Some things just can’t be rushed.
No matter how badly you want it, you’ll not be able to enjoy the shade from a 75-year-old oak tree unless someone 75 years ago took the trouble and had the foresight to plant it.
Strong faith is much like that old oak tree (and I think it was the late Wes Reagan, well-respected pastor and mentor, who I first heard use this good analogy). Lots of us want the blessings and the stability that can come during life’s storms only through a deep and abiding faith. I want those blessings, too. But I must understand that though salvation is, thank the Lord indeed, a free gift bought by the blood of Christ, faith that is strong enough to stand the tests of time and adversity cannot be easily had or quickly grown. Faith that is in its own way as strong and comforting as a 75-year-old oak tree cannot spring forth full grown in the space of a heartbeat, no matter how badly we need it or want it.
If we want strong faith, we must ask God help us have his power to do what it takes to make it strong. Some of those things seem mundane. None of them has anything to do with the kind of glitzy cut-rate feel-good “spirituality” presently so popular.
Some of these things are just plain hard. Things like really making an effort to forgive someone who has deeply, unfairly hurt you. (Loving enemies is a very warm concept—until you actually have one.) Like using our dollars to help others and not just ourselves. (Our check books write a very accurate picture of our priorities.) Like taking the time and effort to be a genuine part of a church family of faith. (Not just a nominal “Christmas & Easter” member who could never be “convicted” of membership on the basis of such “evidence” as attendance or giving.) Like developing a relationship with God in prayer and by reading his word. Like devoting each day to him and doing whatever we do to his glory, not as a person who is pious or “religious” but as a person who knows that all of life is lived in the gracious presence of the divine Author of all life and joy. Like being a person for whom following Christ is not just a choice, but THE choice that drives all others.
If we want genuine and strong faith, we can have it. Possessing that kind of faith will be a blessing of untold value. But if we think it is a blessing religious consumers can have almost by accident and without any effort, we are seriously self-deluded, and we’ve not learned the truth of Christ’s words, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24).
I think what Christ is saying is that, contrary to our world’s “wisdom,” the way to real satisfaction, joy, and deep contentment both here and hereafter, the way to faith that will stand the storms we’ll certainly face, is to truly want God more than we want anything else.
That’s faith. The real thing.
Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.