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The Only Ground

Romans 5: 1-11 (CJB)
5 So, since we have come to be considered righteous by God because of our trust, let us continue to have shalom with God through our Lord, Yeshua the Messiah. 2 Also through him and on the ground of our trust, we have gained access to this grace in which we stand; so let us boast about the hope of experiencing God’s glory. 3 But not only that, let us also boast in our troubles; because we know that trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance produces character, and character produces hope; 5 and this hope does not let us down, because God’s love for us has already been poured out in our hearts through the Ruach HaKodesh who has been given to us.

I want to talk about the difference between the word ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ and the word ‘trust.’
I think I’m on to something. I took notice of how I’ve always been moved by the Complete Jewish Bible’s use of the word “trust” in place of the word “faith” or “belief.” Even when the word “faith” does appear, it’s usually in the form of the word “faithfulness” or “trustworthiness.” It is the top reason I like this translation of the Bible.
This morning I connected so hard with a thought, it was almost like a crash landing. I realized that I have always been troubled by a sense that when many people talk about “Faith,” it’s as if they think that they are somehow defining God with their belief, or maybe even generating God out of the substance of their belief. It’s as if God somehow doesn’t exist without our faith.

I’m sorry, that’s totally bogus!

Words are important. When we use the word “faith” or “believe” we can make phrases like “justified by faith” and questions like, “Do you believe in God?” That word is all about what we think about. It’s very rational. In Greek rhetoric the word usually translated as “faith,” —“pistis,” also referred to the part of the speech called the ‘pistis’ or “proof.” It’s easy to see the thought process that might lead us to say, “Prove it to me!” when we are talking about the existence of God.

It’s my idea that it’s silly to even talk about whether or not God exists. If we do that, it means that we’re taking a position that we must defend, as if our convictions were what was important. We put God into the context of an argument. Does anyone else think there’s something wrong there? We also do something that is really not fair—we ask people who might be feeling drawn to God to try to manufacture something called “belief” in their minds, and we tell them that if they don’t succeed in creating a state called “faith” then they’ve failed. How obnoxious is that?

On the other hand, if we talk about “Trust” (at least for me) a space eases open in our hearts—something relaxes, and we feel inclined to smile. The word “Trust” can be made into phrases like, “I trust you;” “She is trustworthy,” and “Children are very trusting.” Try making the same sort of sentence with the word faith— ”I faith you” just doesn’t work! You can change “belief” from a noun to a verb and say, “I believe you,” but doing that just reinforces the point I’m trying to make. What about “she is faithworthy,” or  “children are very faithing”? See how that works? The noun “faith” is just a word for a notion we have in our heads, and it’s a word that we simply can’t use as a verb!

On the other hand, “Trust” is a word that can be a noun that means “belief,” but it can also be a verb that means “believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of: i.e. "I should never have trusted her.”
Synonyms:  put/place one's trust in · have (every) confidence in · rely on · depend on · bank on · count on · be sure of · be convinced by · swear by · confide in.

I guess my point is that nouns are easy to argue about; easy to play word games with, especially if they are abstract concepts like “faith,” but verbs resist that sort of manipulation. Verbs just don’t care about philosophical subtleties, or ontological arguments.

What moves me in this passage from Romans comes through much better in the Bible Translation, The Message: (Although I did replace the word “faith” with the word “trust—)
5 1-2 By entering through trust into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
3-5 There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Think about the phrase, “the ground of our trust.”  I think that the translator of the CJB meant “ground” to have the sense of “on these grounds” as in “on account of,” but I like the image of ‘standing on the ground of our trust.’ As though trust were a solid surface on which we can stand with confidence; a footing that that we can rely on to support us firmly and evenly; a solid foundation rooted deep in the ‘ground’ of our being that will never fail to uphold us.

Because “Trust” can be both a noun and a verb, we can allow it to be both at the same time: Our act of trusting is what lets us find our feet, and God’s trust forms the bedrock under us.

Huge sunlit spaces—

out here 

the only ground

is Trust—

the silent wind blows 

in no direction.

I sit and listen.


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