Pastor Dondo’s take on the life of faith from the example of Abraham in Hebrews 11 had three elements: willingness to be patient, to be obedient, and to sacrifice everything. Today Pastor Tausi took Abraham as the example of faith once again, this time from Romans 4. He had two metaphors of faith and three characteristics of it.
First, faith is the hands to receive from God. God is ready and offering salvation. You need to reach out your hands so He can give it to you. Pastor Tausi is obviously not a Calvinist! He’s emphasising here the character of God: He is not miserly or withholding, but generous and loving. The invitation is there for us, to receive what He is offering.
Secondly, faith is the sixth door of knowledge of the world. That’s what it is literally in Swahili. In English, we say it’s the sixth sense. In this metaphor, we know the world through our senses, what we can see, hear, taste, smell and touch. However, our existence is not only material, and there is a sixth sense – faith – by which we learn about and experience the immaterial.
Pastor Tausi briefly noted that how much money you have is not a sign of faith. However, a life of faithfulness has certain consequences and benefits, so neither is a life of faith characterised by poverty. What are the characteristics of faith then?
- True faith is built on the nature and character of God. As we reflect on God’s action in the past, we have a foundation for trusting Him today. Abraham remembered that God is the God who brings life to the dead and calls into being things that were not (4:17). We can remind ourselves that God does not speak untruth (unlike Satan), and that he is trustworthy.
- True faith does not look at environmental factors. It looks only to God. Abraham and Sarah did not consider their age to be an obstacle to God’s promises. They didn’t look around and ask for other opinions, or try to work out how likely it was. They didn’t need to; they had the only thing that mattered: God’s promise. Even today, God’s word is not opaque. We have the Bible as God’s word, so we can look to that and align ourselves with it.
- True faith is faith that continues to grow. Faith does not despair or lose heart; by definition it is always increasing. A seed must grow into a tree. This relates back to point 1: the more you know and experience God, the greater your faith will be. There are also exercises that you can do to grow your faith muscles. Challenges in life are not there to oppress you but to plant you firmer into the ground so you can grow bigger and stronger. An example of this is the temptation of Jesus in the desert by Satan, where Jesus was clearly vindicated.
There’s plenty here that fits a stereotypical concept of faith in Africa, for example the emphasis on the initiative of the Christian and the necessity of increase in their faith, even a sense of blind faith without reference to the realities of the world. However, there are significant twists on this as well, especially its theocentrism, with God as the foundation and tender of faith. This is not a God who is unknowable and distant, who needs to be manipulated or placated in order to give blessing. On the contrary, this is a generous God who makes Himself known, and it’s knowing Him which will empower you to persevere through life’s good times and its challenges.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.