So, today as my first post after my announcement of entering the blogging scene I chose to talk about what I have learned about faith. Originally I want to have an image of fingers crossed but there were none among the free pics on Wix, so I settled on this picture of this woman patiently waiting. This will be important later.
Being a Biblically driven person, I like to let the Bible define words when it does so.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, ESV)
Too be honest I read that and remain confused, hopefully you’re not. I think I’m confused because words like conviction and assurance are hard to grasp in this day and age. When all around is uncertainty and mistrust. I would like to share my story of faith and how my understanding of what it is has grown and resembles a more Biblical understanding.
When I hear people talk about faith, and often times from a pulpit. Most of the time the context is in regards to faith in Jesus. Faith is talked about as more of an agreement that what the Bible says about Jesus is true. Sadly from what I can tell a great deal of North American Christianity doesn’t go deeper than this.
5 1/2 years ago I attempted to take it deeper. Inspired by people like Peter, King David, Noah, Abraham, and Ananias. I understood that faith is demonstrated in your actions. James talks about this, “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18, ESV) I saw faith as taking a risky step of obedience to the Lord. In my context it was saying goodbye to my job and enrolling in Bible College. It was a hard choice and it was met with a great deal of resistance. I even tried to pull a Gideon and propose signs that would confirm it, like if all tuition is covered by grants then God wants me to go, but it wasn’t. And yet I still felt the inner push to do it.
On thing I have learned about faith is that it and love are similar. For example we think of love in regards to big gestures or one time heroic acts of sacrifice. While these are great and I do not intend to diminish those, they in of themselves are incomplete. Real love is defined by a lifestyle of sacrifice, putting the needs and wants of other before oneself on a daily basis. As a parent this means letting go of things because I love my kids more. For men this “seems” to come harder than it does for women. Guys know that life changes when you have children, so many avoid having children as long as possible. As a guy and also from observation, we like to play. It could be basket ball, golf, hunting, video games, paintball, or whatever, you fill in the blank. We have a hard time letting go. When my son, my first born, was a baby, I would spend Saturday mornings alone with him while my wife went to work. I had one thing on my mind, Halo 2. I would get so frustrated when he wouldn’t be content chilling on his own while I took Master Chief on an epic adventure. It is so much easier to buy gifts or do something big once, than to daily so no to self in order to say yes to someone else. Just as love is an endurance race, so is faith.
At this point I want to provide some key points on faith.
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV)
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12, ESV)
“And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:18–19, ESV)
“but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”” (Hebrews 10:38, ESV)
“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 straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, ESV)
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” (Psalm 37:7, ESV)
“but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, ESV)
“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”” (Luke 1:45, ESV)
“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”” (Romans 4:3, ESV)
“fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”” (Romans 4:21–22, ESV)
One thing we must understand that to God faith is equated to righteousness while doubt is considered sin. We can behave really well but if we never have faith in the Lord then we are out of luck. Remember James 2:18, our faith or what we put our faith in is demonstrated by our actions. Having faith in the Lord means that we take His word as fact, just like we understand that 2+2=4, and are assured and confident that it is true. And not only that we remain steadfast despite conflicting evidence and passing time. Many of the examples I provided earlier were men who waited a great while before the promise was fulfilled. And for Peter, He had faith enough to try it but not enough to stay with it.
Let me ask you a question. Suppose that tonight you buy a lottery ticket and on the night of the draw you watch the numbers get drawn and you learn that you hit the big jackpot. What are you going to do? Probably jump up and down, shout, dance, do back flips, and so on. You do this because you trust that you have just been told the truth, you trust that the lottery people will honor your ticket and pay you lots of cash. People trust the lottery. We have a much harder time trusting God. This shows in the anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness we experience between the promise and fulfillment. We hear verses that say, do not fear for God is with you, do not worry about what you will eat or wear and we may say we believe or agree but our emotions will demonstrate what we really think or believe. When we miss tithe to make sure a bill gets paid, or we quit going to church in order to work because we are worried we won’t have enough then we are demonstrating that we don’t believe or know what the Bible says. The expression of doubt takes many forms, essentially, we so no to God, because we don’t trust Him on some level.
In addition to risky obedience, there is the idea of patiently waiting. This is where the photo comes in. The story of Abraham is great for this. I’ll do a quick summary of His story.
We meet Abram in Genesis 11, which also has a brief mention of his wife Sarai who is barren. In chapter 12 the Lord tells Abram to leave where he lives and go to a Land that the Lord will show him, in addition to this the Lord promises that he will become a great nation (despite the barren wife?). In chapter 15 Abram is expressly told that he will have a son from his own body. After about 10 years Abram and Sarai become impatient and decide to have Sarai’s servant Hagar become their surrogate mother and bear Abram a son. However chapter 17 reveals that this wasn’t God’s plan, and as a result their attempt to take matters into their own hands created a great deal of strife in their family and now the entire world. It was another 14 years before Issac was born, the son of promise.
There are strong connections between faith, trust, and waiting on the Lord. To patiently wait while we wait to receive from the Lord means to do so without getting anxious and bent out of shape in the mean time. This demonstrates that we are confident that He will come through when the time is right. If we try to take things in our own hands then it could possibly mean we don’t really think He will come through. Sometimes its hard because His timing is less comfortable than ours. Sometimes His plan is for us to walk through some hardships and testing that we would rather avoid. I think the following verse is helpful in regards to this.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1, ESV)
The problem with placing ourselves on the alter is that it gets hot, and many times we decide to crawl off. I have done this many times over the past five years, and have questioned, did I hear correctly, was that me and not God, and so on. Yet the entire time I can’t help but shake it. As a result I have taken a lot of heat and criticism. I think sometimes we are worried about how we will look, that we will look foolish. I’m sure many of our now heroes were considered foolish in their time.
As I conclude please understand that my goal here isn’t to condemn or belittle anyone, but to help us think about faith/belief in a new way. My goal is to expose sin as sin, to continue on in it and think its not a big deal, that we are fine the way it is is a dangerous thing. As far as I can tell, I believe the lack of faith is something we as a church must address if we are to see revival. As a summary faith is confidence in the Lord in which we are so assured that we are willing to obey despite any potential risk or intellectual dissonance. As a result we are able to patiently wait in joy and expectation despite evidence to the contrary because we believe the word of the Lord is truth, end of story.