24 July 2016

FAITH IN DIFFICULT TIMES

Kobus Kellerman  Dr J S (Kobus) Kellerman

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Heb.11:6)

In his book “Is geloven moeilijker dan vroeger?”  Rev. J. Overduin after the Second World War, wrote about the problem of faith in a world that is broken, desolated and disrupted. It was especially the test of the Christian’s faith which came under scrutiny.

But what is this faith all about? What does it mean to believe? Also in our upside-down world of today where so many things in the community are busy disintegrating. Where and how does faith then come in question? Here we must distinguish between what we believe in (the objective), and that we believe it (the subjective). We could then also ask: Do we believe what we say we believe?

We in fact live with a kind of faith every day. It is that faith that involves everything that happens during the course of the day. We believe that if we press the right switch, the light will come on; if we open the tap the water will start flowing – to name but a few examples. This is not the kind of faith that is being discussed here. No, it is the belief in the supernatural, the transcendent that it is all about. For us as Christians, it is faith in God, in his involvement in the life of the day, the immanent , it is about life on the market-square. And it is here where the Bible becomes relevant because it is in and through the Bible that we come to know God, the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Rev. Overduin observed in this regard that the message of the Bible is so extraordinary, surprising, unexpected that man cried out: “it is unbelievable!” A person’s resistance is so high to the message of the Bible that the Holy Spirit has to change our hearts to enable us to believe (Eph. 2: 8). It is so that to believe is almost impossible for us as human beings.  Many circumstances and influences are contributing in making it difficult to believe. And when we do believe, the risk of infection is great and it is so because in this world we are strong and vulnerable at the same time. We can attest, but proof is not possible. To bring the transcendent to the immanent is not so simple. Our strength to get over this bridge, lies in our relationship with Him that is making us believe.

On the question: What is true faith? the Heidelberg Catechism is helping us: ‘True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also a hearty trust, which the Holy Spirit works in me by the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits’. Added hereto we find the words in Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Faith is the language of the Word of God. Hebrews 11 strikingly explains the role of faith as it was lived by characters in the Old Testament. In the New Testament faith results in our salvation, the redemption, justification and sanctification (Rom. 3: 21-26; etc.). The Apostle Paul explains In Phil. 3: 7-11 how faith worked in his life. James re-emphasizes the role of faith in the prayer life of the believer (James 1: 5-8).

The world and time in which we are called to believe, does not make it easy for us to do so (2 Tim. 3: 1-5; Phil. 2:15; Eph. 5: 15-16). Dislocation, uncertainties, instability, fear, hatred, murder and manslaughter, wars, terrorism, immorality, and so on, contributes to a sick society. Add to this what Jesus said about the end times (Mt. 24, Mk. 13; Lk. 21) and we can recognize the signs of this in the story of the world of today. Along with all the suffering, hunger, poverty, refugees and natural disasters and their consequences, it is not strange to hear why questions, questions about God and his apparent absence in these woes. This leads to a displacement of faith in God to rather believe in anything that might bring hope and with it the Bible lost its relevance for seeking people. Together with all of this comes the tension between faith and science that contributes in doubting everything that calls for faith in God the Creator and Redeemer of man who will save him out of his hopelessness. If you, in God’s Word, get to know the God of the Word, you will gradually learn to trust Him for his faithfulness. His grace and love is immeasurable in size.

There are so many things to say about faith, things that people must think and meditate on in silence and then trust the Spirit to lead them to insight and action. According to 1 Pet. 1: 6-9 faith is tested constantly: – it is constantly threatened by things that might be called anti-faith that can lead to a lack of faith or through doubting, to disbelief. Faith is also to venture with God without knowing where it is taking you as was the case with Abraham (Heb.11:8). It is to look past everything (experiences, beliefs, preconceptions, etc…) until there is nothing that separates you from God, until you trust on Him alone – to follow God into the unknown. You do not know where to, but you know that He loves you and that you love Him. The root of faith is to know the One in whom you believe, with whom you live in the right relationship (Mt. 6:33). Therefore faith is to expect the impossible, because Jesus said so (Lk. 18:41; Mk.11:24,25).

