Monday, February 24, 2014

What Faith Looks Like

A couple of times this week the question, "How do I trust God?" has been asked with sincerity by those who struggle, who want to trust, but are stuck in fear or uncertainty. What a great question!

First and foremost, it begins at the cross. If we haven't reconciled our sin and depravity with the goodness and provision of God, we have no grounds to trust Him. Those who do not come to God through Jesus will be judged by their own righteousness, which falls short on every count (James 2:10).  The sidebar to the right tells how to become God's child--it's the first and most important step of faith you'll ever take.

My friend, Naomi, once described the Christian walk in terms of "trust" and "faith." It's as if I'm walking through a dense fog on unstable ground. I can't see where to place my foot, but in order to move ahead, I must pick it up and set it down... somewhere. Faith is the action of picking up my foot and setting it down in a place I've never been before (think Abraham).

When we seek God in His Word and prayer, He provides a solid footing. I move forward, not knowing where my foot will land, but believing God will not let me fall (Psalm 37:23-24). When I look behind and see how far I've come, that's trust. I act on faith, but the greater my confidence in God's provision based on past experience (trust), the easier it is to step out on faith. If I never take that first step, I will never prove God's faithfulness.

Too often we get caught up in "me:"  the idea that "I" can mess it up, that "I" will ruin God's plan or fail Him in some way, shape or form. Logically, if I never move, I will never fail. But that's not what Jesus says. To the servant who refused to try, who buried his God-given investment until the master returned, Jesus said, "‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.... For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 25:26, 29-30).

It sounds crazy--it doesn't make sense to our human minds--but God actually doesn't want our efforts or perfection. He's not concerned about failure. He calls us to faith, that nail-biting, knee-knocking first step that says, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water” (Matthew 14:28). 

The truth of the matter, like it or not, is that you and I are not big enough to create failure. God is the Creator--of all things (Colossians 1:16-20). He uses failure and weakness and foolishness in ways we will never understand (1 Corinthians 1). We cannot "let Him down" or ruin His plan. He's bigger than that. Greater. Mightier. Wiser. The only step of failure is the one that refuses to move.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (James 1:5-8)

"But 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 diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)

Are you ready to walk by faith?
1) Talk to God--confess your pride, your disbelief and unwillingness to obey. Admit your fear and ask Him for help.
2) Continue in prayer, asking God what step of obedience you need to take right now, this minute. My guess is that you knew where you're holding back before you sat down to pray--but now you and God are in this together and you're on His side, not your own. That's the way faith works.
3) Do it. Don't write it down, think about it or ask a friend for help. Just. Do. It.
4) Thank God for His help. You did it! You acted on faith and obeyed. It's just that simple.
5) Ask God to reveal what you should do next. NOTE: God's will is always in agreement with His Word. If you do what's right you'll rarely have time to do what's wrong.
6) Praise Him as He answers your prayer and helps you obey. Tell others. Talk to Him constantly as you go about your day asking for help, direction, strength, wisdom and forgiveness as needed. Sing songs of praise, and
7) Keep doing the next right thing.

I have taken [you] from the ends of the earth, And called from its farthest regions, And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away: Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’"  (Isaiah 41:8-10)

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