Remember the story from childhood days? … I think I can. I- think- I- can. I– think– I– can– I … think … I can… <sigh>
. . . I . . . . . Think . . . . . . I . . . . . . . . Can . . . . . . . . . .
I-I-I-i-i-i-i THOUGHT I could! I thought I could IthoughtIcouldIthoughtIcould…
I loved the way my parents read that part to us on the scratchy green sofa we had when I was a kid. The Little Engine That Could is a story about determination. Some might say it’s about faith, but faith is more than determination or the refusal to give up.
We hear a lot today on television, the net, and in print… Believe. Hold on to your dreams. Pursue – you can do anything you imagine. People use the word faith alot but they’re frequently talking about determination – and determination sometimes runs counter to the laws and principles God has set in place. Besides, it sounds more spiritual to talk about faith than about being relentless.
As a kid playing Superman out in the back yard, I could get my cape to furl out behind me pretty nice, but I don’t think I ever weighed less, not even for a little bit. I know I never flew. Sorry to disappoint you, but I didn’t. Clark Kent figured it out and used his skills to man’s benefit, but he’s fiction. I’m not. There was a time there I believed, though. I really did. I ran till I was red in the face some days, thinking “maybe this time”. But my faith was in someone who was —and still is— subject to the laws of gravity and physics.
As adults we’re prone to confuse faith and determination too, aren’t we? We muster up our self-confidence and use God’s name. “I’m believing God for __(abc)____ ” and then think up ways to do the thing ourselves just in case He decides not to or makes us wait longer than we have scribbled in our business/ministry plans. I wonder what He must think? Does he smile at us from Heaven’s picture window while we run around the yard watching our capes over our shoulders? Does he listen for our thinkIcanIthinkIcanIthinkIcan and shake His head… “How about letting ME?”
Many of us – myself included – give up after a while. We try and we fail. We try something slightly different we fail again, maybe worse than before. Over time our loss of faith in self transfers to loss of faith in God, though ours wasn’t really faith in God to begin with. Sad, isn’t it?
I noticed a few verses in Hebrews three or four weeks ago and I’ve been letting them simmer in my thinking. They remind me, in a way, of the poster I saw and admired when I was a kid but never managed to talk my folks into buying for me. It had a huge, UGly Orangutan on it. He was looking right at you when you looked at him, no matter where you were in the room. Some pictures are that way – this was one of those. The caption said, “You think education is expensive? Try Ignorance.” It’s true! It’s even more true of faith. You think faith is expensive? Try unbelief.
Hebrews 11.6 says
Without faith it is impossible to please Him (God), for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Impossible? Really? That’s what it says. Must be.
Now notice this.
…And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
(That’s Hebrews 3.17-19) A whole generation forfeited who-knows-how-many years of life in the promised land because their unbelief squelched their obedience. (the story with details is in Numbers 13 – 14). Even after they said “We’re sorry – OK, let’s go in” God turned them back. He’d had enough. They were “grounded” as a nation for forty years. Have you ever been grounded like that? I have. Even after making amends there’s that waiting for Him to say “OK, now.” We hate it. But it’s good for us.
When we walk with the Lord, living obediently in the light of His love, there’s a confidence that comes in doing what He says, going where He sends; unafraid because we’re trusting. Obeying. That’s faith, and it brings happiness and success on God’s terms. So when the Lord says “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward”. (Hebrews 10:35) as he wraps up his discussion of what Christ has done and what life may ask of us, on his way to the famous “Hall of Faith” in chapter 11, He means business.
To not believe (chapter 3) is costly and to believe (chapter 10) brings great reward. We can’t hope to please God without it (chapter 11).
Faith —in God— coupled with obedience, is a vital commodity. It’s more valuable than money, I dare say, and we all know where we’d be without that!