Embracing Grace: Faith is not a Mantra

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day: 71

Scripture: Matthew 23:27-28; Hebrews 11:1-3; Romans 12:1-3; Ephesians 5:26-27.

Photo Credit: Vinicius de Carvalho Venâncio. Public Domain.

Have you ever noticed how we so often bandy about “faith” in a cavalier manner, brandishing it like a sword in our lives as though it was a magic charm to gain for us what we want or need?

A study of the men and women in the Old Testament reveals this is a tendency of the heart of man since the beginning of time. And I think it stems from the habit of replacing running after God with formulas on how to seek Him.

We don’t start out with this intention, substituting formula for relationship, but we have all been there, haven’t we? For most of us, it begins with a desire to connect with God, but when He is silent or does not respond in a way we think He should, we get offended.


Strong word, I know, but if we are honest with ourselves, that is what it boils down to. We all want to be somebody special in God’s eyes; i.e. more special than the next guy.

That sounds like pride.

Yeah, it does, but isn’t this what we do when God disappoints us? We all are tested by God, not to find out what is in our hearts, for He already knows us. But God tests us so that we can find out what is in our hearts.

So we hide the displeasure we feel in God’s response, or lack thereof, in the box of our faith from both ourselves and from others, so that we don’t appear to have sinned.

Sin is subtle that way.

This false faith then progresses into an equally false “armor of God,” shielding a cold, dead heart. Jesus knew this and called it was it was: a sepulcher.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.1

Oh, you’re talking about being religious.

Sure. Another approach with the same end result is to use intellectualism in place of a live relationship with God. Intellectualism is the “development and exercise of the intellect; the placing of excessive value on the intellect; the doctrine that reason is the ultimate criterion of knowledge; the doctrine that deliberate action is consequent on a process of conscious or subconscious reasoning.”2 It is one of the reasons men and women who graduate from seminary many times have cold hearts, because the years they spent in school dissecting God replaces a living relationship with God, and they don’t even realize it.

Intellectualism, being religious, and yes, using false faith to hide our disappointment with God all stem from idolizing reason and forming reason into a 21st century golden calf.

Sometimes we simply think too much.

According to the online Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged, 10th Edition, the word mantra comes from Sanskrit and literally means “speech, instrument of thought, from man to think.” It is used in both Hinduism and Buddhism and is “any sacred word or syllable used as an object of concentration and embodying some aspect of spiritual power.”3

Faith is not a mantra.

If you look up faith in any modern dictionary, it will tell you that faith is an unshakeable belief in something without proof or evidence. But that is not faith, unless you are defining it from the perspective of someone who has no faith in God. Noah Webster, whose “magnum opus, An American Dictionary of the English Language, for which he learned 26 languages, including Anglo-Saxon and Sanskrit, in order to research the origins of his own country’s tongue” did not define faith just this way. First published in 1828, Webster’s dictionary “embodied a new standard of lexicography; it was a dictionary with 70,000 entries that was felt by many to have surpassed Samuel Johnson’s 1755 British masterpiece not only in scope but in authority as well.”4

Noah was a bit more thorough in his definition of faith than what we see in today’s dictionary. The more dumbed down our society becomes, the more we tend to agree with the popular notion that “less is more,” even in understanding the definition of words. K.I.S.S., or keep-it-simple-stupid is now the rule of thumb, rather than using common sense to know when to apply it.

Sometimes less is simply just less.

The modern definition of faith is one example. Noah Webster, on the other hand, was thorough in his rendering of faith, and you will be blessed if you take the time to read it. Noah Webster said faith is

“to draw towards anything, to conciliate; to believe, to obey. In the Greek Lexicon of Hederic it is said, the primitive signification of the verb is to bind and draw or lead, signifies a rope or cable. But this remark is a little incorrect. The sense of the verb, from which that of rope and binding is derived, is to strain, to draw, and thus to bind or make fast. A rope or cable is that which makes fast.

