Faith is not a Statistic

In the past several days God the Father has been taking me to a place past the point of words — or at least my ability to freely express them. I have regularly and literally been pinned to my chair (or bed, or floor) by the tangible presence of God in utter silence and  tears. It has made penning a new blog post difficult.

But I have come up for air long enough to discuss a few gems I have found concerning faith which made their way into my twitter feed. Consider this a casual discussion about some aspects of the central and at times thorny topic of faith and its role in everyday life.

Here’s one to stir the pot:

The degree to which we do not believe all things are possible with God is the degree to which we are not yet fully sanctified.

I tend to think of faith in the impossible as a troubling add-on to the Christian life. I (can I say we?) tend to think that the real work of the Christian life is moral perfection. And of course it is okay to have faith in that (that is, our sanctification). But when it comes to a faith that moves mountains, especially mountains moved for my benefit and advantage, I think: “Well, that seems a bit self-serving.”

It is interesting to point out, however, that Jesus does not share our sentiment. The disciples are marveling at a fig tree Jesus just flattened, and Jesus says, “Have faith in God. I tell you, if you do not doubt but believe, you can uproot a mountain and cast it into the sea.” Not once does He mention the dangers of being selfish with our prayers.

And I believe there is a reason:

Faith and love are inseparable. The more I come to know how deeply and profoundly loved I am, the more I am convinced God is willing to do anything for me on my behalf.

While all of us are concerned about the dangers of faith put into the wrong hands, I believe Jesus knows a secret: True faith, established in the heart, cannot be selfish for long. See, selfishness is tied to self-sufficiency: When we are selfishly motivated, we are taking care of our own needs. Faith is impossible in such a heart. It is only by coming to understand how deeply loved we are that we become convinced of God’s desire to answer us. And it is only through dependency that faith is achieved. Faith purifies the soul.

In this way, faith (I am still talking about the faith that moves mountains) is really not an add-on to the Christian life. It is the thing that undergirds our entire Christian experience. When we talk about being transformed in the Christian life, we are really talking about our faith being transformed. Our faith is what is being perfected. It is only when we come to believe how deeply loved we are that we are transformed.

But faith can be difficult. When my wife was in the hospital and the doctors had given her no hope for recovery, my children and I prayed fervently for a miracle. When she passed away, I explained to my youngest when asked that we are learning to move mountains.

Faith can be especially difficult for us, I believe, for the very reason that we think it should be easy. I don’t know if it is modernity or something else, but we approach faith as though it were a method when in fact it is a deep work. We are told in Scripture that faith is a thing that is perfected, and that should tip us off that there is work involved to achieve it — primarily, God’s deep work in us. Granted, faith can be expressed simply:

Faith is allowing ourselves to be persuaded by God of His perfect truth in and even despite our present circumstances.

But achieving it — allowing ourselves to be convinced of God’s perfect truth as revealed in Scripture as opposed to clinging to the imperfect truth found in our lives — is anything but simple. I don’t mean to suggest it is beyond our reach; rather, it requires transformation at our very core. If we understand this, faith becomes a journey we can take as opposed to a frustrating task that never seems to work.

The wonderful thing about faith is that it is always within our reach. In its simplest form, faith is simply accepting what God says over what our experience says. For example, Psalm 103 says, “Soul, forget not the Lord’s many benefits  . . . that he heals all of your diseases.” Faith then is simply realizing this is God’s intention for healing. He does not wish to heal some of our diseases; he wishes to heal all of our diseases.

But as we step in that direction, we are inclined to think, “Wait a minute. That is not my experience.” Unconsciously, we begin looking to our experience to determine how much faith to bring to the table. We begin to tally all the times we have seen God heal versus not heal. We conclude, “Sometimes it is not God’s will to heal.” We liken His desire to heal to the golden tickets in the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. We then come to Jesus saying, “God, if this is one of those golden-ticket moments, then I ask you to heal.”

But faith is not a statistic. That is, faith is not something God ever intended that we draw from our comprehensive experience in a broken world and apply to God. It is rather a thing that we draw from our confidence in God and apply to a broken world. The Kingdom of God flows from Heaven to Earth, not the other way around.

It is, in other words, only as we are persuaded of God’s perfect truth that His Kingdom takes up residence in our lives. It is only as we come to believe a different reality that this reality becomes our own.

I will end with this. A couple weeks ago, I felt God said to me, “You have lost the ability to dream. I want you to dream again. Dream with me.” And I said, “Lord, it is too dangerous to dream.” And He said, “It is too dangerous not to dream.” And so after much fear and grief, I decided to begin dreaming with God again.

And that is how, my dear friends, I ended up pinned to my chair by the tangible presence of God — and his unfathomable love.

Photo by Christian Regg on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “Faith is not a Statistic

  1. Well said, Patrick. So many good things here. I especially like this….
    “When we talk about being transformed in the Christian life, we are really talking about our faith being transformed. Our faith is what is being perfected. It is only when we come to believe how deeply loved we are that we are transformed.”

    Our faith is in God, not in our faith. And He is not a vending machine. We put in special formulas and out pops miracles. I’ve personally seen and prayed for hundreds of people who’ve been instantly healed, gradually healed, including stage four cancer and “incurable” diseases, and I’ve have seen many not get healed and a couple literally die in my arms in a hospital room full of family watching hopefully. It’s heart breaking. Not for the faint of heart!

    One such heart break was a young woman with six kids who died of cancer after my team and I had been ministering to her for months (she cycled between getting better then not, finally failing). I cried so hard and I’ll never forget what God spoke to my broken heart after the funeral. “Will you risk having a broken heart for Me?” As much as I wanted to say, “No! It hurts too much!” I heard my heart say, “I will risk it for You, Jesus.” (This encounter makes me cry even to this day). The exchange was like healing rain. Then, after I responded, He told me that I had helped her understand that she was loved; that she has a Father who will never forsake her (her biological father had left her at an early age). And that was all I need to know for now.

    This really changed my perspective. I will not base my theology on my experience or failure but on what Jesus said. And no matter what the outcome, I will make sure every single person I pray for knows they are loved. Since then (several years ago), I’ve seen many more get healed, some not. But 100% know they are loved. 🙂

    1. So good Mel. Thank you for this insightful contribution. “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

    2. @Mel

      Thanks for your comment. It helped to put the points Patrick had made into a better perspective.

      God answers our prayers, but His answers are according to His plan and His wisdom, not necessarily according to our desires and prayers. Unless we love and trust our Lord, we won’t look for and will not perceive how He has answered our prayers. So it seems to me we should measure our faith in our ability to accept what seems to be a negative answer.

      Sometimes we wonder why the apostles ran after Judas betrayed Jesus and the soldiers came to arrest Him. God had answered their prayers, but His answer challenged their faith. Instead of sending them a warlord, God sent the Jews a sacrifice for the sins of man. Instead a demonstration of power, God showed us how much He loves us.

      1. Thanks CT. “God answers our prayers, but His answers are according to His plan and His wisdom, not necessarily according to our desires and prayers.”

        If I may, and to better draw out my points in the essay, I would say this is both true and not true. God always answers us according to his plan and His wisdom; at the same time, He does not tell us, “When you pray, do not expect your prayers to be answered if they are not according to my plan.” What we find instead is Him making some rather provocative statements regarding faith and its vital role in seeing our prayers answered. His plan, in other words, is that when we ask, we believe. Blessings!

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