I once met an elder who was in deep distress because of his faith. Six years ago, his small but growing church received tithes that exceeded two hundred thousand dollars, for the first time ever. But this is the rest of the story.
After seeking God, the pastor, elders, and deacons collectively felt led to invest in their youth. In faith, they unanimously decided to increase their 2014 budget by thirty-five thousand dollars to hire a youth leader. But the next year’s donations only increased by a thousand.
The following year they again they sought God, and again in faith set a budget with the extra thirty-five thousand dollars. But giving increased by only two thousand. The next year, in faith they repeated the process, and the donations decreased by three thousand.
I met that elder a week after the board saw last year’s final numbers. He said, “I have never had so much faith in my life. The entire board had faith. Jesus said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could move an entire mountain.”
“Well, we had faith the size of the Mt. Everest, and we couldn’t move a molehill.”
What If They Did Everything Right?
This elder gave me a Cliff Notes summary of their process. I didn’t participate in their weeks of seeking God, searching Scripture, and consulting with the congregation. I didn’t witness how they communicated the vision.
But let’s imagine that they acted perfectly: they sought God with pure hearts, they correctly heard God tell them to raise their budget, and they expressed their vision without coercion.
What was the problem? Scripture says that some trust in horses and chariots; others trust in sword and spear; some trust in beauty and smarts (and others trust in education and 401k’s).
But many believers trust in the measure of their faith.
And all of these trusts are godless faiths, including faith in our faith. Faith is not the power of positive thinking. Faith is confidence in God’s loving goodness, whatever the results.
Where Is Our Faith?
Everyone has faith. Everyone. Every human being. Where is our faith?
Chapter 11 of Hebrews lists a dozen heroes of faith. Some “stopped the mouths of lions or quenched the power of fire” and some were “sawn in two or killed by the sword.”
The only faith that can stop the mouths of lions is the same faith that can also be sawn in two. And the only faith that can be “sawn in two” is an explosive power of the Spirit of God in us that sees God so clearly that “quenched fires” and “death by a sword” are one and the same.
A constant, overwhelming alertness to our own faith is a sure sign that we have faith in our faith rather than faith in God. Real faith is confidence in the nature of a God whose ways we do not understand except to know that his plans for us are better than any we can imagine.
When Gabriel told Mary that she would bear a child, she asks, “How can this be since I have not ‘known’ a man?” The angel answers, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
More than confidence, we need presence. God invites us to invite his Spirit into our lives, a sense of the presence of God so powerful that swords and saws, and budgets and bosses, are overshadowed by an intimacy with God.
True faith is knowing God.
For more information about connecting with God through hearing his voice, read my latest book, Hearing God in Conversation. It is written with the idea of a personal, engagement, connection with God.
Hearing God is supposed to be normal. God himself longs for us to grow in intimacy with him; and the greatest way to know God is to learn to hear his voice. [button href=”https://www.amazon.com/Hearing-God-Conversation-Recognize-Everywhere/dp/0825444241/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8″ primary=”true” centered=”false” newwindow=”true”]Buy Now[/button]
Wow! What a powerful article Sam. Thank you! I particularly liked, “Faith is not the power of positive thinking. Faith is confidence in God’s loving goodness, whatever the results.” and “Real faith is confidence in the nature of a God whose ways we do not understand except to know that his plans for us are better than any we can imagine.
Thanks for your kind words!
Someone once said: Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves the One Who is leading.
I like that.
Thanks, Sam. As a good friend of ours once said, “God is not cause and effect.”
That’s good. He’s not a vending machine, he is Lord.
I love this post, Sam. I really, really love it. I’ll keep my words few (surprise!), just enough to say, you have nailed it once again.
I hope that it is a relief for readers. Too often we beat ourselves up for not having enough faith, when all along we should simply examine what our faith is in. Once we see that, I think we’ll return to Him once more.
As I quoted above, someone once said, “Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves the One Who is leading.”
Marion L Schleusener
My 94 year old mother is in constant debilitating pain. She said, “My life is in God’s hands, so I would not do it, but I understand why some people choose suicide.” It is hard to see. The need to continually remind myself that God loves her more than we do and that he promises that his lovinngkindness surrounds those who fear him is the current reality. My mom’s confidence in God regardless of her pain is a huge aid in my trusting him too.
You are in a hard place; and your mother sounds like an incredibly remarkable woman.
It is MUCH easier to write such things that to live them. I have faith all the time; but it is often in things other than God.
Your mother seems to have found her home in HIm.
Thanks for sharing,
Great piece on what Faith truly is. So many put their faith in Chariots and Lotteries! Hah! I have done this myself… as we do so, we all end up like Abraham’s Sarah, assigning God’s Promise to an Egyptian woman instead of waiting patiently to see what God will do. It is that “patience” that really characterizes “Real Faith” as shown in Hebrews 11. Thanks Sam!
Mary Ittenbach Byers
Sam, I always enjoy reading your great insights! This is one!!
Sam, there’s light fluffy writing and there’s more meaningful insight. I read this three times to get it fully through my head – and will read it again to take notes. You really got to the heart of the matter. My sincere appreciation. lb
Beliefs of the Heart
I think what really got me going in this direction was two passages.
First, Job 13:15 says, “Though he slay me, yet I will trust (or wait on) him” (which I take to mean “faith”). And then there is the Hebrews passage about those who had faith who were sawn in two.
Both of those passages express DEEP faith; and they also look forward to our purified and eternal life.
Modern “faith in faith” almost always is limited to this life; but real faith looks also into the future.