Faith Vs. Recklessness

One of the most prevalent ideas in society is the notion that we aren’t alone. It’s written into our DNA to believe that there is something out there other than just we humans. Most of us believe in some form of non-human intelligence, and faith in a higher power is by far the most common way to satisfy this seemingly primal need. Whether you choose to believe in God or not, there is in our very nature something inside each of us that calls us to look for something more than ourselves. Some of us choose to believe it’s biological; others feel it comes from the outside in a very spiritual place. Regardless of how you choose to see it, few people can honestly deny that there is some form of calling to something bigger.

Either path you choose requires some form of faith. Hebrews 11:1 gives very clear and poignant definition of what the word faith truly implies: “It is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen.” At first glance it seems that God is requiring us to just blindly jump into whatever it seems like we’re being called to do, but that isn’t really the way it works. There are two key words in that simple phrase that tell us all about how we are supposed to approach faith.

The first word to key in on is hope. No matter how bad things get or what our circumstances might be from moment to moment, there is an ever present part of us that looks toward the future to something better. You may not believe in God, and your situation may have beaten you down to the point that your hope for the future is just barely hanging on, but something inside you convinces you to accept that the future can be better. There is a real substance to this hope that gives you the strength to keep on living, even though your circumstances might seem hopeless.

The second word is evidence, and this is the truly important part of the verse. At no point in the Bible do we see God asking anyone to do anything without some sort of proof of His will for it to be done. The Old Testament is replete with physical examples of this, from the burning bush with Moses to Gideon requiring specific proof that God was there. Even if you only see the Bible as a silly religious text, it can’t be said that the God of the Bible isn’t willing to give us proof. Faith might require belief in something unseen, but it is never truly blind.

At this point, you might be wondering what all this talk of faith has to do with a blog on politics and philosophy, and I can understand this confusion. I don’t typically make a big deal about the fact that I am a Christian, and that’s mostly because I tend to struggle with it a lot myself. It would be a huge lie for me to present myself as a “good Christian” because I simply don’t live my life that way. However, at my core I do believe that God is there and there is something I’m being asked to do, and I can feel the compulsion to do it. It is for this reason that this post is being written.

You see, many people get ideas in their head and start to think that maybe there is something more to it than just being an idea in their head. Their attention is grabbed and the focus in on whatever it happens to be, allowing it to gain strength and form into something bigger and more durable than it really ought to be. Infatuation with the concept takes hold and before too long they are convinced that it is the correct path forward. They jump in feet first with little or no real soul searching, fully believing that they have been given a vision for their future.

This is probably the truest definition of recklessness. Any time we take action that is based solely on a feeling in our hearts, we are gambling with our future. It is this mistake that has caused the word faith to become something of a dirty word in the more secular parts of society. People who claim faith in a higher power end up taking actions based on personal experiences and insisting that it was God who told them to do it.

In reality, God rarely moves without putting out multiple streams of confirmation for the person He is trying to convince to do something. These confirmations won’t be overtly obvious, but will be just enough to show that there is something more going on than just random chance. We will be guided specifically toward whatever objective we have been assigned, not beat over the head with it but gently nudged toward whatever it is we have been destined to do. God never forces; he implies and hopes that we choose to follow Him.

This is the difference between faith and recklessness: it is following what we believe to be true, not based on hunches or gut feelings but on external pieces of evidence that we can bring together to get an understanding of what we’re supposed to be doing. Too many people believe that faith is supposed to be this giant leap into the unknown; the reality is that it is a long and arduous process of questioning God until He provides us with what we need to act. Rarely are we expected to go from complete unbelief to becoming a spiritual warrior overnight. Moses spent forty years in the wilderness before he was ready for God’s call.

One of the more important tools I use to convey an idea is giving a real world example that exemplifies a concept, so for this topic I will use my desire to buy a boat and sail around the world. For many years I have had the dream of buying a boat because one of the activities I truly enjoy and find a significant measure of peace in is sailing. There is something about being on the water and harnessing the wind that truly appeals to me and makes me feel content. The idea of shifting my entire life into a place where I can do that all the time fills me with a hope for finding true happiness.

Unfortunately, there are many variables that come with even finding a boat to buy, much less the many tasks that come with owning one long term. Depending on a couple of other pre-requisites I won’t cover here, I have two paths before me when it comes to buying a boat: I can get a loan to buy a newer boat with fewer problems or I can pay cash for an older and cheaper boat that I have to spend a couple of years fixing up to get ready. Each side has significant pros and cons and there are several reasons for which I tend to lean toward going with an older boat.

The most obvious reason is that I would prefer not to obligate myself to a very large monthly payment for the next twenty or so years when I can’t be sure what my financial situation is going to be over the long term. It was one thing to make that jump with my travel trailer because I can just move it to wherever my job happens to be, but if I’m going to live on a boat I have to be where the work is, and that might not be near the water. And if my ultimate goal is travelling around the world, then my options for work become far more limited. Having a boat payment isn’t ideal in such a circumstance.

On the flip side, there is a huge list of problems with buy an older boat that stack up in such a way to make the decision very difficult. Older boats require a lot more work and few of them are in the kind of condition that would be acceptable to most marinas. Since I don’t make enough to pay for a boat to be parked somewhere while I fix it up, I find myself in that catch twenty two situation of not wanting to buy something acceptable and being unable to find a boat I can pay cash for that will allow me to move onto it right away.

One of the voices in my life has been urging me to strongly consider going with the loan option, and I understand his point. He works on the water and knows all about the problems that come with old boats. This man has been an important spiritual advisor in my life, which would normally lead me to believe that perhaps God is trying to move me into exactly the situation I want to do some kind of work, but this is exactly the time where one needs to be very careful when moving forward. He has made some effort to help me find an option for getting on the water and this seems to be some sort of push toward where I want to go, but it is important to remember that a single confirmation is rarely God making a move in your life.

The reality is that before I can really do anything about a boat there must be several things lining up toward that goal that proves to me that there is something there more than just my personal desire to go live out on the water. An opportunity must present itself, perhaps in the form of a great paying job that I don’t have to be in one place for, or perhaps a specific line of work that would utilize the boat in some way. It doesn’t have to be a sure thing; God rarely gives us that level of confidence. However, it must be something that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that I’m not just moving of my own accord. There is something more to it.

All of this is meant to make clear a very important point when it comes to the idea of faith: it’s not about your feelings. If you are ever seriously considering making a major decision in your life and the only reason you can find to make it is how you feel about it, then you’re just gambling on the vague hope that it will all work out somehow. Even if you have no faith in a higher power, it is a terrible way to make decisions. It is through logic and reasonable evidence of opportunity that people find success in their lives, and we should all strive to find more than just what is in our hearts. The Bible also gives us a very profound point about using the heart in Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

In the end, whether you believe in God or not, never be reckless with your decision making. Even if your faith is only in yourself, you should always be looking for some kind of confirmation or good reason to take action on anything. It is through reason that we are able to make good choices, and that requires setting aside how we feel and finding reasons to say no. We should be overwhelmed with good reasons to overcome out doubt. Otherwise, we are simply taking that ridiculous “leap of faith”.

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