Welcome to the Faith Revolution Podcast with Kirk and Jenn Walden. It’s great to have you with us. In this episode, we are considering the seemingly simple task of asking the question… What is faith? We challenged ourselves with some new and simple perspectives on faith during this morning coffee discussion.
As we entered this discussion, Jenn and I considered the following. . .
How is faith defined by most Christians?
How have we personally defined faith and how would we express the concept to others?
In considering the meaning of Emmanuel (God is with us), how do both the name and life of Jesus form the foundation of faith for every Christian?
What is the “Good News” and how should that understanding influence our interactions with those who do not consider themselves Christ followers?
Individual and Group Reflection
How would you have defined faith prior to this podcast? Did you find the term easy or difficult to explain to yourself and others?
As you reflect on personal experiences, how have you embraced or struggled with the concept that “God is with you” and “God is for you”?
How were your own views of the “Good News” supported or challenged by this podcast?
KIRK – When faith comes from my direction, I automatically go to the Bible, specifically Hebrews Chapter 11. The first thing I want to say is, “Well, it’s right there. Hebrews 11:1 says, “now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
But when we go there, I want to ask about the why. How do we get to that kind of faith? What’s the why that helps us understand the sentence? And, Jenn, you were talking about Jesus a few days ago, and who He is and the importance of His name. And this kind of lit something up in me, so I want you to share a little bit of that.
JENN – Well, for me, it’s been a weird journey because I think faith has become somewhat of a religious word, and sometimes I’ve had to stop myself and think, “What does it actually mean?” In real application, in real life, what does the word faith mean, and how would I even be able to explain what faith is? So for me, faith has become a churchy word, and I’m left to question in a real world with real hurt and real need, how do I make faith accessible to people?
One of the things that really hit me is that the center point of my faith is Jesus Christ. For me, that is what faith is all about. And then I began thinking, “Okay, the name of Jesus, what’s so special about that name? You know God will move mountains for that name?” So I was motivated to dig a bit deeper about the name of Jesus. There are many things said about the name of Jesus in both the Old and New Testament, but then it really hit me, “Oh wow, His name means, ‘God is with us’.”
KIRK – Emmanuel, God is with us. He’s on our side. Before I can start to have that Hebrews kind of faith, the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, I’ve got to wake up every morning and say, “God is with me.”
He sent Jesus to tell me that message. God is with me no matter the circumstances. We can get caught up and disabled in the wrong focus of faith … For example, faith means I can do anything or faith means everything goes away that’s bad in my life. No, I believe faith is knowing that in spite of the circumstances, God is with us. No matter what I see out there, God is with me. As we explore faith, I think it all starts with that very simple concept. He’s with us.
FAITH IN HARD PLACES
JENN – I love this side of it, too… God is with us and God is for us. And I love what you just said because life has trauma, tragedy, and trials. It’s simply part of our human existence. But at the end of the day, my faith has to say, “but He is for me,” just like you said, even when it doesn’t look like it.
KIRK – That kind of faith can be a challenge. But if we could get to that point in our lives, where we woke up in the morning, with the firm belief that He’s for me, and if He’s for me and with me, that means that my day counts. Even though I don’t always understand how it counts. I may reach one person, I may not reach anybody, I may be just working in my office. Who knows what it might be, but at the same time, He is with me. He’s looking for ways to help me and to allow me to do those things He’s called me to do, whatever they might be.
If I remember God is for me, then I’m convinced my day counts.
JENN – Yeah. And if I’m slogging through life because I’ve been hit upside the head by challenge, faith is the ability to get up each day and say, “I don’t understand why this is happening in my life, but I’m gonna take one more step today, I’m gonna move forward because I know there’s hope. I know there’s something on the other side of all this pain that I’m experiencing right now.”
GOD IS FOR YOU vs YOU ARE A SINNER
KIRK – But I’m looking at our churches today, the church, the big church, regardless of what denomination we’re in (we’re all in this thing together), and I think sometimes we’re really focusing on, “Well, you know what, you gotta get rid of this sin or that sin or whatever the list of sins and… ” I’m not in favor of sins, don’t misunderstand here, but I think we sometimes overlook the basic foundation of God is for us.
