Financial genius I am not

Not an impressive way to start a post, is it? Yet it doesn’t change the reality that it’s honest…and, more importantly, authentic. I’ve made bad decisions.

And that truth came to a head in 2018 while hunting hogs from a tree stand in South Carolina. While hanging 15 feet in the air from a tree, I felt a nauseating rush of fear regarding finances. (Probably not the best position to be when you panic about finances!) The surge of emotions was more than I could bear, and I sobbed. It was ugly crying for sure! No, I didn’t think about jumping out of the tree. But I did jump into prayer like no other.

I began seeking God’s help. It’s not that I didn’t trust God with our finances. I just didn’t trust God with our finances. No, I’m not speaking in riddles. What I mean is I trusted God in theory and in my thoughts and words. But I didn’t live it out as if it was a present reality. No application. It was faith in name only.

So in that tree on that brisk February morning in South Carolina, I had a coming to Jesus moment. It went something like this…

Me: “Jesus, I want your help.”

Jesus: “Sure! What do you want help with?”

Me: “Um, well don’t you already know?”

Jesus: “Yes, but I want to hear from you.”

Me: “Well, I need help with our finances.”

Jesus: “Ok, what are you after?”

Me: “A miracle.”

I didn’t actually hear Jesus speak, but that’s how the dialogue went down. All I knew was that I needed a miracle. Jesus’ response?

Jesus: “Ok, but you’re gonna have to trust me.”

That’s a scary statement…isn’t it?

We’ve all been there – the decisive and defining moment when we choose Jesus’ way or not. Maybe for you, it wasn’t finances. Perhaps it was health, family, career, or job. Possibly it was your own salvation. Regardless the question is the same.

“Ok, but you’re gonna have to trust me.”

The scary part is we don’t have the right to the information we desire. Not only that, we don’t have the means to access the information. And what is that information? It’s all the stuff we go through that gets us to our desired outcome. In other words, we want the steps it’s gonna take to get us there and the guarantee of our expected result.

The tension is that this isn’t faith. Faith isn’t faith if we know all the steps. Faith is signing the blank contract and believing, trusting, and putting faith in God to fill in the blank contract.

It’s saying, “Ok, God! I’ve signed up for whatever it takes to get me from where I’m at to where I wanna be. Fill the terms in however and whenever you want.”

It’s taking a hard look at the big picture of how God’s worked throughout history by investigating past examples of people who trusted God to work out their hard stuff in life and then believing that God can do the same in our story. It’s trusting God can get us back on our feet again.

But faith is such a struggle. Faith is a word that’s heard but hard to understand. It’s trusting, believing, and hoping. But like I said earlier, it’s not that I don’t trust God. It’s just that I don’t trust God. I know these words. I recognize them. But I don’t apply them.

So today, join me for a journey in realizing that we can have resilience – we can get back up again, trusting and faithing ( I know that’s not really a word, but hang with me) in a God that can help us get back up again.

The Hall of Fame

Let’s talk hall of fame. No, not for baseball or football. This one’s known as the Faithful Hall of Fame.

This may seem remote to Western eyes, but life was quite difficult for Christians when Hebrews was written. Christianity was not popular with Rome (as we’ve discovered in the last couple of weeks) and the Jews. Persecution was expected, and many fought against the temptation to quit. Some did. The writer of Hebrews warns that God can be trusted no matter what confronts them. And so, the author of Hebrews presents a concept of faith in chapter 11 that gives evidence through the lives of the previously faithful – The Faithful Hall of Fame.

Let’s dive in.

Hebrews 11:1-2 Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen. For by it, the people of old gained approval.

So the author first gives us a definition of faith which we’ll explore more in a moment. For now, the author sets up the concept of faith and moves to show examples and how those examples gained approval from God because of their faith.

The author of Hebrews continues presenting evidence – affirmations of faith. He presents Abel as he offered a sacrifice to God. And Enoch, who was taken up and never saw death. The author mentions Noah, who built an ark when it seemed ridiculous, and Abraham, who left all that was familiar for a land and a promise. He acknowledges Sarah, Abraham’s wife, and her faith. The author speaks of Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, and Moses.

