Updated: Aug 30, 2019
[ 3 Findings to Forming Faithfulness]
Definition: Faithfulness GRK: “Pistis” The persuasion of trust; God’s divine persuasion, trust in God’s warrant.
Do you ever feel like following God’s will is much like being strapped in on a roller coaster as you question why you ever stood in line to ride it in the first place? Well, if so, you are not alone.
Last year at this time, I was in the single rider lane, heading straight for the front row of a terrifying ride called fighting for faith.
I had intentionally been seeking the Lord in my decision making, desiring more than ever to follow His will wherever it led me. Yet, as I walked forward into what I discerned to be what God had prepared for me, I found myself repeatedly being directed to a place of pain and uncertainty. It is here, I quickly question my steps and struggled to see the assurance of my Savior.
The writer of Hebrews defines faith as, “The assurance of things hoped for and, the conviction of things not seen.” (11v1)
Based on this definition, faith is the act of trusting in God’s warranty to fulfill His promises when we cannot see.
My not-so-big epiphany is this: To be faithful, I must first be faith-filled.
This “transfer of trust” is a daily decision to surrender my self-sufficiency and submit to the sovereignty of my Lord and Savior, being assured that He is faithful to fulfill His promises.
As I have been studying the concept of faithfulness in the context of our series, I continue to go back to how faithfulness. is developed. What my life has taught me in the last 27 years and nearly two months, it that faith is formed in the free-fall moments of life.
There have been so many seasons within my journey where I begged God to change the course of my path, granting me some sort of solid direction midst the confusion of my feelings and the difficulty of my course. But still, silence would consume my soul.
"Where is God in the free fall," I began to ask. How can paths of pain and purposelessness be where faithfulness is found. To be frankly honest, this valley of the unknown created frustration within my relationship with God yet my understanding of His character bid me acknowledge the unchanging nature of His goodness and love towards me. I laugh as I write this over-stated truth because my heart so often challenges this statement by asking, “How is this (insert hard situation) God loving me?”
What about this roller-coaster-like journey is evidence of His faithfulness?
If I am truly seeking His face and His will, why does He so often invite me into painful places where my heart wrestles with my head and my path seems so uncertain.
These questions are much like the steep incline of the roller coaster’s assent, I find myself barely able to breathe as I consider my lack of control in the coming downward trajectory.
As I retrace my steps through revisiting my journal entries, I see my heart begging for direction and seeking surrender as I secured myself in the front row of the coaster’s cart, fully trusting in the faithfulness of my Father to keep me safe.
“I want to surrender everything. I will not submit to any fear and trust in you completely. Lead me to a new place more of you. Please guard my heart and train my soul to follow you” -March 18th, 2018.
These words sting my wind-whipped face, as I see just how this prayer has come to fruition. I asked to experience a lack of control and fearlessly stepped into a place of faith, by seeking the Lord to lead me to a deeper understanding of who He is. The last statement in this particular entry is one I repeat in my heart again and again- "Train my soul to follow you."
What does this even look like, the training of one’s soul to follow Jesus into painful places of faith formation? Ironically, my search for answers brought me to a study on James 1, which talks about the concepts joy through trials, dependence on God, and the trust of His gracious character (how fitting). In breaking these truths down, I have begun to find a footing in this fight for faithfulness. Here are just a few take always from James’ words:
1. Pain has Purpose
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
These verses are frequently quoted in times of challenge, yet I feel as though the hope found in James’ message is frequently missed. You see, joy in its original definition (as we have studied-see my post on joy) is translated as “awareness of God’s grace” With this understanding, we are challenged to be aware of God’s grace when faced with trials.
I believe this perspective can change the way we look at challenges. Joy is not a fake sense of happiness but rather an authentic consciousness of God’s goodness towards us. Crazy to think that God can even use HARD THINGS in our lives to show us His grace. James explains that this joy is seen in the product and purpose of steadfastness. This process of allowing steadfastness to have its full effect is KEY. In more blunt terms, James is saying here- “Hey, when pain is present, lean in, knowing that God, in His grace, will use it purposely.” One commentator explained this process as necessary to the spiritual journey. Much like a telescope must be extended to function at its full-strength, we too, in embracing trials with endurance, train our souls to reach the capacity of our effectiveness in spiritual maturity. Simply put, our faith grows!
