Do You Have Faith?
Here’s a reminder of the prerequisite disclaimers for this series:
- Speaking primarily to those who proclaim Jesus Christ as lord and savior
- At the same time, may be helpful to those who have yet to make a decision
- Spoken as much to self as to the reader
- I am far from perfect on this one
In the previous post (first of three), we discussed “faith” itself – primarily focusing on the varied ways in which it is defined. In summary, faith is:
- Complete trust or strong belief or confidence in someone or something.
- Belief in God or in the existence of God; belief in the doctrines or teachings of a religion; a system of religious beliefs.
- Allegiance to duty or a person; the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.
- Firm belief in something for which there is no proof.
We established that every human being has some level of faith at some point in their lifetimes. While it manifests itself in a wide variety of ways, it’s an almost universal quality. In addition, we determined that the average Christian will claim the “belief in God” portion of the definition but fall short of the other aspects of “complete trust and confidence” and “allegiance and obligation”.
Lastly, we opened the proverbial can on “belief without proof”. Our anchor verse for this post is Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
The apostles had multiple years of direct and personal relationship with their Savior. They witnessed the direct manifestation of the Father’s almighty power displayed time and again. They received eternal insight and wisdom directly from the Creator. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and were used mightily for the kingdom (Acts 2).
Neither you nor I have seen Jesus in the flesh. We are not eye witnesses. We don’t have the benefit of direct physical contact. So is it acceptable for us to have a lower standard of faith? Are we given a pass when it comes to “complete trust and confidence” and “allegiance and obligation”?
If you have accepted salvation through Christ Jesus, then the Bible is your primary source of truth. And the Bible truthfully answers that question with a resounding “NO”! The clear directive is not only to have faith, but to develop a real faith, deeply rooted and all-encompassing, relying solely on Him to direct our steps and guide our hearts.
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6
So if we are convinced that our faith should be palpable and we truly desire it to be fully alive, we must intentionally employ a laser focus on the subject and integrate foundational faith into every aspect of our lives and being. While not necessarily easy or even natural, God has shown us the way by which we can grow into real faith in Him. Time and again, men and women in the Scriptures fully placed their faith in God Almighty. And their unwavering confidence provides inspiration for us to draw upon in our daily lives. Read Hebrews 11. After recounting numerous people and accounts, the writer finally reaches the point of stating “time will fail me if I tell of” even more examples.
What is the common thread? All these people. All these circumstances. Spanning hundreds of years in different regions of the world. Varying backgrounds, family situations, life environments, etc. They were all called on, by God, to take action. Whether by receiving direct instruction or prompted by the Holy Spirit, they were told to move. The voice of God spoke into their circumstance, often in a highly disruptive manner, and initiated a change that required a response.
That’s the thing about real faith: it’s not a feeling – it’s an action. Of course there are emotions associated with it – apprehension, exhilaration, anticipation. But the bottom line is that faith is not real if it does not produce results.
How many times have we expressed total confidence in someone yet act without confidence outside of their presence? How often have we developed strong belief in a subject only to experience uncertainty when pressed about it? We “pledge allegiance” to many things or people at various times in our lives but that loyalty is rarely actually tested, and if it were, how would we respond? I dare say that all these examples are mere feelings that would likely crumble at the prospect of tangible action in support of those same subjects.
So, we have established that real faith requires action and that God calls on us to initiate said action by stepping out on faith. From that, the implication is that we are able to recognize when God is calling us to faithful action and that we are sufficiently motivated to obey.
At the risk of sounding cliché, there are fundamental requirements to which we must grab hold and institute in our daily lives in order to be in alignment with God so we can identify those circumstances in which He is calling us to act on faith. Without daily meditation on His word (Psalm 119:9-16), active prayer time with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and regular spiritual fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25), the noise and chaos of our daily lives will drown out His small, still voice. It is imperative that we run after God so that He can provide direction for our lives.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.” – Isaiah 55:6
Finally, with all these foundations established, we arrive at action.
Let us now suppose that we have sought after God with scripture, prayer and fellowship, which has resulted in clarity of direction and purpose. Now, it is time to move – it is time to step out on faith. But let us also suppose that the required steps won’t necessarily result in wonderfully awesome results for us. That’s the kind of clarity we long for, isn’t it? The sort of direction we almost convince ourselves is coming from God? Sure, it’s easy to say “God told me to take that new job” when it results in a 50% pay increase plus the ability to work three days per week from home in your pajamas. While I’m certainly not one to partition God’s direction into buckets, I will state that choices of that sort don’t require an overwhelming portion of real faith. What we’re really discussing here is the prompting to act that will result in devastation if God doesn’t show up. Those times when we know without doubt that He is calling us to something that is completely against what we want or feel. When our response to His call will have us swimming in the middle of the ocean without a life jacket, jumping out of the plane without a parachute or standing in front of the class without pants.
Everything within us screams to stop, or run, or curl up in the corner and suck our thumb. How are we supposed to take action?
