Faith is not a human effort.
Like many other spiritual gifts, Faith is misunderstood because of the blindness of Gnostic and humanistic doctrines taught by the religious traditions.
Faith is such an extraordinary thing that to believe it is the fruit of the human spirit is like a joke and one of bad taste.
The only possible good fruit of the human spirit is Humility like we discussed in our previous piece. Human worth consists in confessing our lack of any worth before God Almighty, so His Love can be received perfectly and we can live by pure Grace. This is being blessed for being “poor in spirit”.
But since humans can develop whole lives in error and blindness, we can check the false faith and compare it with the real one, so we can see the difference between the works of men and the works of God. To do this, we are going to check three possibilities of relationship with God, two as human efforts of “faith”, and the one that is the real Faith as it is a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit.
The faith of the slave
The first human effort in the recognition of God consists in the faith of the slave.
The slave sees God as a Judge and as a Punisher because he is focused and centered on his own sins and imperfections.
The slave’s main goal is to behave in a way to avoid condemnation and punishment.
The holiness of God is perceived as incompatible with the state of human misery, so the only explanation for spiritual life is one of human effort to escape condemnation by an effort to be obedient. The mercy of God is not perceived as a pure act of Love from God but as a correspondence with the human work of obedience. Since this human work will always fall short, mercy will always be required, but that can be only achieved as a counterpart of the human suffering in the trial.
Life is not a gift. Life is a test, and we need to go through it in suffering to be able to pass.
With time, the hearts that follow this path will get colder and colder, like the church of Ephesus. They miss Love because they can’t believe in the full power of the Mercy of God.
Of course, God is a Judge and a Punisher to those that believe in judgment and punishment. The perfection of God’s work is so beautiful because we are always getting what we want. The slave doesn’t want pure Love, no, he wants to suffer and to justify himself through his suffering, as if the Cross of the Lord Jesus is not enough.
In one word, the slave is proud of his own suffering.
Yes, Jesus said to us to carry our crosses and follow Him, and He said also that we will go through tribulations, but that is not the essence and the center of spiritual life, because that will not be love, but masochism and having pride in suffering. There can be no real peace and joy in this spiritual slavery, not even for the sake of a relationship with the real God. God doesn’t want slaves.
If one good thing can be said about the faith of the slave, is that at least the person is trying to live before God. In comparison with the apostasy of the world and the complete adultery, being like a slave before God is kind of a good thing, though the Lord has no pleasure with this attachment to suffering and misery. This is why Jesus said to Ephesus to get back to the first love.
God doesn’t have pleasure with our suffering. He likes that we accept suffering when we go through it because of our fidelity and trust in His Love. These are two completely different attitudes. The first is spiritual masochism; the second, spiritual loyalty and trust.
The faith of the mercenary
The second human effort to live with God is the faith of the mercenary.
The mercenary see God only as a Lord and Manager because he is focused and centered in his own virtues, merits, and works.
The mercenary main goal is to behave in a way to gain recognition and rewards.
He is always looking for a bargain. Love is never a given, it must be deserved. This case is even worst than the previous one because the cold heart diminishes the suffering of Jesus, but the lukewarm diminishes Love directly.
This is the ridiculous trial to have power and control over Love. It is the very source of the power of religion, since after people get sick and tired of the suffering of the slave they try to get the joy back in their lives. And there they go: to do a deal with the Creator of all things, to be deserving and worthy of the blessings. Religion has, of course, the full offer of spiritual business on the shelf to be bought.
The coldness of the faith of the slaves caused Jesus to get sad, but the selling of Love and salvation got Him really pissed off. These are the hypocrites, the blind men at the door not entering and preventing others from entering. And this is the people that asked for the death of Jesus.
This is the church of Laodicea, in worst condition than the church of Ephesus, because the heart of Ephesus just needs to be heated, but Laodicea have a false heat, its heart is just poisoned, and this is why the Lord will taste it and spit out of His mouth.
There is nothing more beautiful and pure than to accept the Love of God as what it is: Grace.
It is free, so we can’t add any value there, so the Lord can have ALL GLORY TO HIS NAME ALONE.
The mercenary has no real Gratitude because he can’t have real Humility.
It’s just blindness, but how great and rich this can look before a world ruled by blindness!
The Faith of the son
The real Faith is one of the sons like Jesus lived to show us being He the First Born.
That is a spiritual gift, not a human effort.
Being so, Faith requires living in the Presence of God and Humility, so we can trust in the Love of God. This is the essence of Faith: to trust in the Love of the Creator.
We can’t do it by ourselves, since we can be humble recognizing the truth of our reality, but we can’t reach the holiness of God. Only the Holy Spirit can give us the spiritual gift of this trust after we opened a room in our hearts being poor in spirit.
This is our part: to throw away the spirit of pride, being that the pride of suffering like the slaves have, or the pride of worthiness, like the mercenaries, have. Out of lies, we are poor of spirit and clear and open to receive the gift of true Faith.
Of course, both the slave and the mercenary will judge those who pretend to be adopted as sons of God, because the pure trust offends their endeavors. Both Ephesus and Laodicea have hatred for Philadelphia, because she is weak, poor in spirit, while they found themselves rich before God.
We know the story: the humble will be exalted, and the proud will be humiliated.
Jesus said: I am not here to save saints, but sinners.
And to Philadelphia: hold your Crown, because I know you are weak, but you believe in Me.
We can’t be like Jesus, but we can believe in Him.
We can’t be like the First Born and only begotten Son, but we can be adopted as sons.
The beautiful irony here is that the slave and the mercenary are always working more and can’t find real rest, peace, and joy in life, while the sons of God, those who live by Grace, receive all the gifts and blessings ever promised.
The groom is not looking for a slave or a mercenary, but for a bride.
The Father is looking for adopted sons that believe in Him and want to live by His Love alone.
Yes, God is a Judge and a Lord, but that is in the beginning, in the early steps of spiritual life, so He can be found as a Father in the end, because that is the purpose of Life: Love.