Faith: Shadow or Substance?


Like a muscle, Faith must be stretched before it can be exercised.  Faith must be exercised before it is grown and built.  Nobody becomes spiritually stronger until their faith is taken beyond its current state and made to intrude into previously unexplored territory.  You can read many books about faith but never grow in your willingness to implement it.  I could share 100 sermons about faith without employing an ounce of it in doing so.  The most often quoted Old Testament verse found in the New Testament declares that those who are justified will live by faith.  If this is to become the aroma of our own lives then it will be required that we are regularly taken beyond our means, our resources, our ability, our understanding and our control.  Faith demands that we live outside of ourselves and proactively cooperate in an arena where we are not in charge.

No wonder so few people truly live this way.

For several years, Holy Spirit has been leading me into a personal discovery of learning the degree to which my daily living aligns itself with God’s word.  I remain concerned that I might awake one day to find that I have mastered the knowledge of spiritual principles from God’s word without having actually lived them out.  There is a danger for all of us whose lives are so often cocooned in Christianity that our faith is little more than exaggerated theory that is never tested for its genuineness.  This began to be a concern for me about seven years ago when God started sending me nonstop waves of challenge that refused to let me circumstantially rest.  My storms wouldn’t stop talking to me and, regrettably, I started preaching their God-shrinking doctrine to myself during those days.  Opposition became big, and God atrophied in my thinking.  I was spent of my own wisdom, experience, resources, tenacity, explanations and, ultimately, my practical faith for living.  I didn’t turn lose of what I believed, don’t get me wrong.  What I temporarily fumbled was my ability to put what I knew was true into practice.  I momentarily forgot how to believe God because I failed to hear Him well.  When I got quiet and still before the Lord, I discerned Him say to me, “You are trying to exercise a particular muscle here that you haven’t developed.  I’m going to develop it for you.  Now sit still and let me complete My work.” It’s easy to obey God when you are out of options.  So I got small.  I didn’t eat.  I told my wife that I would be disappearing for a day of focused prayer on this issue in my soul, and she promised to pray for me as she sensed the weight in my spirit.  Sparing you the details that would sound a little too dramatized, I sum up that one day several years ago by saying God wore me out and then He filled me up.  The waves and wind ceased in the midst of about twelve hours, and bright light began to clarify what was going on in me, around me and against me.  When I was unable to change my situation, God chose to change my mind and I found myself with a brand new, bulging bicep of belief.  Forgive the odd metaphor but I must say that I’m still flexing it because the battles just don’t disappear.

Here’s something for us to remember – it’s a very real question from God to one of His own, Moses, who was struggling to trust Him with something big and intimidating -something that was unprecedented and humanly impossible.  Not merely difficult, but impossible.  In that context of powerlessness, God asked Moses THE question.  It’s a question that you already know the theological answer to.  It’s a question that God is not content for you to pass over easily nor quickly.  What you do with the answer is, perhaps, one of the most significant issues going on in your life right now.  Let me tell you up front that the answer to the question is ‘No.’ I’ve chosen to give you the question in several different translations of the bible so you cannot easily gloss it over.  Holy Spirit is trying to get something through to you.  He is limbering up your faith muscle because He has reserved something significant for you to accomplish. The question God asked Moses is found in Numbers 11:23:

“Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.” KJV

“Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.” ESV

“Is the Lord’s  power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”  NASU

“Has my arm lost its power? Now you will see whether or not my word comes true!” NLT

“Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” NIV

“So, do you think I can’t take care of you? You’ll see soon enough whether what I say happens for you or not.”  THE MESSAGE

“Do you think I’m weak? Now you will see if I can do what I say.”  NCV