I, like other Christians, have had struggles with aspects of faith through out my Christian life. I have been told that faith saves and I that just need faith, but the concept of faith seems foreign at times and is often misunderstood.
Faith is not really a foreign concept to humans. When trying to define faith, the usual definitions mention belief and trust in God or the doctrines of a religion. Trust without material proof. We trust all the time in things. How many people trust a weather forecast or in the performance of their vehicles. Your trusting a pilot to fly a plane and for that plane to not malfunction. We see it operate on such a regular basis that it becomes normal to us to just trust and assume that it will work as it always has worked. We can try and take that concept and apply it to God, but it doesn’t seem to really cover it.
When we are first saved, our faith seems more like a hope. We hope that what we have heard is true and that we will be saved when our physical body dies. What real proof do we have that God is real other than a book and the lives of those who are encouraging us to believe the way they do. Not the most reassuring, but maybe that is why they call it a leap of faith. You don’t see God but your trusting that He is really there. And once you make that commitment, your hoping that it is true.
For me, it was harder to have faith after being saved than it was when I accepted the gift of salvation. When I was saved, I was coming out of a dark place. I needed to have hope in something and I can kind of seeing it as wanting to make people around me happy, but when I made that commitment, I felt it. That was my proof. I felt this warm tingling feeling just seem to cover me. Now I had never asked anyone what it felt like, so I wasn’t projecting an expectation in some sort of psychosomatic way. This is one of the biggest truths that I hold on to when my faith is challenged. This real even happened and I will never forget it. As we progress in our relationship with God, it is these truths that allow us to hang on and not fall away.
Now I am not going to lie and say it is easy having faith. Early on, I had more hope in God than faith. I didn’t have a lot of instruction on what it mean to be a Christian. I didn’t fully understand the commitment I made until later on. To some degree, I figured that now that I was saved my life would get better, but it didn’t. I have faced job and health issues and people would say they were praying for me and that I should just trust God, but that was about it. It seems like the most popular canned response you get from people when you are going through challenges. For the most part, people do not like problems so when others have them, they tend to move away from the people. Kind of a guilt by association thinking going on there. If they have problems and you are too close, you might get them too and no one wants challenges in their life. We like our life to be manageable and somewhat predictable. We like to be in control. Another one of the favorite canned sayings is that God never gives us more than we can handle. Those are the types of things that we hope are true but not really. Faith never grows when we can handle things.
Hope is not faith, but hope is what most of us have. We believe that God is real and that He can do anything, but we hope that He will do that for us. Hope is not faith, but seems to make more sense as we are often disappointed in a lack of action by God on our behalf. How many times have you prayed for someone to be healed and they weren’t? For jobs and relationships to be saved? We pray for a house or a car. We pray for the things that we want and learn to hope that God will agree with us and grant us those things. It doesn’t usually happen that way though. One of the key things they do not teach us when we are first saved is that God does what He wants and not what we want. If what we want is what God wants, then we feel good because He moves and our hope is confirmed.
I have hoped for far too many things. There would be girls that I liked and I tried to confirm it by saying that this is what God wanted. Speak it in to being so to say. I wanted to move so I would say this is what God wanted and begin making plans only to see them fail to work out. It was a real mess there for awhile. I thought I understood the concept in how God works and thought I had faith, but I was really hoping that he would do what I wanted. I got past that after awhile and some heartache. Learning more about faith along the way. When I prayed about something and was certain that it is what God wanted, I would hope/trust that it would come to past. It is hard letting go of the hope aspect in the beginning, but it will begin to fade. But as I got confirmations that God was doing what I believed He would do, my faith grew.
Growing faith starts out with baby steps. Maybe real faith takes baby steps. The faith that will sustain you through any challenge. When your trusting God to do something, doubt will creep in and attack your thoughts. Doubting that you know what God wants you to do or that he will act on your behalf, because we have all of those reference points in the past where it did not happen. That is why you need to remember those times when it did. Your experiences with God in the past are what builds up your faith and helps you rest securely on it. Sometimes those seem few and far away, but those times when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God acted in my behalf are what I rely on when trusting in the face of an overwhelming challenge.
I think I digressed a bit, but the struggle with faith is a serious one that Christians really need to be honest about. Acting on faith takes some getting used to. Faith is not just a belief, but it is the action that corresponds with the trust you have in God. This is where we struggle. If you know God wants you to sleep in a bed full of venomous snakes, actually getting in the bed and sleeping there is the faith aspect. Most of the times we fail to act and that is what puts us into the hope category instead of faith. The great biblical example of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham had faith that God would fulfill his promise that his seed would be spread through Isaac, so he went forward and was willing to sacrifice his son. That is not to say that he wanted to sacrifice Isaac or that there was some fear or uncertainty there. Those are natural feelings for us to have. He trusted God though and was able to move past the feelings and act in obedience. His faith was rewarded. The same is true for us.
I know people who have felt led to quit jobs and do ministry full time. They could hope for God to make it happen and then they could respond, but instead they responded in following the course of action needed to take care of their bills here and leave their jobs with the expectation that the doors would be open when they had been faithful. I know people who have liquidated their savings in order to give it to others while faithfully trusting God to provide for them as they acted. On the flip side, I know people who have done the same things only to be disappointed as that is not what God had called them to do. Action is great, but unless you are sure that it is God saying it to you, you might want to think twice before acting. Just because you saw someone being blessed in a miraculous way does not mean it is your time to act in that manner. It is not about duplication but rather obedience.
A recent example of faith that I struggle with is speaking in tongues. Now I know not all Christians believe in the continuation of spiritual gifts and that is fine. I do, so I do not mind acting on them. I do not speak in tongues at this point and have struggled with it for awhile. People have laid hands on me and I have prayed for it but nothing. I asked a pastor friend about it as I could not understand why I was not able to do it. In my mind, I was expecting the Holy Spirit to just take control of my mouth and begin saying things. When talking to him, I asked a question that I thought was some what foolish, but I got tired of beating myself up over not having enough faith for it to happen. I asked if you just say something and believe that it is the Holy Spirit acting on your behalf. The action unleashes the faith idea. He said yes. Now I have an issue with speaking gibberish and trusting it is the Holy Spirit, but at least I no longer doubt myself on it.
Often people are attacked by their loved ones and members of the church when bad things happen. They claim the person did not have enough faith and that is why God failed to act. This could be true or the timing could be off. There are numerous reasons why things happen, but it is usually out of a sense of insecurity that people will attack you for not having enough faith. If you have questions or feel uncertain, find a Christian you trust to be open and honest with you. I know they are hard to find, but one of the biggest benefits any Christian can have is to be around other Christians who will help you answer honest questions. If you cant find one, email me. I will talk with you about it.