December 30, 2019
Hebrews 11:8-12 (NIV)
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because sheconsidered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
Yesterday we talked about the difference between striving and surrender and between commitment and consecration. Today I want to make a parallel kind of comparison and contrast many will find challenging and even off-putting.
There are at least two kinds of faith. The first faith is transactional faith. It can be brought down to two words: Help me. We find ourselves in a messed up, mixed up, chaotic world plagued by sin and death, and it touches every aspect of our lives, families and communities. However, in the unparalleled prosperity of the United States of America we can almost manage to insulate ourselves from our need through some combination of achievement and addiction. We vacillate between education and entertainment in an endless quest for the ephemeral experiences of the so-called “good life,” turning to the gods of self-help when they seem to suit our situation.
Somewhere along the way, either through the echoes of our childhood churches or faith-filled grandparents or some kind of mid-life train wreck or tragedy we wake up to our deep, insatiable need. By the mercy of God we are found by the grace of God and we wake up to his mysterious, transformational presence in this tragic world. We discover the two words and we begin speaking them in direct speech to God: “Help me!”
And God helps us. We develop a transactional faith which grows into a personal sense of relationship with God and we begin to grow in the grace of God. We learn to depend on God as we bring him our needs and the needs of others, crying out with ever growing confidence, “Help me!” While this is a good and necessary stage of faith, most people never go beyond it. We get stuck, arrested in development, with lives consumed by the constant cares and concerns of our broken lives in this broken world. We do our best, striving to be committed, living in this “old country” on its terms while calling on the resources of Heaven to help us endure it. Faith can become weary and even stale in this old country as we learn to endure what we can’t understand and to trust what we cannot see.
It brings us to the second kind of faith. Let’s call it transcendent faith. It too, can be brought down to two words: Have me. This is the faith of surrender and consecration. Repeating from yesterday, “The greatest proverbial leap of faith is not from unbelief to belief but from striving to surrender and from commitment to consecration.” This is the faith of abandon. It comes from a deep place of holy discontent; an unwillingness to accept the world on any set of terms other than those of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It comes from an unwillingness to tolerate the gap between the promises and possibilities we see in the Word of God and the devastation and desolation in the World we live in.
Perhaps the best summary of transcendent faith comes from Paul’s letter to the Galatian Christians when he said, “I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself for me” (Galatians 2:20-21). This way of transcendent faith is available to anyone but few take the invitation, and yet this is the faith that precedes great awakenings. This is the faith of impossible things. Hebrews 11, indeed the whole of Scripture, overflows with portraits of “Have me” faith. Consider the contours of such faith with a careful re-reading of today’s text.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b]considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
Our Father in Heaven, here I am thankful for and yet weary of transactional faith. I want this transcendent faith. Thank you for helping me over and over and over again. I will always ask you to help me. However, I am ready for a new prayer. I am ready to say to you, “Have me.” I want my life to be a transcendent touchpoint for Your Life. Come Holy Spirit and show me this new and ever-newing way of faith. Let it be said of us, “They walked in a way of faith that beget impossible things.” We pray in the name of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Amen.
How do you see the difference between transactional and transcendent faith; between the “Help me” prayer and the “Have me” prayer?
NEXT ON THE DAILY TEXT: Invite your friends, families, churches, bowling leagues, axe throwing clubs, knitting circles, and golf foursomes to join us January 1, 2020 for a month long invitational Daily Text series called First Word. Last Word.
P.S. Pre-order your copy of Casey Culbreth’s Advent Series, God is Here from our store here.