A Crisis of Faith
Have you ever been faced with a crisis of faith? I don’t mean things like work that isn’t going well, money being tight or you had a fight with your spouse. I am talking about issues in life that are so complex that you don’t know which way to turn or what to do next.
It’s human nature to want to understand why something is happening in our lives. When Job faced his trials he began to ask the “why” questions; and in Job 30 God provides a strong rebuke to Job’s questions. Why would God be so harsh in his response? Let’s come back to this question later.
First, we must understand what faith is and what belief is. These two words are often found together in the New Testament, but they do not have the same meaning. So what’s the difference?
Let’s look at the two words more closely as they are found in Hebrews 11:6:
Heb 11:6 – And 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.
Faith - (PISTIS) conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT, of a conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it.
Believe – (PISTEUO) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in.
As you can see from the original Greek words the two words are very closely related. In some cases they may even be used interchangeably. But in Hebrews the writer chooses two different words to complete his thought. We see in verse 6 that without faith (a conviction of the truth) and believe/belief (to be persuaded of) we will be unable to please God, which in turn would have a long-term effect on our salvation.
So let’s look at these two words from todays standard. Let’s start with belief. I have traveled to many places around the world, but I have not traveled everywhere. One of the places I have never visited is Paris, France. I believe that Paris exists because I can look on a map and see its location, I have spoken to people who have visited there, I have met a person who lived there and I have seen movies and pictures showing me what the landscape of the country looks like; but I have never been there.
So based on the evidence that I can personally verify, does Paris exist? My answer is that I believe that Paris exists, based on the evidence available.
So let’s look at faith. As we already noted, the two words are closely related but are not the same. The difference between the two really comes down to a spiritual relationship. I believe that God exists. How? Through his word I learn about the creator and how He brought this world into existence. I can look around and see the things He said He created with my own eyes. I can read about Christ, and I can find evidence from non-believers that Christ did live and was crucified by the Roman army. Those are facts that I can believe in, but that is not faith.
For me the difference comes down to my ability to see, touch, feel, hear and smell; senses that God gave me to confirm what is physical and real on this earth. However, none of these senses work to confirm God’s existence. I can’t see God. I can’t touch God. I can’t feel God with my hands. I can’t hear God’s voice. There are no smells that I can relate to God’s existence. So how do I know God is real?
The answer is both simple and complex. I have to take a “leap of faith”. This means that I need to look at the results of God’s work, His claim that He is the creator and external evidence of things that have happened which support God’s claim that He is alive. Then based on that information I must allow faith in God to grow within my heart. You see, when I allow the possibility of faith to be in my life, God will use that faith to draw me closer to Him.
So to quickly recap what I have said; belief is something I can confirm with no other information required, while faith is the belief that the evidence is real and points to the creator of that evidence which is the substance of our hope. (Heb. 11:1)
So let’s get back to my original question. Have you ever had a crisis of faith? What I mean by a crisis of faith is that something happens and there is nothing you can do to change the outcome. You have no power in the situation, no influence, no ability to change the course of events. Through prayer, you place these situations in God’s hands. But what if there is no answer? What if the situation becomes worse? It is human nature to begin asking questions, like what do I need to do? Have I done something to cause this? Why would God allow this to happen to me? Have I committed sin in some way that has brought this on me? Why do my loved ones who have served God for years have to face a painful illness? You see, the questions can go on and on, and at the end of all the questions there may not be any answers. Why?
Why would God allow or require His children to face such hardships in life? One answer is found in James 1, but I think there are other answers as well. When we go through difficult times, as Christians our first line of defense is God. Yet in some cases we have prayed and prayed, and prayed even more, yet nothing seems to be happening or changing. I’m sure Job felt this frustration during his trial. I can’t send you to a book, chapter and verse that will provide you with an absolute answer to this question. I wish someone could share that verse with me, but I haven’t found it yet in my study. However I am convinced there is an answer and I’m going to share with you my opinion as someone who has diligently searched for this answer. Like me, you may not find this explanation fully satisfying, but after hours, days, months and even years of trying to understand this, it is the best I can do.
