Pure Faith: A Study of What Faith Is and How to Live It Out Loud releases today! Today’s excerpt is a continuation of the June 1st post. Enjoy…and when you’re ready to order your copy or learn more, click here!
So the followers brought him to Jesus. As soon as the evil spirit saw Jesus, it made the boy lose control of himself, and he fell down and rolled on the ground, foaming at the mouth.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has this been happening?”
The father answered, “Since he was very young. The spirit often throws him into a fire or into water to kill him. If you can do anything for him, please have pity on us and help us.”
Jesus said to the father, “You said, ‘If you can!’ All things are possible for the one who believes.”
Immediately the father cried out, “I do believe! Help me to believe more!” (Mark 9:20-24)
Just as the father believed, so can we. Remember, even though it’s apparent his belief was limited, he believed Jesus enough to approach him. We often respond similarly. We believe in Jesus more than actively, faithfully believing him. We become familiar enough with what Jesus had done in the past and what he says he can do that we decide we can take something to him, but we’re really not all that confident in what his response will be.
God wants us to approach him no matter what; however, we should begin to be aware of our attitudes as we approach him. How and under what circumstances do we approach him?
Are you desperate? Perhaps you approach God because you simply don’t know what else to do. You’re at your wit’s end. You’re at the end of your rope, so you’ve tied a rope and are clinging to it, screaming out to God. You’re not sure if you have any other options, or you’re pretty sure you’ve exhausted all other options.
Are you whining? It’s just not fair, and you want God to know about it! Just in case he hasn’t been paying attention or can’t interpret someone’s intentions, you want to be sure he knows. You tattle on others, and you complain about your situation. You tell him how you deserve better, or you pity yourself and tell him you probably deserve worse. Whichever it is, you focus more on yourself than on God…even if you justify that putting yourself down is synonymous with having a humble attitude or if you justify that sharing what everybody else is doing and your interpretation of the situation is helping him have all the pieces of the puzzle. News flash: God doesn’t need any pieces of the puzzle. He already has them all.
Are you hurt? Whether it’s a physical, emotional, or spiritual hurt, you need the kind of attention and care only God can give. When do you admit you need God and go to him? Do you try to nurse yourself along until your wounds are beyond what you can handle, so you take the infected mess to him? Do you go to him at predictable times because that’s just what you have been taught to do? You expect him to meet you in those times and consider yourself “fully available” to him…as long as it’s during your specified set-aside times and you can still live the rest of your life the way you want. Whether you’re a Chreaster (Christmas and Easter church attender) or an Open-Door-er (any time the doors are open church attender), you attend on your timetable. You leave each appointment with the little card that indicates when you’ll be back. You don’t expect to see or acknowledge God in the in-between times any more than you expect to see your doctor at the grocery store or hair stylist at the gas station. Or perhaps you’re a run-in-with-every-ache-and-pain patient. You just know something major is wrong with every twinge of discomfort, and you want a quick solution. Of course, God wants us to take every need to him. But he also wants us to take his prescriptions, trust his way and definition of healing, and live a purposeful life in the world. God is our Great Physician, but he is the Lord over us, and that includes every area of our lives—including our ailments, but we certainly aren’t ailing in debilitating ways in every area of life.
Are you weary? The only way you’re going to make it is either a long hibernation from the world or someone to share some of the load you carry. Your neck, head, and back hurts, but more critical, your heart hurts. Your weariness is casting a shadow of uncertainty over everything. Nothing seems clear. You function in a fog and wonder if you’re really effective in anything you’re doing. You think you need a vacation from life, but you run to God, because what you need is the kind of spiritual detoxification that only he can provide.
Are you appreciative? Perhaps you approach God not because of a need you have but because of a need that has been met. You recognize God’s provision and blessing. And it’s not a one time “thank you.” We can often define something as a blessing when we first receive or recognize it but later can only see the gaps we’d like filled in the blessing.
- “Thank you, God, for this job!” becomes “Really, God? How much longer am I going to have to deal with these people for this pay?”
- “Thank you, God, for this paycheck.” becomes “I don’t know how I’m going to make it on this pay. I’ve cut out everything I can possibly cut out of the budget!” (…said over a Facebook message via a smartphone while sitting on the couch watching television and eating food picked up at the drive-thru on the personally-driven commute home from work).
- “Thank you, God, for the love of my life!” becomes “If he smacks his gum one more time….!”
We’re not the only ones who struggle with the “Thanks, God!”/“Really, God?” balance. Consider the Israelites’ response after being delivered out of Egypt as God had directed.
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord, because he is worthy of great honor.
He has thrown the horse and its rider into the sea.
The Lord gives me strength and makes me sing; he has saved me.
He is my God, and I will praise him.
He is the God of my ancestors, and I will honor him.
The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.
The chariots and soldiers of the king of Egypt he has thrown into the sea.
The king’s best officers are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters covered them, and they sank to the bottom like a rock.
Your right hand, Lord, is amazingly strong.
Lord, your right hand broke the enemy to pieces.
