The how question

Written by Charles Ekong


I suspect there are Christians who don’t necessarily doubt God. Instead, they possess a mind that can often create a stumbling block for faith. If you were to ask them if there’s anything impossible for God, they would probably say no, and affirm the biblical truth that with God, all things are possible [Matthew 19:26]. However, when the situation is personal, and they can’t see a path to a favourable outcome, their faith dissipates and doubts set in. I know this camp exists because I often find myself there. We trust what God says as long as we see a path to what we expect Him to do. But that’s walking by sight, not biblical faith.

It’s worth settling in our minds that we’re finite and God is infinite. Believing that truth is a paradigm shift. Our finite intellect can only perceive a limited number of possibilities. But God has ways of solving problems we literally can’t imagine. Many of us become desperate when we evaluate those possibilities and see no way out of a challenging situation. As St. Augustine once said: “Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature”. In essence, that we can’t see how a thing can happen doesn’t mean God has the same problem. Those who insist that things must always make sense to us will struggle with the fact that whenever God is part of an equation, He determines the answer. One plus one plus God is whatever God says it should be, not two.

There’s a cautionary tale in the Old Testament of a man who missed out on an incredible blessing because he fixated on the how question. In the days of prophet Elisha, the king of Syria mounted a siege against Samaria – the northern kingdom of the Jewish people, and caused a famine that led to some of the most ghoulish events in Scripture. The king blamed the desperate state of the nation on Elisha and swore to behead him. [2 Kings 6:24-30]. When the king confronted Elisha, the prophet declared that the famine would end in 24 hours. Bemused, the king’s captain questioned how a starving nation, where some had resorted to cannibalism because of hunger, could be liberated that quickly [2 Kings 7:1-2]. 

It was a logical but costly question for the captain as he didn’t live to enjoy the miraculous victory God gave His people [2 Kings 7:17-20]. I often wonder if I would’ve asked the same question if I was in the captain’s shoes. I don’t think his question was a grave sin, but I believe that the posture of his heart, fuelled by unbelief, was disparaging towards God and His prophet. Contrast his disposition to Mary’s when the angel Gabriel visited her with the news that she would conceive and give birth to God’s Son. She asked the angel: “How can this be…?” [Luke 1:34]. Although she didn’t understand the dynamics of conceiving a child while still a virgin, Mary was willing to take God at His word [Luke 1:38].

We must prevent logic from robbing us of God’s best. God doesn’t mind our questions, but at some stage, as Mary demonstrated, we must take Him at His word. Consider the angel’s response to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you… ” [Luke 1:35]. It doesn’t explain how a virgin becomes pregnant without a man, but it’s instructive nonetheless because it shifts the emphasis from how to who. Simply swapping those letters around makes a monumental difference, and therein lies the crux of faith. Biblical faith is about the who, not the how or even the what. In fact, peace of mind, courage and belief will often dissipate and create room for doubt if we spend too much time focusing on the how and what

Everyone has faith; what differentiates us is the subject of our faith. Some put their trust solely in themselves and their abilities, while others trust in people, institutions, governments, deities, etc. So, the question isn’t whether a person has faith, but rather is who or what you’ve placed your faith in trustworthy? Are they willing and able to keep all their promises? That’s one of life’s fundamental questions, and it’s prudent to answer it before life backs you into a corner. However, if you decide to put your trust in the God of the Bible, you must be all in. The king’s captain was Jewish and would have grown up on the stories of the mighty deed of Jehovah. But while he’d heard of the God of Israel, He didn’t know Him. His ignorance was reflected in his attitude and cost him a share in a miracle.

I suspect Elisha had no idea how his prophetic declaration would manifest when he spoke. But, he probably didn’t concern himself with such details either. He knew something about the God he represented: Jehovah watches over His word to accomplish it [Jeremiah 1:12]. So, the how is God’s problem – not the concern of those who unequivocally put their faith in Him. As such, the prophetic word is all the evidence we need for what is not yet visible [Hebrews 11:1]. Mary understood this and said: “be it done unto me according to your word”. 

It’s human to question the improbable, and God doesn’t condemn us for that. But those questions often reveal where we are in our walk with God. Our objective must be to grow to a realm where we don’t need to see or understand before we believe. Then, like the Centurion whom Jesus praised for his great faith, all we’ll require is a word [Matthew 8:5-13]. Such faith laughs in the face of the impossible, suffocates doubt and always pleases God [Hebrews 11:6].

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