Does Yours Thrive?
Faith is a "biggie" of the Bible. It was what made Abraham righteous in God's eyes. (Genesis 15:6). It can move mountains according to Jesus in Mark 11:23. Faith can restore to health those who are sick. (James 5:15) God himself established the worlds by his own faith (Hebrews 11:3)
Then there is the incredible statement by the writer of Hebrews in 11:6: "Without faith it is impossible to please him." That one always blows me away. Impossible? You mean I can do all the other stuff right but not have faith and God will not be pleased with me? This sends me scurrying to check my faith level because above all else I DO want to please God.
So what is faith? How can we cause it to increase in our life? How can our faith life thrive? This question is particularly important right now because of the times in which we live. When Jesus was asked about the signs of the End of the Age one of the things he said was: "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved." (Matthew 24:12)
I have a feeling that those who "endure" are going to be the ones operating with faith. As lawlessness becomes more pervasive and rampant (and who would deny we are seeing that in our day?) faith will enable us to stand. It is only "the shield of faith" that "will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." (Ephesians 6:16)
Let's get two things out of the way. First of all, faith is not merely intellectual assent. It is not simply acknowledging God. "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder." (James 2:19) The demons believe but they certainly don't have faith. Faith is seated in our spirit - not our mind.
Secondly, faith is not hype or working ourselves into a believing frenzy. If you have been around the Christian block a few times, you have probably seen both. I know I have. The main problem with this type of so-called faith is that you often end up having faith in faith instead of faith in God. It frequently relies on formulas and tends to keep us at a superficial spiritual level. Unfortunately, the end result is often not a mountain moved but a mountain of disappointment and frustration.
The launch pad for genuine faith begins with the firm foundation of our belief and trust in God himself. It is rooted in an understanding of his character and goodness. This kind of faith doesn't expect results based on how much prayer, fasting and other formulas are fulfilled but on the kind of God he is. It is his nature to answer prayer; it is his love that cares about our every need; it is his compassion that saves, delivers and heals. Once we have that firmly established we can proceed to the next rung of the faith ladder.
Abraham had faith to sacrifice his own son; Peter had faith to heal a lame man at the Gate Beautiful; Paul had faith to declare safety to all his fellow passengers in a shipwreck; Elijah had faith to call down fire on a soaking wet sacrifice; the woman with the issue of blood had faith to touch the hem of Jesus' garment; Joshua had faith to tell the sun to stand still during battle and it obeyed him. These are people whose faith definitely thrived!
Can we do likewise? Yes, if we understand as they certainly did: faith always succeeds when it matches God's heart and purposes. When we ignore this truth we often fail which causes our faith to nosedive. I remember a pastor I once knew who told a humorous story on himself illustrating this.
As a young man recently saved, he was told that God's Word is always true and that he should believe it and live by it. He came across the New Testament story of how Jesus bid Peter to come walking to him on the water. Deciding that faith is faith he reasoned that if it worked for Peter it should work for him - if he had enough of it. He went out on a boat dock and worked up every ounce of faith he could. Finally, he walked off the dock confidently and to his great surprise and chagrin he dropped like a stone in the water.
His problem was forgetting the very important detail that Jesus invited Peter out on the water; the Lord never had invited him. God's Word IS always true but we can't use it for our will, only God's will.
If you want your faith to thrive, spend more deep intimate time with God finding out what he is doing and what he wants to do. Then, join him. That's how Jesus did it. "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." (John 5:19)
This method works perfectly but you probably will not perfectly work it. It's a struggle. It's hard. There are mysteries and times when you simply pray and believe the best you can without having full understanding of God's will in the matter. Still - try. Keep trying. Pull yourself up to the next rung and then the next rung. With each new rung your faith will thrive.
And always remember: without faith it is impossible to please him…