I make no apology for starting this set of blogs with a couple on checking out our faith. I have an increasing number of friends who no longer attend church, often on the basis that it no longer seems real. I do think it would be helpful if churches made sure that they are only dealing in the real thing as there is considerable pain for the many who find they appear to have no choice but to withdraw.
I have a tablespoon in our cutlery drawer, which has been in the house for as long as I can remember. It may have been my mother’s, or my mother’s mother’s, or it may have come from Catherine’s family or even a jumble sale. I really do not remember. The reason it is noteworthy is that I think it is made of fine silver. There does appear to be a hallmark on the handle, but it is so worn and faded, that it is impossible to tell if it is genuine or not. I have looked on line to discover if there are any easy ways of checking it out but I have not found any.
It actually does not really matter. It is a useful spoon and silver or not we are happy to keep it.
The genuineness of some things however, is important. Knowing that our faith will stand the tests and trials of life will give assurance, and enable us to live without fear in a world that is full of fear. The letter of James, encourages his readers to view times of trial and testing as a reason for rejoicing. It seems he had in mind the work of a gold or silversmith, who would melt down a piece of metal in order to remove the impurities and so increase its value. Once the refining was completed the metal could receive a stamp of authenticity to show that it was in fact genuine.
The July 1873 issue of Palmer’s Guide to Holiness and Revival Miscellany, contained a new hymn by the songwriter Fanny Crosby: ‘Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine’. Crosby was a woman whose faith was tested and proved true. The words of the hymn have ‘genuine confidence’ stamped firmly upon them, faithfully reflecting the assurance that Crosby manifest throughout her life. In spite of (or Fanny might have said because of) being blind, she wrote over 8000 hymns and 1000 poems as well as books and articles. Faith that is not tested may be true, but it may be accompanied by doubts and fears.
In his second letter to the Corinthian Church (13 v5) Paul encourages them to examine themselves to see whether they are truly in the faith. I suspect that if he were around today, he would encourage us to do the same thing. To test something to see if it is in working order is perfectly normal. We do it in every area of our lives: we taste the soup to see if the seasoning is right, we get the foundations of a building checked before we buy it, we go to the Dentist to see if our teeth need attention. Why some of us should hesitate to get our faith thoroughly checked is a mystery, unless we have doubts that we are too proud to face, or unless we know that there are areas that need attention and we lack the confidence in God to deal with them.
We do need to face the fact that untested faith may not be genuine, and faith that is not genuine is not worth holding on to or passing on to others. If our old spoon proves to be tin, it may have a limited use along with the other spoons, but it will be no great loss. If our faith fails the test, we may lose everything.