For many of us, faith was easy as children but has become far more difficult to sustain as adults. The problem, at least in part, is that we try to carry our childish faith into adulthood and find it inadequate.
Imagine if you stopped learning math in second grade or never attempted to read anything more than picture books. As an adult, you’d quickly find your math and reading skills inadequate for real life in the larger world. Yet this is precisely what many of us do with faith. We assume a childish understanding of God will be sufficient to meet adult challenges. When it isn’t, we assign the blame to God or faith itself rather than our failure to nurture our faith toward maturity.
The Scottish philosopher John MacMurray contrasts two kinds of faith. The first, which he calls “illusory religion,” is how many children think about God. He describes it this way: “Fear not; trust in God and He will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you.” Another word for this is superstition – just follow the rules and rituals and you’ll be okay. This is the sort of faith that is sure to fail us in adulthood when all kinds of trials and pains will assail us.
The other kind of faith, what MacMurray calls “real religion,” is nuanced, mature and biblical. This more adult faith says: “Fear not; the things you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of.” A person with this perspective does not follow every superstition promising deliverance from all of life’s challenges. Instead, he understands that troubles are very likely to come, but it is precisely amid those challenges that we discover God is with us. And while troubles are unavoidable in this world, our ultimate security is not at risk. As Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
MacMurray’s two models of faith capture the difference between adolescent and adult faith. One tries to use God to avoid reality and escape pain. The other accepts reality and embraces pain knowing that God will meet us in the midst of it.
Reflect: Sometimes being generous is painful. An immature faith focused on avoiding discomfort is not sufficient for Whole-Life Generosity. Can you think of a time when being generous, in any way, was uncomfortable for you? Why did you do it? What blessing came from pursing generosity ahead of comfort?
(Excerpt from Whole-Life Generosity Devotional, used with permission from GenerousChurch).