In President

I’ve been thinking recently about the title of this column, “From a Faith Perspective,” especially given the current state of the world and its impact upon our personal lives. I preside over an institution many would refer to as a “faith-based” organization, and I speak often about matters of faith and the teaching of the Bible. Over the course of the last few months, as 2020 has set itself apart from most others in my lifetime, I’ve been asked quite a bit about the importance and value of faith to me personally.

In some conversations I find that people understand the concept of faith in ways they honestly sometimes find inadequate, irrelevant, or even absurd; however, faith is none of these things to me. It is entirely adequate, altogether relevant, and anything but absurd.

For me, my understanding of and appreciation for faith as well as the substance and object of it are the reasons this is so. Faith is not simply an artifact or notion I hold on to for security or comfort like a good luck charm or a personal wish for my life. Neither is it simply a coping strategy for managing stress or maintaining a pollyannish outlook. For me, faith is substantive. It is tied to conviction about truth and reality. It informs and shapes my worldview, which includes the way I see and experience the circumstances of life.

This week I was reading Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians that underscores how faith shapes my view of and response to adversity and uncertainty. In chapter 12, the apostle is sharing a testimony about his “thorn in the flesh,” an ailment that was harassing him and causing him significant anguish. So much so, in fact, that he pleaded with God for relief.

The passage states: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Paul experiences this grace and strength. He endured much (beatings, shipwrecks, hunger) and yet carried on. I take from Paul’s experience here serious encouragement that God gives us grace to endure what we think we cannot, that weaknesses are not what they seem, and that there is strength to be had and even contentment in the midst of what should bring anything but that sense. This comes from faith. Faith in God and His power, love, and enablement gives perspective. This faith shapes my judgment, my expectations. It changes the way I see things and the value I put on things like ease, convenience, and comfort. It makes me grateful for those things when I have them, but it also makes me aware they are anything but constant or guaranteed.

Faith informs and influences my view that no matter what circumstances I face, there is grace and strength to endure and there are higher purposes at work. This is what I mean by faith from my faith perspective. Perhaps it might be helpful to think again about what faith means to you.

This article was originally published in the Bucks County Courier Times on July 19, 2020.

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