I have thought a lot about living by faith in the last year. What does that mean? Is it possible? If so, what does it look like? And, of course, the implication that most consumes me, What will it cost me?
Faith is a wonderful idea. On paper it sounds beautiful, intriguing and highly inspiring. I consider a person putting everything on the line to trust in something that can’t be seen or personally manipulated, and I applaud. I can easily recognize that the worth of what is to be known is worth far more than all that may be sacrificed for it’s sake.
But, when we bring this faith-experience closer to home, it can be a little scary.
You come to your first real trial to “take by faith” and you have no idea what you are supposed to be doing. Okay, you say to yourself, I’ve heard that we’re supposed to believe in God, but what does that mean? Do I stand around shouting, “God I believe in You!” or should I lock myself in my room and pray all day? Maybe it would make everything better if I just pretended the problem didn’t exist.
Perhaps, like me you have rehearsed each one of these alternatives, and yet you don’t feel any better for it; in fact, everything may have just been made worse by the reproaches you’ve recently adopted. You wonder, Is this how faith is supposed to be — something that doesn’t work, or makes a mess?
No, you were not deceived when you were first attracted to faith; it is true and it is what you need — it just may not work out like you thought. In fact, faith is a learning experience. If you hadn’t counted on that when you first “signed on,” then let me gently correct your misunderstanding.
A faith that is advantageous to its possessor must first be active. Now, before your minds overdoses on graphic images of yourself engaged in mental and physical labor for the sake of prospering your faith, lets review what it means for our faith to be active.
Dictionary.com provides two definitions of our adjective that should be very helpful. First, active gives the idea of something that is:
1. engaged in action; characterized by energetic work, participation, etc.; busy: an active life
We understand this one perfectly well, it witnesses an energy and accomplishment that we can see and substantiate. But, the second one goes a little deeper, makes us think a little more:
2.being in a state of existence, progress, or motion: active hostilities.
Though it is harder to picture, I believe definition number two is a more fitting description of what it means to have faith that works in every circumstance.
Faith is a dependence of the heart on God. Though He can’t be seen by the body, we know that He has made the body, and is capable of directing its actions and behavior. With a spirit that desires to learn and carry out the ultimate in dependence upon God, we seek God, determined to know Him.
2 Corinthians 5:7 describes it this way:
For we walk by faith [we regulate our lives and conduct ourselves by our conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, with trust and holy fervor; thus we walk] not by sight or appearance. [Amplified Bible]
We walk by faith as we continually communicate to God that we want to set our dependence on Him, and are willing to be instructed in His ways of living, that we may love Him in every way we can.
Having faith in God is believing that He is who He says He is — all wise, all knowing, all loving, and all sovereign. He knows how life is best lived: He belongs at the center, and out of that all things will spring forth.We trust that He will lovingly instruct us and patiently understand us and creatively direct us.
So, when we face our trials or our mundane weeks, we look to God and cry, “I love You, and I will choose to walk closer to You, because Your words and Your presence and Your ways feed me.”
And it is in this posture that we find that faith is so much more than what we can see. Faith is not an amenity to be purchased for its utility or popular appeal. Faith is a life-source, a way of life, an anchor to the soul.
It is a gift given to us by God that enables us to draw close to God and set our sights eternally upon Him. While we accept it freely, we cannot hold it with apathetic hopes or lethargic intent. Faith requires invested interest and practical dependence upon God to develop a broadening of our souls.We must invest all that we have into it, that we may receive on God’s return scale.
When we initially take hold of faith, we are surprised at its simplicity and relative emptiness. We question our rationality in choosing to take hold of it, and insist that it is impossible for a man with such worldly pressures upon him to live by this weak diversion.
But we forget that faith is not about us and what we do, but about God and what He means to us, how he changes everything about us from the inside out.
When maintaining and strengthening faith gets hard, we need to seek the object of our faith with greater abandon. The more we put ourselves in claim to God, the more our faith grows and we blossom in hope. The reality of living based on who God is instead of who we are is the most liberating thing we will experience this side of heaven.
Yet, if we never get this close to God, we will never get full of life. Our hearts will be empty, and we will wonder why; that is, until we place our faith-investment in the mystery of His great significance.
For a long time I couldn’t even think about this type of surrender. The very sound of it was like death.
When I thought about it, words like painful, agonizing, deprivation, unsuitable and absolutely unrewarding came to mind. I had no other way of thinking of it. That is, until I put faith to the test. Or, maybe I should say that faith put me to the test. I came to a point in my life in which everything I once believed I believed was called into question.
It was not that what I thought I was to believe had suddenly become unsure, but that my demonstrations of those beliefs were being challenged. I had been failing to represent any convictions in my beliefs; my behaviors in testimony of them were but weak and fickle. The truth I espoused was failing me, because I was not standing solidly on it. My faith was a casualty of casual faith. I was trying to hold onto several contradictory beliefs at the same time.
I divided my soul with warring worldviews. I wanted to talk trust in God while living trust in myself. I thought I would be safe enough admitting God is good but paying attention to how good I was. I imagined the possibility of God always taking care of me, yet daily predicted that He would indefinitely fail me.
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, consider this: God is not necessarily subject to what we subject Him. Our expectations cannot be considered authoritative on God’s character or the probability of His behaviors. They are not. The only Person whose expectations of God were ever consistent with the outcome He experienced was His Son, the Word.
Only God’s personal revelation of Himself is accurate and reliably informed. To believe in Him at all, we must know Him. And knowing God is impossible without committing yourself to His Word.
So, how much do you want to live by faith? Are you willing to lay aside everything else in order to establish your heart upon the One everlastingly important reality?
It is only when we bring everything to God, with a spirit willing for His preeminence, that we find out for ourselves why God is everything we really want, and nothing we can live without.