No world religion empowers its adherents as Christianity does. Christians do much more than follow religious prescriptions, read a holy book and believe in a particular deity. Christians engage the reality of God into their lives with awesome, transforming impact. And the mechanism by which they do that is an on-going process called ‘faith’.
So what is faith and how does it work? What do we have to do to operate in more of it? How is faith built up and how do we see more results from employing it? I am now up to the third part of a series exploring faith and addressing these questions.
I was surprised many years ago to see a particular word attached to the definition of faith that I had never considered before. I am using Hebrews 11:6 as my reference text for a definition of faith and that verse speaks about God’s pleasure.
“But without faith it is impossible to please him (God): 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
My initial religious training made me think of man’s need to engage with God for man’s benefit: salvation. My evangelical roots pressed the argument that man needed to be saved and that could only be achieved by having faith in God.
So I was surprised when I actually stopped to take stock of what the Bible said about faith. I subconsciously expected the Bible to say, “without faith it is impossible to be saved”! But instead it said, “without faith it is impossible to please God”!
Wow! That was a complete turn around.
Somehow I had come to see God’s person and sovereignty as so immense that man was absolutely insignificant to God’s consciousness. I don’t know where that came from, but I imbibed it at a very early age. I concluded that there was nothing man could do to influence God and that man was simply inconsequential in God’s grand scheme of things.
So, to discover that man had the personal power to bring pleasure to God came as a shock to me.
But take a look at what that verse says. “without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God”. Faith not only gives humans the capacity to bring pleasure to God, but operating in faith is the ONLY way man can bring pleasure to God.
When I discovered that, my whole comprehension of what faith is and how mankind relates to God was expanded. I began to see a picture of God eagerly awaiting man’s faith-filled response to Him. Faith was not one-sided, giving man opportunity to enter God’s rescue plan, but a two-way relationship-building connection. Man’s response of faith not only brought benefit to man, but it fulfilled something of God’s wish for mankind, thus causing delight to God.
Win – Win
I began to see faith as a ‘Win-Win’ arrangement for man and God. Faith was no longer the self-seeking arm-twist that man could put on God, for man’s personal benefit. I now understood it as the mutually rewarding completion of a Father-Son interaction.
When I step out in faith I create a Win-Win situation. I win by accessing more of what God has for me. God wins by receiving the pleasure of a Father’s heart, seeing His child step into what He has created for me.
This previously unseen element of God’s pleasure made faith a much friendlier, relational quality within Christianity. It is a joy for me to move in faith, when I know that my faith brings delight to God.
As a child of God I am motivated to exercise faith as my gift to God. I can please Him. But I can only please Him by stepping out in faith.
Failure Pleases God
From the human perspective our actions are measured by the results they produce. If humans were to evaluate each other’s faith they would likely evaluate the ‘outcome’ of the faith. Faith that gets people healed, saved, delivered or otherwise changed in a measurable way gets the big ‘thumbs up’ from man.
But God is not pleased by the ‘output’ of faith or by the ‘results’ which faith generates. God is pleased with faith, pure and simple. When a person steps out in faith God is pleased. When a person chooses to trust God, in the face of all odds, God is pleased.
So, when a person trusts God, but everything falls apart, God is pleased. When a person steps out in faith and fails in all measurable human terms, GOD IS PLEASED! Even failure pleases God!
Now, isn’t that a radical idea?
Exhibit A – Moses
Don’t take my word for it that failure pleases God. Just take a look further on in Hebrews 11, the great ‘faith’ chapter of the Bible.
There we find many people being hailed for their faith. “By faith” this one did that and “By faith” that one did something else. There’s a whole chapter celebrating the heroes of faith.
So, take a look at what Hebrews 11 says about Moses fleeing from Egypt. Moses made a failed attempt to deliver some Israelites. But they rejected him and so Moses fled into the wilderness. Every time I read that account in Exodus 2 the clear impression is that Moses failed. Moses is seen fleeing with his tail between his legs, so to speak.
Yet in Hebrews 11:27 we have the same event described as if it was a triumphant moment of faith.
“By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27
Man would call that a failure. God calls it faith. And faith pleases God! So, Moses’ failure pleased God.
More Failures that Pleased God
Have a look at these other heroes of faith who ended up in ‘defeat’ in human terms, yet who are listed alongside those who won out in the end.
“And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were killed with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented” Hebrews 11:36,37
Does that sound like prime candidates for Christian Television or cover photos in Christian magazines? Absolutely not! They sound like a bunch of ‘losers’. Yet they are listed among the heroes of faith.
God was pleased with each one of those losers. They did not please God by getting a home run, or by clawing their way back to win the race. They lost. They died. They did not get the upper hand or win the day. They failed!
Faith is not about achieving a unique testimony to take you on the preaching trail. Faith is about pleasing God. God is pleased by your decision to trust Him. The outcome is far less relevant than you might think.
So, go ahead and please God. Get into the wonder of stepping out in faith in Him. Don’t get hung up by the outcome, but get excited about the privilege and opportunity you have to bring delight to the heart of your Heavenly Father.