Common Sense: Friend or Foe of Faith

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

-Proverbs 3:5-6 NAS

Common sense appears to be, common sense in the normal ebb and flow of life. We talk about this all the time. Some people have no common sense and make huge mistakes by making bad decisions that will not work out. We typically blame our emotions, feelings and impulses for bad common sense. People want what they want when they want it and jump at things that look too good to be true and end up with something far less than what is true. Most claim that common sense aligns perfectly with discipline and stewardship – we have to be wise in how we handle life issues. The Scriptures may not always use the same term but the Bible would seem filled with the wisdom of God providing His common sense for life.

But I will also propose that common sense is also one of the greatest obstacles to a powerful, genuine faith. Jesus rebuked His own men of their lack of faith. When they were struggling with a ferocious storm, their common sense kicked in and they concluded they were in trouble (Matt. 8:23-27). They were shocked that even the waves and the wind obeyed Jesus. Apparently, their problem was not how they understood the world but how much they did not understand Jesus. They kept looking at life from their own world view, common sense conclusions and were rebuked for not believing; at least Jesus seemed to have a problem with them having such little faith.

We would push back on someone if they accused us of not having a strong faith. Christians who have walked with God much of their life would be insulted if someone said they did not have much faith. We tend to dismiss groups that would claim God’s promises to heal someone or change a circumstance by virtually demanding God to do something. When we hear stories about God’s healing or miraculous intervention in circumstances we are tentative to really believe that God may have done something; we conclude it might be an over active mindset reading things into circumstances.

Of course we do hear Jesus’ words in the background, “I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you”(Matthew 17:20). We have lots of ways to circumvent the implications of this verse. This is not for us today; Jesus does not really want us to move mountains; Jesus was speaking metaphorically (as He always does when talking about faith);

We face the same problem with Jesus’ words in Mark 11:24 – Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mar 11:24 ESV). We struggle with our own faith because we don’t want, as we see in others, to presume upon God or come across demanding God do things on our behalf. But this is more of a reaction to the way we see other groups spinning off on verses like this, than responding to the verse itself.  We also try and balance off our willingness to accept what we perceive God doing right in front of us with expecting God to do something completely contrary to what we see in front of us. Whew! It is a struggle to know what our posture before God should look like at times. We are also reminded in James, that Elijah, a man with a nature like ours, prayed and it did not rain for over three years. He prayed again and the sky opened up and watered the earth (James 5:17-18).We would not have a hard time asking for such things, but our common sense would be highly skeptical if we thought God would answer our prayers like that. Common sense can be our greatest obstacle to faith. We can ask for anything, and we often do, but we don’t always have a real confidence that God will do anything in the way we asked.

Proverbs reminds us not to lean on our own understanding. Whatever you would include with the idea of understanding, like common sense, would fit the profile. The key is acknowledging the Lord in EVERYTHING we do and He will guide us … if we have the common sense to trust His leading (sorry couldn’t help it).

Rather than making excuses I simply admit that kind of faith is beyond me at this point in my life. It is interesting that most of these statements also hover around the idea of our prayer life and our intimacy with God. For me the desired goal is to have a prayer life that someday will be powerful and effective.

In Christ,

Brad Little