Psalm 42:1-2 (NIV)
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?’
My husband had an impromptu date night. The kids were with friends at the parade put on by our city. It was a last minute thing so we did not have time to plan an elaborate night. Who’s kidding who? We are not those kind of people. My spouse suggested a casual place that serves sandwiches and hot wings that “coincidentally” has about twenty televisions. Did I mention this particular Saturday is “Championship” Saturday in college football? He agreed to go somewhere else but we agreed on wings. Coming back from the restaurant, we decided to take a ride a look at the Christmas lights in the neighborhoods close to home. I strongly encourage this for couples set in their ways. If we had gone straight home, we would have both plopped on the couch on our smart phones watching football for the rest of the night. We began to talk about things and really communicate in the absence of distractions like television, social media, kids, chores and ordinary life. It was good. It is necessary in all marriages. It is often overlooked. Enough about my plug for date night.
In the course of our conversation, my husband confided, “I wish I had faith like you do.” I was floored. I don’t see myself that way. He is the true intercessor who faithfully prays. When you are naturally optimistic, people sometimes think that you have more faith or confidence in life than others. I am an encourager. I like to lift people up. Optimism is not faith. It is a survival mechanism given to some people who are intent on making the best out of every situation. I inherited it from my father who got it from his heritage. Being optimistic is not always the answer, though positive people do have more power to achieve higher goals just because they are willing to try. Pessimism promotes fear that discourages people from putting one foot in front of the other convinced that they will fall down. It continues to eat away at one’s courage telling them the fall will be fatal even though it’s not. However, even with this in mind, faith is not optimism and disbelief is not pessimism. Positive and negative attitudes are just that – human emotions. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
As we continued to talk, I let my husband in on a little secret. I had been struggling for quite some time. Beaten down from the last trial of life, I was not optimistic about the future but fearful that the next test would be too much. I was standing at a distinct distance from the Lord and afraid of the future. He had no idea. Why? My optimism had hidden my weakness. As an encourager, I have learned to help others and ignore the struggle within myself for fear they might fall with me. Faith is something much deeper than the characteristics that we are born with. I can be completely optimistic that I am going to win the lottery one day, but if I never buy a ticket it will not be a reality. I can believe that I will graduate from college but if I never register for a class it is wasted enthusiasm. The only hope we have comes from faith in the Living God through His Son, Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter how positive or negative we may be. It is all about Jesus.
Romans 10:1-4 (NIV)
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
I do not subscribe to the idea of “faith it” until you make it. God is not in any way so flippant with His Word. Faith is the substance of our hope that has true credibility. When God speaks to you through His Written or Spoken Word and His Spirit confirms it in your heart – it becomes a matter of faith. Faking faith is impossible even if it comes across as optimism. Faith is confidence. To be a positive person will help one achieve goals but without faith, will it be God’s Plan? His Best? His Perfect Will? See those people who live by faith do so with firm knowledge of God’s Word, and radical obedience in following His Plan as they are confident in the Living God. Is God alive in your life? He has to be for any of this to make sense. Otherwise you are living enthusiasm and zeal rather than in-depth knowledge and total conviction that God is alive.
Matthew 16:13-19 (NIV)
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Our spiritual life cannot be ruled by emotions. It cannot be summed up by circumstances or situations but based on the identity of Jesus Christ and one’s ability to believe completely in Him. How can you half-heartedly belief? Oh, people do it all the time. To act one way in church, another publicly and all together differently in private are characteristic of half-hearted believers. My faith is not born of optimism. It is not something I decided to do one day. Oh, I went to the altar and prayed. I asked Jesus to be my Savior and I have made Him my Lord. That is not enough. We must believe. Believe that He is the Son of the Living God. We have innate knowledge that must be brought forth. God breathed life into us. (Genesis 2:7) He gives us Living Water which is His Word. (John 4:10) He made us temples to house His Very Being. (2 Corinthians 6:15-17) His Spirit lives in us. Do we believe? I do.
