The Hidden Secrets of Belief

Many years ago, I worked for a struggling company. Our architecture was outdated and sales revenue plummeted. Investments in new architecture meant expenses skyrocketed. We were hemorrhaging money with no doctor in sight.

And then our president had a heart attack.

Our parent company asked me if I would consider becoming president. I was flattered by their great offer (and impressed with their great wisdom), but when I prayed I sensed God say, “No.” His word felt clear and strong, and I declined.

Instead, I suggested a new vice presidentDemotion r1 that I had recently hired and who had become a friend. Our parent company agreed, and my friend became our new president.

The next day, my president-friend began to attack me. In the following weeks, he reduced my pay, took away my office, demoted me, and publicly belittled me. *

My friend’s blitzkrieg movements stunned me. I was paralyzed and bewildered. Each new day brought a new disappointment. Every way I turned saw ambush and embarrassment. All of this came from a friend I had helped promote.

And God seemed absent, at least silent. I felt abandoned by God to a betraying friend who appeared intent on my professional destruction. I had voluntarily obeyed God by declining a promotion. As a result, I was demoted, humiliated, discouraged, and scared.

What kind of God would do this to someone who tried to obey him?

I lost hope

I don’t want to seem more spiritual than I am (and any appearance of much spirituality on my part is probably an apparition); but the biggest blow to me was God’s seeming absence. No words of encouragement. No sense of his presence.

My faith was shaken. If I had been fired because of a huge failure, I wouldn’t have liked it, but I could have accepted it. But I had been demoted because I obediently chose not to be promoted. And then God abandoned me. I felt alone in the fire.

I prayed, prayed some more, and I finally lost hope.

Our beliefs shape how we feel

Two years after my friend was promoted to president (and I was reduced to whipping-boy), he was let go. Then two other executives and I bought the company. I went from laughingstock to stockowner in a heartbeat.

If I had known what would happen in two short years, those twenty-four stormy months would have felt like a spring drizzle. If I had a glimpse of God’s plan, the deep darkness would have felt like a shadow. But I didn’t have a clue how things would turn out.

Our beliefs about God regulate our experience of life. When Jesus addresses anxiety, he says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap.” (Matt. 6:26); that is, birds don’t farm. Jesus continues, “And yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

Jesus then treats our anxious feelings by prescribing a belief about God; God himself thinks you are worthwhile (vs. 26). Our cure for ill-feelings is found in what we believe.

Our beliefs also drive what we do

The great theologian, Henry Ford, once said,

One man thinks he can and one man thinks he cannot. And they are both right.

Ford claims—and he’s right—that our doing is driven by our beliefs. The belief that we can (or can’t) determines if we do (or don’t).

We fail to take risks because we believe our risks will fail; we fear honesty with friends because we think they will confirm our fears; we ignore concerns about church because we’re sure our concerns will be ignored; we remain entrapped in ruts because we’re certain our ruts have trapped us.

Our problems are not bad circumstances; our problems are what we do in response. And our response—what we do (or don’t)—is always determined by what we believe.

What do we believe in?

It’s easy to trust God when the sun shines, our lattes are foamy, and the Wi-Fi signal is strong. It’s even easy to trust God when we are undervalued and demeaned, as long as God tells us in advance he will promote us in two years.

What is our faith in? Is it in a particular plan or is it just in who God is? Not every two-year-demotion is followed by stock ownership. Sometimes it is followed by a pink slip.

Life in God has a pattern: Resurrection. But we almost never know what shape that resurrection will take. If our belief is in a particular resurrection shape (or timing), our faith is no longer in God. It’s in a specific outcome.

My obedience to God was weak (at best), and my “belief” was that God would bless me because of my obedience. When it didn’t happen the way I expected, my beliefs crumbled. I had believed in the “blessing” and not in the “blessor.”

What does God want in all of this?

Oswald Chambers says “The test is to believe God knows what he is after.”

If we knew everything that God will do tomorrow, we’d be happy today. But we don’t, and we aren’t. Someday, though, we’ll look back at our lives and we’ll say, “God knew exactly what he was after. I wouldn’t want any other life.”

God doesn’t reveal all he will do. Instead, he reveals himself. Which is all we really need.

Believe it!

Sam

* My friend was a great guy. Don’t be misled by this single story. (Would you want to be judged by just one story in your life?)

He loved people, had great business instincts, and was genuine. He was an asset to any company he worked for, and he taught me much. He would be your first friend to offer the shirt off his back. He’d probably give you his coat and tie as well.

He was also a shrewd businessman. He later told me that he had seen me as internal competition, and so he was trying to nudge me out of the company without firing me.

This story is not about his smart business savvy; it is about my poor heart dealings. I’d have breakfast, lunch, dinner, or golf with him anytime. There is still more he could teach me.

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What do YOU think?

12 thoughts on “The Hidden Secrets of Belief

  1. Good Morning Sam,
    Thanks for sharing. I can relate somewhat and you might remember. I was let go from a swiss-german company after being there for more than 5 years. I was told in order to get my separation package I had to come back and train a guy 20 years younger than me. I prayed and fought with God over it, but was obedient and went back and train my replacement. God with in a couple of months blessed me with a new job and we were able to get ahead financially. The guy I trained left the company before the year end and they were calling me to help out if needed. Also,
    they wanted me to come back and translate from German to English for a visitor they had coming over. I politely said no, only because of their bad attitude and was thankful God did not have me go back and translate.
    God is so good, even when we feel humbled. Jesus was very humble even to that of taking up the cross and dying for us.
    Blessings
    Bill

  2. Hey Sam just finished writing a podcast on Matthew 15 and the Cannaite woman.and the silence of Christ she experienced at her request to cast the demon our of her daughter, Which just like us made her cry out louder and harder and in effect I believe that is the point. He delivers when hope is lost! Then another time comes and we have short term memory issues or at least I do.

