Faith in the Past Tense

Christians are encouraged, and even commanded, to “have” faith in God.

Seems simple enough on the surface, right?

Perhaps. 

The issue, however, is that, as Christians, we tend to take for granted that we know what having faith means. We are quick to offer a definition of faith from such familiar Scripture verses as, Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” or, conversely, Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Okay, that’s cool. 

Now what?

Oftentimes, God uses times of our waiting on Him not only toward the goal of providing specific answers to our prayers, but also and, more importantly, as opportunities to mature us spiritually. 

If we are completely honest, we would have to admit that we consider spiritual maturity a rather boring aspect of our Christian walk because it doesn’t leave a lot for us to boast about. This is particularly true when considering the “prosperity gospel” pontifications of people like Joel Osteen, for example, who routinely preaches that we can have our “best life now” (a doctrine which, by the way, is completely anathema to what God’s Word teaches).

We get excited when God answers our prayers with external fireworks (i.e. a new car, a new house, a high-paying job, a 5-carat engagement ring, etc.), because it feeds our need to feel proud of ourselves while also providing an occasion to declare to others that we have the “favor of God”. Likewise, we are much less enthusiastic about what God desires to accomplish on the inside of us – in our heart – because, well, making us more like Jesus just doesn’t do anything to satiate our desire for acceptance by the world.

In other words, becoming more like Christ won’t get us many “Likes” on Facebook or “Followers” on Twitter, nor should it

As redeemed followers of Christ, spiritual maturity is something each of us should desire God to accomplish in us, though we may not always approve of the means by which He chooses to go about it.

One of the ways in which God is maturing me spiritually is in the area of understanding what it means to “have” faith in Him as I await His provision of a new job. During this period of waiting there is a particular passage of Scripture that has become quite significant to me. It is Mark 11:20-24, specifically verse 24, which reads, “And Jesus answered saying to them, ‘Have faith in God.‘” 

A careful study of this verse naturally begs the question: what does it mean to have faith in God and what does having faith actually look like in a practical, real-world, day-to-day context?

In contemplating this question it is important to note that the English verb ‘have’ is translated ‘echo’ (e’-kho) in the Greek, which means: to hold in the hand, to possess, to own, to adhere or cling to. In other words, there is a distinction to be made between knowing (by way of cognitive awareness) the definition of what ‘faith’ is and actually living in possession of the kind of faith Jesus is speaking of in the aforementioned passage in Mark 11. 

In other words, having faith in God is possessing and holding on to a conviction of the heart and mind that, regardless the circumstance, we know that the silence of God is not a sign that He doesn’t care about what matters to us.

In fact, it’s just the opposite. 

As I wait on God, I am learning that to “have” faith in Him is much more than thinking the right way as if to grit my teeth harder, or clinch or squint my eyes tighter, or adopting an intellectual ascent to a mantra of positive thinking. No. Having faith is be so convinced of who God is and of the ultimate fulfillment of His promises as to live my life as if the specific thing (not just a thing) for which I have asked is as good as in my possession. 

It is faith in the past tense.

It is to live as if that which I am asking of God to do in the future is already a present reality because, in the mind of God, it is. For example, “…believe that you have received [past tense] them, and they will be [future tense] granted you.” – Mark 11:24. Or, Joshua 6:2-3, “The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given [past tense] Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors. You shall march [future tense] around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so [future tense] for six days.” 

Having said that, I will readily admit that this is not always an easy thing to do. 

Case in point, as I compose this article I am 30 days into my job search, having prayerfully resigned from my last place of employment without having another job lined up to replace it. (For some background, see my blog post Walking God’s Divine Tightrope.) There are days when the phone doesn’t ring and when e-mails aren’t returned. Moments when Satan attacks me with doubts (about myself and God). In such moments it can be very difficult to have faith in God. And yet, the Lord understands (as we see in the discourse between Jesus and a man whose child was sick in Mark 9:14-24.)

Despite what you might have heard, having faith in God is not some pie-in-the-sky magic formula. It is work. Hard work. It is a battle of the fiercest spiritual magnitude. It is rolling up the sleeves of your mind, heart and soul and doing business with God on what you profess to believe about Him when your situation looks its darkest (as did the man in Mark 9:24 when he said to Jesus, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”)

Having faith is not simply believing in God. It is believing God.

May your walk with Christ, difficult though it may be at times, lead you to discern the difference.

Think about it.

“…so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”1 Peter 1:7

DBH

 

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