Faith gives certainty in life’s uncertainties

Tomorrow brings hope

by Chip Hardwick | Presbyterians Today

iStock photo

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Helen Keller observed that “faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” And John Calvin wrote faith is “the firm knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us.” While none of these definitions are fully complete, each gives us a glimpse of this Christian cornerstone, much like the beginning of Hebrews 11, which affirms that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for.”

Now more than ever, it seems faith is important in our personal lives as we struggle to believe “when sorrows like sea billows roll.” In this column, though, I want to focus on the importance of faith as we think about the future of our congregations.

Things are in such flux as we haltingly move beyond the pandemic into a new season where old patterns are questioned even more. It is natural to worry about what will come next.

Yet to have faith, as Hebrews tells us, is to hold on to the assurance of things hoped for. God’s promises can be trusted even — and especially — when the church is unsettled. God still creates. Christ is still risen. The Holy Spirit is still on the loose. Of course, we do not know how the church will grow into this reality in its next phase, a fact the writer of Hebrews also acknowledges when writing that “faith is … the conviction of things not seen.”

It’s much easier to follow the Spirit when every single step is obvious, but according to Hebrews, that’s not faith. Faith is journeying obediently with Jesus Christ into the future that is not yet seen. I’m not sure there’s a better way to describe the challenge of ministry in 2022 than this: stepping into an unknown future in which many are daring to do.

Recently, at a panel held in the synod that I serve, I heard stories that illustrated what stepping out in faith looks like today. One such example was the Rev. Bethany Peerbolte — known better by almost 300,000 TikTok followers as RevBethany. The associate pastor for youth and mission at First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Michigan, has created a following with her videos that preach the grace of God creatively, comedically and courageously. My sense is that the demographics of her social media flock are quite different from those in her congregation.

The Rev. Dr. Chip Hardwick

What will the church look like in its next season? We don’t know exactly. But we do know this: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Thanks be to God!

The Rev. Dr. Chip Hardwick is the executive of the Synod of the Covenant.

 Hebrews 11:1–3, 8–16 is a lectionary text for Aug. 7, the ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

Let’s discuss

  • When in your life have you most struggled with faith? When has it been the strongest?
  • Can you point to a time that you or someone else followed God to a land that was not yet visible?
  • How can your church be more open to what the future might hold?

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