How do we keep from reducing our faith in God down to a set of rules and formulas?

Good day Jordan I trust you are well?

My question or thought is centered on topic of faith. In 1 Timothy we see how 2 people SHIPWRECKED their faith.

1 Timothy 1:18‭-‬20

It got me thinking about how we can hold faith and a good conscience.

Question:
In your experience how does one not corrupt your faith, veering you off to be shipwrecked? I think that we sometimes reduce our faith in God to a set of rules or formulas to get God to do what we want him to do. Like if I just do x, y and z and muster all the faith I can then God will act on my faith. Instead of us placing our faith in the person, the living God, who loves our faith but will often respond in ways we don’t understand or see immediately. Or many believers claiming Psalm 91 during the time of Corona virus, believing they won’t get I’ll. But God never promised our 100% well being or safety from viruses etc. He did promise however that he works everything together for our good, because he is alive and in control and so good. If our formulas of faith, then don’t work I see plenty leave the faith or wonder off to other teachings, shipwrecking their initial faith, instead of fully trusting that God is alive and will always respond in a way that grows us and molds us. Like a parent to a child.

What are your thoughts on this and what are some pitfalls we can avoid or handles we can hold onto when it comes to not shipwrecking our faith?

I appreciate your time.
Blessings.

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G’day Roald! Thanks for your pastoral question brother.

Firstly, I would say Paul’s instruction following on in 1 Tim 2:1 is that people would “pray”. Our endurance and perseverance to the end is reliant on God’s grace and mercy to hold us and keep us, so we must keep asking him to keep us and others. Ravi has a brilliant line that encapsulates this, “if you are a praying Christian, your relationship with God will carry your faith. If you are not a praying Christian, you have to carry your faith—and you will get exhausted trying to carry the infinite”

Secondly, I would say since eternal life is knowing God through Christ (John 17:3) then our relational component with God cannot be overestimated. The goal of Christianity isn’t merely to “get to heaven”, as great as heaven will be, the goal of heaven is knowing God himself and being a part of his family and kingdom. Therefore our expectations within the Christian life are phenomenally important. If we wrongly assume the Christian life is about a comfortable ride on the way to eternal bliss we’ll be disenchanted in no time - in fact (as I’m sure you’re aware) living for Christ seems to bring with it a host of hardships and struggles that we might not have otherwise. So we need to check our expectations in light of the New Testament and what Jesus and the apostles say life will be like for those who place their faith (in latin ‘fides’ = trust) in Christ. In this sense the Christian life is one full of faith, hope, love, peace with God, persecution (pressure from the non-christian world / spiritual forces of evil), struggle with our earthly nature (Col 3:5) and indeed suffering! Discipleship includes suffering/trials as part of God’s refining work on us (Rom 5:3-5, 1 Pet 1:3-9)
Unfortunately, recent Christian culture in the west has been very thin on discipleship and therefore very bad at both teaching and modeling that the Christian life is full of both joys and hardships - we still live in the time before Christ’s return and live in a world filled with beauty and brokeness. Some strands of Christianity make out as though God is a piñata and faith a whacking stick that we use to unlock blessings - that is totally wrong. Jesus made it clear that God is a loving heavenly father who gives, and takes away as he develops our character and grows us into the image of his Son.
God’s providential care means he permits hard things still that he will ultimately crush. So we still live with the presence of injustice, evil, rebellion and suffering now. But 2 Pet 3:9 makes it clear that God is being patient in bringing about his justice so that people may still yet come to repentance. Joni Eareckson Tada, has a great line in her book ‘The God I Love’, “Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.”
So I would say a large part of helping others and ourselves personally avoid shipwrecking our faith is to check our expectations in light of the new testament. Is God someone we worship and trust or someone we’re simply trying to use to get the things we really want? As I’m sure you’re aware the Christian life involves having our priorities changed by God’s grace and truth.

Thirdly, Proverbs 4:23 gives us a wonderful piece of wisdom for life - “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” And for the Christian that necessarily involves trusting in Jesus with all our heart (Proverbs 3:5&6) since everything flows from that!
John Newton, the converted slave trader who wrote ‘Amazing Grace’, choose as his personal motto: “None but Jesus”. He longed that “Christ may be all in all to me, that my whole dependence, love, and aim, may centre in him alone”, but he recognised that wouldn’t happen without determined effort. He wrote: “I find that to keep my eyes simply upon Christ as my peace, and my life, is by far the hardest part of my calling… hungering and thirsting for Christ is the central daily discipline”.

Therefore we need to believe personally and teach others that faith is not a means to an end in terms of material blessings right now (though God is generous and kind). Faith (trust) is the means by which we enter into a relationship with God and receive the great gift of the holy spirit - the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance to come (2 cor 1:22).

I’ve written a lot so I’ll finish here, even though there is lots more that could be said. So in summary, the three big things I’d say are essential for endurance in the Christian life are prayer, biblical expectations of the Christian life and a determined focus on Jesus for he alone is the light of the world.

Enjoy grace,

JT

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