In Genesis 12, Abram obeys God’s call to leave his family and country, then journeys to the Promised Land. Buoyed by a promise God gave him that he would raise up a great nation from him and his wife, Abram did well for a number of years, but when we come to Genesis 15, the waiting is starting to wear on Abram. He’s discouraged that God still hasn’t fulfilled his promise.
But then, God appears to him once again and spoke to him in a vision, reaffirming his promises to Abram that he would indeed have a biological son, and his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. At that very moment Abram’s depression vanished. Not because his circumstances changed. But simply because Abram believed what God said, then placed his trust in him. And Abram was able to rest again.
It’s important to clarify something here, however, for this is where some people misunderstand what faith is. Please understand something – what we’re talking about is not the power of positive thinking. Faith is not looking at the bright side of life. Faith is looking at the God-side of life.
Pessimists are people who, when discouraged about life, will say to the people around them, in a mopey sort of way, “Well, life is what it is.” But that’s not true. Reality is never that simple. Somebody else can be experiencing the exact same reality as they are, and yet respond in a completely different way.
People who are optimists like to say, “Life is what I say it is,” and then they make a choice to see their life in a more positive way. That’s a step in the right direction. I’d rather be in the presence of an optimist than a pessimist. But that’s still not faith. Faith is not saying, “Life is what it is,” and it’s not saying, “Life is what I say it is”, but rather, “Life is what God says it is.”
Make no mistake, God is the positive being in the whole universe. To God, every day is a spring day. His mercies are new every morning. No purpose of his can be thwarted. That God could look on a sinful, selfish creature like me and see me one day becoming a new and holy creature reflecting the radiance of Jesus Christ, I mean, WOW! – God is truly the most optimistic being that exists.
But not everything God sees is positive. Sometimes we see peace, peace, and God doesn’t see that. Abram’s nephew Lot looked at a town called Sodom and saw a town he could make himself at home in. God looked at Sodom and saw a culture ripe for judgment.
Abram looked at his life and saw plenty to get him down – his age, his weariness, his wandering. God looked at Abram and saw that things were right on schedule. The key to living by faith is to discover what God says something is, then believe what he says and trust him. That’s the faith that can move mountains and give us victory over this perplexing world.
It’s for this reason that the Bible tells us that “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The quickest, surest way to strengthen faith is to put your head up against God’s chest, and listen to his heartbeat.
We do this with an open Bible on our laps, pencils out, studying and thinking. We do this by listening to godly, biblical sermons (and in this age of technology, you don’t have to wait for Sunday for that to happen.) We do this by gathering with others who seek and love Jesus, helping each other learn and grow. We do this by filling our lives with music that sings out God’s words and truth.
And then when God speaks, and tells me his thoughts about something – whether something is good or bad, helpful or harmful, holy or sinful – and I then direct my life to keep in step with his words, then I am walking by faith.
Never forget – life is what God says it is.
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