Ancient Faith in a Modern World
By Olu Brown
Of all of the spiritual practices, faith is not on the top ten list of things I do well. I have always admired people with great faith, whether they demonstrated this faith in their local churches as faith leaders who believed God would supply the resources to complete the building project debt-free or whether they were watching their kids play on the baseball field with the belief the children would not strike out a second time. Each of these demonstrations of faith in God is phenomenal because the essence of faith is being able to believe and trust when we don't have all the answers, yet we know everything will work out in the end.
It's like the familiar story of Joseph that begins in Genesis 37 when he is sold into slavery by his brothers, held in captivity due to a false accusation, and later rises to be second in command in Egypt. Many problematic aspects of Joseph's story cause readers to question relationships of all kinds, but the most consistent reassurance in the story is Joseph's trust and faith in a God who is not only above his circumstances but who is also journeying with him. This type of faith is ancient, and it reminds us of the New Testament illustration of faith in 2 Corinthians 5:7 CEB, "We live by faith and not by sight."
So, why is ancient faith important and relevant in the modern world? That is a great question. I attended a workshop about AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the church. During the presentation, the facilitator shared some of the overall philosophy and value of AI and how our modern-day world is enhanced and supported through technology. The presenter also shared the varying AI technology tools that can be helpful in local churches, such as supporting communication and volunteers. With all of the takeaways I received during the excellent presentation, I also learned that as powerful and as advanced as technology is and will continue to be, there is always a necessity for the presence of humanity in the midst of evolving technology. In other words, humans are essential, even in the presence of advanced technology.
This is the same truth with faith. No matter the number of advances in technology, travel, and economics, there will always be a need for faith. This is best demonstrated in the relationships between humanity and our Creator. Faith is essential in everything we do. It is our faith that allows us to trust in AI or trust that a chair will hold us when we choose to sit in it. Faith enables us to trust that the person with whom we are in a relationship has our best interest at heart. Faith is in all aspects of our lives; without faith, it is difficult to live a life of hope, joy, and optimism.
No matter the number of advances in technology, travel, and economics, there will always be a need for faith.
The essence of having ancient faith in the modern world is that we have a foundation grounded in our belief that God is our creator and that when God created our world, God did not take a break and leave us on our own. Rather, God is concerned about us; as one songwriter said, "God knows our names." Having a God who shows up in our world and shows up for us individually and collectively is one of the greatest foundations of faith a person can have. This foundation, like the mountains you may view in the distance, is from everlasting to everlasting.
Not only is ancient faith a foundation, but it is also an assurance. One of my favorite hymns by Fanny Crosby is "Blessed Assurance." When I think about her journey and how she lost her physical sight as a young person but was always able to see the goodness and hope of God, I am truly inspired. The assurance she wrote about in her famous hymn is an ancient faith that gives assurance that we are not alone. Even though life doesn't always work the way we had hoped, we can still believe and have assurance in God as the hymn encourages us to do. Whether we are Joseph in Genesis or Fanny Crosby writing hymns to bless generations, we always know through our ancient faith in a modern world that God is keeping and protecting us at all times.
The final and most important aspect of having an ancient faith is hope. One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13:13 CEB, "Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love." I truly believe love is the greatest, but it is grounded in hope. Throughout my life in times of difficulty and victory, my hope has kept me moving forward and reminded me, through faith, that God loves me and cares about me. When I was a pastor and entered what seemed to be impossible situations where families had experienced devastation and loss, it was hope connected to a deep faith that made the difference and transformed what was impossible into possible. Ancient faith never disappoints us because it is grounded in hope that surrounds us with the belief that God is in control. Even when I don't know or understand, God knows and understands.
It is true, "We live by faith and not by sight." Although our lives are enhanced by advances in travel, technology, and transportation, without faith, we could never fully trust and enjoy the advances of our modern world. Just as AI will always need the human element, a life lived well will always need the faith element. In our modern world, we continue to enjoy all the wonderful and creative gadgets and advances of science, but we should never forget that some things never change, and one is our ancient faith. Keep the faith!
Olu Brown earned a Master of Divinity degree from Gammon Theological Seminary. Olu served as the lead pastor of Impact Church in Metropolitan Atlanta, leading it from a core team of 25 to more than 5,000 worshipers. Olu currently coaches, consults, and facilitates full-time through his company, Culverhouse LLC, and he helps leaders and organizations through Normalize Next®. He is the author of several books; the most recent is Faith: 4 Essential Practices. To find more resources by the author, visit Olubrown.com.
Bible verses marked CEB are from the Common English Bible (CEB) Copyright © 2011 by Common.