Faith is a Tiny Shining Light
“Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, ‘Do you see yonder Wicket Gate?’ The man said, ‘No.’ Then said the other, ‘Do you see yonder Shining Light?’ He said, ‘I think I do.’ Then said Evangelist, ‘Keep that Light in your eye, and go directly thereto…’” – Evangelist & Pilgrim, Pilgrim’s Progress
It’s easy to assume the Christian life is primarily about a Christian’s faithfulness. Not because this is how the Bible actually reads, but due to our own edits. But, Christianity is different from all other religions in this fundamental point – faith not faithfulness. Without the distinction between faith and faithfulness there is no Gospel. This story is about God’s faithfulness to sinners and not about a sinner’s faithfulness to God. Otherwise, the Bible would be a very short book – ending around Genesis chapter three. If it is about us at all – it is about our faith in His faithfulness. Mainly, it is about Him and what He always does. It is the story of Him doing what He promised despite the condition of the poor creatures to whom He promised.
Evangelist pointed Pilgrim to a “tiny shining light.” This moment of outward orientation was intended to guide Pilgrim’s steps to a gate. In Bunyan’s account Pilgrim’s outwardness happens en route to the Gospel. In this sense Bunyan had it backwards. In reality it happens at the moment of the Gospel and is a permanent feature throughout. The burden comes off (justification by faith) and the journey ensues (life by faith) through the same means (faith). The “tiny shinning light” – which grows larger and clearer as we move along – is always the same object – God’s promise in Christ. He will not fail to deliver us to Himself no matter our experience on the ground. We believe it until we see it. The Gospel guides our steps en route to our inheritance. Faith leads to faithfulness, but these are never reversed.
The real struggle of the Christian life is the struggle to keep His faithfulness “in our eye” instead of ours. To believe that I am in His favor by grace through faith despite who I am, or how I might fail, or what I have done, or what others have done to me. “For I am convinced that neither…” Sola Fide is not merely an entry point. It is the course of our experience. He has already promised, but we have not yet seen it come to pass. But He always fulfills His promises. So we trust. As with hope, faith will terminate in eternity since there’s no use for it there. Once a promise is fulfilled it’s no longer a promise. It’s a fact. Along the way if my faith lies in my faithfulness then I will only despair. This is why Christianity constantly points out, not in. “We place no confidence in the flesh” is neither cliché, nor a one-time event. It is to confess that our confidence is up and out not down and in. By faith from beginning to end.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:8-9
1. On an average day by what reality or object are you measuring God’s favor?
2. What comes to mind when you here the expression “faith vs. faithfulness?” Does it make sense? Would you agree that we most often have these reversed?
3. What does it mean to walk by faith? By the Spirit?