(This is Henry, writing for Jody again. She is having a busy week!)
Do you watch or listen to ads on TV or radio? I do. Most of the time I criticize them. I know how words are put together, and I can tell what I’m supposed to take away from the ad and how they tried to get me to see that.
Ads don’t have much effect on me, other than the enjoyment of some linguistic criticism, but they do work. They rarely change anyone’s knowledge of facts. What they try to do is change your attitude toward them. Generally the more subtly they can do that, the better. They want you to reach for their product the next time you’re in the grocery store, and it’s best if you don’t even realize why you did so.
This morning as I was driving home after taking Jody to work I heard two things in succession. The first was part of the morning talk show. The speaker talked about Michael Phelps and how he got started swimming because he was diagnosed as ADHD, and swimming was something to occupy him and use up energy. A hardship, one that has caused great hardship in many families, was turned into a catalyst for great things. (If you want to know more, check this site, which is run by Michael Phelps’ mother.)
That reminded me of my own nephew. His mother, my sister, was told that he would never graduate from high school. Today he has a Master of Education degree, is a certified teacher, and teaches special education. What would have happened if my sister had believed what she was told?
Recently, former Texas Senator Phil Gramm was criticized bitterly for referring to our current economic difficulties as a â€œpsychological recession.â€ I don’t fully agree with him. There are causes other than psychology for the economic downturn. But he does have a point. Our psychology acts as an amplifier to make small problems into big ones, and big ones into giant ones. The media plays along, because we’re going to respond better to people who tell us what we already know is true.
Right after the Michael Phelps story there was an ad about optimism and pessimism in Pensacola. There was a line in it that stuck with me: â€œWell-placed faith can bring great rewards.â€
Often critics of Christianity like to use the definition of faith as â€œbelieving in something for which there is no evidence.â€ I do believe faith goes well beyond evidence, but Biblically there are multiple definitions of faith.
1Now faith is the substantial nature of things we hope for, the clear conviction of things we don’t see. — Hebrews 11:1
And I bet you thought I was not going to use any scripture today, when you didn’t see a text at the top! That one looks a great deal like the critics’ definition of faith, though I would point out that it is the header to a chapter on faith in action, a well-placed faith, if you please.
11For it is clear that nobody is made right with God by the law. â€œThe righteous shall live by faith.â€ — Galatians 3:11
It’s pretty clear hear that faith is something more than believing something for which you have no evidence, or as the young boy in Sunday School said, â€œFaith is believing what you know ain’t so!â€ Rather, faith is almost a way of lifeâ€”if it is well-placed, that is.
25So as the body without the spirit (breath) is dead, so also faith without works is dead. — James 2:25
Often James is taken to mean that we need to add works to our faith, but I believe it would be much more accurate to say that James is speaking, not of adding something to faith, but rather of the type or quality of faith we are to have.
Faith is not just believing. Faith is not agreeing that certain things are true. Faith does involve those things, but Christian faith is moreâ€”it’s an attitude, a commitment, and yes, a risk. It’s putting our trust in a person because we see that person as trustworthy.
I publish books. I’ve been working on building the company for a long time. It’s still very hard. I could make more money by using my time otherwise. I spend about 10% of my time doing computer related work, designing or maintaining web sites and managing networks, but make well over half of my income in that way. Two things keep me going. First, I believe God has called me to what I am doing. Second, however, I believe that greater success is coming, and I’m not planning to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by quitting now. It’s a matter of attitude and commitment.
In your Christian life are you going to take hardship as a sign that it’s time to get out, or are you going to check that commitment, ask yourself if your faith is well-placed, and assuming it is, move forward? The difference between success and failure may not be in your circumstances, but in the attitude with which you face them.