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Though not particularly fond of cats, Schrodinger’s Cat has me thinking about the Christian life.

Schrodinger’s Cat is the name of a physics thought experiment, which arises out of quantum mechanics. Schrodinger was a German physicist and a friend of Einstein, who, in trying to point out problems with a certain interpretation of quantum mechanics, postulated a hypothetical cat in a box exposed to poison and a radioactive source. (Of course, like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot, who in the world would do this?)

Anyway, Schrodinger said that, according to a certain interpretation of the data, the cat would be simultaneously dead or alive in the box until one opened the box to observe. At this stage, the superposition would resolve into a single reality where the cat would be either dead or alive.

If you are not thoroughly confused, congratulations. You are one of very few. Schrodinger’s Cat, and Quantum Mechanics in general, contain abstractions which many physicists continue to struggle to understand. The concepts articulated are one thing; how the pieces fit together can be quite another. Much like some concepts in the Christian life.

For many, faith is one of those concepts. For far too many, the idea of faith in the Christian life is so vague and mystical that it loses all meaning and reality. But as with so many things that seem hard to understand, the best way to get a grasp on faith is not in the lecture hall, but rather in the laboratory of life. Faith discussed is vague and ethereal, but faith experienced and applied is earthy and muscular. Consider the well-known hall of faith in Hebrews 11.

In the opening verse we read, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And what follows helps us to begin to understand that faith is not just a wish upon a star or a strong desire that things will turn out a certain way. Faith is “assurance.” Faith is “conviction.”

The writer to the Hebrews moves beyond the abstract to the actual as he provides dozens of examples of godly faith, almost all of which are expressed in action.

By faith, Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. By faith, Enoch was taken up having been commended as having pleased God. By faith, we believe that God rewards those who seek him. By faith, Noah constructed an ark. By faith, Abraham went out, living in tents in a foreign land. By faith, Sarah conceived. By faith, Abraham offered up Isaac. By faith, Isaac blessed Jacob. By faith, Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph. By faith, Moses’s mother hid him and was not afraid of Pharoah’s edict. By faith Moses identified with God’s people rather than the Egyptians. By faith, Moses kept the Passover, not afraid of Pharoah. By faith, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. By faith, the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho till the walls fell down. By faith, Rahab hid the Israelite spies.

By faith, saints conquered  kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. By faith, some were tortured, suffered mocking and flogging, chains and imprisonment, stoning, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. By faith, they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Incredible! These inspiring accounts of faith are all so practical!

James challenges us along the same lines, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). He was addressing the same problem we come up against today: The problem of mystical, impotent “faith.” Some are confused about how James appears to pit faith against works. But he is just helping his readers to understand that faith works. Faith is not ethereal and mystical. Faith acts. Faith is not a matter of feeling or even a matter of believing. Faith is a matter of acting, based on truth. Faith doesn’t exist without works. Or to use Doug’s phraseology: Faith is not mystical; faith is muscular.

Faith is not playing games till 01:30 in the morning, cramming your notes and then praying that God will help you to ace your test. Faith is studying diligently to do well at school as an act of worship and in reliance on God’s gracious aid.

Faith is not believing the weights at the gym can make you stronger. It is not knowing all the details about the weights, their metallurgy, their sizes, shapes, uses, and benefits. Faith is lifting them and growing stronger.

Faith isn’t hoping against hope that God saved you. Faith is confessing, believing, and living like it’s true. Faith works by joining a local church, by participating in the work of ministry, and by taking hold of the gospel whenever you sin in confession and repentance.

Faith isn’t hoping against hope that God will make your children believe. Faith is teaching them the Scriptures, exposing them to Family Bible Hour, to BASIC, to YQ, and to Grace Groups. Faith is getting off your phone when you come home from work and talking to them about their experiences and day in the light of the gospel. Faith is preparing for worship on Sunday, getting to bed early the night before, reading the passage to be preached and praying that the Lord will open their hearts to hear and obey. Faith is training your children to follow the Lord, not one day in the future when they are struck off their horse on the road to Damascus, but now.

Faith is not hoping that your marriage will get better. Faith is humbling yourself, confessing your sins, and having hard conversations with one another. Faith is forgiving and letting go. Faith is getting godly counsel. Faith is loving your wife whether or not she is easy to love. Faith is a gentle and quiet spirit, submitting to your husband even if he’s a jerk. Faith is not hoping the marriage will “come right.” Faith is doing whatever it takes to make it come right, all the while trusting God to work in and through you.

Faith is not merely praying that the church will grow into the spotless Bride of Christ, but rather engaging with people you disagree with, hashing out differences, choosing to let go of personal grievances, preferences, and opinions. Faith is participating joyfully, choosing to make peace and to strive for unity. Faith is thanking God and fellow church members for the good you see. Faith is believing the best about each other and working for your brother or sister’s spiritual and physical good.

It’s all too easy to make the Christian life mystical and completely miss the boat. Jesus came to earth in flesh and blood. He came as a man. The best of men, but fully man. And all that was done in faith. May God help us to think more like our Saviour as we seek to live lives of muscular, rather than mystical, faith.

Anton Beetge - 16 November 2022

Muscular, Not Mystical

BBC Shorts

It’s all too easy to make the Christian life mystical and completely miss the boat. May God help us to think more like our Saviour as we seek to live lives of muscular, rather than mystical, faith.

From Series: "BBC Shorts"

Occasional pastoral thoughts from the elders of Brackenhurst Baptist Church.

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