We get caught up in “Don’t do this and make sure you’re living a holy life.” Sure, I want to do that, but how do we step into a life and faith that changes other lives and refreshes our own?
I think it starts, not with “You’re a sinner, you’ve got big problems, you need to fix this in your life, and I need to come alongside you, so you can get fixed and rid yourself of this problem.” But instead helping someone with the deep realization God is for you. Even when I fall short, God is for me, He wants the best for me, and He wants me to be a world changer.
KIRK – Now, look at the people in the Bible. We’ve talked a lot lately about, say, Rahab the Harlot. God was for her. She was doing bad stuff, and yet God was for her and gave her an opportunity to change the world when she let in the spies. She lied about the spies being in her roof to save the country, the fledgling country of Israel. They weren’t even a country yet, they were just a people, but she saved them. She led them to their first conquest because she recognized God was for her.
JENN – Yes, she recognized God was for her, and then she had a faith that said, “Therefore, I will take direct action because I believe that He is for me. I believe that He exists, He is good, and I’m gonna do whatever He asks me to do.”
KIRK – “And He’s not out to punish me because I’m on the wrong team right now.” Because she was on the Jericho team and switched sides. And then we go to the New Testament and look at the woman at the well, one of my other favorite people in the Bible.
THE WOMAN AT THE WELL
KIRK – She had had a checkered past, five husbands, living with a guy, all that stuff. But Jesus comes to her, talks to her, and within that conversation, she realizes, too, “God is for me. This Jesus is His Messiah, His son, and He just told me. He told me, and I get to be the one to tell the others in my community. He’s for me. God is for me when He sends His own son to me to talk to me like this.”
THE GOOD NEWS is REALLY GOOD
KIRK – That’s what I wish we could get across to the world out there. I think a lot of times, when we talk about the Gospel message and stuff, we say, “Well, we need to let people know the bad news before they’ll understand the good news.” The Gospel, the very wording of it, the very word means good news. Well, the good news is, what? God is for us. That’s what Jesus came to tell us, God is for us. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand right here in front of you, God is for you.”
If we want to revolutionize our faith the first thing we need to remember every morning is… “God is for me.”
JENN – You’re really hitting on something that’s resonating with me. I’m building faith in people. I’m not tearing down sin, even though, like you said, we’re not for sin, but instead I’m building faith. What does it look like to build faith in someone? It is the good news that God is for me, He is cheering for me, He’s gonna put things in my path to bring me wholeness. This realization means I start building. It builds faith in me as an individual, and it can extend to the world around me. As opposed to, I’m tearing down sin and I’m tearing down and I’m fixing what’s wrong about someone. Instead, I’m gonna fly over it all and say, “Let’s start building some faith. Let’s start getting some things done here.”
KIRK – Let’s understand, God is on your side, He’s for you. Because I do think that, unfortunately, in modern day evangelism, we often start with, you have a problem.
And if you look at the four steps to Peace With God, and those type of tracks, it basically starts with, “You got to understand you’re a sinner, you’re separated from God, that’s bad news.” I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something here. I don’t know that Jesus walked into moments with people and said, “I have bad news to tell you”. He had harsh words for some Pharisees who were the religious leaders, but what’s happening here is Jesus is offering something.
I think our evangelism needs to rethink itself a bit, and we need to start saying, “God is for you. You get a place at the table, you get a place on the team, and you can have a home if you want one.” It’s an open invitation to anybody, and that’s exciting to me. I don’t have to go to my friend and tell them, “Look, let’s talk about the fact that you’ve got this sin in your life, and God can redeem you from your horribleness.” There are some people who feel horrible and need to deal with thoughts like, “I feel bad, I feel like I’m a horrible person.” Yes, Jesus is absolutely redeeming all of that. That is wonderful. But most people are just slogging through life, and they’re going, “I just want some hope.” Hope is when we say God is for us.
