You only have to attend 2 1/2 church services to grasp the importance of faith. And yet after countless services, conferences, and revivals I found myself overcome with frustration regarding faith and how often it failed to…well…work. Faith is a lofty term but is essentially complete confidence in something or someone. It is the blind belief that whatever you envision will one day become reality (Heb 11:1).
I learned about it in the Old Testament in the story of Noah’s Ark. I learned about it in the New Testament in the story of the woman with the issue of blood. These stories, and many others, made faith attractive and easy to buy into, but my experience paled in comparison. Leaving me with more questions than answers: What am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t my faith work? Do I even have faith?
After much contemplation and bible study, here are the 3 habits that paralyzed my faith:
1. Using Faith For Something God Did Not Permit
For years I’ve had an insatiable desire to pursue music professionally. I’ve had dreams. I’ve been prophesied to. I even got degreed! I can’t say the reasons for this desire have been totally unselfish, but I can say the prominent reason has always been and still is to glorify God through music; to communicate the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. However, after reading David’s story in II Samuel 6 my pursuit has shifted. David, the man after God’s own heart; the greatest King of Israel; the man whose lineage would birth the Messiah also had an insatiable desire. He desired to build God a temple. This temple would serve as the center of worship and house the Ark of the Covenant, which before that time was simply carried from place to place in a tent. But God had other plans. God’s desire for David was to unify Israel and destroy their enemies. God determined that since David was a man of war he would not be fit to build God’s house. He’d allow David to collect the materials and even lay out the specs, but not to build.
Like David, I’ve come to realize that just because something sounds good doesn’t mean it’s God. Knowing my gifts and limitations He opens and closes doors for my protection. And the longer I put off fully submitting my dreams to His, the longer it will take me to fully occupy my place of destiny. Instead of telling God my plans, my job is to ask “What would You have me do?” Faith then prepares me to surrender my dreams and trust that His desires are far better than I could ever ask or think.
Song Recommendation: “I Give Myself Away” by William McDowell
2. Misappropriating Faith For My Benefit
A few weeks ago, as I packed for my trip to Europe, I looked at the forecast and became totally disheartened. There were high chances of rain and temperatures in the low 50s and 60s in the areas I planned to visit. I decided it was time to activate my faith. I told my husband “oh it won’t rain. I have faith.” (Now as a disclaimer, for reasons that may or may not be coincidental, there have been times when God honored my weather requests. My mom seems to have this gift for real. I mean thunder storms just stop because she prays a quiet prayer of peace!) Well I’ll have you know it rained every other day in every city we visited. What did I do? I got an umbrella!
God is not a genie. The Holy Ghost does not indwell us so we can, in the words of some preachers, “name it and claim it.” The Children of Israel learned this the hard way in I Samuel 4 when they tried to use the Ark of the Covenant as a good luck charm in battle. They lost. Not because the ark held no power, but because they did not value it outside of their selfish use. In the silly example about precipitation I learned that my faith is most fruitful when I use it as it is intended – and that is not for personal consumption, but for God’s glory. The moment faith is used for anything other than to bring God glory, is the moment faith is diminished to superstition; simply a means to an end.
Song Recommendation: “Blue God” by Jessica Reedy
3. Ignoring the “I” In Faith
Startup companies intrigue me. Whether it be Uber, Yelp, StyleSeat, Paypal, or whatever other company, likely started in Silicon Valley, I am most amazed by the founder’s ingenuity, discipline and follow-through. Unlike those founders, I found myself waiting on God to drop an idea in my head, give me the steps for development, and the ambition to follow-through. I grew comfortable leaning on the crutch of “God’s will” all the while avoiding the parable about the man who is punished for burying his talent in fear of losing it (Matthew 25:14-30). I found myself begging God to grant me favor while skirting the scripture that emphatically states “faith is dead without works” (James 2:20).
There is an “I” in faith. If I’m believing God for a job. Faith won’t write my resume, I have to do that. Faith won’t fill out my application, I have to do that. Faith won’t show up at my interview in my stead, I have to be there. Just think, Peter wouldn’t have ever walked on water if he hadn’t first gotten out of the boat! Faith walks. Faith plans. Faith researches, takes notes, implements the plan, collects data, and repeats. Faith works!
Song Recommendation: “Oceans” by Hillsong United
As overwhelming as all this seems, my faith is stronger now than ever before. I’m encouraged that Jesus took the time to pray, not that I’d be successful or that I’d even be fulfilled but that my faith fail not (Luke 22:32). He knew faith would keep my dreams alive and when rightly utilized morph them into reality. I refuse to bury my dreams or to make light of what God has entrusted to me. No more excuses. No more blaming. I am convicted to work my faith toward a God-given end and as Luke 22:32 says, strengthen others along the way. So on the days when you have more questions than answers embrace the Word of God and surround yourself with faith building music (see song suggestions above) knowing that God hears you, sees you, and has already prayed that your faith fail NOT.