What Good is Faith?
Some people seek faith in times of trials. Some times that faith is proven true, and sometimes that faith is proven false. What happens is that people associate, “God gave me what I want” as confirmation of His existence, and they associate, “God didn’t give me what I want” as confirmation of His rejection or even that He doesn’t exist.
The trouble with that metric is that people forget He’s sovereign. Our God, the creator of the Earth and the fullness therein, our God, the creator of the universe, has a perfect plan. For us to hang our belief in Him on a desire, no matter how important, is to forget that he is wise beyond measure (Romans 11:33).
That doesn’t stop us from doing it, and when we don’t get what we want, we cry out in anger, “What good is faith!?”
I have to reply to that question with another question. What was your faith in? Is your faith in God? If so, trust Him. He may deny your supplication. It doesn’t mean He’s abandoned you or that He doesn’t love you. It doesn’t mean that you’re not saved. If He gives you what you want, that’s not exactly confirmation of your salvation either. At best, it’s evidence.
But we constantly use our own trials as a test for Him rather than understanding that 1) we should never test God (Deuteronomy 6:16 and Matthew 4:7) and 2) those trials we face are our tests. I don’t believe they are unkind tests done just to hurt us. Instead, they are trials that allow us to strengthen ourselves and glorify God. That doesn’t make our trials fun, but this is the crux of this chapter.
The good of faith isn’t so that we can get what we want, and that’s how most people perceive it. The good of faith is so that we know that no matter what happens, God is with us (Psalm 23:1-6).
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I had all the faith in the world that God would heal her. From my point of view, He did. He healed her of every pain and sadness and called her to Heaven. That’s not exactly what I had hoped for, but the good of my faith wasn’t to keep the person I wanted to keep, it was to have hope that the God I serve knows what I need. Everything He does is for my good (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
If we make our faith conditional on the idea of what we want, then our faith will be in vain. This is because if our faith is based on obtaining desire, we’re not showing faith in God; we’re showing that we feel He exists to serve us rather than the other way around.
That’s not to say faith isn’t rewarded in the graceful, generous granting of prayers. In the last chapter I showed you just how wonderfully God grants prayers. Those who pray to Him, He hears (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
Too many people though consider their faith a test, which is an insult to God right off the bat (Deuteronomy 6:16). People think, “God, if you do this for me, I’ll believe!”
There’s just not a lot of evidence that thought is true. “God if you get me out of this bad situation, I’ll be yours.” That’s exactly the sort of thing the Israelites said while they were slaves to Egypt. God answered the prayer, and they grumbled every step of the way to the promised land and beyond.
Let’s take this back a few levels of infinity. Have you or has your child ever said, “Dad, if you do this for me I promise I’ll … “
Did you keep that promise?
If you’re like me, you answered “… sometimes?” And you know what, sometimes we prove true to our word to God. Gideon was a coward. He wanted to have faith, but he truly needed signs. So he asked for some. They were very specific signs too. God graciously, patiently answered those prayers, and Gideon became a great hero because of the courage God gave him (Judges 6-8).
But even a casual search of the Bible shows just how quickly people forget that they cried out for God, got what they wanted, and then turned away from him.
On the same token, even the most devout servant might pray for something hoping God will grant his supplication. That prayer may be denied. The point of faith is that we trust God has a reason. On the eve before his crucifixion, Christ, our Lord and Savior, God in flesh, the son of God, prayed that God would, “let this cup pass from me (Matthew 26:36-56).”
That’s a powerful verse to me. The son of God asked if it were possible that he not be crucified. I’ve never heard many people preach or speak on this, but it is so important and so telling. Here is the point of faith.
It’s not the request. “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;” it’s the trust in whom one’s praying to. “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
And that is the answer. The point of faith isn’t getting what you want. It’s knowing that even if you don’t get what you want, your father in Heaven knows what’s best not just for you, but for all.
Still, we see the denial of our supplications as rejection. But is it true? Have you ever asked your earthly parent for something and was told no? Does your parent not love you? Sure, there are some who actually think or even know their parent doesn’t love them. It’s a sad truth in this world, but on the whole, most people I know have at least one parent they know loves them. And that parent did not in any way give them everything they wanted when they wanted it. Heck, my mom actually came pretty close. I struggle to think of a single thing I wanted that she didn’t eventually give to me, but they’re out there. I remember once wanting to join the chess club (or some such club). My mom said no. Oh was I mad. I was a selfish, spoiled little brat. I gave my mom hell for denying me this one thing. I’d have to work darn hard to think of another example, but I flipped when this one stupid thing was denied me. I was somewhere between 12 and 13.
What I deserved in that moment was punishment. She didn’t. But even in my selfish, childish tantrum, I knew she loved me. Even when being denied what we want, most of us know our parents love us, and God is infinitely more loving, infinitely more compassionate.
Our faith isn’t for the sake of obtaining what we want; it’s for the sake of holding on to the only real hope we have. God’s will be done, not our own (Matthew 26: 39). If we trust His will, we can know that whatever happens, whether we like it or not, it’s all part of a perfect plan.
For our panel: What are your favorite Biblical examples of faith being rewarded? What do we do, or how to we stand strong, when our most heartfelt supplication is defined (the death of a loved one)? Why do we so easily fall away so quickly after we get the very thing we begged God for in our time of need? How can we guard ourselves against doing that?