I Think I Can, I Think I Can…
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… 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. Hebrews 11:1,6
What is faith? This question has plagued me since I was a child. I vividly remember standing on the peak of my roof, wanting to fly, quoting Matthew 17:20, if you have faith… nothing will be impossible for you. I believed that if my faith was strong enough, I could fly. Faith became a mental exercise of believing in a thing hard enough and then stepping out into space. I would either crash to the earth or take off flying. I was not a bright kid and it is fortunate that I survived my brushes with faith.
So what is faith? I am going to insist that faith is not positive thinking. It is not convincing myself that God will manipulate the events of life so they work out how I think they should. That is mere positive thinking and is focused on the desires of self.
The story of Peter, walking on the water (Matthew 14), is the best definition of faith that I understand. In it, Jesus called Peter to walk on the water. To exercise his faith, Peter had to step out of the boat while keeping his eyes on Jesus. Peter believed in Jesus, obeyed Jesus, and then kept his eyes on Jesus. Then, in a dramatic illustration of not faith, Peter, distracted by the wind and waves, took his eyes off Christ and started to sink. He then once again, demonstrated faith by turning his gaze back to Christ, Lord, save me!
This then, is my definition of faith. Faith is doing whatever it takes, no matter what, to keep my eyes on God and to walk accordingly. Keep my eyes on God and make my feet follow. That is faith.
Faith does not mean that I believe really hard that God will give me what I want. Shadrach and company stood their ground, showing their faith, choosing to go into the fiery furnace instead of bowing down to idols. They did so, not knowing whether or not they were going to be burnt to death (Daniel 3). Eleven of the twelve disciples died violent deaths, not because they were faithless, but because the gaze of their lives was so focused on God that following him was more important than life. It was a radical orientation of his mind towards God that prompted Job to say, Though he slay me, I will hope in him (Job 13:15).
My most destructive behaviors in life have not been any one specific action. As devastating as my addiction was, it was not my root problem. My greatest defect was the focus of my gaze on self instead of God. I looked to my own desires and my feet followed. Like Peter, I practiced not faith, and I sank. I am thankful that like Peter, I realized my only option at that point was to cry out, Lord, save me!
The wind and waves that distracted Peter’s gaze still distract me daily. The desires of my flesh are constantly seducing my gaze from God. Faith then is the constant discipline of learning to walk on the waters of life while orienting the gaze of my life on the living God. He rewards those who seek him.