Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
I have been thinking a lot about faith lately. What does it mean to live a life of faith? I was asked recently to give a talk about Daniel, as an example of living a life of faith. From our perspective, Daniel was amazing. He took bold stands in incredibly difficult situations and triumphed through faith in God. It is easy to think, I wish I had that kind of faith. I am quite sure that Daniel faced all the stress and apprehension that we would in those circumstances. Daniel had to step out in faith, not knowing what the outcome would be. He was willing to trust God, full speed ahead.
I have the tendency to live life timidly. I am cautious and calculated, not bold and spontaneous. When we go on vacation, I book all the motels in advance. It gives me a certain sense of security when I travel. Recently, my wife and I took a week of vacation and traveled up the Mississippi River from Lacrosse to St. Paul. We decided that we would take each day as it came, not planning out the whole trip. We actually embarked on our adventure without having booked all the motels in advance! Scary!
It is natural for some of us to live life at “all ahead slow.” We move tentatively, not wanting to take a wrong turn. We act cautiously, trying to control all the variables, as much as possible. Surprises are not welcome; detours are to be avoided at all costs. This may seem like the safe way to live life, but it is not a life lived by faith.
Living a life by faith is more like “full speed ahead.” Already my cautious side is rebelling, so let me clarify. Living by faith does not mean being reckless, foolhardy or rudderless. It does mean taking positive risks, even when, especially when, we cannot see the outcome. Living by faith is carefully listening to God, seeking to understand the direction He wants us to go, and then boldly stepping out with confidence in Him.
The truth of scripture is that faith always comes before sight. If we can see the other side clearly, then it is not faith. John Ortberg shared this insight about faith. “Where things are possible, faith is impossible.” Those are scary, but true words. God called Abraham to leave everything he was familiar with and go to a land God would show him. God called Moses to leave the security of the back side of the desert and challenge the most powerful leader of his day. God told Joshua to pack up the people and move across a flooded Jordan River to take the Promised Land. In each case, these men had to trust God and step into the unknown before they saw the fruit of their faith. Full speed ahead!
Living “full speed ahead” requires three things. It requires that we have confidence in Christ’s call. It requires that we have clarity about the direction we are going. It requires that we have the courage to move forward.
Many people stumble over the question of God’s specific will for their life. How do I know what God’s will is for my life? The problem is not that Christ hasn’t called, it is that we are looking for the wrong things. We would like a detailed road map of our life. This comes from our need for security and certainty. Christ doesn’t give us a road map, he calls us to follow Him. That is what faith is all about. Our confidence is in our Guide, not in knowing what is coming. The Bible is very clear about Christ’s general call on all of us. Jesus summarized it in two commands. Love God with everything that you have and love people. As we sincerely practice doing these two things, all kinds of amazing opportunities open up to us.
As our confidence in Christ grows, our ability to boldly move forward increases. When I first began actively running again, I was a timid runner. At my first couple of races, I placed myself near the back of the pack. When the gun went off I stepped out tentatively. My confidence in my ability to run the race was low. The more I trained, the more my confidence increased, and it changed the way I approach a race. Now, when it is possible, I get as close to the front as I can at the beginning of the race. When the gun goes off, I sprint forward, quickly putting some distance between myself and the pack. Then I settle in to my pace and run my race. I have learned that if I hold back, I get caught in the pack and cannot run freely. I have also learned that it doesn’t matter if runners pass me along the way, as long as I maintain my pace.
A funny thing happened to me at one particular race. My niece and her husband decided to run in the same race. It was their first race running together and they were a little unsure about it. I told them that I wasn’t a fast runner and that I would run with them. We took our places at the starting line, the gun when off and I took off. After about a ½ mile, I looked around me and my niece and her husband where nowhere to be seen. We laughed about it later. They told me that when the gun went off they started jogging, but I shot forward at full speed. So much for running together.
Living by faith is scary. It is full of “what ifs.” Living by faith is putting our lives in God’s hands and letting Him be in control. But living a life of faith is the only way to experience the full measure of God’s blessings and grace. Hebrews 11:6 makes this point very clear. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Three guys who knew what it means to live by faith were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They three young men faced a life and death challenge and stepped out in faith, full speed ahead. They were given the choice of worshipping an idol or losing their lives. In the face of some pretty overwhelming odds, they demonstrated the most amazing level of faith in God.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Daniel 3:16-18
These three young men demonstrated “even if” faith. They boldly took their stand, not knowing what the outcome would be. They stood firm in their faith in God and refused to compromise. FULL SPEED AHEAD!