Archives For Faith

Sometimes we can be spiritually self-deprecating. I know I’m guilty of that. Why am I not doing more for the Lord? Why isn’t my faith stronger in difficult situations?

In those moments of discouragement, it can be tempting to reach for false hope. To simply tell yourself, “Come on, I’m doing fine.” Or, “Not everyone can do amazing things for Christ all the time.”

It’s one thing to try to cheer yourself up by telling yourself your faith is good enough (who are we kidding, right?). But when a giant of the faith tells you that your faith is second to none, that’s the kind of encouragement we need.

The “giant of the faith” I’m referring to here is the apostle Peter. Here’s what he says, almost casually, in the first verse of 2 Peter:

“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ…”

Peter is writing to people whose faith is “of equal standing” with his own. Who are these great men and women of faith? Just regular old Christians. Peter was writing to Jewish Christians scattered around Northern Asia Minor. Not church leaders, not apostles, not super-Christians. Just Christians. Saints, as the New Testament calls them. (Even though we tend to think of saints as super-Christians, the New Testament refers to everyone who has genuine faith in Jesus as a saint.)

And to these ordinary Christians, Peter says, “your faith is of equal standing with mine.” That’s a big deal. Read the Gospels and Acts and you don’t get this impression. Peter is the only non-Son-of-God to walk on water. He literally saw Jesus’ glory at the transfiguration. He healed people and performed all kinds of miracles.

And yet Peter says to us, your faith is the same as mine. Why? Because we have obtained it by the righteousness of Jesus, who is both our God and Savior.

The faith you have is no credit to you. Faith doesn’t belong to those super-humans who are able to grab hold of their spiritual bootstraps and pull themselves above the doubts that plague the rest of us. No. Faith is obtained. It comes from our righteous God. The whole point of faith is that it sidesteps what any of us earns or deserves (thank God!) and connects us to the God who is righteous.

So the next time you’re tempted to downplay your faith, recognize that Peter’s faith did not exceed your own. Your faith is more amazing then you can imagine. It’s no less valuable than that given to Peter. In your moments of spiritual discouragement, don’t give yourself a superficial pep-talk. Instead, agree with the Bible’s assessment of the value of your faith, and then “build yourself up in your most holy faith” (Jude 20).

Santa Claus has been with us for many generations, but still there are those who deny his existence. More than 100 years ago, sweet little Virginia O’Hanlon, eight years old at the time, encountered some of these nonbelievers, which prompted her to write these famous words to the editor of the New York Sun:

Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia O’Hanlon

Dear Editor: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, “If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

The brilliant response from newspaper writer Francis Church has reportedly become the most frequently reprinted editorial of all time. He explains:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little…

Francis Church

Francis Church

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world…Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy…Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus…There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

Francis Church is rightly condemning the modern notion that we should only believe in those things which can be verified through the five senses. Indeed, the lack of legitimate “Santa sightings” is no reason to disbelieve in his existence. Church maintains a sense of wonder in our increasingly technologized world. Where would we be if our worldview left no room for mystery?

But we need to be careful about equating the kind of faith that can be directed toward Santa Claus and the kind of faith that Christians direct towards Jesus. Some would say that faith is faith—believing in Jesus is no different than believing in Santa. When Karl Marx referred to religion as “the opiate of the masses,” he had in mind the kind of faith that Francis Church has in Santa Claus: We can’t explain everything in this world, and none of us want to give up the joy of poetry, romance, and wonder, so why not believe in Santa if it makes life more bearable?

Santa ChimneyI am all for celebrating the magic and mystery of the world in fun ways (which is how I see Santa Claus). But we “believe” in Santa despite what we know, rather than because of it. No one ever looked at the night before Christmas and decided the best way to explain the gifts in the stockings and under the tree is a garish, overweight man in a red velvet suit flying in a sleigh and descending through every chimney in the world.

On the contrary, faith in Jesus is not despite the evidence. It is not blind faith. It is a faith that rests on the authority of what God has said, and then steps out into the real world and finds God’s words confirmed in every aspect of the world and the human experience. Faith in Jesus is more than a sense of romance and magic (though it is not less).

So celebrate Christmas with or without reference to Santa Claus, and never lose your sense of wonder in this unbelievable world. But don’t believe those who tell you that faith in Jesus is nothing more than a lie you tell yourself to make life a little happier, or to make your Christmas celebrations a little more religiously charged. God’s truth runs deeper than our five senses, but it is consistently confirmed by all of them.