I recently heard a definition of faith as, “my response to God’s initiative”. God always and ever takes the first steps toward reconciliation (a word derived from a term meaning “eyelash to eyelash”, which is pretty darn close…). My choice to sin has separated me from closeness to God, from being in harmony, fellowship, and indeed friendship with him. I’m definitely not “eyelash to eyelash” with Christ; instead, I’m avoiding his gaze because of my guilt.
Jesus says what I need is faith, even faith as small as a mustard seed, for something pretty big to begin to happen. His power, his ability can begin to transform me, little by little. I simply need to respond, to humbly and trustfully turn to the One who has made the first move by saying my tiny little “yes” to him, a “yes” that grows stronger the more often I say it to him. I must “repent and believe the Gospel”, as Jesus proclaimed when he began his ministry. Such repentance means more than just a change of mind; ultimately, it means a change of heart, and that will necessitate changes in my life (my activities, my attitudes, my choices, etc). But faith – that response to God’s initiative – comes first; grace for growth follows.
Such a response of faith begins to produce hope in me. When I truly choose to trust Jesus’ promises to me, I begin to learn how to rely on His ability and goodness, and I experience his faithfulness seeing me through each moment of my life. And that gives me hope; hope for true healing and transformation and eventually even hope for Heaven itself. It is hope that allows me to choose life, and pursue goodness and virtue, that “narrow way” that leads to eternal life.
So: faith gives birth to hope, and hope then enables true, sacrificial love to begin growing in me. When I actually learn to trust Jesus, and hope for his faithful presence and work in my life, there’s more “room” in me for love. I’m less full of myself, less preoccupied with myself. I no longer need to grab constantly for what I need (or think I need). Instead, I start to rest in God’s provision for me, and I am free to be more generous, more present to others. God’s work begins to produce good fruit, fruit that “endures for eternal life”.