Many Christians seem to think that the proper thing to do is to wait and see what God does to them. Whatever it turns out to be is the best thing possible. Some think this is Christian resignation, or Christian surrender. They say, "What I want most is that God should do what He wants. Therefore, whatever God does is okay with me."
Now this is partly correct. We should want above all what God wants. After all, we want to please God because we love Him. But if we start accepting everything that happens as God's will, we will have missed two important Bible truths.
- God has already told us what He wants, has shown us what pleases Him, what He wants to do. Straightaway, from what He has already told us and shown us, we know that many things that happen to us are not His will! Sometimes they are caused by Satan, sometimes by Satan's agents in this world, sometimes by the sin of others, or even our own sin. There are also things that should be happening to us according to God's will, but which in fact are not happening.
- God has told us that He wants us to ask things from Him, and even to demand of Him the things that we need (Luke 11:5-9). He does not want us to be passive children, quietly resigned to whatever happens. He wants us to be eager children, who want to know Him, to experience His presence, to see His glory. God wants us to be asking, seeking, knocking, not passively waiting for Him to do His will!
But What Is Faith?
Faith is based on the knowledge that God wants to do things for us and through us, and that He has told told us so, and for that reason we can have faith that He will do so.
The Scripture is filled with God's promises. These are His stated intentions of what He wants to do for us and through us. Here are some of God's promises.
1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
Not only does God want to work in us and through us, but He wants to do more than we usually ask Him to do. And His power is available for this. Our spiritual eyes need to be opened to this fact.
2 Kings 6:15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
We are surrounded by the power of God, by armies of angels, and once we see that, once we see that we are not dependent on our own personal resources, we are on the way to living the life of faith.
In this room that we are in, there are all kinds of power: magnetic waves, radio waves, electric power, even nuclear power (in the nuclei of the atoms)! Not so many centuries ago, the same ower was available on the earth, but people didn't know how to tap into them. In the last couple of centuries, we have learned how to tap into them, and now we can have electric lights or hear music that may be playing hundreds of miles away.
In this same room that we are in, there is even greater spiritual power than physical power. The power of God is with us right now. To tap into that power, we must learn how to have faith.
Some people feel that it is unfair that God should make faith the way to tap His power. They feel that it is as hard today to have faith, as it was for people two thousand years ago to hear music that was being played 400 miles away.
Actually, God is not asking for faith because He wants to make the Christian life hard for us, but because He wants to make it easy for us to do more and see more happen than we ever thought was possible. Faith is simply the way we let God do things in us and through us.
Here's an analogy that may help us understand. Suppose we took some who didn't know how to swim. If we were to throw him into a pool, river, lake or sea, the chances are that he would struggle so hard to stay up that he would drown! He would be afraid that it wouldn't work, specially since his body seems heavier than water. But if we can give him faith first, faith in the buoyant opwer of the water, he will easily stay afloat. His faith in the buoyancy of water will let him relax, and he will allow the water to hold him up. Then he will be able to move around in the water. And he will learn to swim.
Now transfer the analogy into the spiritual realm. The power of God is there to hold us up and to let us move in ways that we did not think possible. When we struggle the hardest to stay up or to get results, we have the hardest time. When we struggle, we act as if the only to progress is by our own power. But, when we learn how to trust the Lord, we relax, and we let God do with His power what He wants to do for us anyway, and then things begin to happen.
Here's another analogy. Suppose we want to get into a locked room. Someone comes to us, hands us a key and says, "That is the key to the room." It wouod be a simple matter for us to take the key and open the door. Even if there was some difficulty in getting the keyinto the lock, we would not give up. We would approach the situation as if we had the key, and we would unlock the door.
Transfer this analogy to the spiritual realm. We have been given the key to the life of faith. The key is the Holy Spirit. If we have the gift of tongues, we have already used the key to obtain one miraculous gift of God. Now we only need to approach the rest of our life and problems as if we have the key.
Many times, the reason why people feel that it is hard for them to have faith, is because they misunderstand what faith is. They think it is a blind leap. In fact, "the leap of faith" is a term used in existentialist philosophy. But it is not a Biblical concept. The concept of the leap of faith stipulates that faith consists in deciding to believe that something will happen evn though there is no good reason to do so. Faith is seen as a blind act of will, a leap, with no assurance that there is a landing place. But Biblical faith is not the same thing as taking a blind leap.
