I recently took a series of surveys as an exercise assigned by my church, as a part of the new members’ class. One of those exercises was a spiritual gifts analysis, and as I already knew, I came out very strongly…I hate to say “gifted”…I’ll say “pre-disposed”…toward knowledge and truth and what the survey called “teaching.” In other words, I like learning new things from Scripture. And because of that, apparently I’d make a good teacher. I don’t know about that, but we’ll leave it as-is.
One of the downsides to being someone who revels in new knowledge and deep truths is that sometimes you tend to look for the depth in things when in reality the crux of that truth is as simple as can be. I think that describes me to the letter. Yet, as I continue to walk with the Lord, or maybe more appropriately described, as I begin to attempt to walk with the Lord a little closer, one of the things He is teaching me is the value of simplicity. And that truth was no less evident today than in days past (or is it passed? IDK…).
Today, my devotional reading was from Galatians 4, specifically versus 12 through 31. The goal of my reading was to identify the concerns of Paul, especially the illness he speaks of in verse 13. And while I followed the instructions (I’m a rule follower…), it was a different verse and a different theme that really popped out at me. In verses 21 through 31, Paul makes an analogy of Abraham’s sons and us as believers today. Here’s a general overview of what he says:
Abraham had 2 sons. One was from Hagar, a slave woman, and the other was from Sarah, his wife. The son from Hagar, Ishmael, was the son born when Abraham attempted to take matters into his own hands, after having already received the promise of a son through Sarah. The other son, Isaac, was the son born as a result of the promise of God. So Paul says that we, today, can be children of either son – children of slavery, like Ishmael, or children of promise, like Isaac.
And Paul tells the Galatians in verse 28, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”
If you study Galatians, you’ll see that they were struggling with a heresy called legalism, in which they attempted to earn the favor of God by following the Law of Moses (like being circumcised and participating in rituals). But Paul tells them, “Look, you were saved by grace through faith…what makes you think you should now live by Law? No, continue to live by faith!” And in the culmination of him telling them this, he says “C’mon! Don’t you realize that you are children of promise? Quit returning to slavery!”
So what does this have to do with the value of simplicity?
The phrase “children of promise” stood out to me, because I realized that I’ve added way too much depth to the definition of faith. To me, faith has been this complex thing that is one part belief in God, another part trusting Him (even the demons believe…so there must be more to faith than belief), and another part mystical spirituality that can’t be described in words. Because the Bible says that faith and works are not compatible, I always thought that faith had to be something completely abstract, or else it could be construed as something we did and therefore would be works. And our works are like filthy rags before Him, yet our faith pleases Him. So to me, faith was something deep that I couldn’t put into words.
Then, I studied Galatians.
In convincing the Galatians that they should refrain from legalism, Paul twice uses this word “promise.” In Galatians 3, he tells them that the promise God made to Abraham 400 some odd years before the Law was given still stood even when the Law was given (and still stands today!). And that promise was that Abraham would have a son (with Sarah), and that all nations (even the Galatians…even us today!) would be blessed through that bloodline. Of course, on this side of the cross, we know that blessing was Christ himself, a direct descendent of Abraham and his son Isaac. But at that time, it was simply a promise of a future blessing. And Abraham believed (faith!). And God credited it to him as righteousness.
The other time Paul uses the word promise is when he tells the Galatians that they are children of promise…which really means they are children of faith. Faith is really nothing more than taking a promise given you and saying with all sincerity, “I believe you will fulfill it.” When I was married, I promised my wife I would not cheat on her or beat on her, among other things. And she believed me. That’s faith. In the case of God’s promise…He promised to bless everyone in the world through His son, and anyone who believes Him can be said to have faith. And it is that faith that is credited to us as righteousness still today.
So faith is really quite simple. It is belief. It is trust. But it’s not mystical, and it’s not an action. It’s simply a decision to take God’s promise and say, “I believe you will fulfill it.” And as is often the case, simplicity is more beautiful than the depth of a thousand oceans.