Friday, April 22, 2011

Faith and Security

I’d like to share some thoughts on how faith applies to us seeking to provide “security”, especially those of us in operational environments who expend large portions of our time and efforts to achieve this goal. I personally think it quite appropriate to speak of faith and religion openly and that our public/professional lives can’t (and shouldn’t) be fully abstracted from what many expect to be our private devotions. That being said, I’m going to try to avoid both general evangelization and pushing specific sectarian dogmas. I hope my remarks resonate with those sincerely trying to live their faith. I also hope these comments provide some perspective to help those who don’t believe in God better understand those who do.

Peace is greater than Security

For people of faith, security is a profane goal, let alone frequently arrogantly vain. Peace is the heavenly good that should be sought after. Absolute security is not only undesirable, but is contrary to our earthly existence. I believe it necessary to live in a fallen condition, such as our current mortal existence, where we are free to grow through choosing between good and bad including facing nearly constant adversity. Removing all opposition to good would frustrate our eternal progression. Regardless of your belief in our raison d’etre, religious and ethical codes guide adherents in how they react to adversity and hostility, including the heavenly pursuit of peace. For example, Christians believe a greater measure of peace can be found through Christ than possible through worldly means. Peace may be had in the absence of comprehensive security, requires a great measure of discipline, and doesn’t come at the cost of sacrifices to freedom. In an ideal world, we’d all be seeking peace.

The world isn’t perfect. One responsibility we all have is to uphold freedom and provide an appropriate level of security. Ironically, one of the primary methods of pursuing security is through force and compulsion. Often people find extreme measures, such as warfare, the best option for achieving security. While there is some variance, most religions justify violence under certain conditions. Sadly, we find ourselves in a world of turmoil and warfare. Even though we often take a less effective path to security than we might otherwise hope for, our faith must be able to provide guidance to us during such pursuits.

Seek Divine Help

If we want to succeed in any endeavor, seeking divine help is always wise. Providing an appropriate level of security, one that ensures individual liberties, is an honorable pursuit in which God will assist us. One important aspect of our lives is doing honest and honorable work. Important experiences occur as we seek and receive God’s assistance in our labors. While it would be nice if we as a society devoted fewer resources to preventing bad things from happening and more to ensuring good things happened, I think most people performing work in “security” do honest and honorable work. As such, we should seek the help God has offered to those that follow him.
I like to separate God’s help into two major classes: direct help and inspiration. An example of direct help would be unexpected severe weather impeding an opponent’s advancement through the countryside. On the flip side, leaders might be inspired to advance, retreat, or do seemingly odd things, often in opposition to reason. Clearly, these two forms of assistance can go hand in hand. A classic scriptural example is the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

The first thing one should do when seeking God’s help is to ask. God has promised us great blessings, if we but ask. Certainly God always knows what we need and want, but many blessing are contingent upon our sincere supplication to him. I can think of nothing more natural than praying for safety, protection, and assistance in defense. Sadly, I think this very important step is often overlooked.

Outside of scriptural accounts, when thinking about the importance of prayer in security, I often visualize Arnold Friberg’s painting of Washington’s prayer at Valley Forge. I acknowledge that the facts surrounding the story of the Isaac Potts’ and other accounts are often disputed. Regardless, based on what I know of Washington, I believe it to be plausible that he (and many others) offered numerous sincere prayers to bring about the miraculous shift in the war that eventually resulted in American independence. The first step to providence is asking.

Keep Yourself Worthy of Divine Help

I wholeheartedly agree with the maxim that God helps those who help themselves. God frequently extends mercy and assistance to those who have done all in their power. While we don’t always understand the judgments of God, he also frequently withholds assistance from those who have neglected to do what they can, especially those who do so knowingly. If we want the Lord’s assistance, certainly we should be doing the very best work we can do.