But we can say more about faith, especially that faith is not to walk in the clouds, but to persevere and not be weary and to have complete trust in God. God’s time is not our time, but the right time (Acts. 27:25). God does not ensure a voyage to the other side without storms on our way, but ensures a safe arrival.

Our faith crumbles when we are confused (Joh. 16:32; 20: 26-29). We will experience an inner loneliness while we thirst for God to save us (Ps. 42). If everything threatens to collapse, God is still there (2 Tim. 4: 16-18). Faith is not a pathetic sentiment, but a robust confidence in God, built on the fact that he is a God of holy love (Rev. 3: 9-10).

Eventually faith is not an intellectual understanding, but a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, whom I follow where I myself cannot see the way (Joh. 11: 7-8).

Faith is to know Him and to completely trust Him to lead you on the path you should go.

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24 Julie 2016

GELOOF IN MOEILIKE TYE

Kobus Kellerman  Dr J S (Kobus) Kellerman

As mens nie glo nie, is dit onmoontlik om te doen wat God wil.
Wie tot God gaan, moet glo dat Hy bestaan en dat Hy dié wat Hom soek, sal beloon (Hebr.11:6).

In sy boek Is geloven moeilijker dan vroeger?  skryf ds. J. Overduin, ‘n wyle na die tweede wêreld oorlog, oor die probleem van geloof in ‘n wêreld wat stukkend, verslae en ontwrig was. Veral was dit die toets van die geloof by die christene wat onder die loep gekom het.

Maar wat is die geloof waarom dit gaan? Wat beteken dit om te glo? Ook in ons onderstebo wêreld van vandag waar so baie dinge in die samelewing besig is om om te disintegreer. Waar en hoe kom geloof ter sprake? Hier moet ons onderskei tussen dit waarin  ons glo (die objektiewe), en dat ons dit glo (die subjektiewe).  En dan sou ons ook kon vra: Glo ons wat ons sê dat ons glo?

Ons lewe eintlik elke dag in die geloof, dit is nou geloof in die loop van die sake van die dag. Ons glo dat as ons die skakelaar aanskakel die ligte sal skyn; as ons die kraan oopdraai, sal die water uitkom –  om maar enkele voorbeelde te noem. Dit is nie van hierdie soort geloof   waaraan  ons hier dink nie. Nee, dis die geloof in die bonatuurlike, die transendente waarom dit hier gaan. Vir ons as christene is dit die geloof in God, in sy betrokkenheid by die lewe van die dag, by die immanente , by die lewe op die mark-plein. En hier kom die Bybel ter sprake want dit is in en deur die Bybel dat ons God leer ken, die Drie-Enige God: Vader, Seun en Heilige Gees.

Ds Overduin merk in hierdie verband op dat die boodskap van die Bybel so buitengewoon, verrassend, onverwag is, dat die mens uitroep: dit is on-gelooflik! Die mens se weerstand is so groot dat die Heilige Gees ons harte moet verander om te glo (Ef.2:8). Dit is so omdat om te glo, vir onsself as mense, ‘n onmoontlikheid is. Talle omstandighede en invloede werk hiertoe mee en bemoeilik dit om te glo. En wanneer ons wel glo, is die gevaar van infeksie groot en dit is so omdat ons in die wêreld tegelyk sterk en kwesbaar staan. Ons kan getuig, maar bewys is nie moontlik nie. Om die transendente by die immanente te bring is nie so eenvoudig nie. In die verborge omgang met Hom wat die geloof wek, lê ons krag om oor hierdie brug te kom.

Op die vraag : Wat is ware geloof?  help die Heidelbergse Kategismus ons: ‘n Ware geloof is nie alleen ‘n vasstaande kennis waardeur ek alles wat God in sy Woord aan ons geopenbaar het, vir waar aanvaar nie, maar ook ‘n vaste vertroue wat die Heilige Gees deur die evangelie in my hart werk, naamlik dat God nie net aan ander nie, maar ook aan my uit  louter genade, slegs op grond van die verdienste van Christus, vergewing van sondes, ewige geregtigheid en saligheid geskenk het. Hierby kom die woord in Hebreërs 11:1 wat dit ook duidelik uitspel: Om te glo, is om seker te wees van die dinge wat ons hoop, om oortuig te wees van die dinge wat ons nie sien nie.

