I spend my days in a church building. Does that make me a person of faith? Of course not. I pray but even that does not necessarily mean I have developed faith. Does faith mean that I try to “think positively?” No, again! Faith is more than “having a good feeling” about something. In that difficult day that was yesterday, in addition to asking God for wisdom, I examined my ‘faith’ to see if a common substitute – positivism- had slipped into its place. Positivism focuses on outcomes. Faith rests on a Person!
Faith must be part of the life of one who would be a follower of Jesus. But, we cannot make it about saying certain words, being religious, or even believing something. Faith is both a choice and a gift – God’s Spirit meeting our surrender – to create a foundation for a way of life in which the True North is fixed outside of the visible world on the invisible God.
The famous line of Scripture from Hebrews tells us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (11:1) Faith causes us to live with hope for eternal life in a place we have not seen, leads us to invest our time and resources in efforts for which the full return will not come until after we die, and to serve a Savior whose Kingdom is yet to be fully seen.
Faith that is healthy must be expressed in the context of whole-hearted submission to God. Some people express a self-fueled faith that is really just deep determination to force what they want into existence. Though they may quote Scripture verses to support their positions, if you dig deeper, you discover that what they are passing off as ‘faith’ is really just their own will wrapped in words that they believe will make God act as they wish!
Often they use the Scripture like a ‘magic incantation,’ thinking if they say certain things often enough, they can create their desired outcome. That is, in reality, the very opposite of living faith that seeks God in complete surrender – “I am Yours to do with as You choose.” God didn’t give us the promises of the Bible so we could find a phrase, seize on it, and then ‘make Him do what we want.’ He gave us the promises of the Scripture so we would trust Him and submit ourselves to Him.
Faith sometimes takes us onto a road where the way ahead is obscured by fog of uncertainty! In that challenging, awful, awesome story of Abraham’s faith, he was asked to take the son of promise, his beloved Isaac, to Mt. Moriah, for a sacrifice. It was senseless to natural thinking, terrible even to think about, but he was faithful. He responded with an obedience that must have been crushing. “It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.” (Hebrews 11:17, NLT) We know the rest of the story. God had a substitutionary ram prepared. Abraham did not know that still he obeyed. Then, God gave him his son back!
So much of what passes for faith in our 21st century Christianity is sold around experience of the miraculous. “Look God is real and He is good because He healed me of cancer.” I’m thankful when He does that, but He is as much the God of those who die of cancer as He is those who are healed. A ‘faith’ that requires lists of ‘answered prayers,’ (translate that – “I got what I wanted.”) is at best a shallow faith, and really not much faith at all because it is shaped around results rather than living as a servant of the Person of God.
Genuine Faith steadily trusts God in the middle of uncertainty, when the way ahead is lost is enveloped in the unseen and the unknown, as much as when the blessings of health and great victories are evident. That is the kind of faith that I desire and admire. The strongest faith does not give you or me an exemption from the ordinary human experience that includes disappointment, hardship, and unexpected outcomes. Faith does not always even provide a good reason for the suffering. Real Faith hears the Lord’s invitation to ‘trust’ and based on Who He is, and responds like Samuel of old who said, “Speak, Lord, I am listening.” “It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. ” (Hebrews 11:6, The Message)
The writer of Hebrews, in the 11th chapter, gives us a powerful summary of faith and some wonderful examples of those whose faith was rewarded with joyous outcomes. But, there is a part of that same chapter that is not often read where we learn that faith also has another side. “Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:35-40, NIV)
Got faith? Make it a faith in God. Here is a word from the Word.
“Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:1-5, NLT)
God teach us to live faithfully. Amen.
(a song about faith to help you worship)
Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wondering
Never changes what You see
I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty warrior King of the fight
No matter what I face You’re by my side
When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust I will trust
I will trust in You
Truth is You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less
You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation
The Rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go
You’ve not already stood
Lauren Daigle | Michael Farren | Paul Mabury
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