Faith and Fatalism

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Americans like explanations. It’s an important part of our pragmatic culture.

I often notice that when we don’t know the reason why we often spit out some sort of fatalistic explanation. It doesn’t hold much theological water, but it makes us feel better in the midst of those storms of uncertainty.

  • “This just must be what God meant to happen.”
  • “Somehow it’s all going to work out in the end.”
  • “I trust that all these things that are happening to me are God’s will”

There are lots of problems with this kind of thinking and believing. Let me just present you with a few examples from the Bible that challenge us to be actively engaged in our life of faith and might perhaps help us understand why things don’t always work out the way we hoped…

James 5:16 – Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  Seeking forgiveness and praying for others produces results. It changes the way things are. Our spiritual activity can alter the course of our lives.

Mark 6:5-6 – And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.  Jesus is ministering in his own hometown and he can’t do what he wants to do – perform miracles, change people’s lives, show people how much God loves them. Why? Because they don’t believe. Our lack of faith can prevent God’s plans from happening.

Luke 18:1 – One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. This is the story about the persistent widow who badgered a mean and heathen judge day and night for justice. He finally gave in just because she was bothering him. Jesus says, So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! He concludes by warning that he fears he will return to earth and find that not many will have kept the faith. Justice comes as a result of our persistence. We are persistent because we have faith. We have faith because we put it to use by being persistent (??).

The Christian faith is not a fatalistic experience at all. Jesus taught that we are to be fully engaged in bringing about transformation in our own lives and in the lives of everyone around us. It happens because we have faith, faith that acts. And maybe it doesn’t happen, not because that’s the way it was meant to be…but because we didn’t have the faith.

If you’re praying for rain, then why aren’t you taking an umbrella with you each day?

 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? – James 2:14

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