Throughout pretty much all of philosophical and religious history, including irreligious history (if I could call it that!) the central focus has always been, and remains, our ‘good works’. Our righteousness. Our goodness.
But nothing is as valuable as trust. Or, its more olden-day word, ‘faith’.
The trouble is, faith has come to mean all sorts of things today. Songs and books tell us to “just believe” when things go wrong. But believe what? Who? We’re told to ‘believe in ourselves’ – to have faith that we have what it takes. Really? Not all of us can keep that sort of thing up. Sooner or later, we’ve got to be a bit more honest about our limitations. If we’re not, life will certainly force us to be!
In other quarters, faith is synonymous with a sort-of willpower, or a magic force, that you must have ‘a lot’ of for God to heal or bless or for you to feel good about yourself.
But faith is, essentially, trust. We trust that despite our goodness or evil, our failures or our successes, we remain valuable to God. He doesn’t change his mind about us. His love remains.
We all adore good works. The image of success. The man or woman who has it all together. Some of us have made idols of things like money and sex or whatever, but others of us have made idols of holiness and virtue and goodness and productivity. It’s amazing that good works might be the most subtle, under-rated idolatry ever in the history of the world. Surely God would have it that we should pursue being good? Isn’t that what he wants?
He just wants your trust. Your faith.
Not the vague “just believe” faith of Oprah-like positivism. And not the equally vague “faith” of the success and prosperity crowd. But simple trust in him. Not trust in our goodness. Not even trust in him being God, but trust in him, himself.
Only once that’s settled, then good works follow freely and fruit in our lives really starts happening!