There is a drive to understand a deeper answer to the question: what is faith? I have carried it for many years and continued to push onward to grasp the question that pulls the heart.
“Just have faith!” I’ve heard it said over and over, yet somewhere in the journey it just seems like these words are not enough. The suggestion is that faith is some self-made feeling or a decided manifestation of an idea.
Do you ever struggle with that? Thinking that you just don’t have enough faith? If only I had more faith then maybe our finances would be in a better situation.
If only I had more faith then maybe our marriage would be more connected.
OR if only I had more faith then maybe my life would not be such a struggle.
So often this concept is twisted and contrived to become the thing that we must strive and strive and strive to obtain, yet is this the scriptural example?
Let’s find out…
What is Faith Anyway? And How Do I Get More Of It!?
This past week my husband, a Navy veteran who separated from the military 4 years ago after thirteen years of active duty service, graduated from the bachelor’s program he’s been working hard at for the past two years. His awards were astounding, including receiving the Valedictorian award for his class. Suddenly the drive and determination that has poured out of him these 20+ months were recognized in front of the many.
He made it.
This journey had NOT been easy. Selling everything we own to move into the land of the unknown while following the dreams that God has laid on our hearts is NOT an easy path.
Yet, we have this treasure in ourselves, we little jars of clay, that God is with us, for us, and making a way through the wilderness into our personal Promised Land with Him.
We do our part and hand the rest over to Him.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4: 7
When God spoke to our hearts 4 years ago and revealed that it was time to separate from the Navy, it took faith on our part to act. It was not a feeling of pleasure and confidence, but a contradiction of flesh and Spirit.
Simultaneously within a growing faith is the feeling of peace mixed with the fears and insecurities of the flesh. This is still faith, even though fear is also present.
It has been said that courage cannot exist without fear. Without fear coming along for the ride, it cannot be the truest form of courage. Fear is a given in this life, but feeling it and operating in it are two VERY different things.
And, the enemy is hell-bent to create as much of it as possible since it is one of the most effective tools of control that has ever existed.
To operate in fear means to make our decisions based on the imaginations of the mind, rather than the facts and truths that are before us in REALITY. For instance, I might have a fear that my husband will have an affair, so if I am controlled by that fear and operate in it my actions will follow. Maybe I’ll second-guess his every move, or start calling him 50 times a day at work to make sure he’s there. Or, I’ll accuse him of thinking adulterous thoughts of women who walk by us, etc., etc., etc.
This same exact scenario will repeat in any and every arena of our lives if we do not recognize how fear manifests. It will emerge in the way we raise our children and allow them to grow or not. It will emerge in our parenting, education, work pursuits, relationships, self-beliefs, and more. Fear basically has no bounds to where it can access, and destroy.
Yet, we repeatedly see in scripture the admonition to “not fear.”
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Is. 41: 10
The thing is that this constant encouragement is not always used to uplift and exhort the saints, but rather as yet another tool to beat them over the head with condemnation.
Kind of a “how DARE you fear, you moron! Scripture says, ‘Don’t fear’ and yet you’re talking about being afraid! Just STOP it and have faith, then it’ll all be okay!”
Does anyone else know what I’m talking about? Have you met that voice of condemnation before?
When things get tough and hard there is a subtle little voice that comes through the words and intonations of others that suggests that the difficulties are matters of our own making. This voice comes with a criticism singed in it. It subtly suggests that we are the makers of our own destiny and therefore the makers of our own problems.
Is there Truth to it? Yes. It is always True? No.
This is the problem. This is the struggle: to learn how to discern His voice vs. everyone else’s voice. To learn how to determine if the words spoken are words from His Spirit or another. To assess if the advice is meant to detract or to guide. And, to separate the speaker of the message from the voice guiding it.
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” ~ Matt. 12: 30
Let’s face it, friends, we live in a world chock full of people unsound in their Biblical understanding. We have complete and utter believers in God and lovers of Christ who still do not fully know and understand HIM and His Ways (do we ever?).
Therefore, we must learn to take such words with a grain of salt and place them on the altar before God to be worked out and found pure or not.
