In the past, my understanding of faith has been somewhat skewed. To me, it was just believing that a person will push through because I know the circumstances, and I know what the person is capable of doing; or that I will get a favorable outcome because… I know the circumstances, and I know what I am capable of.
I have lived with that notion of faith in the past 32 years. From a certain viewpoint, I’m quite correct in thinking that way. However, it’s now how the Bible defines faith, and it’s only within the past few months that I’m starting to learn how it is. The run-to verse dealing with faith is Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) —
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
I’m not here to dispute Paul, but as a display of the Bible as the Living Word of God, it’s a different set of verses that caught my attention.
I have been reading Red Moon Rising: Rediscover the Power of Prayer by Pete Greig and Dave Roberts, and Greig shared a journal entry of his from a very trying time, and in the book, he reflects on how the Battle of Jericho was won by very unconventional means:
“… You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. …”
— Joshua 6:3-5 (NKJV)
Greig’s musing struck a chord in my heart:
As a military strategy, shouting sucks. But the wild and strange voice of God told Joshua to get the people moving and shouting — and of course the walls came down. The power was not in the technique; the power was in Joshua’s obedience. God is not a mindless dispenser of demolition techniques; he is looking for a relationship with those who dare to trust him against all other odds.
While this text sounds more like a reflection in obedience, it planted the notion in me that this is what faith looks like. It lead me to look back on my childhood, as to when I displayed the “child-like faith” that my pastors were so fond of illustrating — how children just believe their parents to give them what they want. Thing is, the imagery never spoke to me.
It’s not that my parents didn’t give me what I wanted — it was because my parents gave me what I wanted before I realized I wanted them (because my parents and grandparents are cool that way)! By the time I had the mind to ask, I have already become acutely aware of budget constraints, that I had to “earn” my toys and goodies through good grades, that I had to be mindful of price tags and prioritizing my needs from wants. So asking, with the anticipation and unbridled belief of receiving never really resonated with me.
If anything, most of my life, I have surrendered myself to the fact that whatever it is I wished for is just that: wishful thinking.
While I am happy to say that I have learned to be self-reliant, I have also come to a point where my extreme self-reliance has become a source of mental and emotional self-flagellation. The individualistic trend that says “Me! Me! Me!” tends to focus on the good things that the self can bring; but I’ll bet that when we find ourselves in dark places, blaming ourselves even for the things that we can’t control comes easily — and it really isn’t a good place to be in.
To me, that’s where faith started; faith that breeds trust, trust that breeds reliance, reliance that brings hope. It’s unconventional. It’s counter-intuitive and it’s counter-cultural — just like shouting at a big city wall so that it would tumble down.
The Christian journey isn’t a walk on the golden brick road. It’s a journey that seems to start on a smooth, starlit highway, then you’ll find yourself on a dark dirt road, then in a sunny forest, then on a steep mountainside. It’s always different, and always a challenge for our faith to be exercised and strengthened. Besides, Jesus didn’t say that He will build roads, but that He will give a way.
It might look like this job you’ve always wanted to apply for, but you feel that you only qualify for two out of the nine requirements. It might look like this course that has half of subjects you find yourself weak in. It might look like this business that looks bad from your own feasibility study, or a project that asks more sacrifices than offering gains…
… or a leap of faith in which you see bridges burning, potential awkwardness and feeling as if your life is falling apart.
You might not get that job, only because there’s a better one waiting for you. Launching yourself into that course, regardless of your weaknesses, has you finding yourself in a fertile environment for growth and overcoming challenges. That business may not look so good in your books, but it leads you to mentors to either review your study, or to improve on your business model.
… and it’s a leap of faith that may have left you wounded in some places, but has you gain double in so many ways: a more loving heart, a more understanding mind, a more passionate soul, and the joy and peace brought by the truth that you are so deeply loved.
Faith defies all human logic, in which your mind and all that you know says, “No!” and you shudder away from the thorny, dusty, zigzagging path laid out in front of you; but that is where the Infinite and Almighty God says, “Wait — I have something better.” It might not make sense, it might not be your first thought; but if God tells you to do something akin to yelling at city walls to bring them down, trust Him, obey, and move in faith.
It’s not what I can do. I am limited, after all. It’s what God can do — and He is unlimited.
And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain,‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.(…)”
— Mark 11:22-24 (ESV)
This is Part Two of a three-part series inspired by this year’s mid-year prayer and fasting.