Saturday, September 26, 2009

Faith - What is that?

My Story

There was a time in my life when I was in a quandry. I was desperately seeking the Lord to know what He wanted me to do. I was out of a job, I did not have any income and I did not have any savings. I had a wife and three children to feed. I could not get employed as I was already quite senior in my years as a practising lawyer. I was so much more senior than many of my colleagues who ran their own law firms. Of course I could enter into a partnership with some friends and draw a good salary and share business profits with them. Several of my friends were inviting me to do that, but that would also necessarily involve commitment to a long term business partnership. I could not bring myself to give my commitment to that because my heart was not in it and it wouldn’t be fair nor exactly honest to give my commitment to people when I had no intentions of staying in partnership with them long term.

Actually at that point, career, was really far away from my mind because God had laid a tremendous burden on my heart for missions to the poor and unreached peoples. I wanted very much to serve the Lord. However, because of several things that happened, I was also going through a lot of misunderstanding, being falsely accused by the church of some things, the result of which I could not work in any churches nor would any Christian organization take me into their employment. I wanted very much to be on the mission field but neither would any mission agency take me under their wings.

When I asked God what he wanted me to do, I expected Him to tell me exactly what to do, where to go, who to see, what arrangements to make, etc.. and how I am to feed my family and have a decent roof over our heads. Before He revealed to me anything more, He showed me that the underlying basic and fundamental thing I had to learn is faith. When questioned by His disciples, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”, Jesus answered, “The work of God is this : to believe in the One He has sent.”Jn.6:29. Yep, just simply this - to believe in Him.

My wife and I went through many struggles to learn to trust God. We were literally living from day to day, not knowing how we were going to have our next meal. Through a long and difficult time, we saw the faithfulness of God each day providing for us miraculously. We had no list of supporters. We had no newsletter or prayer letter. We did not have anyone or any organization providing us regular support. One thing was clear to us – we were not to let anyone know our needs, but to depend on the Lord alone. We were to rest assured that so long as the Lord knew, that would be sufficient. This meant that each time the Lord provided it was truly a miracle. This continued for several years. Yet God never failed to provide. Not only that, the Lord began sending me out to many poor nations, similarly miraculously providing for the air fare and cost of each trip every time.

Over a period of time we learnt what faith means. I would like to share here some of the things we learned. (Note – God leads each of us in different ways; how God led us may not be how He is leading you, but fundamentally He requires faith from each of us)

Some Things We Learnt

So what is faith? When asked, most Christians will quote from Heb.11:1, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. This verse however does not tell us what faith is. It only tells us how faith operates. To understand first what faith is, we need to look at the meaning of the word as used in the Bible. The word “faith” is “pistis” in Greek in the NT. It means trusting, resting or leaning upon, being fully persuaded, even abandoning your entire weight upon…what you believe. ‘Believe’ in Greek in the NT is “pisteuo”. It is the verb for “pistis”. To have faith in God or to believe God is to trust, to rest or lean upon, to be fully persuaded, to abandon yourself, your entire weight upon… God.

When we first ran out of money (with a wife and 3 kids), this is what the Lord said to me, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. For the bread of life is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”Jn.6:35, 33. This is how God was speaking to me - All life comes from God. God is the one who gives life. If I understand that, then I need never ask myself how we would be able to live with no salary and no employment. As you know it has been more than 12 years now and we have never been late in our rent, never missed a meal, never had to ask or tell anyone we needed anything and never owed anyone any money. Not only that, to God’s glory, we have been able to bless more people now than when we had a salary!

God may lead you in different ways, but the fundamental thing is this - we need to believe Him. This requires a paradigm shift in our thinking. There is more to life than just working for our living. We need to rise above that. We need to rise even above the thought of serving God and earning a living at the same time. All I want to do is to serve God - that is all that matters. That is all He created me for. He’ll take care of the rest. Whether I earn a salary or a living or not makes no difference. He did not create me to earn a living. He created me to serve Him. If I take care of His business, He’ll take care of how I’m going to get my daily needs.

I believe that is what Matt.6:33 means : “Seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” You may not be called to live like we do; but in essence it is no different. Though you may earn a salary or operate a business, that is only incidental. The primary thing is we are all created by Him and for Him and His purpose. God can give you regular business or no business at all for weeks and then all of a sudden without you working for it at all he can send a whole lot of business at one go. Or nothing at all, but you’ll still get the money or food somehow. He is the source. He is the prime mover. We need to believe that.

Three Basic Essentials

When I first began to launch out living by faith, God taught me some things which I discovered later that Selwyn Hughes had in his counseling seminars, put it across so clearly, with 3 words - security, self-worth and significance :

God created us to have 3 basic needs :
1. the need for security or unconditional love
2. the need for a sense of self-worth or identity
3. the need for significance or purpose and direction in life

These needs are even more fundamental than the physical need for food and shelter. It goes into the very reason for our existence. Without this, people have no reason to go on living.

The interesting thing is that having these needs does not reveal a weakness. Instead, God designed us to have these needs and designed it so that these needs can only be met in God Himself. Not in anything or anyone other than God Himself. Whether people are aware of it or not, they try to satisfy these needs with things or a career or a profession or they look to people to give them love or acceptance or to give them their sense of identity and purpose. We men especially see our career or profession as the security for our lives, where we look to for a living, where we gain acceptance, recognition, find our identity in and it determines the purpose and direction of our lives. This of course is a false belief which sooner or later will be discovered to be lacking, frustrating or at any rate unsatisfactory.