Just like vigilance in preparation, maintenance, and practice is required to ensure proper operation of implements of security (e.x. personal firearms, fighter jets, electronic surveillance systems, etc), the same vigilance is required to maintain channels of divine assistance. For example, regular prayer, scripture study, and meditation are essential to ensuring constant guidance through heavenly inspiration. Obedience to laws and commandments, such as Sabbath day observance, health codes, morality and chastity, fasting, etc bring with them promised blessings and power. Most of us know what we need to do; we just need to be vigilant in doing so. Consistently doing what is right, even if we don’t feel an acute need for help at the moment, is very much what faith is about. This sort of faithfulness invariably results in confidence and answers to prayers when the time of need does come. The parable of the ten virgins beautifully advocates diligence in preparation.

Have the Faith to Act

If God extends help, it’s important to act upon it. Sadly, people often don’t have adequate faith to be guided by the wisdom of God over the wisdom of man. Admittedly, it often requires great faith to do so, especially in a world that is largely ruled by agnostic (and often short sighted) reason. Faith and principle based decisions are frequently hard to justify, especially in the face of empiricism (well founded or not). On the other hand, when we are given strong assurances through faith, we shouldn’t be afraid to proceed with what human wisdom deems as silly courses of action. Some of the biggest disappointments of my career have occurred as I’ve ignored inspiration concerning my work. On the other hand, as we act in faith we become more confident in doing so in the future. Through experiences in small things our faith will go to the point where we can do great things.

The scriptures are replete with examples of those who have had faith to act and those who haven’t. Infamous examples of those who lacked faith at key moments include Saul (the Old Testament King) and Pontius Pilate. On the other hand, demonstrations of great faith include those by David, Gideon, and Elisha.

Give Credit Where It’s Due

One principle that the secular world understands well, at least at first blush, is giving credit where it’s due. The sad reality is that the world makes it very hard to give adequate credit to God. In some cases it’s appropriate to keep highly miraculous or personal miracles to yourself. However, when others attribute the positive outcomes of divine assistance to you, it’s important to try to set the record straight. I feel it’s appropriate to use words such as “blessing” and “providence” to convey my belief of divine intervention to those who want to understand without unduly imposing on those who don’t. We can, and always should, give thanks to God directly through personal prayer.

One of my favorite examples of this principle is that of the preservation of Little Italy from the Great Fire of Baltimore. In 1904 the core of Baltimore City burned to the ground. As the fire swept across the city, many in the neighborhood of little Italy met in the local church to pray for deliverance. In general, most people agree that the wind changing direction prevented the fire from crossing the Jones Falls river, saving Little Italy from the inferno. Some attribute this outcome to providence and some to chance. It’s clear however, what the people in little Italy believed at the time.

No Room for Pride and Hatred

If we want God’s help, both in the short and long term, we have to do things in God’s way. Faith engenders love and teaches to avoid the pitfalls of hate and pride. While there are numerous sources I could site, I couldn’t resist the universality of Yoda teaching about the consequences of fear and hate:

"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

Lest you think this principle is merely fiction, I point out that Proverbs warns about fear of man and that Timothy was taught to that fear is not of God.

While pride is not explicitly mentioned here, I consider it to be implied with, or at least compatible in the above quote. Pride is the grease that makes the slide from prosperity to degeneracy smooth, both for individuals and societies. While we are often forced to take extreme actions against our adversaries, we should be careful to not hate our enemies. We should beware lest we cause our own downfall and estrangement from God though our pride.

But if not...

While our faith can guide us and bring about miracles in our efforts to secure freedom, what about the times that prayers seems unanswered or the miracle doesn’t occur? We must be patient and remember that the faithful have to face the same opposition common to all man. We must remember that the demonstration of our faith precedes the miracle. We may think we know the ideal solution to a problem or the right timing for the solution, but often God knows differently. Our faith must be able to sustain us, bringing us peace, even in times when our efforts to ensure security seem to fail, at least in the short term.


I’ve shared some principles, that if followed, I earnestly believe can help those of us seeking to provide security find a greater measure of success through divine assistance. I hope these words are encouraging to those who are seeking to live their faith. For those who don’t seek to live by faith, I hope this post helps you better understand those who do.

I wish you all a happy and peaceful Easter.