Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Where Faith Stands

If a firm faith is found in the unknowing in-between, in contemplating God's character and knowing His nature, in embracing the unexpected while rejected the unpredictable God, what does that even look like? They are good words, a good idea, perhaps, but what is the practical manifestation of such a faith?

It's prayer. It's worship. But not in the way that comes naturally to us.

I shared yesterday that I recently received some good news. This good news did not redefine my faith. That is, I did not rejoice in God's goodness over the outcome and did not set myself up for disappointment should tomorrow, God "fail" me. I did not respond in fickle faith, but in confident assurance and humbled grace. So how did I get there? How do you get there?

It starts in a prayer that goes beyond the circumstances. I knew this good news was a real possibility. I knew also that discouraging news was a real possibility. News, one way or the other, was coming. Our natural inclination, and I will admit that it is also often mine, is to fervently pray for the good news. Right? We make a testimony of our faithfulness. We cry out our emptiness, which in our minds so conveniently looks good news-shaped, like the right good thing to come into our lives (the very thing we are praying for!) is the piece of the puzzle that will fill us up, that will make us whole again. We focus on what we've done to make the good news possible, and we try to persuade God that the investment of a good thing in us will be worth it. We will make it worth it.

Most of us are taught this way, I think. Sadly, we're set up for our prayer to fail our faith. If this is what you've been taught about prayer, what happens when it's not good news? How do you keep believing in God? How do you keep praying? More importantly, if you "can't have" this one good thing, how do you believe in anything good? (This is one of the reasons I wrote Unfolded Hands.)

Perhaps most devastatingly, however, is that when you pray for the good that you hope will come, you miss out on the good that God is already doing in you. You're focused on what goodness looks like tomorrow, and totally missing how it manifests today.

The only reason I was in a position to expect good news at all was because I took a step forward on the word God had already spoken in my life. I was doing the things He had put in me to do, without knowing how they would turn out. I had a firm sense of what God was doing in me and stepped in faith toward the next logical thing, all the while praying for God's guidance. In the waiting, then, I could have prayed into the circumstances. I could have prayed for the very specific good thing. I could have...and did. That's how this all started.

But as time wears on and the waiting intensifies, something in my heart changed. I got tired of holding onto one thing because I realized that boxing myself into circumstances was pulling me out of calling. It was taking me away from the word of God that had put me in the place of hope at all. So I stopped praying, and stopped worrying, about "Plan A" and went back to the Promise. I meditated on the word God had given me. I devoted my time and energy to remembering what He's already spoken. I prayed that He would continue to weave my story together in the way He already had been, a way that was becoming abundantly clear to me but at the same time, leaves tomorrow wide open for His wisdom. I let the word He's already spoken fill my heart.

No longer is it, "Lord, You know how badly I want X and I think it's what You want for me." Instead, it's "Lord, thank You for the Word You've given me and the promise on which it stands. I am taking faithful steps, but I trust You for the details, and I can't wait to see where You lead me."

And you know what? That's how I got - that's how we get - to a place where when the world speaks, it's okay. Either way, it's okay. 

From the very same simple switch in my heart, my worship also changed. I have found myself praising God every day for what He's doing in me. I'm not waiting to see how He's doing it; I know that He's doing it, and that is why I worship. That's why I praise. I'm not waiting for a reason. I'm not hedging my bets on tomorrow. I've got today, and I know what today brings because it's His Word that echoes in my soul. It doesn't matter what tomorrow brings. It doesn't matter whether it's good or bad. It doesn't matter whether it looks the way I think it's supposed to look because I am powerfully aware of the work God is doing in me, and of His promise, and that's reason enough to praise. Tomorrow doesn't change that. Good news doesn't change that. Discouraging news doesn't change that.

That's really what I wanted to share with you this week. That's what it looks like to have God's word in your heart, to be meditating on His character, to know what He's doing and trust in His promise, all while you're waiting to see the plan.

Your plan might never be God's plan. But His promise is always your promise. Meditate on that. Let that word sink into your heart. Let it define you. Let it shape you. That's what a firm faith looks like. That's where it stands - on the promises of God.

You will not be disappointed.

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