Thursday, October 24, 2013

Walking by Faith

What does it mean to walk by faith? What does the phrase "step out in faith" really mean, and does it fit with the Biblical teaching about faith? If I'm going to walk by faith, do I have to make radical decisions that defy reason, trusting that God will show up in a big way?

I don't intend to answer all those questions, but I've been thinking about them as I prepare to serve with MMS Aviation. I want so badly to finish our support raising, so I can leave the "cubicle farm" I have been struggling in for years and start serving in missionary aviation. But despite working as hard as ever, and praying faithfully that God will provide for our financial need, we haven't seen many responses come in lately. This leaves me wondering what I should be doing differently.

Some pastors say that we need to have audacious faith (whatever that means), and then God will bring about the dreams and desires he has planted in us. Others tell us that we need to believe and act as if God has already brought them about. There are some Biblical examples that seem to support this notion, but I finally just decided to open up Hebrews 11 (sometimes called the "hall of faith") and see what God would say to me through this passage.

As I started to read, I noticed that the people mentioned in this chapter did some pretty amazing things, but also some things that seem less remarkable. Building an ark and saving the human race from extinction: amazing! Left his home, not knowing where he was going: that took some faith. Gave instructions about his bones: honestly, I'm not sure what to make of that, or why it required such faith, but it doesn't seem that crazy. Passing through the Red Sea: truly incredible! Shutting the mouths of lions: scary, and definitely awesome! But then it gets to this part about those who suffered imprisonment, torture and persecution: not so awesome, at least from a temporal perspective. And that's not exactly the incredible life that most preachers have in mind when they talk about living an extraordinary life of faith.

In fact, I've heard many messages coming from churches that depict a life of faith as having amazing results here and now. Having a rewarding and fruitful ministry; getting that promotion; starting a successful business; planting and building an amazing church; getting that book deal; and the list goes on. I could even add another one to that list: seeing God quickly provide the finances to serve Him full-time in missionary aviation! Don't get me wrong: those can be great things (especially the last one!). And some of them even seem to be centered on God. But under a thin veneer of spirituality, they all have to do with seeing results of our faith in this world.

But let's go back to Hebrews 11 and look at a few verses (NIV 1984):
For he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder was God. (Hebrews 11:10) 
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. (Hebrews 11:13) 
Instead, they were longing for a better country---a heavenly one. (Hebrews 11:16) 
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised (Hebrews 11:39)
And, finally, let's look at the first three verses of Hebrews 12:1-3, which read:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
When Hebrews 11:1 says "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see", I don't think it's referring generically to any hope or dream that we happen to have for our life. I can conjure up a sense of confidence that something will happen (or that God is busy behind the scenes), but is that true faith? Is faith simply a matter of convincing myself that what seems impossible is actually possible, and then working up the courage to boldly pursue it? Based on Hebrews 11-12, and numerous other Scriptures that I won't delve into, I don't think so. In fact, if my so-called "faith" points me to anything less than Jesus Christ, what He has done, and our eternal hope in Him, I don't think it can be called faith in the Biblical sense of the Word.

Maybe rather than contemplating whether I need to take a big "step of faith", I need to think about the object of my faith, and where I am placing my hope. If I'm so consumed with getting to MMS that I take my eyes off of Jesus and my eternal hope, I'm focusing on the wrong thing!

I still don't have answers to all my questions. But re-centering on Christ has taken away some of the anxiety about making the "right" decisions. It gives me peace when I realize that my eternal hope is secured by Jesus, and that I can never mess that up! I continue to pray that God will provide for us to get to MMS as soon as he will allow. But my greater desire that I will remain focused on Him, and that I will be a faithful ambassador wherever I may find myself.

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