Lee Strobel, a journalist whose atheistic thinking was converted to faith by serious investigation into the claims of the Bible, is a rational logical reasoning man. My own personal struggles with faith, however, have come more from the apparent disparity between my emotions and my beliefs. While Lee has successfully found reasonable answers for many of life’s difficult questions, I continue to wonder why I don’t feel satisfied by God even though He promises to satisfy my every need. Both reason and emotion can be a barrier to faith and both reason and emotion can be overcome by faith.
Faith is believing in something, SomeOne, that we cannot understand completely, we cannot perceive with our senses and we cannot always predict. The writer of Hebrews gave us the truest definition of faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). As the author of Hebrews described faith to us, he gave example after example of men and women who made the choice to follow God in various difficult circumstances. What stands out to me is that all of these Biblical characters continued to believe God’s promises even though they never saw the promises fulfilled in their lifetimes (cf. Hebrews 11:13).
I am learning from this great cloud of witnesses (i.e. Abraham, Moses, and David) that I must place my faith firmly upon God’s Word – even when I can’t see, feel, or experience the fulfillment of the promise. God says He will give us grace in our time of need, so I must trust Him to do just that. He promises to give rest to the weary and heavy burdened, so I must come to Him expectantly waiting for the fulfillment of this promise. His Word gives me hope that He will complete His good work of transformation in my life so I must rest upon that truth.
“When we fear failure more than we love life; when we are dominated by thoughts of what we might have been rather than by thoughts of what we might become; when we are haunted by the disparity between our ideal self and our real self; when we are tormented by guilt, shame, remorse and self-condemnation, we deny our faith in the God of love” proclaims Brennan Manning in The Signature of Jesus. Allowing my emotions to control my behavior betrays my lack of trust in God. This has spoken so powerfully to me lately since I seem to be riding a rollercoaster of emotions sometimes provoked by hormones, sometimes provoked by rejection. My prayer is “Increase my faith, Lord!” Thank goodness all it takes is a mustard seed!
My faith must be proven by my behavior. When I mope around in the depths of despair, I show God how little I trust Him. James 2:26 tells us, “Faith without deeds is dead.” The true test of our faith is in our obedience. Faith is not something esoteric; rather it is a tangible action. If I believe God is all-powerful and that He resides in me, then I will begin to behave like an ambassador of God. I will be confident in Him and not allow my fears or despondency to control me. I want to live a life of constant obedience to the voice of the Lord. “Open my eyes Lord to hear Your voice and open my heart to respond.”
Habakkuk also struggled with questions about God’s seemingly strange ways of working out justice in mankind. He asked God for answers to the hard questions like, “Why are You allowing evil to continue unpunished?” Habakkuk’s answer is “The righteous shall live by FAITH” (Habakkuk 2:4). Faith is a lifestyle. Faith is what enables him to overcome this obstacle of suffering and pain. God doesn’t always answer our why’s and even when He does it may not seem satisfactory. Understanding God’s purposes may not be a reasonable goal for us to pursue. There are times when we must live by faith alone. Our faith is in the truth of scripture and in the character of God which is unchanging. If my eyes are on myself or my circumstances, my faith can falter. When I keep my focus on God’s love, sovereignty, goodness, power, and immutability, my faith can soar!
P.S. See Matt Redmon's Song in the next post!