November 4, 2011

Getting Our Minds Around Faith

Let us visualize an extreme biker.

See him standing on a base platform anxiously awaiting his turn. He rocks his bike back and forth between his legs as he watches the performer ahead of him. His heart rate increases. He waits for the signal, “You’re ON!” – and then he takes off! He pounds his feet against the pedals, balances his body weight above the bike, and furiously pedals harder and harder with each stride straining to project power through his legs that he might build up as much momentum as possible. He barrels ahead aiming straight for the vertically-arching ramp. Fearlessly he assaults the ramp and then LIFT-OFF! He is in the air spinning and flipping, twisting the bike and his body in positions gravity never intended. Quickly he gains control of the bike again, positions it perfectly beneath himself, and lands upright to the awe and applause of the crowd. A deep sigh of relief is heard. He is safe and grounded to pony up for another turn.

I want us to examine this scene to help get our minds around the dynamics of faith.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

The scripture says that faith resides where hope is not yet realized and the soon-to-be has not yet been revealed. It is a precursor of great things to come. It is evidenced in the actions you take in advance of the miracle you trust. From our example, the biker commits himself to the stunt before he completes it. He knows that success rests on the momentum which he puts into it. The accelerating momentum is evidence that something big is forthcoming. Faith is that momentum and it is owned by the one who exercises it.

Noah built the ark at God’s command. His neighbors witnessed him building and thought his actions were illogical. Then the flood came and everything living upon the earth was destroyed save that which was sheltered in the ark. (Genesis chapters 6-8)

Simeon testified that God would spare him from death until he lived to see the coming Messiah. People watched him enter the temple and faithfully pray this request. There he met Jesus and praised God for granting his petition. (Luke 2:25-32)

David discarded the armor and sword he was given by King Saul before his encounter with the giant Goliath. He was unprotected by steel but protected by the mighty power of God (1 Samuel 17:37-51). Then Goliath fell to the ground from the impact of a single slingshot.

If faith exists, then it is active and visible. It is the evidence you can see in the actions of those who believe. It is the prelude to mighty acts of God. God’s people ACTIVELY apply His word and trust in His character to execute lifestyles consistent with those beliefs. Their faith is the momentum you can witness.

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:3

If faith is the momentum behind an extreme bicycle stunt, then the word of God is the ramp. Just as there is no successful stunt without vigorous contact against the ramp, God’s word must be applied firmly to produce the faith which yields flight. We cannot rely on things which are seen with our eyes to build expectations about things which are yet to come. The scripture says, by the word of God worlds were framed. By that same word, the future world will be framed. Faith has accomplished impossible feats throughout history and faith will accomplish impossible feats again.

“Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” Hebrews 11:33-34

Through His word, we learn about God’s nature, His commands, patterns, promises, and reactions. We learn what is acceptable and unacceptable in His sight. We discover the parameters within which He displays His will through miraculous signs and wonders. We accrue wisdom to critique our passions so that our pursuits remain upright. Discovering that His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts, we learn not to get ahead of Him or presume what God’s will is. Even Jesus prayed the concession over his personal prayers, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Matthew 26:39)

The word of God is the road ramp for a lifetime. The application of it will keep you busy. Faith is the confidence to push off that instruction and act on it. Just like the biker uses his own legs to pump the pedals, you carry out your faith by an act of your will until that faith reaches an elevated state and proves itself with visible signs. Faith precedes sight.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6

To please God:

You MUST believe that HE IS - You must believe that God exists; that His word is holy and perfect and intended for you. You must believe that it is in your possession to be used and relied upon. You must act on what you say you believe. You must push off the ramp.

You MUST believe that HE REWARDS – You must believe in the end result of your faith. No stunt is ever accomplished without foresight and commitment. If the ramp (God’s word) is reliable and the momentum (your confidence) is steadfast, then the stunt is as good as complete. You must label God as a “Rewarder” and never doubt that He is. If doubt arises, just remind yourself of every Bible story you ever read to silence your insecurities.

Does the following scripture make sense in light of our biker scenario?

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” James 2:17-18

Only when the biker pushes off the ramp does his faith take effect. If he sits still and doesn’t act, he will never experience the rush of flying. If he only speaks about his confidence to perform the stunt but never performs it, then how real was his belief? It was as worthless as having no belief at all. However, when he decides to propel himself forward by faith, he finds the impossible is possible.

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