Monday, April 11, 2016

Faith, " A Belief Not Based on Proof Part 1

The Dictionary defines Faith as 
"A belief not based on proof"

The word Faith is used nearly 450 times in the Bible, that alone should encourage us to have it - live it - and be in it.

A friend of mine, who is studying to be a Prison Chaplin, recently asked me what one personal characteristic I would like to strengthen. He then shared with me that he wanted to work on his patience, which struck me kind of odd as this man is very quiet, very polite and one of the most patient people that I know. 

I reflected on both his question and my own patience or lack thereof.  I am quite a ways away from possessing the patience I would like to have but God gives me grace. He always forgives us. Always. Something we struggle to do for one another.i
Can you think of a time or times, when you were judged or not forgiven by a friend, family member or employer? Maybe you said something you shouldn't have or forgot something important or maybe you don't even know what you did. Well God doesn't do that. He gives us Grace because Grace is something which is not a created substance of any kind but is instead, love and mercy given to us because He desires that we have it, not because of anything we do to deserve it or not deserve it.

How wonderful is our God to love us that much? We sin, He forgives. it's that simple. Can you imagine what it would be like if we all treated one another like that? Wow. I began thinking about how very blessed we all are to be showered with this gift of Grace from Our Father God and then I reflected on how in the world I could ever loose faith in our great God. Loose enough faith to believe for even one moment that He has forgotten His promises to me, or for me to question His timing. And I knew what I wanted to work faith. I want to have Mustard Seed Faith, or as close to it as I can possibly come up with. 

Matthew 17:19-20 the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn't cast out a demon that was possessing a child and ...
He said to them, "Because of your little faith. For truly I say to you, if you have the faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to the mountain, 'Move from here to there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." 

It is kind of embarrassing when you stop and think about it, after all...a mustard seed is so tiny.
One would think we could all manage to squeak out that much faith, right? But, since I don't see any mountains moving around, so my guess is that collectively, our Faith is pretty far from the Faith Jesus spoke of that day so long ago. 

So, what can we do to change that?  We can start by being truly thankful for everything that we go through. Not just the wonderful things, not just the things that bring us joy, but the things that bring us heartache as well. Not allowing the devil to steal your joy by convincing you that you are a failure in any aspect of your life! Your not a failure as a student, or as an employer, your not a failure as a husband or wife or a failure as a parent. Ask Him to guide you, ask Him to change you...He loves the challenge! He is mighty and powerful and capable of fixing us in any and all areas. 

And the thing that makes all of the depression, sadness and heartache go away is PRAISE!
We all need to praise Him for anything and everything that happens in our lives.  
On happy days or the bluest of the blue, all situations, both good and bad with the realization that...

All Things work together for the good of those who love God, for them who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 

You see, nothing is impossible for God. The idea of anything being impossible comes from within us each time we measure God by the limitations of our own unbelief. He wants us to stretch that belief even if it makes us uncomfortable. He, in turn, gives us the fruits of His Spirit which Paul described... 

Galatians 5:22--23 But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts ( Fruit of the Spirit) into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard..things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. 
We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. 

Francis Chan said, "God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through."  

If people would only work on developing that kind of faith, they would know that He has everything under control. Just kick back and be patient and have faith.  With that kind of faith, patience would never present a problem. We would have faith in Him answering all of our prayers and we would understand clearly that everything happens in His time...not ours. 

One good exercise, if you don't already do so, is tithing. People make excuses, they say that they can't afford it. Once you start giving the full 10% of every single financial gain your home receives, you will discover that you can't afford to. God is so wonderful, He rewards us for our faithfulness in ways I can't begin to tell you. The way I view it is that it is His money, to begin with, he is just allowing me to use it. So with that in mind, I write a check and give Him his 10% right off of the top and then the rest is mine to do with what I will.  He makes it work out. 

Chan suggests that we pray big because that pleases God; ask Him for things that may even seem far-fetched, remembering that nothing is too far fetched for our God! 

People think there are no longer any miracles; that's just silly. Of course, there are miracles!
People also think that God doesn't answer their prayers, that's silly too. Of course, he answers prayers. He does these things in His time, not ours and never without that five letter word... 

I bet you have had miracles in your life, moments when God could have easily taken you home, but it wasn't your time... I know I have  

One such miracle happened my junior year in high school.  I went to a party out in the woods with some  friends from school. The girl who was driving the car that day had to head back to town quite early because she had some other obligations. I can remember not wanting to leave in fact, I remember being really anxious about leaving, I was so anxious that I was considering staying on alone. I knew some others that were coming and I wanted to stay and wait for them Finally I couldn't  drag my feet any longer  so I  got into her car and just as we headed up the gravel road to the highway, the other friends I had been waiting for arrived. They urged me to jump in with them and stay, and they didn't have to twist my arm to get me to do so. 
That night  I violated code #6 of My Mother's Rules of Etiquette, which stated, "Always leave with the one that brought ya". I believe as I got older, that rule went by the wayside. It may have been because of that night. 

It wasn't until the next day  when I found out that by violating that law, my life may have been saved.  A mutual friend called and let me know that within a few minutes after they drove away, the car they were riding in...the car I had just gotten out of, was involved in a horrific accident. 
The driver was ejected from the car and suffered a broken neck. 
She was very fortunate, she lived. When she was finally able to have visitors, I went to the hospital to see her. As I stood there, by her bedside in a room full of machines giving her breath and nourishment, I realized that by the grace of God, it could have been me. That thought overtook me and minutes later, in the elevator I fainted for the one and only time in my life.    

 I think about that day often and each time I do, I feel so blessed and thankful to be alive, thankful that I had listened to His promptings instead of worrying about Rule #6.
God was with me then and I have since learned that He is with me all of the time. He has plans for each and every one of us, all we need to do is have faith and be patient. He loves us so much. He challenges us to have patience and faith in His timing without having as much as a momentary doubt in our mind and He hasn't failed me yet. That's the stuff  that Mustard Seed Faith is made of.