“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (KJV, Romans 1:16-17).
As previously covered, in order to gain truth and begin our Christian journey, we must 1) accept Christ, and 2) sincerely desire truth. Then, following baptism, we must pursue to be faithful to Christ as “little children”. And though in theory this seems quite simple, anyone who has attempted it has stumbled onto a complication or two. The verbal affirmation seems easy enough - but the actual walking, well... that tends to provide a much more complex method of practice.
Once we come to the point of understanding that we are capable of making choices, we can strategically gear our will toward getting what we want. When this process takes place, faith, and servitude along with it, become considerably less appealing, because the conscious opportunity to serve self has materialized before us. Yet at the same time, another reality appears: in order to serve self, we must disobey the rules our parents have given us from time to time. Through trial and error we’ve noticed that certain behaviors produce certain undesirable results. So in order to avoid receiving such results, we begin to plan how to go about getting what we want, without getting in trouble for it. In short, covert activity is now the preferred and most effective means of selfishness. In Romans 7, Paul elaborates on this reality in a spiritual sense through the idea of “becoming aware of the law”.
“For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died, And the commandment, which was ordained unto life, I found to be unto death” (KJV, Romans 7:9-10).
In a sense, with flesh children, we can relate to this. Parents have much more grace with a child who doesn’t know any better. How could a loving parent possibly hold a child accountable for a rule they were not aware of? Yet once they’re old enough, and have matured to the point that they understand the concept of rules, and willingly break them, a different parental response is necessary. Why?
Ideally (and when dealing with God, we are always dealing with the Ideal), those rules are in place to keep us safe, and to keep the peace - both within us, and around us. This is why Paul can say, “and the commandment which was ORDAINED UNTO LIFE, I found to be unto death.” - Paul knew that the law “is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (KJV, Romans 7:12).
The law of the Lord is given to protect us - from ourselves, and from each other. Just like the laws of a good parent, the parameters are created to preserve our children from the pitfalls we know exist in the world. We hope and pray that they will listen and abide by them, and by doing so they will suffer less and prosper more. Is this not what we desire for our children?
As adults, we’ve seen more - have we not? We know things are out there that our children, in that untainted purity of their innocency, have no concept of. We know there is evil lurking around every corner. We know how precious and how delicate life is. We know that it only takes one bad decision; one wrong turn, just one major mistake and this life is over. And so we do our best to chastise them when they break the rules, in the hopes that the lesser suffering we provide as punishment will deter them from ever experiencing whatever it is we’re trying to protect them from. If they would only trust that we know what we’re talking about and just listen! Ahhh...there it is: faith.
We long for our children to trust us so that they will suffer less then we have. Even though we didn’t listen to our parents, and they didn’t listen to theirs, and they didn’t listen to theirs, we want them to believe us. We want them to have faith in us, because after all, we have knowledge they don’t. If only they would believe that.
But this is the child I speak of. This is the flesh man. This is the behavior of the unredeemed, and the immature. We’re beyond all that stubbornness and self-servitude. We know better. We’re grown-ups after all. We’ve been Christians for years. But I ask you, Christian: Does peace reside within?
If we mature in the knowledge of God - as we are instructed to do - it is our duty to go on “from faith to faith” that Christ might inhabit us to the full. If that is done, the beast man who once ruled us no longer holds sway in the temple of our bodies, because the Good Man of the house has come home. This is our goal. This is what we labor towards. And with diligence and time, we will get better - it will get easier - but there will always be something else, because perfection is not possible for us.
If we spend our lives kicking against the pricks, we will reap chaos. It is a guarantee. Through grace, and acceptance of Christ we will still be saved, but we will live tortured lives full of fears and uncertainties if we persist in the notion that we know best. This is why faith is so incomparably important.
We cannot have faith in ourselves. We cannot “lean on our own understanding”. Anyone who has lived any amount of years at all knows how frail we are. We cannot have faith in other people (though we always look for, and hope for the best in them) - we know they too are flawed as we are, and will fail as we do, regardless of intent. Machines fail; boats sink; loved ones die; disease persists; the past is gone, and the future is unknown. Suffering in this world is imminent. We have no exemption. It cannot be escaped.
In order to find true peace and keep it - not the temporal peace that dwells in us during those fleeting moments between traffic and what to make for dinner, but peace in perpetuity - there is only one Way. We must go on "from faith to faith".
We must believe that we have grace through His sacrifice. We must believe that upon repentance in His Name we are purified. We must believe that He can protect us from our adversaries. We must believe that if we’re suffering (through no action on our own part) there is good reason for it. We must believe that lying will get us nowhere - even if it’s just one of those little white lies on my resume because I really need a job and the Good Lord surely understands and will forgive me.
Yes, He will forgive you when you go your way. But that doesn’t mean you won’t suffer for going your own way. That doesn’t mean you won’t get a job you were never supposed to have, and end up in a city you were never supposed to be in, away from family and friends who need you and could support and help you. We must believe that He knows what He's talking about, and that He knows what's best for us, and for all. We must believe.
Our decisions have repercussions. And the fact is, NO GOOD can come from any level of willful disobedience. If you go against His instructions because you think your way will work better, or quicker, or more efficiently, or produce less conflict, I can guarantee you beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are not seeing the whole picture. In that moment you have LACKED FAITH. And you will have to deal with some kind of undesirable result because of it.
Because true peace - the kind that cannot be taken away from you - lives in the man, woman or child who believes two things whole-heartedly, through suffering, and war, and strife, and illness, and happiness, and noise, and silence, and chaos: 1) we do not know everything, and 2) God does and is in control. If we can reach this place. If we know of a certainty that when we commit our spirit wholly to Him, He will preserve, protect and prosper us, no one and no thing can take your peace away. This is why James could say:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (KJV, James 1:2-4).
And why Paul could say:
“And He (God) said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (KJV, 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10)
This is why we must go on from faith to faith. We must increase in knowledge to understand His promises, and our duties. We must grow in our relationship with Him so we know better how to walk the path of peace, and believe without a doubt that He walks it with us. And in that, what have we to fear?
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (KJV, Romans 1:17)