And, we will ALWAYS find that the words the bite, that the intonation that condemns, that the underlying insinuation that criticizes and aims to hurt and jab, is NEVER, EVER, NOT GONNA BE the Voice of God. PERIOD.
So, the question is, “What is faith anyway?”
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” ~ Hebrews 11: 1
The encouragement of all encouragements to regularly and repeatedly pour out of the mouths of the Body is this catchphrase for all things. Have faith…
Is it True? Absolutely. Are the words sufficient in every situation? Not a chance.
Faith is a loaded word. It comes with a complete doctrinal understanding behind it that must be understood foundationally before it can be applied practically.
So, let’s break it down.
Faith is confidence in what we hope for…
Why ought a Christian to have confidence? More specifically, WHAT or WHOM is it that can provide a reason to be confident in anything?
The simple answer is God. Again, a loaded idea. Let’s unpack it.
God is a self-defining Creator who has provided a means for knowing Him relationally through Christ. Through Him we have a human form to connect with and examine, mixed with the ambiguity of an eternal Being.
So, to know Christ (to seek a deeper understanding of His purpose as self-proclaimed by His Words in the Word, to come into relationship with Him through prayer and invitation of His Spirit, to study His life and pour over all He preached to gain true knowledge of His character as lived out, rather than what other people say) is to know God.
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” ~ John 4: 6-7
Christ is the completion of God’s character. In the Old Testament, there is VERY much constant declaration of Who God is by His very mouth, yet when many people read the texts they internalize God as a God of lightning bolts and condemnation. This doesn’t really jive very well with Christ if we cannot comprehend how the two coincide.
You have a child, right mama? You know that tension between the reality where you love your child and want good things for them, but must allow natural consequences to occur when they really don’t want to listen and obey the things that keep them safe and protect them?
Yeah, that. THAT basically sums up the vast majority of the Old Testament.
God is our FATHER and it is His duty to teach and train His children, and sadly (though meaningfully) training can be painful for children.
We are stubborn and inherently apt to try to flee from the pain of learning to control the flesh.
But, what we no longer have to worry about, within the reality of our God-led parenting journey, is any condemnation that we may think is mixed up with the painful pieces of life. Christ is the release of any ill-will or just accusations that God rightfully could hold against His children.
Christ, and His work on the cross, is the completion of God’s self-made provision to ensure that He does not have to destroy His children when they sin.
This is His mercy: To not give the consequences that we rightfully deserve based on how He created the world to work. His MERCY is BUILT on the foundation of Christ.
Does that mean that we are released from our responsibility to obey Him? Um, no. Just because I love my child and extend ample opportunity for them to learn to obey my guidance and correction does not mean that they are not responsible for their response to my teachings.
If they want to be part of our family and to reap the many blessings that come with that position (a home, family, protection, financial support and provision, etc.) they must also take seriously their part in responding in accordance with the ways of our household. Otherwise, they are simply entitled and selfish, without any understanding of what it means to have a give and take relationship.
This is also true for us. God provides, and we are responsible for responding. Period.
But, why is this a reasonable choice?
It is only reasonable to follow God’s Ways when we internalize that GOD IS GOOD!
If we believe that God is a tyrant basically always looking for a way to slam us down, then we will not be too apt to willingly follow Him.
However, if we believe that His Word is True and that what He declares about Himself is also TRUE then a whole other picture is painted instead.
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” ~ 1 John 1: 5
“Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.” ~ Psalm 68: 20
“…[God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” ~ 2 Peter 3:9
“As for God, His way is perfect: the Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.” ~ Psalm 18: 30
“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” ~ Psalm 116: 5
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1: 9
And on the scriptures go….
Somewhere in our lives, we must learn that this God whom our childish hearts of flesh believe is somehow out to get us is actually a loving Father who wants to steer His children into a life of goodness and protection.
Somewhere in our lives, we must transition from the thoughts of a child in the flesh to a mature mind that sees His Love and character as the means for interpreting His actions and Ways.
But, when we do that, when we choose to believe – even in the face of our doubts or fears – that God IS who HE says He is, THEN, and only then, is faith actionable.
When we make the decision to trust that God’s Word IS what is true, even if we have doubts wrapped up in the decision, then we can face fears with the faith that He will do what He says He will do.
