Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
I really hope things work out. I hope things get better after the elections. I hope the Christmas season goes well. I hope my health holds out. I hope my money lasts. I hope we don’t have a bad winter like last winter. I hope, I hope, I hope.
Life is full of wishful thinking. We all do it, almost unconsciously. We have been programmed to believe that the future will be better than the present, and that everything will work out for the good in the end. But is that realistic? Is that even honest?
Some people want to link faith and wishful thinking together. They contend that, what we call faith, is just another name for wishful thinking. Is it? I don’t think so. There are some very significant differences between genuine faith and wishful thinking.
Wishful thinking is not based on anything solid. It is a desire for something better, with no real assurance that something better can or will happen. Faith, on the other hand, is solidly based on God and His promises. The everlasting God is the foundation of our faith. As the writer to the Hebrews states it, it all begins with recognizing that God exists and that He is faithful. 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. (Hebrews 11:6)
Faith is based on the solid promises of the Living God. What God promises, He fulfills. God’s track record is more than excellent; it is perfect. As we look back, we can see how God came through for those who trusted Him. Unlike financial planning, God’s past successes do guarantee God’s future faithfulness. Ultimately, all of God’s promises come together and are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Cor. 1:20) Our confidence in God’s promises is on solid ground.
Wishful thinking tends to be passive. It takes a wait and see attitude toward life. Instead of actively working toward a preferred future, wishful thinking lulls people into inactivity. Genuine faith is the exact opposite of this.
Genuine faith motivates us to work toward the fulfillment of God’s promises. It allows us to take risks, knowing that God will use our efforts to accomplish His purposes. In fact, faith demands action. James makes that very clear in James 2:14-17. What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Genuine faith energizes us and gives us the courage to keep going, even when things are difficult. Because we have confidence in Christ, we can see beyond our immediate circumstances to a better outcome. Paul assures us that our faith is not misplaced. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58)
Faith and wishful thinking are miles apart. Wishful thinking creates an artificial sense of hope and well-being that evaporates in the face of reality. Genuine faith creates a solid foundation upon which to build, so that we can face the storms of life and prevail.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.