As Christians, we are often told to have faith in God. We are told God is a good God, and is well able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20 KJV) We are told all we have to do is have faith as small as a mustard seed and we will be able to move mountains. (Matthew 17:20) Just have faith in God, then stand back and watch; He will do the rest.
All of this is absolutely true. Amazing things can happen when we place our faith in God, and God is most certainly where our faith belongs. However, if we are not careful, because of the way the subject of faith is often conveyed, and because of the way it is often received, we could potentially develop tunnel vision without realizing it. The fact is, there is a little more to faith than we are often led to believe.
Being the imperfect people we are, it can be easy to overlook the fact that having faith in God isn't solely about getting what we want. And, no, I'm not talking about having faith for others. Yes, we can have faith that God will give us our desires, and, no, there is nothing wrong with that. Nevertheless, this is only one aspect of faith. Allow me to explain what I mean.
Early on in my walk with God, He spoke something to me that totally surprised me. His words came after a series of heartbreaking let-downs, each one of which caused me much distress. He said, "You need to learn how to deal with disappointments." Upon hearing this, I was immediately upset. I shot back at Him saying something like, "What do you mean I need to learn how to deal with disappointments?! Sure, I may feel down for a little while, but I eventually shake it off and move on. In fact, it doesn't take me nearly as long to get over a disappointment now than it used to." I didn't know it at the time, but that isn't what God meant.
What God was referring to wasn't my ability to bounce back after a disappointment. What God was referring to was how I applied my faith. As I said, faith in God isn't solely believing with all of our might that God will do what we want. Faith in God is also having faith that He will do what is best, in due season, even if it isn't what we had hoped for.
This is an issue that trips a lot of people up in their Christian walk. They ask God for something, but their prayers seemingly go unanswered. As a result, they lose faith in God, get angry with God, or whatever else the case may be. From this position it's so easy to fall into the trap of bitterness, accusing God of not being the loving, caring Father who regards the concerns of His children. And unfortunately, it happens more often than we realize.
But listen; we aren't the only ones who are subject to God's will. Would you believe me if I told you that even Jesus didn't have all of His prayers answered? Yes, Jesus, the sinless Son of God who was one with the Father, didn't have all of His prayers answered. (John 10:30)
Just before Jesus was about to be seized, put through a fake trial, whipped, beaten, and crucified, He and His disciples were in Gethsemane when He prayed this prayer.
Matthew 26:39 (NIV) Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me."
For those who may not understand what Jesus was praying for, He was essentially asking to be released from what was about to befall Him. It was His desire to escape the torment He was facing, and earnestly prayed that God make a way for that to happen. God, however, didn't answer that prayer. Jesus was in fact seized, put through a fake trial, whipped, beaten, and crucified.
So, why wasn't Jesus' prayer answered? Was it because God didn't love Jesus? Hardly! Was it because Jesus didn't have enough faith? Not a chance! Was it because Jesus somehow harbored sin in His heart, therefore God wouldn't answer Him? Certainly not! And neither are these things necessarily so with us! No, the reason Jesus' prayer wasn't answered was because God had a better way.
As much as Jesus -- God's own Son -- wanted something other than what was about to happen, God in His wisdom still chose to take Jesus through it anyway. And as we know, the results were nothing short of glorious.
Not only did God's choice to not answer Jesus' prayer save countless numbers of human beings from eternal damnation, but it's also what made Jesus the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and restored all the authority man had lost to the enemy back to Him. So, no, Jesus didn't get what He prayed for -- thank God -- but He did get a really sweet deal in return. And so it is with us when we learn to have unconditional faith in God, knowing that He knows what is best.
Make no mistake, Jesus didn't become angry with the Father for not answering His prayer. In fact, Jesus knew what many of us need to know. He knew faith wasn't just about His desires, and He demonstrated this immediately after praying what I quoted above. Let's look at the full verse.
Matthew 26:39 (NIV) Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
Here we can plainly see that Jesus had His own desires and His own will, yet He knew that the Father's will is always best, even if it isn't something He wanted. Jesus had faith that the Father was either going to answer His prayer and give Him the desires of His heart, or give Him something that was far better than what He desired. This is where our faith should be.
Yes, we can express our desires to God, ask Him for the things we want, and even have faith that God will answer our prayers. However, we must also be mindful that if He does not give us what we ask for, then He has something better for us. He has a reason, He has a purpose, and He will bring it to pass if we do not give up on Him. Not only that, but the result will be better than we ever imagined.
Yes, I know, sometimes this is easier said than done. Even Jesus felt the weight of wanting one thing while knowing that God wants something different. But we can at least have confidence that God's best, is the best, no matter what.
May we all hold loosely to our desires and our will, and allow God to have His. Have faith not only for that which you desire, but that God will do what is best. He knows all things, He knows precisely what lies ahead, and He knows exactly what we need in the coming days and years. God will always do His very best for His children, no matter what. Trust Him to make the right decisions and then, THEN He is well able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. When we understand this, and truly begin to live it out, then we will see just how liberating it is.
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