How Will I Live? Who Am I? Where Am I Going?

I wonder if God has somehow been doing something in your life to shake your belief in yourself and He is addressing the question of your existence, identity and purpose. How am I going to live? What am I good for? Who am I? Where am I going? I have observed that very often, when people become Christians, their religious belief changes. But nothing else in their belief system about themselves and what they are doing changes. That remains unconverted. God however will not allow that to go on very long. If we take Him seriously, sooner or later He will bring these things to our attention. He wants to get to the core of our being to have a real change of heart. He wants us to know Him as our security, get from Him our identity and sense of self-worth, and for Him to determine for us our purpose and direction in life.

Whether I have a job or income or not, makes no difference. Even with a job and income, God is to be my security; not the job or the income. He wants me to know I am precious to Him; that He loves me unconditionally. I don’t have to earn His love. He wants me to know who I am in His creation, what He has designed me to be and how much He values me. I don’t have to prove myself or try to be someone I am not meant to be. He wants me to know the purpose for which He created me and it is in walking in that purpose that I will be fulfilled.

Self, in place of God

God designed us to have these 3 basic needs met by God alone; not by anything or anyone else. People however do not realise this and try to have these needs satisfied by things or people. Instead of focusing on God and receiving His love and loving others in return, man has become self-centered. All our energies are channeled to preserve and protect ourselves and serve our own interests. Instead of looking to God for love and acceptance and an understanding of who we are, a sense of our identity and value and getting from God purpose, meaning and direction, we have become independent of God and we are trying by self-effort to make our lives work. This really is the whole problem of man. Self-suffiency, self-determination, self-justification, self-effort, self-love, self-centeredness, etc. describe man's condition.

Satan's lie to Adam was that he could be a more fulfilled person by being independent of God. Ever since then, everyone has operated on the same belief. We don't want anyone to control our lives; not even God. We fear losing control of our lives. Satan told Adam, "You can be like God; you can be in control." Man has become his own god. What we don't realise is that we were never meant to function like this. God told Adam that if he became independent, he would die. The more we want to be independent, the more we are getting away from God's design and destroying ourselves. It is going back to God’s original design for us.

Faith is Resting in God’s Love

Through the struggles we went through, I came to realize, that faith, is returning to God and depending on Him and finding in Him the security, love and acceptance and approval we need. Faith is returning to the relationship that God originally intended for us - of total dependence upon Him, constantly drawing life from Him. Prov.3:5-6, Jn.5:26, Jn.15. It is going back to God’s original design for us. Faith is also knowing from God the unique and special person He has created each one of us to be. We have a true understanding of our identity and worth from God Himself. Faith is also receiving from God direction and understanding of the destiny He has planned and purposed for us based on how He has designed us.

When I know God loves me and I rest in His love, then :

• I am not fearful of my future
• I don't have to strive to make things work in my favor
• I know He will provide for all my needs and I don't have to strive to make sure my needs are met
• It is not important how others see me; whether others love or accept me; and it doesn't matter whether others misunderstand me or reject me. I know I am loved, accepted and valued by God
• I will not fall into the performance trap. God values me for who He has created me to be, not in how well I perform
• I will have meaning, direction and purpose in life
• I will be able to relate openly, genuinely, warmly and lovingly with others
• I will serve God to my utmost, not to prove to myself or anyone or even to God what I can do, nor to gain anything, but simply out of my love for Him as I share His heart and His concerns

“We love because He first loved us” – John, 1 Jn.4:19

“For the love of Christ compels me.” – Paul, 2Cor.5:14

When God is my security and when I know that God loves me unconditionally, then I need not fear anything. I don’t have to strive to survive. I don’t have to do or be anything to earn His love. I don’t have to strive to gain His acceptance and understanding. I just need to trust Him, rest in Him, and He will take care of me and all whom I love. I and my family are safe and secure in His hands. Knowing the Father’s love is everything. That’s the first and most fundamental thing God wants us to know deep in our hearts. We are to rest in His love.

Next, when I know God regards me as precious to Him, I have my sense of self-worth and identity. I am His son, His bond-servant. I belong to Him. That’s the greatest thing there can ever be. I know who I am. I don’t need the recognition of men to tell me who I am. As I press on to know Him and His calling on my life, I will understand more and more the position and function I occupy in His body. It is God who tells me who I am, what I was created to be. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, not even to my own self, to know my identity or my own worth.

Last of all, when I know God has uniquely designed and purposed me before the foundation of the world to not only be a part of His creation but also to be actively involved in the continuous creativity of God, then I have purpose and direction. It is God who will not only direct me specifically but also show me how He has purposed me to make a significant impact upon this world, to be part of His on-going work to bring about His eternal plan and purposes. This is what gives me my purpose and direction in life. I don’t have to figure out on my own what I’ll do or where I am going to end up. When I understand this then I know I was created for a purpose; I am not just an insignificant nobody who happens to be living in this time period in the history of the world. I am here to make history - to be a significant part of His story.

We must turn our lives over to Him. A.W. Tozer said, “Faith is resting upon the character of God.” God can be trusted. If we don’t trust Him, who shall we trust? As Peter said, “To whom shall we go to; You have the words of eternal life.”

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