Christian faith requires belief. “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness,” says Genesis 15.
But belief is just the first part of faith. I know many Christians with strong belief – they buy into the Christian message, they embrace all the doctrines – but they still have weak faith. When things don’t go well for them, they grumble and pout. When temptation comes along, they buckle under it.
What’s the problem? Chances are they haven’t embraced the second part of faith – which is trust. Abram didn’t just believe the Lord – it wasn’t all just up in his head. His faith also ruled his heart. And he was able to experience peace which lasted a good, long while, as he continued to wait on God.
Belief alone doesn’t cut it. The Bible says the devil himself believes, and trembles. The belief that counts is the belief that leads to trust. Which is the ability to let go, lay down and rest in the arms of God.
When a Christian has weak faith, their circumstances rule the show. If God says something else in his Word, it doesn’t matter because Look at what’s happening to me now! When a Christian has strong faith, God’s Word runs the show, and serves as a gatekeeper through which all his or her circumstances and feelings must pass.
Here’s a couple examples of how this works. Maybe you feel that God couldn’t possibly forgive you. Your sins are too deep and too numerous for even God to forgive. You feel condemned by your past. God might forgive everyone else. But not you. You are the black sheep if ever there was one. You are the one God looks at and says, “Who dares to approach the great Oz?”
Then one day you read 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” As you read those words, a little light goes on inside your brain, and it dawns on you, “Those words apply to me!” Suddenly, there it is. Faith! You believe those words and you trust that they are true for you. At once, the light of faith pours into your darkened soul, and all the ugliness and blackness of that shame is erased in an instant.
Maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe you can’t forgive someone else. They hurt you years ago, and left a gaping wound and since then you have sat there behind the granite walls of unforgiveness, despising them, cursing them, forever connected to them in this twisted dance of hate that never lets you go. You go to church. You know the words. You say them each week: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”, but the joy and peace of Jesus can never break through for you.
Why? Because you’ve never come to that point of trusting that God will take care of all the wrongs we suffer. And no one ever, ever gets away with it. And it is God’s work to avenge – so you can forgive. You can let it go.
Suddenly, you make the choice to trust that God will take care of it, and at once, the hammer of faith falls against those walls that have been imprisoning you all these years, and in a moment, you are free.
This is how the faith which trusts works. Abram made a choice to believe and trust God – and like resetting a broken bone, the bitterness and doubt drained out of him, and his soul was made right. He was able to let go of his anger and disappointment, lay down his head on God’s shoulder, and rest. It’s how it worked for Abram, and it’s how it will work for you and me.
My friend, if you make your happiness dependent on circumstances working out for you, and getting your way, and never facing disappointment – then you’ll never experience joy and victory in your life. You’re making an idol of this life, and this life is not heaven, it only gives us glimpses along the way. Without a faith that believes in God and trusts in God, you are writing yourself a prescription for misery.