To believe allows us access to the Kingdom of God. Our righteousness allows us to be filled with more of Jesus and less of this world. This is how faith is established in our life. Faith challenges our human identity every single day we commit to Christ. Why? It takes what sin and the influence of this world made us and begins to reshape us into who God created us to be and Christ called us to become. Peter is a perfect example of this process. He meant every word in this passage, but it did not cause him to have instantaneous faith and totally confident hope in that moment. He followed Jesus. He saw miracles, signs and wonders, yet the night before Jesus died for him – Peter denied the Lord three times. This was not the end of Peter’s story only part of the process. The very same thing promised to Peter at his realization and confession of belief in Jesus Christ is our promise when we believe. “On this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heave, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Where is the power we have been promised?
2 Corinthians 6:15-17 (NIV)
What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
Walking through the mall with my girls finishing up some Christmas shopping, my youngest daughter is a people watcher. She began noticing things in her world that we have accepted even though she knows in her sweet, saved heart are wrong. I will not elaborate other than to say that sin is rampant and love is cold in this perverted place called earth. We call it love but it’s not. Sin will never be love as long as a death sentence is attached. Grace is not tolerance. True salvation will always produce a change. Grace is sufficient when we submit our weakness to Christ. You cannot accept or apply God’s Grace outside of believing, loving and serving His Son, Jesus Christ. The world we live in including the church has become an ominous shade of gray. Our country has rejected God completely. It wants Him out of government, schools and any other place believers dare to take Him openly. We wonder why evil is eroding our world, ending lives and destroying people.
We are temples of the Living, Breathing God in us. Where we go, He goes. Where we stay, He stays. What we do, He experiences. However, if I truly desire a different life, a changed heart and salvation – I must change. Stepping into His Presence, accepting righteousness, and making it a point to know the Living God inside of me makes the difference in my life. I am optimistic. I am an encourager. Now that I know the Living God, I have faith but make no mistake it is not easily obtained or held on to. The enemy tries to steal it from me, kill my peace and destroy my joy every single day. Faith is possible in us all. It is a choice to know the Living God, receive Him and live life based on a true relationship with Him. We have all the components to fortify our faith if we want to. His Name is Jesus. He is not dead but alive. He is ready to receive us and commune with us each day. He is ready to catch us when we fall or hold us tightly should we stumble. To experience Christ means to choose Him over the emotions of this world and decide no matter what happens today Jesus – I choose you!
2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (NIV)
You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
I must confess that my husband and I sometimes do not agree. There are times when I have thrown up my hands in frustration but my commitment to him overrides my emotions and we work it out. Why? I am committed to love my husband with my life for the rest of my life. I am in covenant with him and he is with me. We have decided to honor that covenant even when our emotions get the best of us. It’s not us. It’s the fact that from the beginning – we decided to partner with the Lord to help us in this promise.
I must also confess that I do not always live in agreement with the Lord. Jesus is the Perfect Partner but I am not. I have made a commitment to Christ that in the beginning was tough to honor. I cannot see Him. Other people do not believe and have made fun of my personal pursuit. Faith looks a lot like optimism sometimes so we have to be extremely careful to decide that what we believe is going to happen is not our emotions but the Promise of God for our life. For the pessimist, it is even harder because fear, worry and doubt bombard them and it is an even greater struggle to be set free. I think the most important part of living by faith is to be confident that it is faith and not an emotion. Faith is a commitment to trust the Lord and take Him at His Word based solely on Who He is and what He came to do. Faith requires action. It is a passion and pursuit of our heart that drives, motivates and moves us from one point to the next. Faith is not always an easy or obvious choice. It comes from His Spirit in us based on His Word and written in our heart for His Purpose.
Do you know the Living God? Have you forgotten He is alive and on the throne today? I do sometimes. Even under the disguise of optimism, I have days of discouragement and drought. But then I remember that no matter how I feel, God is alive. Jesus sits with Him on the throne. His Spirit is alive in me working out every detail of my life for His Good! I can breathe again. I can allow faith to dictate my attitude and actions as my commitment is confirmed by the One True and Living God.
Psalm 84:1-3 (NIV)
How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.