I recently journeyed through a time of serious physical illness. The malady had plagued me for years and had worsened over time. Once the illness was medically diagnosed, it took six months of appointments, poking, prodding, failed procedures and ultimately surgery to address the problem. When it first came up many months ago, I “dealt” with it in a practical, common sense sort of way. But then, through a series of events I realized that I was leaving my faith in God out of this great need in my life. I thought the acceptable, sound, practical, common sense way was good enough and therein was my anemic faith. Somehow, unbeknownst to me, God had become a condiment on the shelf of my life, adding some nuance and flavor at times, but in this situation, that wasn’t enough. I needed all of Jesus and that called for faith. I am thankful to say that with God's help I was healed of my illness, but now I realize that the growth of my faith and trust in God was my greatest need, and the greatest blessing I received. Along with the psalmist I can testify, “In my distress, He has enlarged me,” (Ps. 4:1, KJV). I thank God for His mercy and faithfulness.
Needless to say, faith in God has my attention these days and this morning, with the help of John Henry Jowett (via The Best of John Henry Jowett) and others, I share these thoughts on faith.
Yet he [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, . . . (Romans 4:20, NIV)
The “promise of God,” in short, was that Abraham was going to have a child and would be the father of a new nation of people whose number would surpass the myriad of stars in the sky. Yet, common sense said otherwise. All the facts—his age, his wife’s age, their situation—didn’t add up for what God said was going to be realized in and through his life, but that didn’t deter Abraham. He believed, and God used him.
“Common sense” was overwhelmingly opposed to all that God said to Abraham. And yet he, “did not waver” or as the KJV says, “he staggered not.” In the Book of Hebrews it says the saints, Abraham included, were commended for their faith; not for their wisdom, practicality, realism, or common sense, but for their faith. I like George MacDonald’s take on faith,
“Faith is that which, knowing the Lord’s will, goes and does it; or, not knowing it, stands and waits . . .” (p. 135)
In other words, faith is a verb. It’s all about trust. Abraham had faith in God, he trusted in the Lord more than in the visible facts . . . and he went. Along these lines Jowett says,
For faith is a finer sense even than common sense. ... Believing is the only true seeing! (p. 135)
The world will quickly call out this behavior as foolishness—and justifiably so. Simple faith does look foolish and it may even feel foolish. But, where is your hope and your trust? Abraham’s trust was in God. The Apostle Paul, the writer of the Romans 4 account, trusted in Jesus too and when confronted with an appeal to common sense said,
We are fools for Christ, . . . (1 Cor. 4:10, NIV)
Facts, experience, knowledge and expertise are all real, important and in their goodness, used by God in our midst. But they don’t trump faith— which is trusting in God in the midst of the unlikely and the inconceivable, and then acting on it. God is more real and more reliable than the apparent. Paul tells us why,
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor. 1:25, NIV)
Jowett wrote this a hundred years ago, but it still rings true:
Never was there greater need of deep-living men and women who will confront the proud and massed “unlikelies” with the spoken promise of our God. (p. 135)
“Deep-living men and women, . . .” God help me! How many times have I thought and even said, “It is unlikely”? In the face of sickness, challenge, financial need, broken relationships, extenuating circumstances, loss, disappointment, frustration, waiting, . . . even death, am I allowing for the goodness of God to shine through, or am I shrouding it with “common sense” and the reasonable response, “it is unlikely”?
The word “unlikely” is defined via Webster as “not promising.” Considering Abraham’s situation: going beyond safe boundaries, moving to a land where he knew no one, having a wife who was aged and barren, and the harsh fact that he was no spring chicken himself, all lead one to the conclusion that the ideas of starting over, creating a new nation and having a baby were all highly “unlikely” for Abraham. Or to put it another way, it was a nice thought but, “not promising.”
And then I read the entire context of Rom. 4:20,
Yet he [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:20-22, NIV)
Wow, here I sit in 2020 with 4000 years of perspective and I see that God’s promise to Abraham panned out, ultimately in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’m not opposed to common sense. In fact, I engage it in my own life, pray for it in my children’s lives and wish for it in the lives of other drivers on the road. But my faith and trust reside in a reality that goes beyond common sense—they are centered on the promises of God.
Biblehub.com says there are 7487 promises of God in the Bible. Wow. Abraham stepped out in faith on one of them and it was, credited to him as righteousness. The beauty is that God made good on all His promises and they are certified by John 3:16-17 (NLT),
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
So, where is your trust? Where is my faith? Do I rely on common sense or in the promises of God? And where do I find God’s promises? Thanks to the Holy Spirit and the likes of Moses, King David, the Prophets, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Apostle Paul, a good place to start is in the Word of God (remember? . . . 7,487).
The Bible is the primary way that “deep-living men and women” hear from and abide in God. The Word is living and active, saturated with the Spirit of God. It is light, truth, milk, a mirror, honey, water, food, the law, the way, and life. It is to be a part of us, like a belt of strength and stability around our waist. It stands as a sword for us in the midst of the battle and a lifeline for us in the midst of the storm. It is the standard by which we trust in Jesus and live for Him by faith.
And the result? . . . Jowett sums it up well,
These are the men and women who remain victors on the field at the end of the long and bloody day. At the beginning of the day theirs is the faith which give substance to things hoped for; at the end of the day the things hoped for have become their eternal possession. (p. 136)
Common sense is important, hopefully affording sound judgement in practical and mundane matters, but life is so much more than that. It is wild and alive, and you are precious, so much so that you were bought with a price. We were made by the Creator to love, serve, create, delight in His goodness, call upon His name in prayer and trust Him with all things—the common and the uncommon. Jesus is no condiment, He is our hope and help at all times.
Truly, faith is a finer sense even than common sense. Faith in God is the only thing that makes sense.