Banking on faith…
Let’s be realistic about how many of us think about our faith in God. W. Bingham Hunter* states that “growing numbers of Christians have been led to believe that faith is something they must generate themselves (almost out of nothing) if God is to respond to their prayers” [Hunter, 155].
You might ask, what is the problem with this conceptualization?
It makes faith a commodity that we must exchange for answers to prayer. If you have enough faith, your prayers are answered. If you lack faith, you are probably not going to get an answer. You may think that Hunter gets a little cynical as he comments that maybe fasting can add to your faith exchange rate. Maybe you can get two or three others to pray for you and that will add more value to the mix. If you are still not getting an answer, you need to consider enlisting the prayer of a righteous intercessor. That type of Christian has more faith than they need themselves and maybe their loan of faith can put you over the top.
Seriously though, what are the real negatives of thinking of faith as a commodity that must be offered up for answered prayer? One thing is our dangerous obsession in this culture with measuring ourselves by observing others around us. Why is God choosing to bless my neighbor’s finances and He is refusing to bless me or I deserve a healing; I am a person of great faith. My friend is getting healed and I am not. Comparing ourselves to others is bad enough but the second negative could be the worst. It is pure disillusionment with God. When we think we are offering God our best faith we get upset when we are not getting what we want out of Him. We literally begin to lose faith that we even have a valid relationship with Him.
What is a scriptural reference that speaks to how we are to approach God with our faith? Hebrews 11:6 says “Without faith it is impossible to please Him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”
This scripture does say that belief in God’s existence is an essential for approaching God. Why would we pray to God if we did not believe that He exists? Many of you may be thinking that is just too simple but in our world today, we often think we are constantly in a cocoon of safety. We can control life so well that we don’t need God on a daily basis. Maybe we have a habit of thinking we don’t need to depend on God for much. For some, the only time we get serious about God is when life is interrupted by some illness, accident or bankruptcy.
The second thing we can draw from Hebrews is that we must believe in God’s moral character. He is just in how He rewards those who seek Him. Hunter actually uses the metaphor of a hang glider to explain how important it is to know God’s character. “Your belief that you can work a hang glider is not as important as the quality of the glider. We may be able to believe that God exists, but the important thing is who God is” [Hunter, 156].
Hunter points to three sources of God knowledge: His creation, His creatures and His self-revelation in scripture. Some can believe in God by looking at the order of nature, the design of nature and the beauty of nature. Others believe in God by human nature and human testimony about the existence of God. Hunter admits the most certain source of information about God is revealed in His written Word, the Bible.
In future posts, we will elaborate on how we can get to know God better but I will warn you that increasing your knowledge of God takes time. Hunter says it best: “Faith, the ability to trust God is like a plant. It takes time to grow and requires consistent exposure to the light of God’s Word.”
People who like quick results will be disappointed.
I don’t believe that an exchange of our faith is what is needed for effective prayer. Knowledge of God is what is needed. Knowledge is the key element because we can begin to understand who God is.
Returning to the banking theme: getting a quick increase in our knowledge of God may be very desirable, but slow, steady, regular investment of time is the way to know God. Trying to develop knowledge of God without reading His Word will just lead to frustration. There is very little return on very little investment.
Author of The God Who Hears