It is not often a word is defined in the Bible, Faith, however, is one that is. The writer of Hebrews makes this statement: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” Hebrews 11:1 NLT. He also adds later in the same chapter that “without faith, we cannot please God” v6. This dovetails nicely with a question Jesus asks in the gospel of Luke: “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8. In examining my walk with Jesus, I must ask myself, just how much do I truly place my faith [trust] in Him? Will He find me faithful?
I was walking in a park once with my son and like most people I daydream a lot in such situations. I decided to close my eyes and walk towards where he was playing about 50 metres away. I could only take a few steps before I instinctively opened my eyes. I was worried I would step on a sharp object, kick a stone or something. A Bible verse popped into my head as I was contemplating what was going on”…for we walk by faith and not by sight”, 2 Corinthians 5:7. It made me wonder how much my little experiment mirrors my faith in God. Do I really trust God when I do not know where life is taking me when I cannot ‘see’ where I am going and how it is all going to pan out? Do I try to make things happen for myself, by my own might? I know in my head that God is sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving amongst other attributes and He promises that His people will never be put to shame, Joel 2:27. He promises that He knows the plan He has for me, and it is a good plan to prosper and not harm me, to give me a future filled with hope, Jeremiah 29:11. I know these and other promises that God has explicitly given to all His children and He promises to keep His Word [promise], Isaiah 55:11. It seems I do not take this to heart because I panic as soon as something goes ‘wrong’. Instantly, I forget that no situation in my life is irredeemable for God.
It is amazing how much kids teach you by their actions because as we leave the park, I strap my son into the back seat of the car. He is busy enjoying himself with literally no care in the world. He has absolute confidence in my love for him and it doesn’t even cross his mind that something bad could happen to him while I am around. He is very much at peace as I drive off. He is confident that daddy will drive safely and take him to where we are going next. He is just focused on enjoying his time with his daddy, enjoying the moment. Yes, one could argue that a 5-year old is not aware of the vagaries of life and how quickly things can change, etc but that would be denying an object lesson in practical faith. My son has absolute trust in me as his father to take care of him and meet his needs, no other alternative crosses his mind. How different is his situation from mine as a child of God? I must confess, I don’t see any difference. If anything, I have a stronger case to show more faith in God than my son shows in me. For one, I am not God, I am fallible and it is only a matter of time before I let him down in some way but God, He never lets us down. He is infallible and in control of every situation and He has promised me that the outcome will be good for me, no matter how things look at any point in time. All He asks of me is faith, childlike faith. Why do I often seem so incapable of that when the storms gather?
On the other hand, kids are not known for patience. So often when we are on a long drive, my son will be asking me what seems like every 2 minutes “are we there yet, daddy?” This, I can relate to much more, because this is how I treat God sometimes. I want something and I want it now! I question God when I don’t get it there and then. Worry kicks in, I become sceptical about God coming through for me. I start doubting Him and looking for alternatives when patience and trust in a loving Father are what God asks of me. This is childish faith, the opposite of childlike faith. If I am honest with myself, I display childish faith much more often than I do childlike faith. Whenever something happens that comes as a surprise to me, I forget that nothing ever surprises God but yet I am itching for an instant solution, an immediate answer to prayer. I forget that God does not work to my timetable. If He did and responded immediately to my every whim, I wouldn’t require much faith, would I? Practically speaking, if my faith is never tested, how do I know that I trust God? It seems that it is in the test that my faith evolves from a theoretical declaration to a practical expression.
I am reminded of the story I once read about someone who went out for a swim on a lake. While he was about 100 metres from the shore, an instant fog descended and he could not make out which direction he was heading. In a wild panic, he would swim one way and after a few strokes, give up and turn in another direction, all the while trying to conserve energy, so as not to drown. After what seemed like an eternity trying to find his way back to shore, he heard a voice calling out for him. He turned in the direction of the voice and followed it back to shore. This story is an allegory of my Christian pilgrimage. When the unexpected happens, a fog of uncertainty and worry descends and my first instinct is to dart in any direction that seems to make sense at that moment and then I quickly lose confidence and double back on myself, desperately trying to find answers and work out a solution for myself. This is my impulsive response. However, in these situations, God’s Word should be like the voice calling from the shore, guiding me back to the peace, assurance and solid ground where I am reminded of God’s sovereignty. If I can attain childlike faith like my son, then the practical expression of my faith should result in the dissipation of my anxiety about my present circumstance. The anxiety should be replaced by confidence, rooted in the knowledge of the fact that God is at the wheel and He is incapable of losing control. This is the “peace that surpasses all understanding” Philippians 4:7, which God offers me as His child and it is always within reach. Put differently, my Father sits on the throne and I am on His footstool. Isaiah 66.1.
Horatio Gates Spafford born in the early 19th century was a prominent American lawyer and a church elder. He was a partner in a thriving law firm and also had excellent real estate investments. He had a successful yet tragic life. First, his 4-year-old son died of a fever and then 2 years later, a ship carrying his wife and 4 daughters across the Atlantic for a holiday in England sank, and his 4 daughters drowned. He was supposed to be on the ship with his family but got delayed by business, so try and imagine how he must have felt when he received the message from his wife, one of the few survivors from the shipwreck. As a parent, this is my worst nightmare. His story is some test of one’s faith in God. There are so many questions I would ask, chief among them must be “why me God?” This is one of many such stories but I choose this one because, on his journey across the Atlantic to join his wife, he wrote one of my all-time favourite hymns: It is well with my soul. I particularly love this line “…whatever my lot, You have taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul”.
Practical faith therefore expresses and affirms, in full confidence and assurance, “whatever my lot, it is well” because God…