A young woman on a Caribbean cruise was staring at a handsome guy leaning on the deck rail, gazing out over the ocean. After a while he noticed her staring at him, so he went over to say hi. She said shyly, “I hope you don’t mind me staring at you, but you resemble my first husband so much.”
The guy replied, “You look very young. How many times you have been married?”
The girl smiled and said, “Oh, I haven’t been married… yet.” Now that girl had faith that she had found the right guy, and she was acting on it.
Faith is like that. Faith is a hope and a trust in the future, in what is to be. Throughout the Bible we see stories of ordinary people like you and me who possessed extraordinary faith.
Noah had it. God said, “Noah, build Me a big old boat in your front yard.” Imagine all of the laughter and finger-pointing Noah had to live with. Yet he gathered up his courage and acted on God’s word. Even though some people said, “Why do you need a boat? We never had a boat before. What a waste of wood…” Noah trusted God’s word and acted in faith.
Then there’s the Old Testament story of Abraham and Sarah. Abe and Sarah, retired and sitting on the front porch, watching the world go by. The mortgage was paid off, Abe went fishing now and then, and Sarah had her bunco night. Life was good.
God comes along and says, “Gather up all your stuff. Sell your house and come with me.” To top it off, God didn’t tell Abe and Sarah where he was taking them. God could have been taking them to Nome, Alaska or South Central L.A., or inner-city Detroit … they didn’t know, but that didn’t matter to Abraham. He put his hope and trust in the Lord and moved forward in faith.
That’s what faith is all about – acting on God’s word. Faith reaches out into this world with the life-saving story of Jesus. Faith is a trusting, dynamic, forward-looking relationship with God in which we grow to live more Christ-like lives. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can help others to have that same life-saving, joyful relationship with Jesus.
Noah and Abraham did not look back to the past but courageously stepped out in faith, focused on the future. God calls us to do the same.
Jesus told a parable about this. In the Gospel of Luke, he explains that no one who puts their hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God.
God tells us in Philippians to forget about the past. It’s over and done with. No matter how much we may want to go back, the Bible tells us we can’t. God says look ahead. Focus on the prize, the goal to which he has called us, for which he has created us and gathered us together as his church.
Sadly, many Christians miss this truth. For many people, faith is cautious, apprehensive and anxiety-ridden, and the joy of Jesus gets put on the back of the shelf and seldom experienced. Spiritually speaking, we become frozen in our steps.
One night, 13-year-old Sara’s house caught fire and the flames chased her onto the roof. Her father stood below with out-stretched arms, calling out, “Jump. I’ll catch you.” Sara was very afraid, but her father continued to yell, “Don’t worry. Jump. I will catch you.”
“I can’t see you,” she yelled back.
“But I can see you,” her dad said, “and that’s all that matters.”
Sara jumped and was saved, not because she could see where to jump, but because she trusted her father. That’s what faith in God is. It’s when we totally trust and depend on the power of God’s grace. We can’t see that power, yet we can use it to bring others into a saving relationship with Jesus because of faith.
As Hebrews 11 tells us, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Maybe you’re thinking, that’s crazy. I can’t believe in something just because I want it to be true. I need to see it for myself. I need proof.
My answer is that you are already doing it without realizing it. For instance, have you seen oxygen? None of us have, yet we believe it’s all around us 24/7.
Have you seen gravity? Nobody has, yet when Sara jumped off the burning roof, she expected to land in her dad’s waiting arms because of gravity.
The point is, just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Faith is not static or passive; it’s not just words we say. It’s a trusting, dynamic and forward-looking relationship with God. Living life to the fullest, out on the edge. Noah lived it when he built the ark. Abraham lived it when he packed up everything and followed God. St. Paul lived it when he left the old laws and traditions behind. And it’s the kind of faith God calls each of us to have.
But how do we develop that kind of faith?
It’s a trick question because on our own we can’t develop that kind of faith. It takes the Holy Spirit working in our hearts to do that. That’s why the Lord tells us to come together, study his word, and pray together. These are the ways that God works in us so that we can live Christ-like lives and develop the gifts that God has given us.
Are you developing and using your God-given spiritual gifts? Do you even know they are? When we don’t recognize and use our gifts, we aren’t reflecting God’s love into the world, it’s like Michelangelo not painting, Babe Ruth not playing baseball, or Einstein not theorizing about math and physics.
But the greatest thing we miss out on when we ignore our gifts from the Holy Spirit is the joy of the Lord that bubbles up inside and fills our spirits. God made us to experience joy when we use these gifts to build his kingdom. And who can’t use a little more joy in their life? Why live without it, when our gracious God offers it to us at every turn?
On Animal Planet, they interview a man who wrestles alligators and picks up rattlesnakes bare-handed. The interviewer said, “With all the dangerous things you do, you must not be afraid of anything.”
After a few seconds, the man said, “You know what scares the pants off me, more than any wild animal I’ve ever faced? It’s getting married and having kids because what greater risk is there than trusting your life to another person, ‘til death do us part? It’s an emotional leap of faith.”
That’s the faith God calls us to live – Trusting our lives to Jesus, knowing the good news that death will never separate us from our Lord and Savior.