GOD IS SAD WHEN I’M BAD
JENN – It’s so simple, but in a weird way so revolutionary to me, to start looking at faith this way and start looking at how we approach every person in our path. And let’s face it, even those of us who have been believers for years, need to be reminded God is for me, He is with me. Because, honestly, I think we forget.
KIRK – People will say, “Look at God as your Father.” You know, I had a good dad, no worries about that, but like all dads, he wasn’t perfect. I’m not a perfect dad either. But even though my father wasn’t this way, I began to see God as a Father who is a taskmaster. Honestly I saw my job as keeping Him happy. I need to do the right things, I need to live a holy life, I need to be reading my Bible every day, I need to do all these things. None of those things are wrong, but I saw that as a prerequisite for God’s love. Instead of recognizing, He’s for me, He’s with me, that’s what Jesus so perfectly brings us.
The very name of Jesus is Emmanuel, God is with us. And I needed to recognize that. He adopted me into his family. We’ve read this and we see this, but I think sometimes I read that I’m an adopted child of God, and I still feel like I’m that stepchild because I’ve got to earn my keep. Oh, yes, I’m a Christian. God loves you, and God is with you, and all these things, and yet there’s that piece of me saying, but He’s still watching. And if I screw this up, He’s going to be really mad at me.
JENN – Our relationship with Him is often more conditional that we are willing to admit. I have often heard expressions of security, but the reality is, that for so many our day-to-day living out of faith is not one of a child that feels secure and safe in that relationship with their Father, but one instead that feels conditional and even fragile.
The good news is… God is for me, He cheers for me, placing people and experiences in my path to bring me to wholeness.
KIRK – Yeah. Even if we believe that there is no way to lose our salvation, we often still feel that weight. So, it doesn’t matter, whether someone believes “once saved, always saved,” or the idea that you can fall away from the faith. I’m not even here to debate that topic, except to say that no matter what we believe, I think it’s easy to fall into a trap of saying, “God is watching us and, well, He’s just continually disappointed in us… Jesus loves me when I’m good, when I do the things I should. Jesus loves me when I’m bad, even though He’s very sad.” Wait, whoa whoa whoa. Yes, I get the sad part, but Jesus still loves you, even though you’re really doing bad? Let me tell you, I’m really thinking, Jenn, that Jesus is walking alongside of us, and when we trip and fall and walk off the path, that instead of yelling at us for getting it wrong, He’s saying, “Back over here, we can do this together. Get back on this path and we can make it. And Jesus says, don’t forget, God is my Dad and He’s with us. And so every step of the way, just grab my hand again, let’s keep going. “
PAUL the PERSECUTOR
KIRK – It’s an interesting thing. We talk about people need to repent of their sins in order to come to Jesus. Again, I’m not opposed to that, but at the same time, if you look at Saul, who was out there killing Christians, we don’t see a point in his conversion where he bowed down. Well, he fell down, but where he stopped and said, “now I repent of my sins, and receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior.” No, Jesus said, “Get up, go to Ananias’ house, and when you get there, he’ll tell you what to do next, ’cause I’ve got a plan for you.”
Jesus took one of the worst persecutors of Christianity, perhaps the worst, and turned him into a follower. But He didn’t do it by the methods we have seen in the last decades, “You need to confess and stop.” I don’t doubt there was a moment in Paul’s life when he said, “Gosh, I really messed up, Jesus. I totally blew it.” Because he says he’s the chief of all sinners. But at the same time, the focus was on getting up and going and starting to follow. Can you imagine if we could put the focus on that, with the foundation that God is with us so that is why Jesus came. I like that so much more. I think there are a lot of denominations struggling with evangelism right now. How do we do it? What if we just put the focus on telling our friends, “God is with us, it’s changed our lives. You wanna join us? Come on in.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
JENN – What would we say are our takeaways from this little time of coffee we’ve had together? What are we learning? What’s rocking our world a little bit right now?
KIRK – My takeaway is this: If we want to revolutionize our faith, the first thing we need to do, when we get up every morning, is remember God is with us. When we have the opportunity to share our hope with others – we need to remember that we are sharing really good news – God is for us. If we can remember this simplicity, then we start to revolutionize faith.