I’ve heard the sentiment, “religious faith is just a crutch,” expressed many times over the years, but never understood or accepted it. Perhaps it’s a variation of Karl Marx’s famous quote, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”
The idea is that those interested in religion or spirituality are somehow less than those who aren’t. The assumption is that when people exercise faith, they toss reason aside. I don't believe this.
Religion isn't a cure
Why don’t I believe this? For one thing, when there’s pain or injury, it’s both wise and reasonable to provide care. Sin causes pain, and it injures everyone in some way. But the cure for sin isn’t religion, it’s faith in Jesus who conquered sin by His death and resurrection.
Have you seen someone spin a basketball on one finger? Have you ever tried spinning a ball on the tip of your finger? I have and didn’t do it well. But I’ve watched people who are good at it.
It seems like they could keep spinning the ball forever. When it begins to wobble and starts to fall off the tip of their finger, one confident and deft tap of their hand keeps it spinning.
The difference between unbelief and faith
“He [Abraham] did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.”—Roman 4:20 (NKJV)
What I notice in this verse is the contrast between unbelief and faith. It’s the opposite of what some people might think. Faith isn’t anti-reason, it’s greater than reason. Unbelief causes a person to waver. It creates a resistance to trust.
Faith is strength, not weakness. Real faith, genuine trust in God, sees beyond what others focus on. It doesn’t see the ball wobbling, it sees the ball spinning strong.
Abraham’s confidence was in God, not himself. He believed God’s promise of a son, though he and Sarah were past the age of bearing children. Faith, true faith, sees beyond the doubts of others, even discouraging circumstances.
Abraham's confident faith
Abraham didn’t waver with unbelief, he trusted God with confidence.
He honored God and God honored him because of his faith. Abraham is our example—an example of strength, not weakness. Abraham didn’t have the benefit of the written Scriptures and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as believers do today.
Yes, he had very personal encounters with God that most of us may not experience, but he still lived by faith. The majority of his century-long trust in God was lived in simple faith, which is the same life of faith each follower of Jesus is called to live.
What challenges your faith? In what areas of life do you struggle with unbelief?
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