Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.Consider a man whose time just hadn't come yet.
It's a pretty amazing story. Guy comes into a Royal Bank of Scotland, goes over to a teller, and tells her that he has a gun in his backpack. Hand over the money.
The tellers are terrified, and they begin to comply. But customer Andrew Stewart wasn't alarmed at all. He walked over to the would-be robber said, "It's April the 1st isn't it mate? It's April Fool's Day." (This happened on March 31, 2008.)
The robber replied, "I've got a gun. I will shoot you." Stewart retorted, "Go on then, shoot me!"
The robber fled. The bag — was empty. Stewart went back to the paper he had been reading.
I would love to have seen Stewart's face when he learned the truth.
Think of it. Why was Stewart so calm and so brave? Well, really, he was calm; but he wasn't brave, exactly, was he? Stewart was calm because of his faith. Stewart believed that it was all just an April Fool's hoax. No bravery required.
He did what he did, because he believed what he believed.
But here's the thing: he was wrong! He was just (what most folks would call) lucky. If there'd been a gun, we wouldn't be chuckling. Nor would Stewart.
Of course, it wasn't luck. There is a "time to die" (Ecclesiastes 3:2), and the Lord, who kills and makes alive (Deuteronomy 32:39), didn't say it was Stewart's time.
From this incident, I glean two points: one general, one more specific and convicting.
Here's my more general point.
Forget everything you know about this event. You're watching this scene with no words, no sound. You watch what Stewart does. Then I ask you, "Can you tell me what that guy believes and why?"
You'd say, "I can't tell you why, but yeah, I can tell he believes he's in no danger. He believes he knows what he's doing. He believes he's doing the right thing."
Stewart showed us his faith by his works (James 2:18). Works — deeds, decisions, actions, priorities — reveal faith. They reveal faith more truly than lips alone reveal it (James 2:14). The Bible says and shows this a hundred, two hundred different ways (Proverbs 14:2; 1 John 2:29; etc.).
Anyone can say he's a Christian. You can teach a parrot to say he's a Christian. But life as lived reveals reality.
Now, the really convicting point. Ready? Strapped in? Okay.
Say it's not Stewart we're watching without sound. It's you. It's me.
Can you tell what we believe, and why? The things we spend the most time on, feel the most strongly about, invest the most of ourselves in — what do they say about our faith? Our priorities, our goals, our rules of engagement — looking at them, what do we believe?
Do we live boldly, confidently, riskily, like people who believe they have a loving, giving, kind, sovereign Father who has dealt fully and finally with all their sins, forever, in Christ? Think of the roll-call of faith in Hebrews 11, and the amazing feats accomplished by people who really, truly believed in the Word of God. Do we live like people who believe that His word is our law, for our thoughts and choices and affections?
Do we live the lives of people who believe this world is passing, and that only he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:17)? Do we live like we believe that seeking His kingdom and righteousness is our priority (Matthew 6:34)? Is His glory our all-consuming passion (1 Corinthians 10:31)?
Do we live like we believe that we are surrounded by lost rebels whose only hope is the Gospel we say we know and believe to be the saving power of God?
Does "faith" matter?
Oh, absolutely. We do what we do, because we believe what we believe. Faith makes all the difference. Not should make, but does make.
But what faith?
And what difference?