In search of...faith
Have you ever doubted God? Ever wondered if He even exists? I know it's popular today to take varying opinions about God. In fact, when someone says they are praying to God, my first thought is "which one?" Because today we live in a pluralistic society and there can be a lot of confusion as to who God really is. And some people don't like the answer that we have to take God by faith because it's a lot easier to believe something we can see, is it not? I once had a friend tell me that you can't give a person faith. They either have it or they don't. She's right, to a point. From a human standpoint, it's like leading a horse to water. You can show the horse the path, even guide him to the stream or water source, but you can't force the horse to drink what is right before him. In the same way, a person can tell another person about God, share their story of what God has done in their life, share their love for God, share God's Word with them, pray for them, etc., but we can't make a person believe. We can't give faith as a gift. Only God can do that.
For faith is a gift. It is God's gift to us. We have to open the gift, but it is freely offered to any who want it, to anyone who asks for it. Of course, even free gifts cost something.
For the Giver of faith, the cost was deadly. The cost meant separation in the worst way. It meant betrayal, abandonment, torture at the hands of God's enemies. Jesus, to give us this faith, even endured something He had never experienced in all eternity--his Father's abandonment. During the time He hung on the cross and carried the weight of the sins of the world, God, His Father, turned His back on His only son. The ultimate cost paid in order to give the ultimate gift.
But faith also carried a cost to us. Does that sound foreign to you? I've heard all of my life that salvation is a free gift of God. And that's true. And yet...we can't receive the gift without the cost of our pride. We cannot come to God thinking we deserve the gift or that He owes it to us or like we are doing Him a favor or even that we are just trying to have a "get out of hell" free card.
That's not how faith works. I once knew a woman (now deceased) who told me that when she died God had better let her into heaven--after all she had done for Him. I was fairly startled by that comment, probably because I had never met someone who felt so deserving of a gift. Like she was entitled to something that was so costly. For faith is worth more than a priceless jewel. More than all the gold earth can hold, worth more than every relationship, every job, everything. We definitely do NOT deserve it.
But to come to God and ask for faith (even in the middle of our doubts) means we have to admit a few things. We have to recognize that He's God and we're not. We have to surrender our pride, admit we sin and don't meet His standards, have to give our whole lives over to Him--let Him be the one who calls the shots. Essentially, if we want faith that leads to eternity, to heaven that is far more glorious than we can imagine, we can't just pray a quick prayer and never change our thinking.
Faith means a change of heart.
If you look back at Abraham and Sarah, for example, they followed God's call to move because they believed Him. They trusted for 25 years that God would give them a child, until they got impatient and took matters into their own hands. But in the end, God tested Abraham's trust, to see if the man's faith was really placed in God not in the things God could give him. Abraham passed the test. God counted him righteous and we see him today as a great man of faith.
Faith doesn't mean we never question or doubt. I have my share of those all the time. But once faith is truly real and we are willing to give God everything, no matter what, we never lose that faith. Oh the shield (of faith) we hold up to fight against the doubts and darts of the enemy might look pretty battered sometimes and we might even lower it too much and get wounded and felled by doubt's arrows. But faith is really only a prayer away.
The disciples asked Jesus to "increase our faith". If they could ask such a thing, so can we. And since God is the giver of faith, all we really need to do is want it badly enough to ask Him for it.