If you’re like me, you are probably able to relate to the picture of my coffee mug. After I made my coffee one morning, I set down the mug and grabbed a book. I didn’t see the chip until I picked it up for my first, warm and savory sip. When I did see it, it seemed to say to me loud and clear, “your faith has a chip in it!” I thought, how fitting. Of course, it does!
My faith often lacks the quality that would get Jesus’ positive attention. I fit in with the disciples, “Oh you of little faith.”
Then I read Paul’s statement to the Colossian church:
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister? (1:21-23)
I like the way Eugene Peterson put it: “You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned into the Message, careful and not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message – just this one.”
To “continue in the faith” isn’t an “iffy” thing as if we can walk in and out of the faith that saved us. It’s something that Christians do for other Christians on a regular basis.
There are three ways to continue in the faith so no one walks away from a gift like that.
- Strength training. Believers need regular doses of faith strengthening and encouragement in the gospel because life is a war zone against the soul. That strength comes from the word and we remind each other of it so we can correct our wrong thinking about God. C. S. Lewis reminds us through his two devils, Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood, it isn’t the things the devil puts into the thoughts of humans that is so effective as it is the things he keeps out that cause trouble. Lots of distractions will keep us from the word that encourages strong faith. And besides, Christians “leak”! (See Acts 14:22).
- Make the effort. Yes, believers are safe in Christ. Yes, God keeps his promises. But that’s no reason not to show up for work! Christians can’t leave all effort behind. We can and should leave behind the self-saving part. That’s a dead-end street. But we are responsible to join the Spirit’s training program with effort. The “if” that begins the sentence is a real warning to be heard. This isn’t an “iffy” condition as if God or Paul expects the believer to walk away. No. He expects a good outcome. The “if” is a “goad” to kick us into gear. But it is still true that the outcome is good only as we have a hand in preventing our shifting away from such a good gift. If we shift, did we really belong? Stability comes as we put in the effort.
- Fulfill your calling. Second Timothy 2:15 is long on a controversy that I’m not taking up here. Suffice it to say, the bottom line for Paul in that chapter is that Christians have a calling and are to fulfill it. Like some doctors are trained for brain surgery and others for foot surgery, the rule of thumb in the medical community is to “stay in your modality,” your field of expertise. All Christians are dedicated Christ followers. All Christians are gifted Christ followers. Stay in your calling in Christ and your giftings in the Spirit.
Don’t waver, don’t deviate, continue in the faith. Serve as you can and whom you can. You are a gifted witness and can serve the believer and those not yet believers in ways they might never expect.