“The righteous will live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)
The Spirit of God lives inside and has all the resources of heaven to empower me. But what if I don’t seem to experience a supernatural quality of life? Everything I say or do, even most of my attitudes and thoughts, could be explained by a good psychologist in terms of what I might have inherited and what my circumstances might have been. What’s wrong? I may not have a close connection with the Spirit. The divine current doesn’t flow automatically – I have to throw the switch, and the switch is faith. “The righteous will live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4) must be an important truth. It’s the only Old Testament faith quoted three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). Not only are we justified by faith, but we live out the Christian life by that same faith. “As you… received Christ Jesus the Lord [by faith], so walk in him [by faith]” (Colossians 2: 6, NKJV, author’s paraphrase). The Holy Spirit within does his work when we throw the switch of faith. But is he really able to give me the victory over my besetting sin? Someone else, maybe, but me?
One day, when I was stumbling down a dark alley of doubt, three Bible stories startled me with what I was actually saying about God.
- The father was distraught. Jesus’ disciples had failed to live up to the advertisements. They couldn’t heal the father’s son of his terrifying condition. Then Jesus came on the scene and the father said, “If you can, heal my son,” (Mark 9:22-23, author’s paraphrase) “If you can!” What kind of lead-in is that?
- The hired mourners had lots of experience with dead people. They knew dead when they saw it. So they slapped one another on the back and scoffed. As they pointed at the itinerant preacher, they said, “Some healer he is! He doesn’t even know the kid is dead. We know better.” (Luke 8: 53, author’s paraphrase). You know better? What kind of talk is that?
- The wind howled and the waves lashed the little boat mercilessly, terrifying those seasoned fishermen. But there was a passenger on board who had no better sense than to lean back on a pillow in the stern and go to sleep. “Enough of this!” The fisherman shook their leader awake, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you care that we’re dead men?” (Mark 4: 38, author’s paraphrase) “Don’t you care? “What kind of question is that?
These were questions of unbelief. The father wondered if Jesus could handle his tough situation, the professional mourners were more confident in their own judgment than his, and the disciples accused him of being uncaring. When those three Bible stories woke me to what I was actually saying about God, I saw my “innocent” flirtations with unbelief as actually calling into question the very character of God. What an insult. When we fail to trust God, we are actually questioning his power (as the father did) or his wisdom (as the mourners did) or his love (as the disciples did). We’re saying in effect, “You’re not strong enough to handle my rotten boss, to make me victorious with my impatience, to meet my needs while I’m unemployed.” Or we’re saying, “I’m not sure you’re smart enough to figure out how to get me out of this jam, to guide me in the best way. I think I know a better way than yours.” Or we’re saying, “you’re powerful enough, alright, and you’re smart enough. You just don’t care that much about me.” We call into question the character of God. That’s the first problem with unbelief. God is displeased when we don’t trust him; He has been insulted. And by a family member at that. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6). When we don’t trust him, it makes God sad, just as it makes us sad when someone we love doesn’t trust us. But there’s more to the tragedy. Not only is God hurt; so are we. Unbelief short circuits the flow of divine energy. The Holy Spirit won’t act freely in the life of one who doesn’t trust him for salvation, for growth, for success. In the Christian life, for power and ministry, faith is the connector to God-power. How about you? What are you saying to God about your point of need? Is He powerful enough? Smart enough? Strong enough? Does He love you enough? Or do you know better?