    Good read! Thanks

  3. Sam, this was good to read this morning, as it addresses the context of my life right now. The Ford quote was so fitting. (Being that we both grew up close to the School of Automotive Theology), mentioning him as a great theologian is appropriate. : ) Thanks for the post!

    • David,

      you may not remember, but way back, several years ago, you are the one who encouraged me to begin each blog with a story. And that’s what I’ve done ever since.

      We … need each other.

      Thanks,

  4. oh, you are my favorite! 🙂 May I share?

    13 years ago when I married my husband he was making 6 figures a year. Then he gave part of his accounts to a friend because it was just too much. God was preparing him to have time for a family. In the next few years he slow and steadily began losing all his accounts. The companies he worked with decided to go with low paying in-house employees instead of his 25 year experience service. They would hire him to train someone and then hire that person and let him go.
    He has lost hope many times and become depressed on and off. For years we tried to move and relocate but God would always close the doors. We have 4 beautiful children. We have taken more vacations and international trips than in all his years before our marriage (although my husband wasn’t making as much money as before God provided more “free” and family time than never). We are expecting another baby right now.
    Just last Sunday he told me the Lord ministered to him and he finally heard that it wasn’t about what he was doing or not doing. God wasn’t going to bless him because of his obedience. God was going to bless him because God is good and that is what He does! The depression finally lifted off and he is no longer focusing on himself. That spirit of entitlement finally went. (you know what I mean?)

    Through the years I would tell my husband to trust God. But when you are going through the storm, it’s hard. He told me time and time again that he couldn’t hear God. He felt God was silent. Maybe because of the raging storm??

    I choose to believe that God knows it all and he is orchestrating all things. What choice do I really have? That I know better? That I can solve even a little problem? I am not any better than my DH. I had to learn to be patient, not judgmental and loving thru this all. As a go-getter and type A personality the sideline quiet spectator is not my favorite past time. 🙂

    Not only my husband had to walk by faith, but I do too as I sit on the sidelines and watch him struggle. The resurrection life is a beautiful thing but it does have to DIE first! 🙂 Thank you again for sharing your revelations. 🙂

    • Hi Tereza,

      You touch on a very had point: it is almost always easier to suffer ourselves than it is to see our loved ones suffer, and you had to suffer with your husband.

      So, even as your husband was letting something die, so were you.

      And the resurrection is just around the corner.

      Thanks again for your great encouragement.

      Sam

  5. <!–

    Thanks Sam,

    I enjoyed and could relate to this post!

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    About 5 years ago I was offered a new position at work.

    The role seemed challenging and an opportunity to use many of my skills
    and experience to benefit others. It was however a departure from my current
    comfortable and safe position.

    I carefully prayed about it and the answer was:

    'YES, this is a position I have prepared for you to walk into!'

    After accepting this position with naive optimism, I experienced 3 years of
    continual setbacks, isolation, uncertainty, attack and rejection at work. I was
    even offered my old 'safe position' back.

    I was in the desert!

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    After more prayer I concluded that God would not have brought me out of Egypt
    to then return! I recommitted myself to the newer work opportunity, facing and
    confronting many of the 'enemies' and fears.

    Within a very short time, many of the obstacles, enemies etc, crumbled or
    self-destructed and two very exciting and influential work projects became
    available.

    I felt with both these projects, that God was using all the skills and
    experiences I had acquired to make a direct powerful impact on many peoples'
    lives.

    I really thought and felt during this time that I was living out the Glory of
    God!

    This was a very profound experience.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    This would not have happened if I had not persevered to overcome the previous
    challenges and believe in God's promise that he had a plan for me and did not
    want me to turn back and take the 'safe' option.

    I hope this helps readers.

    Cheers

    Andrew

  6. Thanks Sam,

    I enjoyed and could relate to this post!

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    About 5 years ago I was offered a new position at work.

    The role seemed challenging and an opportunity to use many of my skills
    and experience to benefit others. It was however a departure from my current
    comfortable and safe position.

    I carefully prayed about it and the answer was:

    ‘YES, this is a position I have prepared for you to walk into!’

    After accepting this position with naive optimism, I experienced 3 years of
    continual setbacks, isolation, uncertainty, attack and rejection at work. I was
    even offered my old ‘safe position’ back.

    I was in the desert!

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    After more prayer I concluded that God would not have brought me out of Egypt
    to then return! I recommitted myself to the newer work opportunity, facing and
    confronting many of the ‘enemies’ and fears.

    Within a very short time, many of the obstacles, enemies etc, crumbled or
    self-destructed and two very exciting and influential work projects became
    available.

    I felt with both these projects, that God was using all the skills and
    experiences I had acquired to make a direct powerful impact on many peoples’
    lives.

    I really thought and felt during this time that I was living out the Glory of
    God!

    This was a very profound experience.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    This would not have happened if I had not persevered to overcome the previous
    challenges and believe in God’s promise that he had a plan for me and did not
    want me to turn back and take the ‘safe’ option.

    I hope this helps readers.

    Cheers

    Andrew