness and righteousness. Consider Jesus’ remarks found in Matthew 22:37- 39: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart….Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Also, in Matt. 5:48, He says, “As your heavenly father is perfect, so you need to be perfect.” Jesus lived a perfect life on this earth some 2000 years ago. And what He said and did demonstrated He is from God and is God Himself. We need Jesus as our role model to live the life we ought to live.
The Challenge of the Christian Faith
It is unconventional to the worldly standards. You cannot apply worldly concepts to measure the validity of this faith. But when you put your trust in Him, He will allow you to experience His reality. Suppose someone gives you an airplane ticket to New York. You have to trust that ticket is not just a piece of paper, but something that entitles you to board a plane bound for New York. Faith is necessary in order to bring things into reality. In the spiritual realm, God expects us to exercise our faith in order to see beyond the physical.
The Jewish patriarch Abraham had a calling to leave his own town to journey to the land of Canaan to receive what God had promised him and his descendents. He had a deep conviction of what he believed. He had decided to serve a true living God different from what the pagan society practiced. He put his trust in God’s promise, thus he received blessings for himself and his descendants. We, too, need a dedicated faith in order to experience God’s work in us.
Faith gives new meaning to life. The Apostle Paul was brought up as a strict Pharisee. Before his conversion, he hated Christians and led in persecuting them. However, while on the road to Damascus, God blinded his eyes physically, but opened his eyes to who Jesus is. Paul repented and afterwards became a great disciple of Christ. He said, “…I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26:19). His conversion gave him a completely new meaning of life.
Throughout centuries, the Gospel of Christ has touched the hearts of billions and billions of people, whether they are poor or rich, educated or uneducated, nobles or simple folks. All these people had their lives changed to a new life by Christ’s resurrection power. We experience that same meaning of life when we commit ourselves to Him.
It satisfies the innermost needs of one’s soul. Our innermost conscience tells us that we need the Ultimate Being (God) to fill our deepest soul in order that we may enjoy fellowship with Him. Without Him, we cannot experience real fulfillment. Money, power, lust, nor material abundance can fill the vacuum in our heart and soul. God invites us in Isa. 55:1-3: “Come, all you who are thirsty….hear me, then your soul may live.” And Saint Augustine of Hippo said, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you (God).” We can find the satisfaction of our soul only through the true living God.
It demonstrates the benevolence and providence of the Almighty God. The problem of absolute justice and love was answered by God when He sent His only begotten Son to die on the Cross, redeeming us sinful creatures to righteousness. Therefore, the only way for mankind to return to the Heavenly Father is by accepting His plan of salvation though faith. Paul in Rom. 3:22 says, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…” Thus, when people accept Christ’s salvation, their sins are pardoned, and they are given the righteousness of Christ Himself. How wonderful this loving God is!
The more we learn of God’s way of doing things, the more we marvel at God’s wonderful plan of reconciling the world to Himself. He has promised us abundant life. To live that life is challenging, but to cling to our belief in Christ is indeed a great blessing. It is beyond what human words can describe, as the song writer Issac Watts wrote, “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, and my all.” Amen.
(Wilkin Cheung graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a B.Sc. and a Ph.D.Before retirement, he was an adjunct Science Professor at Patten University, Oakland, California. Presently, he spends his time in gardening, writing, and teaching Adult Sunday School.)