Those who have faith can move mountains, those who have faith will pray for the sick and see them healed, those who have faith will experience extraordinary breakthroughs and see their dreams fulfilled… the list goes on.
It’s almost as though faith were some magical substance which, if you manage to procure it, can power your life up to the next level. Or some mysterious power source which, if you can just find the socket and plug into it, will give you access to amazing superhuman powers.
As a result, faith is often seen as a marker of spiritual “success”. There are the masses of “ordinary” believers whose lives are not obviously remarkable in any particular way; and then there is the elite society of faith ninjas who have somehow tapped into this secret power source and who regularly walk on water, heal the sick and raise the dead, usually all before breakfast.
Oh, and the really successful ones make serious amounts of money speaking and writing about principles, methods and techniques whereby you too can tap into this mystical, invisible substance called faith and maybe, just maybe, if you’re one of the chosen few you might be able to graduate from the mundanity of ordinary believerhood and join the super-league of faith-wielding uber-Christians.
(As an aside, let me just say that I tend to get very uncomfortable whenever I hear a preacher or teacher talk in a way that sounds like they are offering a set of methods or techniques that will boost your Christian walk in some way. I don’t see Jesus – or really anyone else in the Bible, for that matter – dispensing this type of wisdom. Plus, it always sounds suspiciously like something that is just begging to be made into a CD series or a book and marketed. Then again, maybe I’m just suspicious.)
Now, let’s just back up a moment. Am I saying that God doesn’t grant it to some to do miracles? No. And am I saying that faith isn’t a required component for those who do such things? No again. I don’t think we can take verses like Matthew 17:20 seriously and not conclude that faith has some mysterious part to play in releasing God’s infinitely restorative power into our three-dimensional world. But as to how it works, I have to come right out and say that I just don’t know. Just like I don’t know why some people’s sincere prayers for healing are answered and others’ aren’t.
So, my first gripe is with those who would try to present faith as some kind of elusive system that will transform our worlds if only we can learn its secrets and master it.
But what about all those “ordinary” believers – you know, the ones who have no platform ministry, who have maybe tried the whole laying on of hands thing but for some inexplicable reason their prayers always seem to go unanswered? What about the vast majority of Christians who live relatively humdrum lives and who, perish the thought, sometimes struggle with doubts about God? Where does this ethereal substance called faith come into play for them?
Well, I’d like to suggest that we perhaps need to shed some of these fanciful notions about faith and start thinking about it in a different way. How about if we just began to see faith as trust in God? This might sound so obvious as to be banal, but if you think about it, the implications are huge.
Trust is not something you can muster up or deploy at will. There is no set of well-practiced techniques that will cause you to attain it. There’s little point asking how to acquire trust; the question itself is ridiculous. Trust is a function of a relationship between two people. Trust flowers and blooms as we get to know someone and learn through first-hand experience that they are trustworthy. This means they can be trusted with our secrets and confidences, our weaknesses, our greatest hopes and fears. Faith as this kind of trust in God is a far cry from faith as a magical inside track that enables us to get God to perform at our command.
And if faith is nothing more or less radical than trust in the goodness of God, perhaps we should re-evaluate our notions of who is a hero of faith and who isn’t. Maybe the single mother who hopes and prays that she’ll be able to get to the end of the week without suffering an emotional breakdown has more faith than the celebrity teacher who has made millions selling books on how to live by faith. Maybe the grieving parent whose belief in a loving God seems like nothing more than a gossamer thread as they struggle to come to terms with their loss has more faith than the big-name minister who confidently lays hands on the sick and orders demons around.
I would love to be able to work miracles in God’s name. Maybe God will grant me the faith for that one day, I don’t know. But what I really need is the kind of faith that can sustain me through the darkest night and keep me hoping in God when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. To me, that’s real faith, and the only way to find it is to get to know Jesus better and allow trust to blossom.
[ Image: Alex Hansen ]