Here is the definition of Biblical faith:
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
We do not see the thing we believe God for. If we saw it, we would have knowledge of it, not faith for it. But we are sure of it, because we know something that lets us expect that God will do certain things. It is based on the evidence of God's Word. When we believe based on this evidence, we have the substance of what we want and hope for. That substance comes into our spirit. It's like a cheque, which is the guarantee that we have the money, although the money is still in the cheque giver's bank When we have the cheque, we have what the Bible calls "the substance" of the money. When we encash it, we have the money itself.
We have the substance when we believe the evidence. What is the evidence? God's Word, God's Promises.
Some of God's Promises state that He always wants something to happen. Perhaps there is a condition for it to happen, but the promise says that if the condition is met then God will always do such-and-such. For instance, God says in Luke 11:10-13 that if we ask for the Holy Spirit, He will always give us the Holy Spirit.
There are some things that the Lord wants to do for us, but He has not covered them in any of His universal promises. For instance, let us say that God wants me to go to a certain foreign country, say the United States. But I don't have the funds to go there. I cannot appeal to Scripture to know for certain that I will have the funds. But God has another way of revealing to us what He is ready to do. As we grow in the life of the Spirit, the Lord begins to speak to us and lead us. There may be an inner word, or an inner sense, that we have just to ask for something and it will happen, or that all we have to do is act in a certain way and a certain result will happen. We get this promise directly from God. We cannot however manufacture such a promise from God. If we try, we will be deceived into thinking that God said something, whereas in fact that's what we wanted to hear. This can be dangerous. But the fact is that God may and in many cases does speak like that, and when He does we can test it out and once we are sure that God has spoken we can act on it.
There is a third way that we can have faith in God. Sometimes, the matter is not covered by a direct Bible promise, nor has God given us a personal specific word on the subject. But we can have faith based on God's character, based on the facts that He is infinitely wise (so He knows what's best for us), and infinitely powerful (so He can do what's best for us), and infinitely loving (so He wants to do what's best for us). If He knows what's best, can do it and wants to do it, He will do it. Many a time that can be the basis of our faith.
God wants us to develop an overall attitude of faith in Him. He wants us to expect Him to do more and more, even when we cannot find a specific promise that covers it, or when we do not have a specific leading for it. As we have more and more faith in Him, we will see more and more happening.
In summary: Faith is a response to what we know of God and what He wants to do. But it is a special kind of response. It is the response we make to a rock. We know that the rock can be relied upon. We can lean on a rock, or build on a rock. We cannot trust sand, but we can trust rock. In the Psalms, the Lord is called our Rock. Because He is trustworthy, wehave a firm footing when we walk in faith in Him.
There are three kinds of faith: believing faith, trusting faith, and expecting faith. In believing faith, we believe what God has said. We believe, for instance, that there is a heaven and a hell, or that Jesus is the Son of God. In trusting faith, we are willing to live based on what God has said. We can go through life trusting that everything will turn out well because we have faith in God's goodness. Believing and trusting faith are both important, but not enough to see God's glory. In expecting faith, we are expecting God to do something, we are expecting that something will happen.
As an example of expecting faith, take the woman who suffered from severe bleeding in Mark 5:24-34.
Mark 5:24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
This woman did not say, "This man is the Messiah, and I want to touch Him." (That would have been believing faith.) In fact, she may not have known who He was. All she knew was that He had healed people.
She did not say, "This is a good man in whom I can trust, and He will see that whatever happens to me is the best that can happen." (That would have been trusting faith.)
She said, "If I just touch His clothes, I will get well." (That was expecting faith.)
Expectant faith is what makes it possible for us to see the glory of God. Expectant faith oftren means that we have to do something before we see God act. The woman didn't just expect that she would be healed. She expected that when she touched Him she would be healed. That was the action she did before she saw God act.
Take the case when Jesus was walking on the water, Peter said to Him, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water" (Matthew 14:28). In the next verse, Jesus said, "Come." Then the verse goes on to say, "And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus." Peter's expecting faith led him to take the decisive step, come down out of the ship, and step on the water. When he did, he found himself walking on the water. Peter had to act on what he knew that Christ had said. If Peter had not stepped out of the ship and walked, there would have been no story to tell.
To some up the argument so far: Faith is a response to God's revelation of Himself. Once God begins to show us something about what we can expect from Him, we need to resond to it by believing it, counting on it, expecting it, and acting on it. As we begin to do this, we will begin to see things happen.