Faith … in What?
Does your faith seem small? Take heart. Perhaps you just need to redirect it.
Consider Jesus’ statement below:
Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.” Then their eyes were opened, and they could see! (Matthew 9:29-30 NLT).
The obvious meaning of Jesus’ words is that faith sets the stage for the Lord to help us, and that unbelief keeps us from receiving from him what we need. The blind men in this narrative believed Jesus could heal them—and he did. Conversely, the residents of Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, did not believe in him—and no great miracles happened there (Mark 6).
What is not so obvious is that both the blind men and the residents of Nazareth believed. The blind men believed Jesus was a prophet who had miracle-working power and Jesus’ hometown acquaintances believed he was a man like them so he couldn’t be a miracle worker.
Do we not all believe something, all of the time? And what we believe, what we really have faith in, greatly impacts our relationship with God and the outcome of our prayers. If I ask God for help, but remain anxious and uncertain, could it mean that I have greater faith in the problem than I do in God? In that case, Jesus’ words “Because of your faith, it will happen” (Matthew 9:29 NLT) seem to imply “Because of your faith that things will continue to be bad, that is what will happen.”
Is that not why the Scriptures urge us to do the kind of thinking that creates a climate for faith in God? For example:
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8 NLT).
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night (Joshua 1:8 NKJV).
But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night (Psalm 1:2 NLT).
In the vicinity of Nogales, Arizona, where my family moved when I was in high school, is a butte-like peak referred to as “Monkey Mountain.” The front of it is a sheer vertical wall, so climbers have to hike around to the back of it. There, they can step from boulder to boulder, shimmy up crevices, pick their way gingerly along narrow ledges, and, finally, cross the narrow saddle connecting to the summit.
Even after my siblings and I grew up and moved to distant parts of the United States, we looked forward to making this climb when home for a visit. On one of the last such occasions, we parked the car at the Peña Blanca picnic grounds and began the trek toward Monkey Mountain. Although we were only a few hundred yards from the base of the mountain, our progress was slow because of the rocky ground and the trench-like depressions (probably dry arroyos, or stream beds) we had to cross. Amazingly, when down in the lowest part of these troughs, the view of the mountain was completely cut off. If one spent much time down there, one might even forget there was a mountain just a hundred yards away!
Problems always loom large. When we are sunk down in the middle of a challenging situation, these circumstances are all that we can see. God is much greater than our difficulty, but our view of him seems cut off. If we pray in that gloomy frame of mind, is that praying in faith? At such times, we have to purposely remind ourselves that God and his power, his love, and his solutions are still there—right over that pile of rocks.
Since our faith affects what will happen, let’s make a point of setting our expectations on God. Let’s not allow ourselves to become trapped by faith in the wrong thing!
“Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” Genesis 5:24 (NIV)
Is there a person in the Bible whose story you simply love? One who encourages you, challenges you or with whom you share a similar life circumstance?
Perhaps it’s Moses and his keen leadership skills? Or, Esther — the compelling queen, both beautiful and brainy — who used her quick thinking to help save an entire nation? Maybe Joseph is your favorite, as you contemplate how someone so mistreated could continually take the high road which led him not only to political power but also to family forgiveness?
All of these are fabulous choices, but I choose Enoch.
I first heard of Enoch as a teen, and he fascinated me. Not a lot is written about him in the pages of Scripture, but what is there piqued my interest: “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24). Hmmm. My young mind pondered that strange description.
As I grew in my faith, I learned more about this Old Testament mystery man. In Hebrews 11:5-6 we catch more of the story. “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: ‘He could not be found, because God had taken him away.’ For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (NIV).
That’s it! Enoch was whisked away, spared the pain of death and transported immediately to God’s side, all because of one simple thing: He pleased God.
I say simple, but I don’t say easy.
It is a simple thing to please God. You just do what He says in His Word. Straightforward enough, right?
However, my years as a follower of Christ have taught me that simple is not always easy. Choices present themselves, the world screams, our flesh gets in the way and we want revenge or glory … so we often lack faith, and instead try to control our own destinies. We mess up the pleasing God part with our very own hands and hearts.
Enoch walked with God.
Oh, don’t we long for that to be said of us? I’ll admit I don’t always walk with God. I take a stand for God — believe the right things and make it known. I may walk after God. And sadly, sometimes I run ahead of God, make my own plans and then say, “Oh yeah. By the way God, do ya mind blessin’ these plans? I made them in Your name. I may have forgotten to consult You in the midst of them, but they are for You, alright?” What a shame and a sham!
