Having faith in God sometimes requires us to let go of our plans and checklists. It can also require us to step out into the unknown, to take a leap when we don't have a safety net in place. It demands that we switch off that inner voice that continues to plan and organise, when we have already sought Gods guidance on these very issues. And as human beings this can be very difficult!
Faith actually requires letting go! Whilst we gain so much by actually letting go, loosening our grip is not easy! So why then do we struggle with faith? And how can we be more trusting of our mighty God?
A Journey Of Faith
Last week I arrived home after spending a month in the Philippines. During my time there, I felt that the topic of faith constantly bombarded me wherever I turned. Every time I engaged in a spiritual conversation, faith somehow became a central topic. If there was a memory verse being recited, then faith was at its core. When someone shared with me their life story, faith was what sustained them. Everything kept coming back to faith.
I felt as if God wasn't being discreet in his desire to educate me on faithfulness. He wanted me to have a lesson on faith; I needed to understand it and most importantly I needed to be confronted by it.
A False Faith
When people actually live by faith, an onlooker cannot help but be amazed. There is nothing more awe-inspiring than seeing unrelenting and all-encompassing faith in action. Although as Christians we often talk about faith, I wonder how often we go beyond the superficial definition of what faith really is. What faith in God really requires from us? Faith does not simply mean a belief in God despite physical evidence or humanistic explanations. It is as Martin Luther said "a living, daring confidence in God's grace". It is not simply a belief that we hold on to, but one that we must live. I think Elton Trueblood said it best "Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservations".
When we have a true faith in God it means that there is no room for doubt or fear. That should be easy right, complete faith without reservations. Unfortunately as sinful human beings we can't help but question God, even though we tell him we are faithful. We ask him for guidance and advice whilst simultaneously constructing our own solutions. We devise a Plan B (or maybe we should call it Plan D for doubt) just in case God doesn't come through. We think that if God doesn't react quickly enough or doesn't give us a decisive answer, then we need to be prepared. But that isn't faith is it? It's a false faith. And it is one that I have lived for far too long.
Thankfully God does not give up on us. He is always faithful, even when we are not. So, instead of punishing me for my fickle faith, God decided to challenge me.
A Lesson In Faithfulness
When I arrived in Manila this January, I decided to interview a number of people associated with King Solomon Christian School International. I had come to be associated with the school several years ago after a number of Australian churches, including the one I attend in Newcastle, began to fund educational opportunities for the urban poor. Through these interviews I was hoping to know more about the school and its impact on the Tatalon community. So after transforming a guest house into an interview space, my trusty translator, Noemi, and I began to interview as many people as we could.
We conversed with pastors who were former gang members, deacons who were reformed alcoholics and several newly converted Christians who had suffered terrible abuse throughout much of their lives. These stories were inspiring and deeply emotional. But more importantly they were a testament to the greatness of God's faithfulness. These interviews demonstrated to me that people CAN and DO live a true and all-encompassing faith in God.
Although many of the people I interviewed were unemployed and poverty stricken, their faith was unwavering. Most had large families to support and no money or means with which to do that. If circumstances were anything to go by, these people in Manila should have been consumed with reservations. I expected this response every time I interviewed them. I was waiting for a moment of hesitation; a glimmer of doubt. But I didn't see it. And trust me I was looking for it. I wanted to see just an ounce of scepticism, something that could justify my own weak and at times wavering faith in God.
As Christians we often talk about faithfulness and trust in God. But how often is our faith truly tested. How often do we rely on God to provide our daily meals? How many of us have had to live by faith alone?
Keeping The Faith
For many of the families I interviewed faith was not a choice, but a necessity, as vital as food and water. Never was their faith coated in doubt. No Plan B was concocted. No alternative schemes were devised. Prayer and petition to God was their first and last choice. They never questioned him. They never questioned his ability.
It was inspiring and as I said before, confronting! Faith in God was unquestioning and constant.
So how can we be more trusting of God? Well I think the answer is indeed a rhetorical question, how can we not be more trusting of God? God is always faithful to us! Although we sometimes feel as if we need to control and plan every aspect of our lives, we need to recognise that letting go and putting our trust in God is a powerful and faithful act. We need to learn to trust in him and his mighty power. When something is God's will, then it is right and just and good. Sometimes we need to get out of the way, to let him get things done!
So trusting in God without reservations is going to be my focus for 2012. I encourage all of you who read this article to also consider how you can be more faithful and trusting of God this year!
Alison Barkley lives in Newcastle and is a post graduate student at Macleay College in Sydney in book editing and publishing.
Alison Barkley's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/alison-barkley.html