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What is faith? Sometimes we make it a little too mystical. Faith is actually something we apply wherever we go. When you go into a restaurant, for example, you apply faith when you place your order. You have faith that your food will be prepared properly, that health standards will be followed and the proper ingredients will be used, among other things. That is applying faith.
When you board a plane, you apply faith that it will get off the ground, despite the fact that it weighs thousands of pounds. You have faith that it will reach its destination and land. You have faith that the pilot and copilot will be doing their job and not sleeping in the cockpit.
When you go to a surgeon or doctor who tells you that you need to have a certain procedure done, you have faith that the people who will be doing the procedure have been trained properly and know what they are doing. When they give you a prescription to be filled, you have faith that the pharmacist will do his or her job and give you the right medication.
We apply faith each and every day. But when Jesus came along and said, “Have faith in God,” some people balk at that. Faith in God? Why, that is outrageous! They have faith in all of these other things, yet they have a hard time putting their faith in God. But there is no safer place to put our faith than in God.
The Bible defines faith this way: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Another translation puts it, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
The very existence of our faith, despite our circumstances, is a proof of God. Faith is like a muscle. It gets stronger through use. It is something that we need to apply. It is something that we need to use. Faith is something that is always moving toward its object. It is a living, restless thing. Faith cannot be inoperative. So we must use our faith.
Faith can make the difference between something happening and not happening. God is the one who works, but he chooses to work primarily through human means. Could God have sovereignly caused the Red Sea to part for the Israelites without the help of Moses? Of course. But how did he choose to part the Red Sea? He told Moses, as an act of faith, to hold up his staff as the people crossed over.
Could God have brought fire down on the altar on Mount Carmel without the prayer of Elijah? Yes. But he called Elijah to take a step of faith and to pray.
Could Jesus have healed every person who was alive when he walked this earth? Absolutely. He could have simply said, “Be healed,” and everyone everywhere would have been healed instantaneously. But what we find from Scripture is that people who received his healing touch primarily were those who reached out to him by faith. There was the woman who touched the hem of his garment and was instantly healed. Blind Bartimaeus called out to Jesus and received his sight. We even read that Jesus could do no mighty work in his own hometown of Nazareth because of unbelief.
So faith can make all the difference between something happening and not happening.
Also, without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews says, “But 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 diligently seek Him.”
Faith is often found in unlikely places. The Bible tells the story of a woman from Canaan who had a daughter who was in trouble. She was actually controlled by demons. This woman knew that Jesus could touch and deliver her daughter. She certainly did not have the privilege of walking and talking with Jesus. In fact, she was a pagan. She had been raised in a godless home, a home filled with idols. But with what little she knew about Jesus, she applied dramatic faith. Hers was a faith that would not be deterred, discouraged, or stopped. She was a mother who would not give up, and so she made her way to Jesus.
We could describe her faith as amazing faith – so much so that Jesus said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.”
Jesus clearly was an expert on faith. So when he said, “Great is your faith!” I think he wanted the disciples to pay attention and wanted us to remember it. Thus it is enshrined in the pages of Scripture. She was a complete pagan, yet she expressed faith with what little she knew. She rose to the occasion.
This reminds us that no matter what, we should bring our problem to Jesus. Whatever we are struggling with will not come as a shock or a surprise to God. He already knows about it. And avoid getting caught up in the I-am-not-worthy-to-approach-God routine. The fact is that we never were worthy, we are not worthy, and we never will be worthy. So let’s get over that. It is not about worthiness; it is about the grace of God. We don’t approach God on the basis of our worthiness; we approach God on the basis of his grace. So whatever your problem is, bring it to Jesus. He said, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
When you pray, seek to find the will of God, and pray with persistence. The reason Jesus gave this woman everything she asked for was because she got her will in alignment with his. Our objective in prayer is not to get our will in heaven; it is to get God’s will on earth. But sometimes we don’t know how to pray, so we need to find the will of God. When we read the Bible, the Word of God, we will understand the heart and the mind and the purpose of God.
Find the will of God, and pray accordingly. Don’t give up. It may seem as though God is not listening. But it may be a barrier that he wants you to hurdle, something he wants you to rise to. So don’t back down.