by Michael Maciel
If “faith” is the confidence that God will take care of us, then faith itself is a way to control what happens, is it not?
Control is a part of living as an adult. When we are children, we rely on our parents to take control. The more they do, the more secure we feel, if their control is loving and consistent.
But part of growing up in God is learning to take responsibility for ourselves, and taking responsibility is learning how to take control of our lives, at least inasmuch as we are able.
Taking responsibility means that we have to control what we think, what we allow ourselves to believe, and to moderate our emotional responses. We “design” how we are going to be in the world, and then we stick to the design. This is control.
Faith is knowing that God will hold up God’s end of the bargain, that God will bring us the lawful fulfillment of our expectations, according to the design we have created for ourselves.
Another way of saying “design” is “character.” What kind of character are we building (designing) for ourselves? Whenever we decide in advance how we are going to make moral choices and then follow through when life demands those of us, we are taking control of our lives.
These decisions are very much in our control. Faith is having confidence that our choices will have their intended outcome. For example, the more honest we are (as a moral choice), the more clarity we will have in our life. You cannot know the truth if you do not accept the truth.
This is what we call the “promise” of God. The Bible refers to this promise as a “covenant.” In today’s language, the word is “contract.” Will God honor God’s contract with us? Faith is knowing that God will.
What makes us spiritual adults is our willingness to hold up our end of the contract. How true will we be to our word? Being true to our word requires discipline, and discipline is control.
It is true, however, that we cannot control what other people will do. Or is it? Can you not think of any case where people are controlled by other people, whether by force or by subtle means?
Take advertising, for instance. If it didn’t work, corporations wouldn’t spend billions and billions of dollars on it every year, would they? If we dare to think that corporations are wasting their money on advertising, either we or the corporations are phenomenally stupid.
What about persuasive argument? Is that not a way in which we control the outcome of events? Don’t people decide what they are going to do based on what they believe is right, or at the very least expedient? And what controls their beliefs? Is it not persuasive argument, showing the benefits of a particular action in a clear and powerful way? Human history is the record of how persuasive arguments have changed what people think and what they believe. Change a person’s beliefs, and you change the person.
Control is important, whether we are building our character or driving our car. If we’re going down the road and a pothole causes us to lose control, do we give up? Do we just let go of the steering wheel, close our eyes, and “have faith” that everything will turn out okay? Of course not. We do everything we can to regain control. So it is in every single aspect of our lives.
It is vitally important that we be persons of faith. But it is also vitally important that we be strong. Strength is good, especially when life’s road is full of potholes. Potholes happen. We can count on that. How we respond to them is what counts, and responding well requires strength, and strength is what makes our ability to respond (response-ability) possible.
Most people react, rather than responding to events. There is a big difference between reaction and response-ability.