If I say “keeping faith” what leaps to your mind? That phrase is like those pictures you may have seen. Focus on the dark lines and see a young girl, focus on the white and see an old woman. One picture with two realities. Some of you, perhaps most of you, thought of keeping faith in the sense of doing the right things. Holding fast to faith. A few of you may have thought about how God keeps or protects us through faith. Both are “keeping faith” and both are the topic of today’s ABCs of Faith.
Keeping the Faith
Paul wrote a warning to Timothy, “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” (1 Timothy 1:18–19, NASB95) Later, when Paul was looking over his own life he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” (2 Timothy 4:7, NASB95) Keeping the faith is not automatic, there is a fight to it as we struggle against the current, be those life circumstances or the push of the world. Paul’s observation about shipwrecked faith helps us understand.
Keeping faith is about staying on course. Picture a tall sailing ship like those that ruled the seas before steam came along. Our life is like that ship but we’re not the captain, Jesus is. We’re the sailor standing at the giant wheel. Keeping the faith means that when the captain commands us to steer to east by southeast that’s what we do. The promise is that as we follow Jesus with the breath of the Holy Spirit filling our sails we too will fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith.
Kept by Faith
There is also a protecting side of faith. In other letters Paul pictures faith as a shield and a breastplate (Ephesians 6:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:8). Both are defensive and protective by nature. Faith provides a place of safety that is beyond what we can provide for ourselves. It doesn’t mean that storms won’t come our way or that life will be perfect. It does mean that God is with us, keeping us, and guiding us as the storm rages.
There are many ways to picture being kept by faith. The good shepherd carrying a lamb. A hen brooding over her chicks. A strong tower that protects those inside. A shepherd guarding the flock against thieves, lions, and bears. The armor of a breastplate and a shield. The more we lean into faith the more it covers and protects.
Can you see both pictures of keeping faith? It’s not unusual for one to be easy and the other to be almost impossible for us to see. We may at time seek so hard after one that we neglect the other. Both are important and vital to our walk with Jesus. Neglect either and shipwreck is on the horizon, but that is not God’s plan. He desires for you and me, when the time comes, to say with Paul – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith and faith has kept me.