- - Thursday, February 19, 2015

As Americans, especially as black Americans, we suffer from a lack of faith. Yes, faith as described in Hebrews chapter 11, verse 1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”

Let’s take a look at both parts of this definition.

First, substance of things hoped for. What could you hope for in your life that is of substance? How about higher education? If you seek or have sought a college degree or advanced training, surely you have imagined the end result. The education could afford you a job or advancement in your current job. Maybe you could make more money. However, no matter how hard you hoped, you had to do something of substance — take courses, study, plan, etc. — to achieve what you wanted. Therein lies the rub.

Many of us think that faith is a one-way street. We pray and tell God that we believe in him and that we know he will supply our every need. Then we do nothing of real substance and wonder why our “needs” haven’t been met. We ask for guarantees like minimum wages so that no matter how good or bad we are as workers we have a floor of income to rest on. We seek tenure as teachers and professors so that no matter how effectively we may instruct our students we are guaranteed a job. In short, instead of doing our best and having faith that God will cover our shortcomings, we try to rig the game so that we can’t lose. We have more faith in the car we drive to work or the bridge we have to cross on the way than in our ability to earn the favor that God has promised.

In the second part of our faith definition, we see that there are signs that something is there although we can’t see it now. In the past, slaves in the U.S. were constantly escaping the plantations seeking freedom. Most had never been free, but somehow they knew it was something that they wanted. Perhaps it was the first time they heard about a former slave who had purchased his freedom or escaped successfully. It wasn’t much, but the evidence convinced them it was a good thing to have.

Unlike the slaves, we have evidence all around us. We silently (and sometimes not so silently) deride our coworker who stays late and goes the extra mile to do his job — then we are mad when that coworker gets promoted or achieves top sales honors. The evidence was there of what it took to succeed, but we chose to coast instead of working at our full capacity. Yet, somehow we expect God to look at the evidence (our lack of work) and then vindicate our faith.

Recently, a man was in the news for walking to work — for walking 21 miles each way to work! He had a car at one point, but after it broke down he began to walk. He didn’t have to hope for a job; he already had one. He didn’t need evidence of the benefits of having a job; he was paid regularly. Instead of seeking pity or a handout, he used what he had. He had two good legs and feet to take him to his job. For doing a lot with a little, God vindicated his faith.

Once his story went public, people donated money so that he could buy a car. They ultimately collected $350,000 for him.

What is the lesson in this? You must demonstrate your faith in God by doing good work. If you all you do is say you have faith, God will spend his blessings on someone who is actually doing somemting. Remember, if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. God knows that person will get it done.

Clyde Farris is author of “Etiquette for the Black Man.”


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