a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.” – (Ecc. 3:1-8)
I’ve always wanted to find buried treasure! In fact I frequently have dreams at night of uncovering gold coins and precious gems! When I was little I remember attending a carnival that had a big sand pit game where kids could look for buried pennies and nickels. There were a few half-dollar coins in there and I wanted to search for hours and hours to find one. I thought if I just looked long enough eventually I’d find one. I think that’s how we view faith sometimes.
We often think of faith as something that we can achieve if we just work hard enough. We work hard to try to grow it so that it’s more effective. An example of this kind of theology work it’s way in to prayer. One family prays for their daughter to be healed of cancer and she survives while another family watches their son die. Did the family of the boy not pray hard enough? Did they not have enough faith? We are frequently tempted to treat faith as something we need to have more of in order for God to act within our lives or on our behalf.
However, God acts on our behalf regardless of how “strong” our faith is. From these promises like; “while were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Rom. 5:8) to “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Phil. 1:6) it’s clear that God’s goodness and grace is a gift. In God’s economy His kindness is not a commodity we earn. He blesses, heals, provides, protects, and saves based on His goodness and not on our worthiness. So what makes us think that “faith” works outside this system? It’s easy to incorrectly treat faith as a tactic we can leverage to elicit favor from God.
So what is the function of faith from a biblical standpoint? The author of Hebrews defines it this way, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Everyone has faith. Some have faith in themselves and some have faith in God. Even evolutionists have faith. It’s about trusting something or someone who we hope will prove to be true. Ultimately it’s not about the strength of our faith, it’s about the object of our faith.
On what/who you place your trust/faith in is critical. The object of your faith dictates the outcome, not the strength of your faith. In other words, whether I have a “strong” or a “weak” faith in my team to win the Super Bowl it’s not up to me it’s up to the players. Teams don’t win because you wore your lucky shirt or prayed harder than the other teams fans. The same is true of your circumstances in life. God’s provision in your life isn’t because you prayed harder than your neighbor – it’s because God is good. I know you might be tempted to see prayer as irrelevant at this point. No, prayer is still vital to your life! Think about this: prayer connects us to God’s will. Without prayer we aren’t able to see clearly what God is up to. Through prayer we position our eyes and our heart to see God’s will.
Faith is similar. It isn’t a commodity that we need more of it is a choice that we make. “By faith,” the author of Hebrews says, “Noah built an Ark…Abraham left His home…Israel went through the Red Sea…” In each of these cases faith led to action. Faith connected them to God’s will for their lives. Their faith didn’t direct God’s will, God’s will directed the outcome of their faith. When we put faith in God it’s a choice to follow His will. That doesn’t mean we will always understand it. When confusing or difficult circumstances come our way it’s faith that glues us to God’s goodness. I think you’ll connect with these words:
1 “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
5 But I trust in your unfailing love.”
Did you catch how David ended his desperate rant? “BUT, I trust in your unfailing love!” David understood that the exercise of his faith didn’t determine the outcome, it was God’s unfailing love. Faith is choosing to connect to God’s unconditional love and benefit from it. The Apostle Peter agreed with this thinking as he told believers that their faith was of greater worth than gold. By faith they would have the strength, peace, forgiveness, hope, and grace of God poured freely into their lives to go through anything the world threw at them.
Faith starts with the most basic decision: do you believe that Jesus died for your sins and that by His blood you can be forgiven and receive eternal life? It is by God’s grace and by way of your faith that God saves you and brings you into His forever family. He will never leave you or forsake you. He will guide you through this life and into your eternal home. Our faith doesn’t make this happen, He does. Faith is simply accepting what God wants to do in your life and trusting that when all is done and dusted, who God is and, everything He promised will prove to be true!
* Come back next week for Part II