2. Clarity is found in Faith
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”
Man, this is where I fight hard to press into what God is teaching me. As I contemplate James’ words, I am brought to the understanding that I often lack “clarity” to see how God will use the pain of loneliness, hurt, fear, and uncertainty to shape me.
James makes it sound so simple, doesn’t he? “Lack of wisdom? Just ask.” Why, thanks, James. Following this simple statement, James reminds us that although God, in His nature, gives generously to those who ask for clarity, we must ask in faith. This bold trust is grounded in the confidence of God’s warranty and found in our surrender to His Lordship.
I feel that faith is one of those concepts we can overuse and lack to comprehend.
Faith is not a feeling, it is a transfer of trust from my limited vision, as a mere passenger on the coaster, to God’s character as the sovereign engineer and designer of the course.
When I think about it, I rarely worry that I am going to lose my seat on a man-made roller coaster, and simply relax in the expectation that what has been created will sustain the length of the ride. How I wish I viewed my ride with Jesus with the same confidence. A. W Tozer defines faith saying, “The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us to not be afraid of him. To fear and not be afraid of is the paradox of faith”. I want this type of faith, one that recognizes God’s power and promises. A faith that is founded in humility and dependence on God rather than self-focused preservation.
3. Promises are Produced in God’s Presence
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
By remaining steadfast in the painful places, my trust is put into action. Much like gripping the overhead restraints with all my might as I plunge headfirst down the greatest height of coaster’s track. It is here my hands begin to release their death grip and my eye begins to open, as I experience the freedom found in “free-falling”.
What Joy we find in this terrifying activity, raising our arms in full surrender as we embrace the twists and turns, ups and downs. How this picture parallels to what we can find in the trials of life. You see, much like the thrill of the roller coaster, I am learning to embrace the free-falling feeling of surrender to God’s plan and purpose. As you can tell, my embracing process is a work in progress, yet I am convinced that there is a victorious living found within its bounds.
James states that those who have stood the test will receive the “crown of life”. What a depiction of faith’s victory.
I want to live a victorious life.
But where do we begin? I believe it comes down to entrusting our souls to the one who promises abundant life. I must trust what Jesus says in John 10:10, that He desires to grant me life, and life more abundantly than I could even imagine for myself.
Peter puts it this way: “Therefore, let those who suffer according to Gods will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (I Peter 4:19)”.
This sentence has everything to do with the faithfulness of my father and nothing to do with me escaping the suffering I am placed in. Peter doesn’t say, entrust your soul and your faithful creator will remove the suffering but rather with a victorious faith, press in and press on. By entrusting my soul to the one who has overcome the world, I find victory in pain, brokenness, unmet expectations, loss, and heartache. And this victory, John reminds us is founded in our FAITH (I John 5:4). Faith that Christ is for us even when our world is turned upside down.
Although I am not a fan of the “upside-down roller coasters” I find myself drawn to the challenge that they present, mainly in not allowing my head to be repeatedly beat against the sides of my restraints. I have come up with a solution – and no, it’s not avoiding the ride itself although that could be a safer option. My game plan is always to place my head intentionally against one side of my restraints and press the hell in. And guess what? My head stays put, no whiplash, no broken eardrums. After employing this tactic, I always exit the ride with a feeling of victory that despite the coaster’s power and speed, I was unable to move.
I want this unmovable faith.
I believe this what Jesus is calling me to in this season. To press in. Hang on. Raise my hands. Scream louder than ever and experience the joy of God’s unfailing faithfulness amidst my free-fall. I am scared, unsettled, and weary. But I am also empowered, encouraged, and focused to hold out for God’s beautiful promises. For how I long to be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7-8)
"We must learn to take God at His word and walk straight ahead in obedience, even when we see no way to go forward." -Streams in the Desert