“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
– Hebrews 11.1
Faith. Do you know that verse? Have you heard it quoted before? I have. And yet, even though I can quote it to you, my faith is so weak sometimes.
When I was a freshman in college, I was finishing up the spring semester and just a few weeks before summer break I was invited to go on a summer-long mission trip. I really wanted to go. But I had raised support for three other summer trips in the past four years, and was not about to try to ask my friends and family to support me again. With only a few weeks to think, plan and pray, I enlisted an old Sunday School teacher to be my prayer partner with me about what I was to do for the summer. Shortly thereafter, all of the funds for the trip were miraculously provided within a twelve hour time-frame, without me having to ask a single person for a single dollar. I spent that summer overseas. I testified that witness of God’s financial provision for my summer for years to come. But yet, being confident of His working in that situation, I doubted and stressed the next time I wanted to raise money for a trip.
One day I was out with two friends and we were roaming a village. Walking down a small street, a friendly family invited us in. They served us tea and snacks and the conversation quickly turned spiritual. I shared with them the story of Jesus Christ and asked them if they had ever heard of Him before. They had not, but the Spirit moved in their hearts and they wanted to follow Him! After praying and sharing the truth about repentance and making Jesus the Lord of our lives, the patriarch (who was 70 years old) wanted to be baptized. But yet, every time I start to share the Gospel my heart says, “They don’t want to hear this. They aren’t going to believe.”
Do you know what the problem is here? It is striving for faith in the wrong things. Hebrews says that faith is the “assurance of things hoped for” and “the conviction of things not seen”. Faith is not the belief that God is going to miraculously provide the money when you want to do something. Faith is not the confidence that God will cause someone to believe just because you shared the Gospel. Faith is the assurance of eternal life and salvation in the life and death of Jesus Christ. The confidence that God will work all things together for good to those who love God (Rom 8.28). Sometimes He will not provide the money, for your good and for His glory. Sometimes His plan for another’s salvation is not immediately when you share, but for the story to take root and convict first.
But what about James 1.6-8:
“But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Does James not preach that we have to ask for the finances, ask for another’s salvation without doubting? If we doubt he says we will not receive it! I personally wrestled with this passage for a long time, never knowing if or how I could mandate God’s working through my confidence of His provision. But then I read the passage in context. Verse five states:
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
There are a few things that are concrete promises, and this is one of them. If you lack wisdom, ask of God, and He promises that He will give it. But the faith is the assurance that God is God. That your salvation is found in Jesus Christ. That He has forgiven your sins. When you have that assurance and you ask God for wisdom, He will give it generously as you seek Him in His word. He does not promise that He will give you a new car if you ask Him in faith, or a spouse, or an easy or comfortable life. No, He promises wisdom.
Awesome. So what about Jesus?
“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
– John 14.14
This one is a bit more tricky, and people have interpreted it in a variety of ways. But the context of this is the furthering of the Gospel, via the apostles. Jesus promised them that they would start a movement that would change the world. Their impact was going to be huge. They were going to do “greater things (John 14.12)” than Jesus did, taking the Gospel to the world.
And Jesus clarifies His statement by saying that: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14.13). Whatever you ask, it will be done – to the glory of God the Father through the Son. In Jesus’ name means that it be towards his kingdom, For His glory and based on Christ’s merit – not for selfish gain or pride. Thus our faith is in the glory and future promises of God. Not our personal benefit.
I have prayed for hard things and not seen them answered. I prayed for years for the salvation of a friend who then died without knowing Christ. I have prayed for someone who once was extremely close to me to repent, who rejected God – and still have seen no fruit of repentance. Praying in faith does not mean that I have confidence that God will cause this person to repent. Praying in faith means trusting God that He is in control and that He will glorify Himself through it, and that it is for my good, because I love Him.
Faith. It will not waiver when it is in the things that have been promised. When it is in Christ. In eternity. In salvation. It will waiver when you have faith that God will make your life easy and smooth. Because he promises the opposite: That we will be persecuted, have trials and suffer. He promises, however, that He will see you through it – provide the strength – and you will grow through it and He will be lifted up through it.
In what are you trusting?
If you think God has let you down, your faith is at fault. Not Him. He has given and will give all that He has promised. He will not let you down.