  1.  Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence; the judgment that what another states or testifies is the truth. I have strong faith or no faith in the testimony of a witness, or in what a historian narrates.
  2. The assent of the mind to the truth of a proposition advanced by another; belief, on probable evidence of any kind.
  3. In theology, the assent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed. Simple belief of the scriptures, of the being and perfections of God, and of the existence, character and doctrines of Christ, founded on the testimony of the sacred writers, is called historical or speculative faith; a faith little distinguished from the belief of the existence and achievements of Alexander or of Cesar.
  4. Evangelical, justifying, or saving faith, is the assent of the mind to the truth of divine revelation, on the authority of God’s testimony, accompanied with a cordial assent of the will or approbation of the heart; an entire confidence or trust in God’s character and declarations, and in the character and doctrines of Christ, with an unreserved surrender of the will to his guidance, and dependence on his merits for salvation. In other words, that firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.

Being justified by faith. Rom. v.

Without faith it is impossible to please God. Heb. xi.

For we walk by faith, and not by sight. 2 Cor. V.

With the heart man believeth to righteousness. Rom. X.

The faith of the gospel is that emotion of the mind, which is called trust or confidence, exercised towards the moral character of God, and particularly of the Savior. ~ Dwight.

          Faith is an affectionate practical confidence in the testimony of God.  ~ Haives.

           Faith is a firm, cordial belief in the veracity of God, in all the declarations of his word; or a full and affectionate confidence in the certainty of those things which God has declared, and because he has declared them.  ~ L. Woods.

5.  The object of belief; a doctrine or system of doctrines  believed; a system of revealed truths received by Christians.

They heard only, that he who persecuted us in times past, now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. Gal. i.

6.  The promises of God, or his truth and faithfulness.

Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? Rom. iii.

7.  An open profession of gospel truth.

Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. Rom. i.

8.  A persuasion or belief of the lawfulness of things indifferent.

Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Rom. xiv.

9.  Faithfulness; fidelity; a strict adherence to duty and fulfillment of promises.

Her failing, while her faith to me remains, I would conceal. ~ Milton. 

Children in whom is no faith. Deut. xxxii.

10.  Word or honor pledged; promise given; fidelity. He violated his plighted faith.

For you alone I broke my faith with injured Palamon. ~ Dryden.

11. Sincerity; honesty; veracity; faithfulness. We ought, in good faith, to fulfill all our engagements.

12. Credibility or truth. [Unusual.]

The faith of the foregoing narrative.  ~ Mitford.5

Webster must have been a pretty amazing man. He mastered 26 languages and dedicated 28 years of his life just to write one book, his tribute to the spoken and written word. My nineteen year old daughter reminded me recently of a book report she wrote on him while in grade school. Noah was not far into compiling his 70,000 word list when, upon returning home from church, he was convicted that he had made the writing of the dictionary a god in his life. He subsequently repented and went on to forge the masterpiece we have today, devoted to employing God’s Word to define the English language. And one of the first examples from God’s Word he lists for faith is found in Hebrews:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.6

What remains for me, then, is to know when I am walking with God, so that I make it my life’s habit. Paul spells it out like this:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 7

The key to a living faith with God is the renewal of the mind.

It is not how well we can think or how intellectual we have become or how many degrees we can list after our name that declares our faith. It is how renewed our minds are through the washing of the water of the Word.8

And ultimately, so that we may present ourselves to Jesus, having no spot or wrinkle, a Bride who is wholly without blemish and holy unto God.

Read: Matthew 23:27-28; Hebrews 11:1-3; Romans 12:1-3; Ephesians 5:26-27. Journal your private thoughts.

Abba Daddy, knowing You is my heart’s desire. Like Moses, I want to know Your ways, not just your works, which is all most people settle for. Please help me to stand firm by renewing my mind, so that when the “silent times” come, and they will, Your Word will carry me. You have given to each man the measure of faith, so enable me by Your Holy Spirit to walk in wisdom toward You. For Jesus’ sake, and for the kingdom’s, amen.


1Matthew 23:27-28. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
2intellectualism. Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/intellectualism (accessed: May 06, 2011).
3mantra. Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mantra (accessed May 6, 2011).
4Noah Webster and America’s First Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. An Encyclopaedia Britannica Company. http://www.merriam-webster.com/info/noah.htm (accessed May 6, 2011).
5Webster, Noah. “Faith.” An American Dictionary of the English Language, In Two Volumes, 729-730. New York: S. Converse, 1828.
6Hebrews 11:1-3. Emphasis mine. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
7Romans 12:1-3. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
8See Ephesians 5:26-27.

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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