Are You Saved by Believing Your Hardest?

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What is it like to be saved simply by faith, apart from your works?

We’re so used to living in a transactional world where everything we have must be earned or traded or comes with strings attached that it can be hard to imagine salvation given totally apart from anything we can do.

If you find that hard to conceptualize, Robert Farrar Capon has an illustration that might help.

Imagine being a patient in the hospital in a full-body cast…

“Faith doesn’t do anything; it simply enables us to relate ourselves to someone else who has already done whatever needs doing. Illustration: Imagine that I am in the hospital, in traction, with casts on both arms and both legs. And imagine further that every time you visit me, I carry on despairingly about the fact that my house, in my absence, is falling apart: the paint is peeling, the sills are rotting, the roof is blowing away in the wind.

         “But then imagine that one day, after a considerable interval, you come to me and say, ‘Robert, I have just paid off the contractor I engaged to repair your house. It’s all fixed—a gift from me to you.’ What are my choices in the face of such good news? I cannot go out of the hospital to check for myself—I cannot know that you have fixed my house for me. I can only disbelieve you or believe you. If I disbelieve you, I go on being a miserable bore. But if I believe you—if I trust your word that you have done the job for me—I have my first good day in a long while. My faith, you see, accomplishes nothing but my own enjoyment” (Capon, The Astonished Heart, pp. 40-41).

On the other hand, some people think of believing as something they must try hard to do to get saved. Is that how it works?

“Look at it another way. Suppose I had decided, while staring at the hospital ceiling, that if only I could work up enough faith, you would undertake to repair my house. And suppose further that I had grunted and groaned through every waking hour trying to get my faith meter up to red hot. What good would that have done unless you had decided, as a gift of me in response to no activity on my part whatsoever, to do the job for me? No good, that’s what. Faith doesn’t fix houses—carpenters and painters do. And faith doesn’t pay bills, either. Faith, therefore, is not a gadget by which I can work wonders. It is just trust in a person who actually can work them—and who has promised me he already has” (Ibid, p. 41).

I appreciate Capon’s point about faith accomplishing “nothing but my own enjoyment.” He’s talking about the joy of salvation.

I have a good life, but it’s not without its troubles, hiccups, and moments of sheer panic. In my twenty-nine years as a Christian, knowing that Christ has saved me completely through simple faith in Him has been, and continues to be, the stable foundation that gives me peace. But I need a reminder every once in a while. Let Capon’s illustration be your reminder today.

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