In recent blogs we have been reflecting on the fact that God is a God of truth, that He always speaks the truth and that His words of truth are a sure foundation for our faith and life. More recently, in our post modern world however, we seem to be in an age that is moving towards ‘my truth’ and ‘how I feel’ being more important than absolute truth, objective facts or even investigation to find the truth. In the church too our experience and feelings have sometimes appeared to be elevated above God’s objective truth and word, and with that reason and thinking may have also suffered a bad press.
Added to this, as we have considered previously, there quite often seem to be contradictions in life, and indeed apparent contradictions, perplexities and things that are not easy to explain in the life of faith and our walk with God. Sometimes it feels that we are trying to understand what is going on and where God is in a situation. Maybe you have had the experience of someone saying “don’t try and think it through, reason won’t sort it, just have faith”. Or maybe, although you know there is truth in what they are saying, it feels a bit trite and superficial to you. Or maybe it’s just too hard to discount your feelings and conclusions in a situation, and so your faith in God and walk with Him takes a knock.
Since the reformation and renaissance, up until recently, we have lived in a time when reason, logic and scientific thought were paramount. Culture now seems to be changing. So is reason no longer an important ingredient, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, in staying in faith in God’s truth when our feelings and circumstances are adverse?
Well today I want to delve into a very interesting passage in the chapter of Faith – Hebrews 11. This is where the story is told of Abraham and his faith in offering Isaac, who was to be the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son, and a nation through him. It is told, to demonstrate his great faith, but what do we read in verse 19 – “He reasoned (reckoned, considered or concluded) that God was able to raise him up”. Wow! That sounds like Abraham was thinking, processing and reasoning when he acted in faith, obeying God and being willing to sacrifice his son, through whom God had promised him a nation inheritance.
So my faith can be fed by thinking and reasoning. Perhaps this is why Romans12:2 talks about the importance of our thinking, reasoning apparatus, our minds, being renewed. Perhaps this is why Paul is strong in Philippians 4, not only in rejoicing and not being anxious, but in giving careful thought to how we think and what we think about (verse 8).
By the way reason is not always the same as understanding. As we recently reflected, the question ‘Why’ can lead us down cul-de-sacs. “Lord I want to understand why this is happening?” We can be in a place of not understanding why certain hard things are happening, but we can still harness our reason to the truths about God, His ways, His promises, and His commitment to us, in order to nourish and grow our faith and act accordingly. I think that is what Abraham did, even though he may well have not understood ‘why’ God was asking him to sacrifice Isaac, or indeed (relevant for us in our modern day) not understood ‘how’ God’s request fitted in with his (or our) understanding of God, His character and ways.
And where does thanksgiving fit in with all this? Well we have already blogged about how much thanksgiving is a magnificently practical way of building our faith. And how does that work? Well every time you thank God for His goodness, love and faithfulness and more, you remind your brain and thoughts that these are the facts of the current situation and life, and you renew your mind a bit more. When we give thanks we are not just blessing God, we are rehearsing the truth to ourselves and thus renewing our minds, flowing with the Spirit, and feeding our faith.
If Abraham had continually been thanking God and reminding himself that God was unerringly good and always kept His promises (Psalm6:12) , and what those promises were, his thinking would be strongly renewed and predicated along those lines. So then when he got to the top of the mountain with Isaac it would be quite reasonable to have faith in the God of resurrection. (Hebrews 11:19)
Thanksgiving informs my mind and brain and reason with truth, renews it, and feeds faith, and the more I do it, the more reasonable faith becomes, even at times when I don’t understand everything that is going on, or even exactly what God is doing. Hurrah! Truth, reason, a renewed mind and the Holy Spirit can come together with thanksgiving to feed my faith and trust in my wonderful Lord.