In 2 Corinthians 5:7, the Apostle Paul tells us to "walk by faith not by sight." Oftentimes we can repeat a nice sounding verse from scripture over and over without actually knowing what it means. So what does it mean to walk by faith? What is faith?
“Gratitude is thanking God after He does it. Faith is thanking God before He does it.” - Mark Batterson
From the book of Hebrews in the New Testament we are told, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
So faith is being sure that what we hope for will come to pass. But how is this possible? How can we be sure that anything will come to pass? And how can I force myself to believe something that I just simply don’t believe?
You cannot change what you truly believe by sheer act of will. For example, I can’t look at a man wearing a blue shirt and force myself to believe that his shirt is yellow. This doesn’t work in daily life and it doesn’t work in the spiritual life.
However, it is possible to alter many of our beliefs over time. One method is described by Napoleon Hill in his famous Think and Grow Rich known as ‘auto-suggestion’ or ‘self hypnosis.’ This is the idea behind the popular technique of affirmations - repeating a statement over and over to yourself until you believe it. However, this method will only be as successful as the affirmation is believable. For example, affirming ‘I am a grateful person’ may in fact help shift many of my thoughts toward gratitude. However, ‘I am a 6’7” player in the NBA’ will not manifest itself no matter how many times I say it.
Of course the pharmaceutical industry is quick to suggest taking a drug to alter our beliefs about ourselves. There is a time and place for medication, but many times drugs simply mask symptoms rather than get to the root of the problem.
As Christians we have an alternative to the secular and new age methods offered by our world: Conforming to God’s will.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” - Romans 12:2
To be a Christian is to believe that God’s plans are greater than our own. We believe that His will is inconceivably greater than ours. Being a follower of Jesus means submitting our will to His. As humans, tainted by pride and ignorance, this can be a very uncomfortable process to go through. Our wishes and desires are like worms and dust compared to the glorious riches that await us in the will of God, and yet we will scratch and claw in order to maintain control. If we truly are to become image bearers of Christ, we must necessarily go though a metamorphosis in which the old dies so that the new can be born. This is not simply a one time occurrence. Though many will experience lighting bolt like experiences of rebirth (see the stories of the Apostle Paul and St Augustine) taking up our cross, dying to self, is a daily occurrence for every single one of us. (Luke 9:23)
Such a thing is far too difficult to do on our own. And we aren’t supposed to do it on our own, for we know “if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Prayer is without a doubt one of the most misunderstood aspects of Christianity. Those outside of the church unequivocally do not understand it (if they did, I am convinced, they would be a part of the church), and still many of us within the church do not understand it. The power of prayer is not only real, it is more real than our minds are capable of comprehending.
Too many people treat God like Santa Clause rather than the King of the Universe. Exercise your imagination for a moment and imagine that you are now a peasant in the Roman Empire. By a miraculous stroke of luck, you have been given an opportunity to speak with the Emperor, the most powerful man in the known world - an opportunity most people could only dream of. Would you spend your short time in his presence mentally aloof, your mind occupied with other things? Or would you bow down to him and speak with reverence and respect?
If you dared ask the almighty Caesar for anything, would you rattle off a wish list of your personal desires? Or would you humble yourself before him and ask how you can serve him?
What would be the quickest way to be removed from his court? Focusing on your own desires.
What is the surest way to remain in his presence? To serve his desires.
Of course Jesus is far greater than any mortal king. The kings of this world are often corrupt and self serving tyrants. Our God on the other hand, is pure love (1 John 4:8). So then, how much more should we want to serve our King? For those of us who profess to be Christians, why would we treat a human king with more fear and respect than we do the One we profess as King of all creation? We must remember that we are always in the presence of God. We must not mistake, like Adam, that we can hide from God. Every moment of our lives is spent in His presence.
Okay, now back to prayer.
The Apostle James tells us,
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubt, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” - James 1:5-6
Jesus Himself reveals to us,
“Whoever does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” -Mark 11:23-24
Remember, you cannot force yourself to believe anything (the blue shirt still is not yellow). So how can we pray and believe?
Ready for the secret?
Don’t let its simplicity fool you, for the deepest truths are always the most simple. Here it is:
Pray for things that you already believe are in accordance with the will of God.
If you have any faith at all in God, then you know His divine will has no choice but to be accomplished. So when you pray for His will to be accomplished, you do not need to wonder if your prayers will be answered. You know they will.
What types of prayers are in accordance with the will of God? This is a question worthy of much meditation. The answers are revealed when we dive into Scripture the way an explorer dives into an exotic land in search of hidden treasure. The entire Bible is the story of God’s will - both Old and New Testaments. But the core of Scripture is the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end (Rev 22:13). Hunger for the words of Christ the way a beggar man hungers for bread, and you will be filled.
Jesus told his disciples that when He was to be lifted up from the earth (crucified) that He would begin the process of drawing ALL people to Himself (John 12:32). Therefore it is God’s will that, somehow, all will be drawn to Him. Jesus tells us that if we seek we will find (Matt 7:7). If a deeper relationship with God is what we seek, then we must simply pray consistently for God to reveal Himself. This is a prayer that has no choice but to come to pass.
If you don’t have the Beloved
Why aren’t you seeking Him?
If you do have the Beloved
Why aren’t you rejoicing?