“But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”
Everyone wants to know that their life matters – to certain people we love and respect, to the world as a whole, and ultimately to God.
We may think that a life of impact and significance is all about the Big story – the sort of things movies are made of. The big events are important, of course, but what defines a life – mine and yours – are the seemingly small actions and choices that we make on a moment-to-moment basis. Their apparent smallness belies the significance of each – but they are the building blocks of a life.
I have, for most of my life, questioned why we/I make the choices I make. This is not just academic curiosity – I want to know how to make better choices and to encourage others to do the same. I got a moment of clarity recently: what had been missing in my understanding was the significance of the “God Factor.” It seems that He takes even the smallest inclination to risk: to step out in faith, and enlarges it. But why does a person take even that small risk? I don’t know, except for the dream of the possibility of better things. All God needs is a “mustard seed” of faith to start with, and He can grow it into something big. He plants the seed, and it is up to us to water and take care of it (the Parable of the Sower; Matthew 13:3-9). Faith is the trusting that the seed is good, and worth tending to. There is a basis behind every choice/decision. Faith is not the only dimension, but if left out, “whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)
This list is not all-inclusive, but the crisis of faith will present itself in at least three areas: in times of fear, believing what God says about me and about Himself, and trusting that His way is best and obeying. Where are the points of fear, anxiety, stress or apprehension in life? These are the points where faith is required. Not the “just have faith” that really means “assume everything will be OK.” But faith that asks the Lord for whatever guidance and provision that is needed, then to be confident that He will meet that need. I cannot trust the Lord for a particular outcome that I want, but I can trust in His goodness and kindness. As Graham Cooke says: “You never know what He’s going to do, but you can always know how He’s going to be.” The Bible makes it abundantly clear that if we obey Him – live life in the way He directs, He will carry us through regardless of what happens: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) Obedience in the tough choices is difficult, which is why faith is required.
But faith, in order to be faith, must grow, always pushing back the boundaries. Our tendency is to want to continue at the same place of “faith” as in days prior, hoping for the same pay-off, but it does not work that way. What was faith yesterday is not today, because it is now a certainty – we have seen the fruit of a particular choice. (Certainly there is faith for things/outcomes that we will not see in this life. For that we must persevere in faith. But the point is that we are also to live by faith for the smaller, daily issues of life – choices that we will see the fruit of in months or years to come, if not immediately.)
We are commanded to “walk by faith.” This, by definition, means that I must daily step into unknown territory, taking the risk for a higher, better pay-off. The fact that it is risky implies that there will sometimes be loss: I will, in my attempts to walk by faith, make choices that turn out to be mistakes. Of course, we do not want to make mistakes, but clearly, the only alternative is to not step out in faith, which shuts down the possibility of any progress and improvement in life, and does not please the Lord.
So, the question I must ask of Him each day is: How am I to trust/believe in a way, to a depth, that I have not done before? What is the step of faith for me today? Since His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23), shouldn’t I have a corresponding faith?
Snow covered trees on the mountain face, Zion National Park, Utah.