The author moves forward in history and begins remembering the faithful Judges – Gideon, Barak, and Samson (yes, even Samson gets a mention!). He moves to David and Samuel. Eventually, chapter 11 closes, and chapter 12 begins, crowning Jesus as THE example.

That’s Hebrews 11 in a nutshell. The author aims to give examples of the desired behavior (living by faith) and thus challenge us, the reader, to firmly grasp faith with both hands. But I expect you’ll want to know how this all fits into faith and my conversation with Jesus from a tree in South Carolina. To get there, we have to go back to the first verse of chapter 11.

Hebrews 11:1-2 Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.

The author says that faith is the certainty of things hoped for. Great! But what does that even mean? I may be weird (and you can agree), but I like to remove what doesn’t belong to better see what does belong. In other words, let’s swiftly move through what faith is not.

Biblical faith is not…

  • I think so…
  • I hope so…
  • Maybe so…
  • Maybe not…
  • It might be true…
  • It might not be true…

Biblical faith is not unreal or imaginary. It’s not frivolous or surface-level only. It’s not deceptive or misleading. And it’s undoubtedly not mythical or magical. These aren’t faith.

Biblical faith is…

  • Trusting and believing who God is and what he says
  • Possessing now all that God is and all that he has said and promised
  • Confidence in who God is and what he says

Faith is something that God gives us while, at the same time, it is something we’re responsible for. It requires exercise to make it grow. Each of us has what I like to call a Faith-O-Meter inside us. Each time we trust and believe in who God is and what he’s said and promised and then witness God making good on our relying on him, our Faith-O-Meter ticks up. We get a little stronger, bolder, and more willing to step into the unknown.

A brief look at different translations gives us a great idea of faith. Here are a few of the words used. “Now faith is…”

  • Certainty of things hoped for
  • Assurance of things hoped for
  • Confidence in things hoped for
  • Reality of things hoped for

Faith relies on two things - the character of God (who he is) and the word of God (what he’s said/promised). Faith depends on these two things and acts on the basis of the expectation of God’s intervention, even when conditions or circumstances are against it.

Regardless of the word used to describe faith (certainty, assurance, confidence, etc.), the foundation is this; faith is the title deed to what God has said and his promises. Marinate in that idea for just a minute. To have a title deed to property means you own it; you possess it. It’s not a future thing; it’s a now thing. The reality is you already have it. It’s real, substantial. You can walk firmly on that property. It’s yours.

And you can do the same with God’s promises.

The Unknown

Here’s the thing…those listed in the Faithful Hall of Fame have one thing in common. They all responded to the circumstances they faced with a view of what God was going to do. They believed that God would step in at some point in the future. It was unseen to them, but that didn’t make it any less real. It was as real to them as holding a title deed.

Just like those in Hebrews 11 didn’t see total fulfillment in their lifetime, I didn’t know at the time what my miracle would look like. I didn’t know the steps, the struggles, the temptations, and the sacrifices. But eventually, the miracle came. Two words float to the top here for all of us…

The process.

You and I must trust the process. The end result is just that – the end result. Getting the end result instantly does nothing for our character or Faith-O-Meter. But the process…oh, it does all of that and much more. I had to sign the blank contract and trust God to fill in the rest. The promise was mine. I had the title deed. That I knew for sure. I didn’t know HOW it would happen. My job was to move as if I had the deed in hand. It was already mine. And believe God would intervene along the way.

Don’t lose the God view

That kind of faith energizes! It fans the flame of resilience, enabling us to get back up when life knocks us down. And for the record, this isn’t “Man, I hope this works out.” It’s “Man, I expect this to work out!”

It’s an expectation for God to show up. And be prepared. It won’t resolve the way you think. And that’s a good thing. God knows so much better.

I want to reiterate the importance of the God view as we end our time together. As we trust the process, it has to be done with the view of God’s involvement – both in the moment and the future. That’s the title deed. The promises are ours to claim. We already have them.

So, what are you waiting for? Sign the blank contract. Let God do what he does best – filling in the blanks – and as he does, rest in his superior love for you.

You are loved!