Walking with God means we daily give up our desire to navigate our own lives, and we place our faith in Him. We admit He knows what’s best for us and realize He might not always reveal the hows and whys until the very last second. God is seldom early, but never late. Only day-by-day faith-walking pleases God.
Do you long to be one who pleases God this way? One who makes Him smile as He sees you place complete trust in Him and His infinite wisdom daily? Maybe then we just might be like my Bible hero Enoch … the one who walked so closely by our Creator’s side that one day, during one of those long walks, God looked at him and said, “You know, we’ve been walking together for so long now that we are actually closer to My house than yours. Why don’t you just come on home with Me right now?”
What if this Jesus thing is all a hoax? I thought to myself in horror one day nearly two years after I accepted Christ as Savior. What if none of it’s true? What if the pastor suddenly says, “This is all a joke, and you fell for it! Jesus isn’t real and you’re not really saved!”
That day a wall of doubt settled around me like steel bars separating me from my future. The possibility of a life of nothingness became a temporary reality, and I panicked. What brought this on all of a sudden? I wondered. I struggled with that flash of doubt for days, and the more I thought about it, the more unhappy I became. I knew I had to reevaluate everything.
What was your life like before you met Jesus? I asked myself.
I was dying inside, I replied. How did you feel?
I questioned further. Full of pain, hopelessness, and fear, I answered.
Are things better now? Much.n What’s different?
I don’t feel depressed, fearful, or hopeless, I answered.
When did that change?
When I received Jesus, I started to feel better.
Your experience with the Lord was real? I asked.
Well, yes, I think so.
Then what’s your problem? I asked.
The problem is I can’t prove that Jesus is real.
Can you prove that He isn’t?
No, I answered.
Well, then it looks like the choice is up to you, doesn’t it? To believe or not to believe. It’s your decision.
It’s my decision, I answered.
Okay, then. Weighing the quality of my life before I met Jesus against the quality of my life since then, I choose to believe Him.
Are you sure? I asked.
Yes. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back.
This little scenario happened five or six times in the first ten years of my walk with the Lord. In retrospect, I believe it occurred in busy and stressful times when I had not spent enough time in the Word of God or had neglected being alone with the Lord in prayer and praise. Eventually I realized that sending a doubting spirit to torment us is one of the devil’s favorite tactics.
Without a Doubt
Faith is a spiritual muscle that needs to be exercised in order to prevent atrophy, which makes our entire spiritual being weak. Faith is first a decision, then an exercise in obedience, then a gift from God as it is multiplied. Our first step of faith is taken when we decide we will receive Jesus. After that, every time we decide to trust the Lord for anything, we build that faith. And whenever we decide not to trust Him, we tear it down. Faith is our daily decision to trust God.
The Bible says,
Whatever is not from faith is sin. — Romans 14:23
How much clearer can it be? Faith is obedience. Doubt is disobedience. Faith is a gift from God because He enables us to believe, but we have to obey by building on that faith.
Built on the Word
How do we start building faith? Once we have a little, how do we get more? The first step is to be totally open and honest about any doubt in God’s ability or His faithfulness to provide for our every need. Oswald Chambers said,
Faith is unutterable trust in God, trust which never dreams He would not stand by us.1
Doubt emanates from a lie of the enemy, which says God is not all-powerful. If you’ve listened to this lie, confess it as sin.
The next step is to fill your mind with the Word:
Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. — Romans 10:17 NIV
Reading the Word daily, regularly submitting to Bible teaching, and speaking the Word aloud will build faith. Your mouth and heart have to be united in this. One can’t be saying, “God can,” while the other says, “God can’t.” Your mind will convince your heart as you read or speak God’s Word.
Whenever I’m afraid or doubt that my life is secure, I read the Bible until I sense God’s peace in me. The more I read, the more hope I have. Then, when I pray, I’m confident that God will answer my prayers.
Even if you are not given to fear and doubt, you can be attacked by a spirit of doubt, as I was. When that happens, don’t carry it by yourself. Take it to the Lord immediately. Or ask a mature believer to pray with you if you need to.
Sensing your own limitations doesn’t mean you don’t have faith. Feeling that God has limitations is what indicates a lack of faith. When faith has blossomed, it gives birth to hope, and says, “There is an end to this. I won’t be in this situation forever. I won’t always feel like this. I won’t always hurt.” Hope and faith together give you a vision for your life.
The Bible says of the people who could not go into the Promised Land,
They could not enter in because of unbelief. — Hebrews 3:19
Don’t let that happen to you. Choose to enter in to all that God has for you by taking this important step of obedience.