This is why we can have confidence. And, it is ALSO why we can have assurance in what we do not see.
I may not currently live with the circumstances that are pleasant and enjoyable for our family. Living in a travel trailer with 9 people is not all sunshine and rainbows. It is hard a lot of the time.
But, if I choose to trust that God is who He says He is, then I must also choose to believe that He will follow through on the promises He proclaims for His children.
The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.” ~ Psalm 34: 10
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” ~ Psalm 81: 10
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” ~ Matt. 6: 31-32
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4: 19
All of these things are promised to those who are committed to following Him. We gain access to Him, though, even in the midst of our imperfections and human flaws and stumblings because Christ already took care of the consequences that He built into the fabric of Creation. So, while we deserve death, we receive life. While we deserve punishment, we receive love.
This is His Grace: to receive His mercy AND favor, being promised an abundance of life from His eternal and unlimited treasury of abundance!
THIS is the foundation of faith: that God is Good and revealed this Truth through the works of Christ, that in Him and His character, I can place my trust and expect to receive from His eternal abundance, not because of my goodness, but because of His.
In the face of the fears that this life will bring I am faced with the constant and continual choice to choose by which mindset I will live my life: faith or fear.
Will I look at my circumstances and trust the outcome to be what the news media says is what happens to people who are in my place of struggle? Or will I make my decisions based on the hope that God is bigger than my circumstances?
Will I treat others in the way that they deserve because of their behaviors, or will I extend grace and loving boundaries because God has extended the same respect to me?
Is my choice going to be to fall apart in fear and misery because it feels like there’s no way out of the pit of this life, or will I feel the fear I have and still get up with the belief that God will make a way out of the valley?
THIS is faith in action. It has NOTHING to do with feeling confident but CHOOSING confidence in God.
Faith is not a feeling. It is a CHOICE. What do you choose?
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” ~ Joshua 24: 15
Finally, as we walk in faith by choice, deciding in the face of our fears to trust that God is who He says He is and that I am forgiven for my wrong-doings through the works and victory of Christ on the cross, we will experience repeated opportunity for God to prove Himself faithful.
God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” ~ Number 23: 19
How does a relationship grow stronger? How does a marriage get to the point where neither spouse has the fear that the other will bring them harm? EXPERIENCE.
The thing is that before we can experience someone’s character IS what they proclaim it to be we must choose to trust and face the vulnerable risk that we may be disappointed. With man, we will be. We are flawed and fallible and inherently prone to mistakes and missteps.
To walk with others is a guarantee to struggle through the purifying fires of life together.
With God, though, we will not be let down if we are truly listening to what HE is prompting us to believe in the Spirit (I’m not talking about God I want a million dollars tomorrow without doing anything to earn it or other selfish and labor less goals we don’t want to actually do anything to earn and achieve).
Does God require us to partner with Him in the things He wants to give? Yes. We discussed that we have a responsibility to respond to Him with obedient hearts.
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” ~ James 2: 26
But, we also find repeatedly the reason to expect His provision with our obedience.
This morning I was reading Luke 17 and the story of the 10 lepers JUMPED off the page at me. They wanted to be healed, and Jesus told them to go to the priests to show themselves as clean…BEFORE they were actually clean.
He told them to do something FIRST before they actually experienced the fulfillment of their request.
And as they went, they were cleansed.” ~ Luke 17: 14
AS THEY OBEYED THEY RECEIVED THEIR REQUEST.
How often are we placed in the very same scenarios with God? How often does He prompt us to first show our belief in Him through action in order to experience His provision and the fullness of His character? Let me tell you, it’s often.
So, what is faith? Faith is making the choice to believe that God is who He says He is and will do the things that He says He will do, even when that is not what we are currently experiencing in the reality and circumstances of the moment.
It is a loaded word, but it is DEEP and meaningful and once it sinks in, it changes EVERYTHING.
How do you grow in faith?
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” ~ James 1: 22
We grow in faith by taking action to obey what God is leading us to do as often as He leads so that we have the opportunity to experience His provision over and over again.
What do you choose? How will you live? In whom and what do you place your trust?
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” ~ Joshua 24: 15