Does Faith Matter? Does Christianity Matter? Why? How? These are fundamental questions every believer wrestles with. These were issues that David and Ittai wrestled with after David’s defeat by Absalom. 2 Samuel 15-19 says: [David] said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your people with you. May the Lord show you kindness and faithfulness.” But Ittai replied to [David], “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.” Campbell Gillon, a pastor at Georgetown Presbyterian Church in Washington DC, once preached a sermon on the Christian’s “Constant Quest.” Gillon told about Malcolm Muggeridge’s observation on making a film for the BBC on Christ: “There never was a story less over and done with. Following it, I was not delving into the past but peering into the future.” Gillon then continues: “Why? Because theologies, policies, programs, forms, structures, or buildings are not the essence of faith. These decay. Yet certain creative factors at the heart of that story forever maintain their grip. Not because Christianity seeks to whet superstitious fear of the unknown, but because it best expresses people’s deepest needs, highest yearnings, noblest acts, and non-self-regarding motives.” The story of Christ – his birth, his life, his death and his resurrection – is what grabs our attention and once it has our attention then transforms and gives purpose to the believer’s life. William Barclay observed about the meaning of advent: “Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy. In him, the message of the prophets came true. We tend nowadays to make very little of prophecy. We are not really interested, for the most part, in searching for sayings in the Old Testament which are fulfilled in the New Testament. But prophecy does contain this great and eternal truth: that in this universe there is purpose and design and that God is meaning and willing certain things to happen. In Gerald Healy’s play The Black Stranger,there is a telling scene. The setting is in Ireland, in the terrible days of famine in the mid-nineteenth century. For want of something better to do, and for lack of some other solution, the government had set men to digging roads to no purpose and to no destination. Michael finds out about this and comes home one day, and says in poignant wonder to his father: “They’re makin’ roads that lead to nowhere.” If we believe in prophecy, that is what we can never say. History can never be a road that leads to nowhere. We may not use prophecy in the same way as our ancestors did, but at the back of the fact of prophecy lies the eternal fact that life and the world are not on the way to nowhere, but on the way to the goal of God.” There is a scene in the movie “Beautiful Mind” where John Nash – the brilliant but psychologically challenged economist – is cutting and pasting newspaper and magazine articles to unlock a “secret code” that he believes is being used to help foreign communist leaders direct agents working inside the United States. A powerful revelation comes when Nash realizes that this activity is but a delusion – a complete fabrication of his mind. This touches on a deep fear all of us have: that the industry of our efforts is without purpose. It is this fear to which Shakespeare gives poignant voice when Macbeth laments:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
While life can signify nothing – and Macbeth’s and Nash’s fears are real, the Christian has a certain belief that his life is not a road made to nowhere. The Christian can answer, “whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.” And that is an important way in which faith does matter.
John McMillan, Author