by Mark Merrell

“Alright, kids, y’all listen up, everyone’s eyes on me … what is the f-word we learned about this morning?”

As soon as I said it, I immediately tensed up and glanced over at the other four volunteers in the room. A couple were smirking; one was really confused; and one looked like she genuinely wanted to kill me. As I was popping out of my trance, I heard the entire room of little kids yell, “FAITH!”

Faith. Almost every lesson I teach in children’s ministry seems to come back to faith in some form or fashion. “So and so had great faith in the promises of God … What’s one attribute that sticks out about so and so? Faith … We trust Jesus through what? Faith.”

Faith. It is stating the obvious but faith truly is the foundation of the Christian life. After all, as believers, we place our trust and hope in a man that walked the earth two centuries ago. If that doesn’t require a level of faith, I don’t know what does. Despite that truth, I often wonder, is there evidence of genuine faith in my life? Does my life reflect an actual hope in Christ? I have no doubt that if someone took a snapshot of my life (how I spend my money; how I spend my time; beliefs I espouse; hopefully, how I treat others) that they would say, “He’s a Christian.” I wonder if they would say, “He has a deep and abiding faith in Christ.” Don’t get me wrong. I’ll take the former. But, I like the sound of the latter a bit better.

Faith. It’s a word that conjures up a level of dependence on outside forces that is foreign in our culture. Believing in something we can’t see. Having hope in something that is beyond ourselves. And, I think, if we are being honest, the word faith (in its true form) elicits a certain mystical/spiritual element that can often feel uncomfortable to 21st century American evangelicals. It’s not as concrete as certain facets of Christianity. It’s not as simple as following a set of clearly defined rules. It has an element of risk and uncertainty associated with it. Having a deep and abiding faith could mean we radically change the way we think about money? It could mean that instead of giving a traditional tithe that we give 20 or 30 or 50% of our income away. It could mean we take a job that offers less “opportunity” and less pay so that we can pursue God’s calling on our life. It could mean that we stop letting our kids do that one thing that “everyone else” is doing so that our family can reorient ourselves to God’s desires for our family. Conversely, a deep and abiding faith could also mean that (despite our previous objections) we actually let our kids do that one thing that “everyone else” is doing so that they can God’s best for their lives.

Faith. A deep and abiding faith is evidenced by a willingness to set aside our own thoughts and desires in submission to those of Christ. It’s not a calling for the faint of heart. This time of year is an opportunity for a lot of us to sit back and reflect about what we got right (and wrong) last year and what we want to change in the upcoming year. Resolutions are great and, often, very Godly. But, what if this year, we made a resolution to make room for faith. In whatever capacity that might look like for us. Marriage. Job. Money. Addictions. Anxieties. Church. To look for ways to evidence the hope that we have. To set aside our own desires and make them captive to Christ. To aspire that at the end of this year, a stranger might look at our lives and not just say that we are Christians but that we are a people with a deep and abiding faith in Christ. It’s certainly not a desire for the faint of heart but, what a glorious testimony that would be!

Mark Merrell and his wife, Allison, have been married for 15 years.  They have four children Brooklynn, Drew, Adaline, and Mason.  Mark is an elder at Crossings Community Church where he and his family have been members for 11 years.

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