We’re now at point number 6 on our list from the post, Developing a Healthy Image of God. Have you ever noticed that the last time God performed a miracle without any human involvement, was when He created the universe? Ever since then, He has included us as partners in His work – weak, small, insignificant and seriously flawed partners, but partners nonetheless. Just that alone proves how gracious and loving He is, that He is not a dictator who forces His will upon us, but wants us to know Him and take part in releasing His immense power.
But for that to happen, our will and our faith has to be linked to Him: Noah had to obey his command to build an ark, Moses had to raise his staff over the Red Sea, Ruth had to seek out the favor of Boaz, Gideon had to chop down his father’s idol and sacrifice his father’s bull, the widow of Zarephath had to offer her last scrap of food, and Elijah had to face down the prophets of Baal. Had they hung back and just waited for God to do everything for them, we would never have known their names. God would have had to use someone else to partner with for His miracles to happen, and their stories would be the ones recorded in the Bible for us today. Every one of the heroes of faith in the Bible had to act, and every one of their acts of faith was scary and risky. The circumstances surrounding their miracles were often matters of life and death, yet always, God came through for them in power.
Christians who come to God with the mindset of ramping up their faith to get rid of a specific problem so that afterwards they can return to life as usual, have the weakest and most selfish perspective of God. I can recognize that skewed mindset in so many churchgoers I know, because I used to be just like that. Faith for a healing, a miracle or answered prayer, is not meant to stand alone as an isolated effort. Faith is meant to be transforming – a drawing closer in trust so that we can take on more of the character of our huge and loving God. Every request in prayer is supposed to create a deeper bond, a more faithful devotion to Him, and much more than getting a specific answer. But sadly, the quality of faith we usually attempt is cheap and quickly frustrated, like trying to strike a fire using damp matches.
“Why is this so hard…?”I hear this all the time, knowing that God is probably asking, “Why do you want things more than you want Me?” God knows the quality of our faith, what our motives are, whether we’re hungry for Him, or whether we just want to get our hands on an answered prayer. The devil can sense cheap and selfish prayers too, because he’s the one who tempts us to wallow in our flesh. He plays both sides of the game, getting us to obsess about a miracle just for the miracle’s sake. Even if our request is according to God’s will, our greedy mindset keeps us stuck in a rut and our contaminated faith takes us nowhere. Then the devil happily attacks our image of God and makes us feel sorry for ourselves because we’re fighting so hard. Poor pitiful us!
Faith is action, motivated by a hunger to draw closer to Him. Effective faith develops joy in the process of waiting expectantly for His answer, because even that is an opportunity to learn more and build our trust. The pattern I most often see, is Christians enthusiastically throwing themselves into faith for a while, and then petering out as time passes to the point that they’re convinced God doesn’t care. When your faith can so easily swing from excitement to bitterness, you give God very little to work with. He wants to do much more than you can imagine, and He wants you to build that muscle of trust. He will never demand a level of faith we can’t handle, which means that whatever He asks, we can do because He’ll make us able.
Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works. James 2:21-26, NLT