'Now faith is being resolute about what is hoped for – it’s a tested conviction about something real that we can’t see.'
The NIV Bible says that faith is being sure about what we hope for; other versions talk about confidence or assurance. The difficulty with that kind of translation is that we may not find it very helpful at times when we feel distinctly wobbly or at least in a questioning frame of mind. The text then may seem to be telling us that we’ve become bad Christians who are falling down in our faith but you can feel wobbly inside, with all sorts of questions and doubts going round in your head and yet still be resolute.
I remember someone showing a clip from one of the Indiana Jones films in church as an illustration of faith. The scene has Indiana Jones stepping out over a huge chasm on the basis of there being an invisible bridge and having to trust that his calculations as to where that bridge actually was were correct. As most of us would be in that situation, he puts his foot out into an abyss of space very gingerly with his body shaking - and no doubt with his heart racing and his mind screaming that this is madness! One could hardly say that he steps out boldly and with confidence but he is resolute.
I think that at one key point in his ministry Jesus must felt something not dissimilar and something again! When waiting for his arrest in the garden of Gethsemene the enormity of what lay ahead seems to have hit him like a 40-ton truck. Matthew’s account tells us he fell on his face. Mark tells us he was overwhelmed. Luke tells us he was in anguish. (The Greek word he uses is derived from the word for a contest, suggesting an ongoing struggle within, so we could say that “he was in turmoil”). What’s worse, he appears to question something that he has already repeatedly stated is his destiny. However, in the face of his emotions that were telling him loudly “I don’t want to do this”, he is resolute. That is where the second half of the verse comes in. Faith is a conviction that has been put to the test. What does that involve if not a process of questioning and arguing it through for ourselves? So, whilst it’s true that there is a kind of questioning that is not constructive and betrays a lack of faith, it’s also true that sometimes it’s good to have gone through a constructive inner questioning to make sure our conviction has been properly put to the test. Then, when we find ourselves in a situation where our emotions are clamouring against what we have established in our minds, we can say, 'that’s okay, I’ve put this to the test and I know this is what I should be doing'. If we’re really struggling with our feelings we may have to go through the questioning one more time as a reminder. That is precisely what is going on within Jesus in the garden before his arrest. He is able to pass through the trial and questioning, remaining resolute, because he had done this before and was on solid ground when the questions reared up again.
So let’s not be hard on ourselves when inner turmoil hits and we don’t feel confident. Confidence is a mood but being resolute can take us through all the vagaries of our moods.