In your great victory you destroyed those who were against you.
Your anger destroyed them, like fire burning straw.
Just a blast of your breath, and the waters piled up.
The moving water stood like a wall; the deep waters became solid in the middle of the sea.
The enemy bragged, ‘I’ll chase them and catch them.
I’ll take all their riches; I’ll take all I want.
I’ll pull out my sword, and my hand will destroy them.’
But you blew on them with your breath and covered them with the sea.
They sank like lead in the raging water.
Are there any gods like you, Lord? There are no gods like you.
You are wonderfully holy, amazingly powerful, a worker of miracles.
You reached out with your right hand, and the earth swallowed our enemies.
You keep your loving promise and lead the people you have saved.
With your strength you will guide them to your holy place.
The other nations will hear this and tremble with fear; terror will take hold of the Philistines.
The leaders of the tribes of Edom will be very frightened;
the powerful men of Moab will shake with fear; the people of Canaan will lose all their courage.
Terror and horror will fall on them.
When they see your strength, they will be as still as a rock.
They will be still until your people pass by, Lord.
They will be still until the people you have taken as your own pass by.
You will lead your people and place them on your very own mountain,
the place that you, Lord, made for yourself to live, the temple, Lord, that your hands have made.
The Lord will be king forever!” (Exodus 15:1-18)
Wow! The Israelites’ faith sounds unshakable to me! Yet verse 24 soon follows, The people grumbled to Moses and asked, “What will we drink?” Then, the whole Israelite community grumbled to Moses and Aaron in the desert. They said to them, “It would have been better if the Lord had killed us in the land of Egypt. There we had meat to eat and all the food we wanted. But you have brought us into this desert to starve us to death.” (Exodus 16:2-3)
After only a month and a half passed, the same people who had praised God for guidance and provision, claiming him as their everything, is deciding it would have been better for him to do something else. Does this in any way reflect your own faith?
Are you confident? Perhaps you go to God because of confidence, and if you’re going to God in an honoring way, it will not be because of your own confidence. We seek and trust God because of the God-confidence we have. Faith always involves God-confidence. Because of the sovereignty of God, all confidence comes from him, because he is the only one in whom we can have assured confidence. Self-confidence doesn’t actually exist, because any confidence we have in and of ourselves isn’t true, absolute confidence. We might want to simply do away with the self- words we commonly use (self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, and so on) and replace them with God-confidence, God-esteem, God-respect, and so on. We must acknowledge from where the root of confidence, esteem, and respect grow, and it’s always God when we’re looking for the true definitions.
When you go to God with confidence in him, you are honoring him. You are acknowledging him. Going to God in confidence is claiming who he is and what he promises to be true. Speak the attributes and promises of God to him. You will always be claiming truth and there will not be wrestling for what to say to be most effective in your prayers. God’s Word and truth has power—power that he wants to live out through you to impact the world.
Need an example? Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was faced with an invasion of armies. He had prepared by building up defenses. However, when he first learned of the threat, he didn’t reflect on and assess his preparations for war; he looked to God and his promises.
“Lord, God of our ancestors, you are the God in heaven. You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. You have power and strength, so no one can stand against you. Our God, you forced out the people who lived in this land as your people Israel moved in. And you gave this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham. They lived in this land and built a Temple for you. They said, ‘If trouble comes upon us, or war, punishment, sickness, or hunger, we will stand before you and before this Temple where you have chosen to be worshiped. We will cry out to you when we are in trouble. Then you will hear and save us.’ But now here are men from Ammon, Moab, and Edom. You wouldn’t let the Israelites enter their lands when the Israelites came from Egypt. So the Israelites turned away and did not destroy them. But see how they repay us for not destroying them! They have come to force us out of your land, which you gave us as our own. Our God, punish those people. We have no power against this large army that is attacking us. We don’t know what to do, so we look to you for help.” (2 Chronicles 20:6-12)
Are you faithful? Perhaps you approach God simply out of faith. Approaching him doesn’t depend on your emotions…even though your emotions definitely vary. Approaching him doesn’t depend on your mood…even though your moods definitely vary. Approaching him doesn’t depend on your situation…even though your situations definitely vary. Approaching him doesn’t depend on your understanding…even though your understanding definitely varies. You approach God because that’s what faith is and does. It’s not about what you do but who God says he is and what he says about a faithful relationship. Your faith drives your “doing,” not the other way around.
You approach God when ____________________ (insert any situation whether you see it as positive or negative). You approach God because he is approachable and because he says he wants you to approach him. You approach him in every situation and moment, recommitting every detail of your life to him. You trust him, depend on him, long for him, obey him, and find peace in him. You approach God because you are faithful, and you know faith cannot be separated from approaching him.
So, why do you approach God?
Be cautious not to be satisfied by quickly giving the Sunday School answer, which is the answer you’re sure is the “right” one even though it might not be the real one. You’re not fooling God even if you’re doing a stellar job at fooling others and yourself.
For more from the Pure Faith chapter Believe More, visit the blog on June 5th.