What is Faith? Weekly Devotional By Sam Marchetta, Director of Spiritual Care
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” ~Matthew 17:20-21
This above scripture verse was spoken by Jesus to his followers as a reminder of the importance of a life rooted in faith. Growing up, my Sunday School Teacher once used this verse in her lesson and taped a tiny mustard seed to a 3×5 notecard. As the notecard made its way around the room, she would tell us that if we could grow our faith in God to the size of this small, tiny mustard seed we could move mountains. That sounded awesome! I was in. Sign me up!
The problem is that she never told us how to acquire that amount of faith or how to determine if our faith was growing. How do I know what size my faith container is? Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, why would you want to move a mountain and throw it into the sea? Why would you want to destroy the created order?
Jesus is not talking about us rearranging the planet with the wave of a hand like in a Star Wars movie. The genius of Jesus’ teaching is that faith, does indeed, change things. Faith creates new landscapes in our lives and new opportunities and avenues for growth. Faith can move us beyond the barriers that can keep us from moving forward to our best lives.
What is faith? Faith can be defined as “trust in someone or something.” For some that might be God or a higher power; for others that might be a person or an ideal. Whatever that might be for you, faith is the positive belief that life can change for the better no matter our situation.
But faith is not unflinching trust. And that is where I think I have gotten this wrong in the past. In my life I can be generally positive; however, there are periods of deep doubt and questioning. I sometimes feel guilty about this. “If I only had more faith, I would not struggle with doubt as I do.” As I’ve grown and matured, I’ve realized that faith is not the absence of doubt. In fact, theologian Paul Tillich says it this way: “Faith requires an element of doubt.” Without doubt, he argues, faith would not exist. Why? Because “the opposite of faith is not doubt. It’s certainty.” (Anne Lamott)
What does faith do? Jesus said it can change and rearrange landscapes! I have seen faith and belief open doors, change perspectives, increase opportunities, and provide greater growth personally and relationally. Think about it this way, do you generally find more inspiration and encouragement from being around constantly negative folks, or folks who see hope and ways forward? That doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge problems, that is denial, it simply means we identify our challenges and move forward. As Jesus reminds us in this teaching, Faith, in this case, is the unwavering belief that I am not permanently stuck. The landscape of my life can change for the better. I can educate myself. I can make better decisions. I can shape a better life. I can live a healthier lifestyle.
So how about you? Do you sometimes feel you don’t have enough faith? Do you wonder why you are less sure about things than other people? Do you have questions about injustice or life that are not easily answered? Faith is not about certainty; it is about moving ahead despite easy answers.