Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Real Faith - it's like a muscle, but not like bicep curls at the gym.

Real faith is not when you believe in God and then get whatever you prayed for…real faith is trusting God, even when you don’t get what you’ve prayed for.

"And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”  Matthew 21:22. Isn't it amazing to know that nothing is impossible with faith. That we can pray and God will always hear our prayers. But I don't know if we always interpret that verse quite right.

I was reading a blog by a woman whose nine month old baby died, even though she and many others had prayed for him to be healed. Then people in the church told her the God hadn't been able to heal her son because she hadn't had enough faith! I was horrified and saddened by that.

We sometimes think it's some formula - that if we just have enough Faith, whatever we pray for we will get. But that seems to me kind of like us having the power - which is totally contrary to what God tells us.
It's saying if WE just have enough faith, If WE are just strong enough, then WE pray and WE get.

Where is God in that equation? Is God just there as some sort of prayer granting machine, only able to act when we pray with enough faith?

Do we decide how life is meant to go, and what should happen and when? I hope not, because when that happens, life is turmoil. I don't believe God is directed by us, I believe we are connected to Him through our faith allowing us to move when he moves, and become a part of His plan. Not just make Him a part of our plans.

A song I always remember singing in primary school and loving because of the actions that went along with it, was "Faith is like a muscle, use it and it will grow."

While this is true, I think without really being taught what faith is all about, it can be easily misunderstood.

When I imagine our muscles, and using them so they will grow, I picture a weight lifter, straining and bulging to lift the heavy weights above their head. Or someone in a gym, doing curls while they look at themselves in a mirror and kiss their veiny bicep.

 But seriously, I think a lot of us whether consciously or not, walk around with the feeling that we are just not straining hard enough. That we haven't built up our faith muscle enough to be able to MAKE things happen.

I don't think God intended us to look at having strong faith and being able to 'move mountains' as some kind of formula, or turning us into magicians able to control and do whatever takes our fancy.

Sometimes, of course, we do need to build our faith. It is true that we need to practise having faith, for it to grow. Use it and it will grow. But not in a way that has the focus on US being the strong ones.

This idea that we didn't have enough faith so God didn't listen becomes especially harmful to people who are suffering through something. Saying to them, in the midst of their crisis and turmoil and quite probably confusion and frustration with God, that YOU didn't pray hard enough, is like kicking them while they're down. You weren't healed, your baby died, your parents marriage fell apart, all because of YOU.  YOU didn't have enough faith. God wanted to help you, but you wouldn't let him because YOU didn't believe hard enough.

Praying is not like squeezing your eyes closed and wishing really hard to make something happen. It's never about US making things happen. It's about believing beyond a doubt that whatever happens, it's all completely in God's control. And part of walking in faith, is walking with God. God isn't arbitrary. We know there wouldn't be many occasions where walking up to a mountain and asking it to throw itself into the sea would be useful or part of Gods plan. And however much we would love God to give us the winning lottery ticket numbers and be millionaires, he probably isn't going to just because we'd like to be rich. He's not going to grant us things 'just because'. So we can also be assured that if he doesn't immediately give us what we've asked for, that is also part of his plan. Like he doesn't give us things on impulse with no regard for need or purpose, he also does not withhold things on impulse.

And like everything, when we ask God to give us more faith, it's not often he just goes, ZAP, "There you go. Go move that mountain over there." He gives us opportunities to be more faithful (consistent loyalty, devotion, unwavering belief). And that means trusting that God knows what he's doing and is always going to be God, no matter what. 

So when something doesn't happen the way we wanted, we don't need to feel like maybe we just didn't quite pray right, but that God has a different plan to what we wanted or thought was going to happen. That is using our faith and making it grow.

It doesn't mean it will always come easily. But it also doesn't mean that God will be angry with us if we have doubts or feel like it's difficult to really believe this is going to turn out ok right now. And this is where we'll fail every time if we go on thinking it's up to us to have more faith and to be stronger, because alone we will never be strong enough.

It's ok to say, "God, I know in my head that you're in control, but it's really hard to see what you're doing here. Even though I know you'll never let me down, it really feels like you have right now. I need help!"

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:7

Even Jesus had to use faith - he wasn't looking forward (putting it mildly) to what he knew was coming. He knew it was going to be unimaginably painful, not just physically, to take all the sins of the world and be separated from God.  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22: 42-44)

And as we know, God's will was not to take Jesus out of that situation. Can we tell Jesus he just didn't quite pray hard enough, or didn't have enough faith in God? No, we can rejoice because God knew the big picture! And Jesus showed us what it means to have real faith.


  1. Good stuff Jess - keep them coming :)

  2. Good stuff Jess - keep them coming :)