By Michael J. Klassen
The word practically jumped out of my mouth that moment on New Year’s morning, 2008, because I knew what was coming. In a few days I planned to resign my position without any idea of how we would pay the bills.
Years ago, bumper stickers emblazoned with the hopeful observation that “$#*&!! Happens” were popular. Well, I had a strong feeling that $#*&!! was about to happen.
Last week, we explored the only life that’s pleasing to God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). The apostle Paul adds, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Furthermore, he writes “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
Faith is obviously important to God.
He wants us living in such a way that we need to rely on him. It means prayerfully taking a faith jump and depending on him to catch us just before we hit the ground. (If you haven’t already, click on the link at the beginning of this post. It’s an exhilarating example of taking the faith jump.)
Here’s the bottom line: God wants to play an intimate role in our life. God doesn’t want to be a part of our life, he wants to be our life.
So how do we get there?
You Can’t Live A Life That’s Pleasing To God On Your Own
Faith isn’t equivalent to sweat; you can’t force it out of you. Nor is it the result of finding a Bible verse that applies to your situation which you quote over and over until your “faith” forces God to surrender to your request.
You might find this a little frustrating (it did to me that January morning), but we can’t manufacture faith on our own. The writer of Hebrews states Jesus is the author, pioneer, or founder of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Other Scripture passages communicate the same thing—faith comes from God (see Romans 12:3). While this is true, that doesn’t mean that we should sit around waiting for God to suddenly impart faith to us, like a bolt of lightening.
This places us in a precarious position. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God; everything that doesn’t come from faith is sin. Yet we cannot generate our own faith. We’re stuck!
The Life That’s Pleasing To God Usually Includes Problems
Which brings us back to my New Years’ morning. Contemplating my impending resignation announcement, I asked God to show me what the new year would look like. That’s when I sensed God whispering deep inside me,
This year, I’m going to strengthen your faith.
Hence my guttural reply.
I knew that the only way faith can be strengthened is by placing it in the position where it is needed, or exercised like a muscle. In other words, the upcoming year would be a test of my faith.
EM Bounds, the great apostle of prayer, once wrote,
Prayer in its highest form and grandest success assumes the attitude of a wrestler with God. It is the contest, trial, and victory of faith; a victory not secured from an enemy, but from him who tries our faith that he may enlarge it; that tests our strength to make us stronger (Power Through Prayer).
Quite often, God tries our faith in order to enlarge it and to make it stronger.
At the same time, I would be remiss to ignore one other important ingredient to strengthening our faith. Paul wrote that “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
The measure of faith every believer receives—even as small as a mustard seed—comes from God. Hearing, reading, and meditating on God’s word—which is really Jesus speaking to us because he’s the Word made flesh (John 1:1,14)—waters those seeds. Hardship forces us to go to God in prayer and seek his intervention. Then, as we see him respond, our faith is strengthened.
So what did 2008 look like for us? Constant challenges, usually related to finances. Yet somehow, the challenges never kept me awake at night. We paid our bills. God led me to Eugene Scott and we began working on planting The Neighborhood Church. And I decided I never wanted to live safe again.
Obviously, life rarely follows our plans nor does it come together as neatly as we wish. But when faith grows, we learn that we can trust God—even when the results look disappointing.
More on that in next week’s post!
Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.