Geloof is die taal van die Woord van God. In Hebreërs 11 word die rol van geloof soos dit by karakters in die Ou Testament geleef het, treffend uitgespel. In die Nuwe Testament word geloof verbind aan ons verlossing, aan die vryspraak, die regverdigmaking en die heiligmaking (Rom.3:21-26; ens.) In Fil.3:7-11 verduidelik die apostel Paulus hoe geloof in sy lewe gewerk het. Jakobus beklemtoon weer die rol van geloof in die gebedslewe van die gelowige (1:5-8).

Die wêreld en tyd waarin ons geroep is om te glo, maak dit nie maklik nie (Vgl. 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Fil. 2:15; Ef. 5:15,16). Ontwrigting, onsekerhede, onstabiliteit, vrees, vyandskap, moord en doodslag, oorloë, terrorisme, immoraliteit, en so kan mens aangaan om ‘n siek samelewing te skets. Voeg hierby wat Jesus oor die eindtyd gesê het (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Luk. 21) en herken die tekens daarvan in die storie van die wêreld van vandag. Saam met al die lyding .van hongersnood, armoede, vlugtelinge en natuurrampe met hulle gevolge, is dit nie vreemd om waarom-vrae te hoor, vrae oor God en sy skynbare afwesigheid in hierdie ellendes nie. Dit lei tot ’n verplasing van geloof in God na die geloof in enigiets anders wat moontlik hoop kan bring. En daarmee verloor die Bybel sy relevansie vir soekende mense. By dit alles kom die spanning tussen geloof en wetenskap wat bydra tot twyfel oor alles wat roep tot geloof in God die Skepper en Verlosser van die mens uit sy hooploosheid. Wie in die Woord van God die God van die Woord leer ken, leer algaande om Hom te vertrou vir sy trou. Sy genade en liefde is onmeetlik groot.

Van geloof kan so baie gesê word, dinge waaraan mens in stilte moet gaan nadink en die Gees vertrou om jou tot insig en optrede te lei. Volgens 1 Pet. 1:6-9 word geloof getoets – dit word voortdurend bedreig deur dinge wat mens anti-geloof kan noem, wat jou tot kleingeloof of selfs deur twyfel heen tot ongeloof kan dwing. Geloof is ook om te waag met God sonder om te weet waar jy kom (Hebr.11:18). Dit is om verby alles te kyk (ervarings, oortuigings, voorveronderstellings, ens.) totdat daar niks tusen jou en God is nie, totdat jy op Hom alleen vertrou – om God die onbekende in te volg.  Jy weet nie waarheen nie, maar jy weet Hy het jou lief en jy vir Hom.  Die wortel van geloof is om die Een te ken in wie jy glo, met wie jy in die regte verhouding leef (Mt.6:33). Daarom is geloof om die onmoontlike te verwag omdat Jesus so gesê het (Luk. 18:41; Mk.11:24,25).

Maar ons kan nog meer oor geloof sê, veral dat geloof nie is om op die wolke te loop nie, maar om te volhard en nie moeg te word nie en volkome op God te vertrou. God se tyd is nie ons tyd nie, maar wel die regte tyd (Hd. 27:25). God verseker ons nie ‘n stormlose vaart na die oorkant nie, maar wel ‘n veilige aankoms.

Wanneer ons verward is, tuimel ons geloof (Joh.16:32; 20:26-29). ‘n Innerlike alleenheid is ons voorland terwyl jy dors na God om jou tegemoet te kom (Ps.42). As alles dreig om in duie te stort, is God nog daar (2 Tim.4:16-18). Geloof is nie ‘n patetiese sentiment nie, maar ‘n robuuste vertroue op God, gebou op die feit dat Hy ‘n God van heilige liefde is (Openb.3:9,10).

Uiteindelik is geloof nie maar ‘n intelektuele verstaan nie, maar ‘n doelbewuste verbintenis aan die Persoon van Jesus Christus vir wie ek volg waar ek self nie die weg kan sien nie (Joh. 11:7,8).

Geloof is om Hom te ken en volkome te vertrou vir die pad wat jy moet loop.

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