In Matthew 6:28 Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.” In this verse Jesus articulates a maxim of life, every living thing needs time to grow and develop. When we look at life and living things as a whole we must conclude that no living thing starts out full-grown. This is true of people, plants & vegetation, animals and all organisms. What about faith? Is anyone born with great faith? Based on Jesus’ statement I would suggest that if we are talking about a living faith then it too needs time to grow and develop. If we were to examine the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, we would see that everyone in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter was not born a faith giant, but rather over time their faith grew and developed to the point that they were able to be remembered for their great faith.
What causes faith to grow? When we look at Scripture it is clear that God uses life challenges, situations and difficult circumstances to grow and develop the seed of faith planted in our heart. The various situations and difficulties that we encounter along the journey of life will either cause faith to grow and develop or wither and die.
To illustrate this point, the apostle Paul lifts up Abraham. Abraham and Sarah had lived their entire lives childless. Yet, God promised them that at the ripe old age of 100 and 90 respectively they would have a son. Paul points out that Abraham “Faced the fact that his body was as good as dead…and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” In other words, the fact was that physically they were unable to conceive. The laws of biology and human physiology suggested that in their present state conceiving a child was impossible and they on their own could not make it happen.
There are real barriers that stand between the realization of the things we hope for, dream of, want to achieve and us. The facts say:
• Debt is standing between me and financial freedom
• Poor or declining health is compromising my independence
• The recession is the reason I cannot find a job, afford to go to college right now, or retire
• I have been hurt and I will never be able to totally trust, love or have a healthy relationship again
• The guilt and shame I feel as a result of my past I will take to the grave
The facts and reality say the barriers that need to be overcome are too great, too big, and too many. Therefore, do not bother because it is not going to happen for me.
According to the Scriptures, Abraham did not ignore the facts or the reality of his situation, but rather he embraced and accepted it. Not only did he accept the reality of his situation, but also the Bible says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.” This statement is the definition of “A Radical Kind of Faith.” Most people have been taught that in order for faith to work it must ignore the facts and that to embrace the facts of our situation is a sign of weak faith. This is simply not true according to our text. There are at least two principles we learn about faith here,
a) Faith is not static and it does not grow and develop in a vacuum, it needs other components to work with it – namely, the facts, hope and time.
b) The facts, hope and time, these things go together. They are needed to produce a strong growing faith.
There are a lot of erroneous ideas regarding faith and faith development. To further illustrate how intricately linked faith, the facts, hope and time are, let us consider:
- Faith without the facts is Dogmatism – belief based on an ideology
- The facts without faith is Rationalism – basing outcomes on logical conclusions without factoring God into the equation
- Faith without hope is Idealism – hope is the essence of faith without hope everything is riding on an idea
- Hope without faith is Optimism – Well, some kind of way this thing is going to work out
- Faith without time (waiting) is Elitism – believing that because of my status in society, I do not need to wait on God because I have the resources, position, and the power to get and do what I want
- Time (waiting) without faith is Procrastination – you are simply putting things off or just lazy
As we can see faith without facing the facts, hope and time is really not faith at all. It is a lot of other things, but it is not faith.
However, Abraham did not allow the facts of his situation to diminish his hope, in stead he lived in his hope. This is what the text says, “Abraham in hope believed.” The phrase “in hope” suggests that he wore his hope like we wear clothes. He put it on as a man would put on his trousers or a woman would put on her dress or blouse. The moment we put something on it becomes a part of us and with ever step we take it is there, with every movement it is there. We do not have to go looking for it because we are in it going through life wearing it.
Paul also points out “Without weakening in his faith…he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith.” Abraham did not abandon his hope because things did not happen immediately, but grew stronger in his conviction and belief that it would happen. Here we see how another of the components work, specifically time. Time unfortunately is one of those things that we often feel as though we do not have enough of, but in actuality all we have is time. Abraham helps us to see that time feeds a living faith causing it to grow stronger and not weaker. How? In hope believing, as the text says, “That God has the power to do.” Doctor’s will tell you that the most crucial element in a patient’s recovery is that they believe they can and will recover. The reality is that it takes time to come to believe.
I think that it is important for us to understand that “time” is not for God, but rather time is for us. God does not need time to do anything. God however works in “time” so that like Abraham “we will become fully persuaded.” The question we must answer for ourselves is, what will it take for us to become fully persuaded that God has the power to do, fulfill, or bring about – for Abraham it took time.
Abraham could not have become persuaded that God could do what He said He would do unless Abraham got to know God better. God at some point and through the course of His relationship with Abraham had to also demonstrate that He was trustworthy. This is where life’s difficulties and challenges come in. Let us remember that Abraham and Sarah had faced other life challenges before they tried to conceive a child. It was through these previous challenges that God revealed Himself to Abraham. As Abraham reflected on what God had done for him in the past he became fully persuaded in his present situation that whatever was going to happen for him and Sarah it would be by God’s power alone.
God gives us time to work through our personal issues and resistance to the notion that He, God, has the power to do. How does God do this? In most cases God uses difficult and challenging situations and circumstances knowing full well that we will try to solve the problem ourselves and then become so frustrated when we are not successful. It is at this point we must recognize that part of the reason God allowed the situation to develop in the first place is so that He, God could demonstrate to us our need for Him in our lives. Think of parents and children, there are times when parents have to allow their children to go through some things so that they will learn how to ask for help. If a parent is always coming to the rescue of their child or children that child will never learn how to ask for help and in stead come to expect that if I get into trouble my parents will get me out of trouble.
In time with each difficult and challenging situation that we turn to God and God in turn provides us with the help that we need, over time we become fully persuaded that God alone has the power to do.
It is also interesting to note that nothing happened for Abraham until his relationship with God was right. The phrase, “It was credited to him as righteousness” can be interpreted to mean God added to Abraham’s account making things right between Abraham and God. Prior to putting his confidence and trust in God, Abraham’s account with God was in the minus column. Looking at this from a purely business vantage point, as long as our account is minus it means that we are carrying a balance and before we can purchase anything we must first pay what we owe. After we pay what we owe then our balance is wiped out and our creditors are more inclined to work with us. The issue is do we intend to use God or partner with God.
Abraham points the way for us to see that everything begins with our relationship with God. Before we can expect God to do anything for us or act on our behalf we need to enter into a partnership with God. In relationships where one party is always doing something for the other party that is called being used. Partners work together. Partnering with God means that we have become fully persuaded and have decided that our success in this life rests in placing our total trust and confidence in God’s ability and power to do, over our own. It means that when we are confronted with situations and circumstances that seem untenable, unworkable, or even impossible though I may fret and even become discouraged I will never lose hope because God is my partner and He is an ever present in the time of trouble.
Partnering with God means that the longer it takes the stronger I will become in my conviction that God alone has the power to do and work things out. It means that while I am waiting on God, I will praise Him and give God the glory because even though I do not physically see it – I know that God in His time will reveal it to me.
To the unbeliever this is simply nonsense, but to believer’s,
- Embracing the facts
- Hoping against the odds
- Growing stronger in faith as time passes
These are the components of A RADICAL KIND OF FAITH!