That’s where scripture always lends a bit of applicability to our predicament. We can gain confidence in the example of those that have gone before us. God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering (Genesis 22) – can you imagine? God told Joshua to march the army around the walls of Jericho for seven days in order to defeat it (Joshua 6) – is it possible that he may have been puzzled? God told Gideon to reduce his soldiers from 32,000 to 300 and attack an opposing force of 135,000 strong (Judges 7) – do you think he might have had some internal questions? I’m certain that I would have felt significant doubt in the midst of those circumstances – God calling me to action that seems irrational, self-exposing and dangerous. But read the texts – each man acted, without question and without mention of doubt or question.
Why? How? Because the clear evidence of God in their lives was all the proof they needed. God’s presence satisfied every longing for validation. Abraham was blessed with a son at one hundred years of age (Genesis 21:1-7). Joshua received a visit from an angel of the Lord (Joshua 5:13-15). In the days leading up to the battle, Gideon requested specific confirmation that God intended to use him – that confirmation was received in a supernatural way (Judges 6:36-40).
And after their faithful obedience to His direction, God showed up huge!
Evidence. Recorded in the accounts of the Bible. But also present in the lives of people all around us. And even found in our lives – if we will simply open our eyes, minds and hearts to recognize it.
Side note: I’m not saying that real faith requires an absence of doubt, fear or questions. To the contrary, I believe that God not only anticipates those feelings from us in response to His calling, but perhaps is even pleased by them. Inherently, they show an honest assessment of our own shortcomings and hopefully lead to increasing reliance on Him. The Bible contains multiple instances of God-loving men and women laying their apprehensions at the feet of God without rejection or retribution. When our faith is coupled with uncertainty, the remedy is found in obedience.
Years ago, through a long series of events, I became a minority partner in a small start-up business. We worked hard, sacrificed much, and after a couple of years, began to experience some decent results. As such, we decided to concurrently set new annual goals and afford ourselves some new benefits. The other two partners received an increase in compensation. My compensation remained unchanged, but as my wife was pregnant with our first son, it was decided that she would leave her full-time job after his birth and work for us part-time. Time progressed; our child was born, all full-time job vacation time used, standard pregnancy leave time as well. A week was spent training in preparation for her start date. On the Friday before her Monday start, a partner meeting was called, at which I was informed that the other two partners had changed their mind about my wife working for our company (as you can imagine, it was not a pleasant meeting). I continued to work diligently but was still quite upset. In about one month, when I honestly answered that I was uncertain if I would remain with our company long-term (true character had been revealed), the other two partners decided to exercise their contractual option to terminate my agreement.
So there it was: new child, no job for me, no job for my wife, no health insurance, no savings (not only were we much younger, remember that it was a start-up and I was not taking significant compensation). What was going to happen?
After a very sleepless weekend, I arose Monday morning to continue moving on (that process started as soon as the dismissal meeting concluded). At some point in the afternoon, my home phone rang. Upon answering, the caller asked me if it was acceptable to call me at home, as it was a client whom I had been servicing for the company from which I was just dismissed. She had received an introduction phone call from the person who was going to manage their account due to my departure. This prompted her call to me. I professionally conveyed that my former company and I had decided to move in different directions. When she inquired as to my next steps, I replied honestly that they were uncertain at that point. Her reply came as a surprise: they were actively searching for someone with my skill set, personality and work ethic. She asked if I would be interested in meeting with their team. Flash forward: we met, we agreed to terms, I started working for them shortly thereafter. In an indirect manner, my current employment continues today based on that phone call (that company was subsequently bought by my current employer; since that phone call, it has been 13 years, five owners, and multiple bosses).
As the years rolled on, I became more reflective. God has done many things in my life and in the lives of my family. While I can recollect numerous times when God was active in my life for so many years prior, that event really started my progression toward real faith. Even though I was not fully living for Him at the time, there is no denying that He was present and active – clear and irrefutable evidence. And since then, there have been countless examples that provide all the evidence I need – supporting my “belief without proof” – and allowing me to daily live in complete trust and confidence in Him.
I don’t always understand what He is doing. I don’t even necessarily like it sometimes. But He has proven Himself faithful time and again. He has shown Himself worthy of my faith. I shouldn’t be surprised – there’s an entire Book full of evidence that proves it over and over. My faith has increased and continues to develop into real faith as I surrender to His call in obedience. And I’ve come to trust that He knows infinitely more and immeasurably better than me.
“Indeed, my plans are not like your plans, and my deeds are not like your deeds, for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans.” -Isaiah 55:8-9
So, how’s your faith?
Do you struggle? Do you experience times of doubt? Seek out those examples, not only in the Bible, but within your everyday, that give evidence to His active presence. Examine your own life deeply – you’ll find Him there. Seek out others – you won’t have to search long to find people with impossible stories made possible by our mighty God. Spend time with Him – in His word, in prayer, in spiritual fellowship. Silence yourself and allow Him to speak to you. Let Him tell you what’s next. And then, do it. Move. Take action. There is no greater evidence, no better proof, than faith fulfilled by obedient action in response to His leading – and watching Him show up in ways we could never imagine.
Do you want real faith? Listen. Act. He will prove Himself faithful.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving-kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” – Deuteronomy 7:9