Monday, May 23, 2011

Practical Theology for Women: Faith Works!

In Chapter 3 of Practical Theology for Women, Wendy Horger Alsup discusses examples of unfaithfulness and and faithfulness in scripture. She starts with unfaithfulness in the Old Testament.


The root word behind "unfaithful," "unfaithfully," and "unfaithfulness" means "falsehood," treachery," "trespass," and "broke faith." It is used in the Old Testament as a warning against unfaithfulness and to describe acts of unfaithfulness. Moses showed unfaithfulness in Meribah-kadesh when God told him to speak to the rock yet he struck the rock instead (Deuteronomy 32:15). It wasn't the act of hitting a rock that was sin, it was his obvious disobedience that was sin. There are countless instances in the Old Testament that describe God asking different acts of faith from different people. Something that might be considered an act of faithfulness in one case may be an act of unfaithfulness in another. In Moses' case, he knew the difference and chose to disobey God.

Acts of faith come from God working in us. Alsup shares that she's "talked with many women who...are afraid of the kind of personal relationship with God that might result in him requiring something special from them." So is this kind of attitude reflecting simply a lack of faith? It turns out it isn't that simple. A lack of faith isn't just a weakness, it's sin and God views it as "treachery - sin with an accompanying stab in the back."

In the New Testament we hear Christ using the phrase "you of little faith" several times. The word behind this phrase means "little faith" or "trusting too little." Alsup says "we get the idea of having little conviction of the truth of something or someone."

Faith directly affects the practical issues in our lives. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus even ties having little faith to worrying. (Matthew 6:30-31) This was demonstrated time and time again by Jesus' disciples. They witnessed him perform miracles countless times yet they seemed to forget his power when a new situation arose. But though we refer to the disciples here, can't you see yourself in their place? I can. God provides for us more times than we know, yet we worry when we're met face to face with a new trial. Why is this a problem? Alsup explains:

"The problem is not that we have never seen God provide for us before. The problem is not that he's asking us to respond in a way that is radically different from previous situations; the problem is that we forget the ways he's proven himself in the past and fret over how we are going to provide for ourselves in the new situation. Exhibiting little conviction in the truth of God's promises is especially troublesome when he's proven himself faithful so many times before."


Now that we've seen examples of unfaithfulness, let's talk about faithfulness. Alsup talks about the centurion in Matthew 9 whose servant needed healing. He asked Jesus to heal his servant but deemed himself unworthy for Jesus to come into his house. He said "...only say the word and my servant will be healed." The centurion's conviction of the truth of Christ's power was so strong that he knew when he got home his servant would be healed. Just like the examples of unfaithfulness, there are numerous examples of faithfulness in scripture like that of the centurion. Examples of people who know God is true to his word.

In each situation, one common theme sticks out: these people demonstrated their faith, or lack thereof. And that's how it still is today. We can proclaim our faith in God all day, but if nothing in our lives backs that up, our claims are null and void. Our faith is shown by our actions, not just our words.

When life gets tough, do you respond with fear and anxiety? Or does your response reflect what you know to be true about God? That while we are unfaithful, he is faithful and he will fulfill his promises.

May we live fully convicted of the truth of God and may this truth be demonstrated through his work in us.

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