By Gerald Cowan
You’ve heard that old riddle, haven’t you? How do you answer it? Now here is another question for you: Which comes first, faith, fact, or feeling? There is a logical order which makes faith practical and relevant. To disregard this order will reduce faith to foolishness. The logical order is fact, faith, and feeling. Fact must come first. Faith is knowledge and acceptance of the facts. Feeling follows faith. Feeling is the effect or result of faith in the facts.
It is easy to get it turned wrong, and many do. Some put feelings first. Their faith and the whole order of their lives are pinned to their feelings. “If it feels right it must be right.” Consequently they are at the mercy of their own feelings. When they feel low, depressed, and discouraged it puts their faith in a tailspin. Nagging doubts sweep over them, doubts about God, their own souls, and their chances for salvation. But when they are elated, happy, and in good spirits the doubts disappear and they think that they really believe – faith is riding high! That ought to be proof enough that you cannot depend on your own feelings. Your feelings about God and His Christ may change, but God himself does not change (Mal. 3:6). Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever Heb. 13:8). Don’t believe your feelings. Believe God! Trust Him to bring to pass what He has said (Ps. 37:5).
Some put faith first. But how can you have faith without an object of faith, something to believe or trust in? You cannot just have faith in faith. Can you believe in believing, trust in trusting, have confidence in confidence? All of that is nonsense. Faith must rest upon something or someone. The trustworthiness of faith depends on the trustworthiness of its object. You cannot make a thing true just by believing in it. That is delusion. If a thing is not true, faith will not change it into truth. If a thing is true, lack of faith will not change it to untruth. See Rom.3:3-4).
The only dependable approach is to put the facts first. Find the truth and pin your faith to it (John 8:31). Find what is dependable, trustworthy and true, then accept it because it is all these things. Faith is nothing more that accepting and applying the truth, and it comes only by investigation of the facts. The Christian knows that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17, John 17:17). Faith is centered in the fact of Jesus Christ, that One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Once you align your faith with the facts you can be assured that the proper feelings will follow (read carefully Col. 1:3-6). What feelings? Well, what feelings would you expect to come if you knew you had found and accepted truth, and that your faith and hope were founded upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ?
Postscript: Still wondering about the chicken and egg? Here’s the answer: Logically two chickens came first – necessarily male and female – who were able to reproduce by means of a fertilized egg. If the egg came first, all it could produce is a helpless chick that would not survive or be able to reproduce itself. God’s word makes it clear that this is what happened – not only with chickens but with all living things. The adult forms were created whole, male and female, with everything needed for reproducing themselves (Genesis, chapters one and two).
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com