Faith: Feel vs. Real
- Lee Wilson
- 2006 22 Aug
There's nothing quite like the sensation that jets up my spine when I hear a firey preacher speak of the awesome power of God. There's also no emotion equal to the one that brings tears to my eyes during a passionate praise song, when the entire church is singing with all they've got. Those experiences are certainly highlights of my Christian walk, and I think that all Christians should seek involvement in those kinds of events. But there’s more to it than that.
Special events and revivals are certainly a lot more exciting than raking leaves for the elderly widow who lives in my subdivision. Those pep-rally-like times certainly make me feel closer to God than when I helped build a new roof for a family who couldn't afford to pay someone to do the job. Yes, if I had to pick a time when I felt like a child of God, it would be during an emotionally charged assembly of the church. During those times, I feel as though my faith rivals that of Noah or Elijah. But is that really the case?
My Golf Swing and My Faith
I played college golf on scholarship and still play the game consistently. In fact, I still take an occasional lesson from my college swing coach. There's a saying that he spouts at nearly every lesson -- "What you feel is not always real." I hate it when he tells me that. I want so badly to be doing what it is I feel I’m doing with the golf club, but more often than not, I can’t feel what’s actually real.
In other words, just because I feel like I'm swinging the club a certain way doesn't make it so. The only way to really know what I'm doing is to have a professional watch me swing, or to videotape it and watch for myself. The tape doesn't lie, and I'm often shocked at how I'm really positioning the golf club in comparison to what I felt. In fact, I am often surprised at how my feelings mislead me entirely. Sometimes it feels like I’m doing the exact opposite of what the video shows me.
We're misled if we don't apply that to our Christian faith. Sure, everyone loves those times when two thousand Christians are belting out a dramatic song to the Lord; praise is good! And it feels good, too, but faith is not only about feelings. Faith is about loving God with "all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:30). There's a lot more to faith than simply participating in spiritual celebrations, and it doesn’t always feel as good.
Feelings by their very nature are misleading. Surely you’ve felt something one day, only to feel nearly the opposite the next. I believe feelings and emotions are part of being a Christian and in being human in general, but God calls us to much more than that. God calls us to work. We certainly aren’t saved by works - as Ephesians 2:8 tells us - but we sure aren't saved by feelings, either. We're saved by God, and therefore should take Him seriously when he says, "faith without works is dead" (James 2:17-18). That means it’s possible for us to feel as though we have faith to move mountains, yet in reality it could be that we have the dead faith spoken of in James 2:17. God calls us to be and do rather than to simply feel. He calls us to have real faith instead of only emotional highs.
Real faith is something others can see. That’s why James says in verse 18, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” Faith can’t simply sit on a pew when there are people in the world who are separated from the fold of God. Faith can’t help but demonstrate itself, and that in turn is what helps us know it is real. What shows we have real faith is when that faith compels us to help the poor and to turn away from temptation. Real faith is when we stand for God in a society that runs the other way. Real faith causes us to occasionally leave the pampering pew to study the Bible with someone who can't read.
And interestingly enough, that kind of faith is certainly something to feel good about.
Lee Wilson founded Grace-Centered Magazine and has spoken on many lectureships and Christian events. He co-wrote The Real Heaven: It's Not What You Think, and speaks to churches about how misconceptions and incorrect teachings about Heaven cause the world to turn away from Christianity. Lee also founded Real Christian Singles, a website that helps Christian singles form godly relationships.