WE will start at the beginning. One of the chief hindrances to the understanding and exercise of faith is the separation in our thinking between the natural and spiritual, due to the fall. There is flesh and there is Spirit.
Flesh draws upon one set of energies, Spirit upon another. Faith, it is generally supposed, belongs to the realm of the Spirit. It is a "gift of God", and therefore can only be exercised under divine stimulation. We must pray for it ("Lord, increase our faith"), wait for it, use it only according as God has dealt to us the measure of faith. When and where it is not thus given, we are helpless, becalmed, immobile. A great misunderstanding lies at the root of this outlook.
How did God make man? A living soul, we are told, in His own image: that is to say, with all the attributes of personality.
A man feels and desires: he thinks, he wills, he speaks, he acts. All these marvelous faculties combine to make a person; but the point to
note is that in themselves they are neutral powers.
They are neither good nor evil: they are the raw material of human nature, the mighty forces directed to weal or woe by the spirit that is in man.
To love, to hate; to admire, to despise; to boast, to be humble; to be angry, to be calm; to have fear, to have faith; to be stern, to be gentle; any of these can be right, any can be wrong. They are the elemental gifts of God in nature to His human offspring. By these men are made "after the similitude of God", and by them they walk the course of this world.
What matters is: do they walk after the flesh, or after the Spirit? We need a proper grasp of the neutral condition of this raw material of human nature, and that its relationship to the spirit that controls it, gives the key to the understanding of many problems concerning the life and warfare of a Christian, the understanding, conquest and proper use of temptation, release from false condemnation, proper discernment between flesh and Spirit, the solution to the problems of sanctification.
These we will look into later on. But at the moment we will concentrate on this one point. Amongst the major faculties with which human nature is basically endowed, is faith. The greatest faculty of all is love. God is love. The whole creation is God's love manifested in innumerable forms. All is love, or love in its
reverse form, hate. Love is the consuming fire, which is God. Man is love likewise, perverted or purified. Love of the world or love of the Father must dominate the human heart; he must love, for he is love. He loves long before he is redeemed. He loves from the time he becomes a living soul. But what does he love?
Next to love in importance comes faith. Love is the driving force. Desire (love pure or perverted) controls, contrives, creates all that ever comes to pass. Emotion, not reason, is at humanity's helm. Love motivates, but faith acts. Faith is action. By faith alone can a man act. Faith carries out the urges of love. Faith works by love.
Consider the importance of faith. Consider its place in human behavior. Is there one single act that one single man has ever taken, from the trivial to the sublime, which has not love as its driving force, and faith as its method of performance? A man eats. Why? Because he wants to. Love, desire, is the motive power. How then does he eat, and what? He sees some food which is both pleasant and nutritious, he believes in its value; he takes, masticates, swallows, digests, every action of which is pure faith and nothing but faith. At any moment in any of these actions, if his faith in the food were shaken, if he were caused to change his faith into its reversebelieving that it was bad for him he would immediately and automatically cease to take, masticate, swallow, or even digest (if he could!). Faith is human action. Faith is the God-implanted, natural and only way by which a man can go through all the processes of doing or obtaining the things he desires. And by implication, if man is made in the image of God, and if man's fundamental God-given faculties are those of love and faith, they are also God's ways of action, even of creation. The Scripture shows plain indication of this, and it has its importance when we carry the examination of faith still further.
Apply this formula of faith to every single human action, from breathing right up the scale to great scientific discoveries, and finally, across the gulf to the realm of the Spirit; and it will be seen that there is no other conceivable method of human activity. A purchase in a shop, taking a seat on a chair, breathing a breath, picking up an article, all are sheer acts of faith. Likewise, historic achievements, such as the discovery of radium. Certain investigations, we read, drew Mme. Curie's attention to the probability of another element, not yet known to science, in a material called pitchblende, a throw-out from certain Austrian mines. The more she investigates, the more the conviction grows. Her fellow-scientists scoff, but she believes. She feels sure that the evidence justifies such faith. But living faith is action, only dead faith has no works accompanying it. So, quietly, secretly, she and her husband put all the money they can spare in buying truckloads of pitchblende and having them brought to the but at the back of their house. There they labor, one year, two years, until one
evening she calls her husband into their home-made laboratory, and there for the first time in history is seen the glowing tube of radium. Here is natural faith, inherent faith, inspired by the glimpse of a scientific truth, directed to a natural, so-called secular objective; but it is a higher type of faith, or rather a higher form of the exercise of faith, than such simple acts as eating, breathing, sitting: for, in this case, the object of faith was by no means so self-evident; some indeed ridiculed it; it took time and careful study to come to a conviction solid enough to justify the decisive action which is faith: and when the decision to act had been made, it took time, patience, self-denial, for the hypothesis of faith to be demonstrated as fact. And equally, it will be seen, as we move on to things spiritual, that in the realm of the Spirit there are simpler, more obvious stimuli to faith; and more advanced, more exacting forms of its exercise.
That faith is an inherent capacity in all men is also made plain in the Scriptures. "Cursed is he that trusteth in man." "Put not your trust in princes." "Trust not in uncertain riches." "Because thou has relied on the King of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God..."
Sufficient, I hope, has now been said to bring home this first point of fundamental importance: that faith is a natural faculty of man: that, next to love, it is the most important faculty that man possesses, for faith is the core of decisive action: that man, while he lives and breathes, can never cease exercising faith, and has never performed one single action in the world's history which is not energized by faith: that to seek faith or ask for faith is as ridiculous as asking for lungs to breathe with, or mouth to eat with. Man is compounded of faith, and can do no other than exercise it in one direction or another.