We must understand a couple of basic points. First; as a human being I have a very limited view of my relationship to God and His relationship to everything else in the universe. Second; sin is always in play in our lives, no matter how hard we try to keep it out or avoid it. Sin is around us everyday and is always nipping at our heels. As a follower of Christ, Satan has made it his mission to destroy my relationship with God and provide me with an invitation to join him in hell for eternity. Those two facts are the backdrop of our lives on this earth and this is where belief and faith play a critical role.
What causes our faith to waver is our realization that we are not in control and we don’t recognize the answers or solutions being provided by God. Most of us understand that God is not standing around waiting for our next prayer so He can fix every problem we have. But on the other hand we do expect God to intervene or help when we are in a desperate situation. As time goes on and we see little improvement in our situation we begin with the “why” questions. The “why” questions lead to doubts about God’s love for us or for those we love. As the doubts grow, they spawn more “why” questions; the vicious cycle begins that feeds into our faith crisis. The only way to stop a faith crisis is to stop the “why” questions. But, that is easier said than done.
I have noticed some interesting things about trials that I would like to share with you. We must understand that a trial may be for our benefit or it may be for the benefit of others around us. If God came to you and said, I need you to go through a serious life trial that will last for 10 years. During this time your life will be turned upside down, you will have health problems, financial problems, and some really bad things are going to happen to you; but I need for you to go through this. There will be thousands of people watching you during this time and because of what happens to you many are going to be saved. Would you happily agree to the trial, or would you try to talk God out of using you? We see this very thing played out in the life of Moses. But really, think about it for just a moment, would you be willing to go through all of the hardship if it saved thousands of souls? How about just one?
The reason God was harsh with Job in Job 30, is because Job began to question God’s sovereignty. We know that God does not want anyone to perish, but for all to have eternal life. God also understands there is a battle being fought for our souls, and during this battle some souls will be won while others will be lost. If you were a general in a combat situation and were given the situation of losing all of the people under your command or losing one or two to save the rest, what would you do? What decision would you make? The Lord has many who have pledged their allegiance to Him, and He is waging a war to save as many souls as possible. As a good commander, He is always working with us to make us better soldiers, but in any war soldiers die and sometime sacrifices must be made during the heat of the battle. It is a hard concept to grasp, but it is often times true.
The point I am making is that this physical life is not about this physical life. God is engaged in a battle to save souls, and sometimes that may require the physical health and / or physical lives of His servants. If my physical life is destroyed to save a single soul, I may see it as a complete loss, but God may see it as a win in the larger battle God is fighting. The problem for me is when God calls me to face these trials and I don’t understand why or I have difficulty accepting the idea of going through the trial. It can create fear in me and yet in some strange way that trial can also make my faith stronger if I allow it to work in me properly. Or I can allow the trial to crumble my faith and lose all hope I have in God.
What this comes down to is trust. Do we trust God enough to believe and have faith that he can save our souls? Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on this life. Focus on God in heaven. Why did Peter begin to sink when he walked on the water? He took his focus off Jesus and the cares of the world began weighing him down and he began to sink. What we miss in our lives is the bigger picture, because we want to understand the “why me” questions. I have had to learn the hard way to stop asking that question because I will never be given an answer that will satisfy my desire to know. For me, I have had to stay focused on what is better; heaven rather than this world. Because when everything is done, heaven is the only thing I can truly hold on to.
Over the last ten years, as I have faced difficulty after difficulty I no longer have hope in this world. I realize that I am unable to understand God’s sovereign authority. So all I can do is my best by trying to make a difference today, and make it count for something. Also to understand that with a mere thought God could change all of my circumstances, but accepting the fact that He has chosen not to change my circumstances. Then I must do a very hard thing; accept His wisdom in the matter.
My life situations on this earth, good or bad, will be used for some purpose as long as I refuse to allow Satan to fuel my crisis of faith. I need to continue to allow God to grow my faith, as necessary have Him help my unbelief and fully trust in His ability to save my soul. If I can do that, I can avoid another crisis of faith and no matter how disappointed I might be with the circumstances of life, I can know for certain that my eternal home is waiting. I, like so many Christians before me, and my contemporaries in this current life, need to learn to accept and trust in God’s love and power. It’s the only thing that makes sense. It’s the only thing that saves.