The faith we need

I have been bothered lately by the realization that my faith may be too me-focused rather than others-focused and I do not think I am alone.

The Christian description of faith is found in the book of Heb11:1- “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

But it seems to me that we have misinterpreted things to mean mostly material things for personal consumption. We seem to have hope only for things that concern us individually. We would “believe” to get a job, get promoted, grow our companies, live in good houses, ride nice cars, live in comfort and enjoy the nice things of life. We Christians are doing a pretty good job of believing for and obtaining individual prosperity.

Studying Hebrews11 however, the men and women that were referred to as men and women of faith, rarely believed for their individual prosperity but mostly for posterity. The things they hoped for were things that transcended individual needs and wants. They dreamt dreams and had hopes for generations after them. They made generational issues and challenges their personal challenges and devoted their lives to the fulfillment of those dreams. Some of them preferred suffering to fleeting pleasures in order to secure deliverance for present and future generations.

Faith works wonders, but a faith that is devoted solely to the pursuit of personal prosperity seems rather selfish. Faith, according to the Bible, works by love and since love is not self seeking, faith cannot be self seeking.

I am beginning to realize more and more that faith may be trained by believing and working one’s way out of sickness or believing for and finding a good job, believing for and having a good house. However, faith, in order to be the Bible kind of faith found in Hebrews11 needs to graduate into living and working out the conviction that the HIV/AIDS epidemic can be stopped; unemployment crisis in Nigeria for example, can be solved; millions of middle class and below can have access to affordable and quality housing. This seems to be the faith that pleases God, not just the faith that trusts God for personal prosperity.

After going through Hebrews11, It seems to me that the “just shall live by faith” means the lives of righteous people shall be consumed with passion and holy fervor for making life better for others. I think we need this kind of faith in Africa, among those of us who clearly have the power to make things happen by faith. If I can trust God despite the odds to get a job, I should be able to believe against hope and be actively involved in creating unemployment-eradicating solutions.

I think those of us who claim to be Christians and faith people need to begin to direct our faith towards solving generational, impossible cases, especially in Nigeria and in Africa which are presently the most faith-full regions in the world. It is a paradox of paradoxes if we claim to have so much faith in Nigeria for example, and our societal problems continue unabated while those of us with faith are coming out of poverty and buying the latest cars and living in good houses within and outside the country.

Last fall, at the Social Venture Network conference in San Diego, I met Mark Hanis who started an organization called Genocide Intervention Network. This young man is the grandchild of 4 Holocaust survivors and he decided to transmute the generational pain of the holocaust into a conviction, an intention and a determination to stop genocide all over the world. I left the conference, not just inspired that someone could have the audacity to tackle a problem so great, but deeply challenged. That seems to me like the kind of faith or conviction found in Hebrews 11. It seems that is how to live by faith.

In Africa for example, there are many generational challenges. Which of them do I have a conviction, the intention and the determination to solve?

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