Foundations of Faith

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
-Hebrews 11:1

 Everyone is hoping for something. It could be a miraculous healing, a raise at work, or even just hoping to get through another dark day in the grip of depression. Whatever it is, we hope for what we believe we need in this life. At least, we think we do.

It doesn’t seem to make sense at first glance, but the Bible tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” When we hope for something and it doesn’t materialize, does that mean that we lack faith? It can be frustrating to see so many verses telling us that God will give us what we ask for and then have so many requests go seemingly unanswered. How does this mesh with the inerrancy of the Bible and the faithfulness of God to His promises?

In my life I have seen time and again that I really have no idea what I hope for. Sure, I hope I win the lottery, I hope my next book destroys sales records, and I hope that I find that elusive thing called happiness one day. But are those dreams really the basis of my hope? I have found that the things I dream of tend to be more possible ways my true hopes can be fulfilled.

Winning the lottery, for example, seems like a legitimate hope that I share with millions of people. But why? Do I actually just hope to win the lottery, or is there a deeper desire buried under those mysterious and ridiculously hard to predict numbers?

It’s not the numbers, I really couldn’t care less about them. It’s the stability and security that winning that jackpot would provide. We want to be able to take care of our families and enjoy life without the constant stress of financial worries. If someone offered you $300 million, would you be disappointed that it didn’t come from the lottery? If you would, go ahead and turn down the offer and send them my way….

Faith isn’t about money, but that example leads us to a deeper discussion. When we struggle and feel that we’re losing faith, what is it that we’re struggling to believe in? Is it the very existence of God? Do we question whether or not He really has the ability to affect the world and our lives in a dramatic fashion? I’ve had more than my share of crises of faith, but I don’t remember ever doubting either of those two points.

Lately I have started examining my doubts in more detail when they creep up, trying to determine exactly what I’m struggling with. Initially I thought I was questioning whether God really cares about me. I know He’s real and I know He has the power to change everything with a word, but it seemed that He had no interest in fixing anything in my life. But I kept digging.

It turns out when it came down to it, I didn’t really doubt His love for me, either. So why did it feel that way? I knew He had a plan and I knew He didn’t want me to suffer more than necessary, I just didn’t know if I could handle it. That is what I found myself doubting at the core: whether or not I could handle the road that He had set me on. It wasn’t God I doubted at all, it was myself. Sometimes it’s just easier to pin it on God because we live in an age of self-actualization that tells us we can do anything we put our minds to. Questioning yourself is a great sin in our world, while questioning God is considered being practical and enlightened.

But faith is the assurance of things hoped for. The conviction of things not seen. Faith is trusting God even when we don’t trust ourselves and knowing that His plan for us is greater than any of our personal and often petty hopes and dreams. Does the Bible promise us whatever we ask for? Yes, it does. The problem is that we so rarely know what we really want that the words we pray don’t match up with the true desires of the new heart we have in Christ.

I’ll still probably pray to win the lottery once in awhile (never hurts to ask), but I do so knowing that God knows why I’m asking and He will work to fulfill my needs at their foundation, not just with the possible method of fulfilment that I suggest.

What do you hope for? Spend some time asking yourself why you pray for certain things and find the basis of those requests. Then compare the answers you find with the promises of Scripture and see how God has been rewarding your faith, in many cases without your knowledge!