The statement was sobering as we talked: The confession from a young Fire Fighter stating that he “did not want to be corrupted in his faith by having a career in the Fire Service”. Certainly corruption of faith is a possibility for all believers in all professions, but equally so it is possible to have and live a dynamic vibrant faith expression in our work life. What are the building blocks for this kind of life? Why is it difficult to integrate our faith life into our work life? What does it mean to be a witness for Christ?
First let’s set the foundation for building a vibrant life of faith. Paul tells us that us “there is no other foundation than which is Jesus Christ”. Jesus is the beginning and ending of all things. It would seem obvious that Jesus would be the center point for building a vibrant faith, but commonly we find it easy to be pulled away to important, but secondary areas of focus. It is quite possible to use correct Biblical principles, and have correct theology, but not have Jesus as the foundation point for our faith and life. Paul made his message clear when he said that he preached Jesus Christ and him crucified. This statement was in response to those that wanted to add to the message of the cross. Their message was that that there was something more that needed to be done for salvation. Surely, it could not be as simple as it sounded. A loving God graciously intervened to bring us from death to life. There must be something that we should do to add to this simple reality. Paul spent a good bit of his time and effort keeping the other voices at bay lest the believers get pulled away from a pure and simple devotion to Christ.
It should come as no surprise that since the beginning there have been other voices calling believers to other options and that those same options are offered to believers today. Subtle invitations to compromise the centrality of Christ in matters related to faith. Those invitations range from exalting a favorite doctrine over Christ, to a sickly mix of “I’m ok, you’re ok” self help gospel, that acknowledges Christ, but lowers the work of the cross to just another ingredient in the stew of self help. Dallas Willard says that we are left with “gospels of sin management”. This mindset permeates much of the church and creates an unstable spiritual foundation that will not stand the pressures and temptations of modern life. The inevitable outcome will be the corruption of life and faith.
When the inevitable occurs, people are carried off into emotional and spiritual captivity. Imprisoned and shackled by guilt and shame, people suffer under a load that leaves them crushed and broken. This inner prison becomes a struggle between their life experience and the inner hope of living the abundant life. Somehow we have lost connection with Christ and have accepted the cultural reality that “the latest studies have more to teach about love and sex than he does, and that Louis Rukeyser knows more about finances. Dear Abby can teach us more about how to get along with our family members and co-workers, and Carl Sagan is a better authority on the cosmos” (Dallas Willard: The Divine Conspiracy) than the one whom through all things were created.
The beginning step for a vibrant life of faith is to set Jesus Christ as the only right foundation for all of life. Certainly this is correct rhetoric for the religious culture that we live in, but the real contact point is the inner search of our hearts to see his relevance to our everyday lives. Are our actions, belief systems and relationships defined by who he is and the principles that he demonstrated or is he only a religious figurehead that we are counting on to get us into to heaven when we die? – In the interim we can look to Louis, Abby, Carl and Jesus to help us make sense of life. How we settle this question will say much about our spiritual foundation and what we are building our life of faith on.
by Michael Banes, Forge Joplin Co-Director