Ryan will provide practical answers to the question: “What Does It Mean To Trust God?” at the Rutgers-Newark Intervarsity Large Group in Newark, NJ (Brick City)
3 Most Common Mistakes In Approaching Faith
How in the world can you make a mistake in faith? It’s faith – the simple trust in God. How can you make a mistake with that?
You can. I have. And it’s simple to do.
The common mistake when it comes to faith is its actual definition. Growing up, I used to hear sermons and songs speaking to faith moving mountains. Scripture backs it up. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 17, verse 20 where Jesus said:
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
What an encouraging passage! But, here’s a word of caution. The context of this Scripture is when Jesus is disciplining his disciples on not being able to heal a boy who is demon-possessed. Jesus was correcting them by saying they were unbelieving and a perverse generation. Jesus even questioned out loud of how long should he put up with faithlessness. WOW! How could they make such a dire mistake?
Contrary to popular belief, everyone has faith. The real question is who and what do we have faith in. And here lies where the mistakes become very clear. You may see it all the time. Someone puts their faith in an investor for their portfolio to grow. Others may put their faith in their own experience. Even in the midst of an election, we see Americans placing their trust or faith in leaders to make a lasting change or impact. While we all can voice reason for why we’ve placed our faith in certain things – biblical faith is rooted in faith in Jesus Christ. And this faith may not match up to the way we want things to go.
Mistake #1: Unyielding to God’s Way
We may never say it out loud, but our actions reflect when we think we know better than God or anyone else. There’s a certain swagger and confidence we place on our approach. We can even find ourselves stubborn and think that we can negotiate our way out of obedience. I remember this clearly sitting at a youth event at what was then known as the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ. I’m sitting with my girlfriend (now wife) Kristyn and friends from church. A representative from Compassion International comes up and shares about the joy and responsibility of sponsoring a child who needs basic services. I heard the presentation but I couldn’t shake the conviction – “Sponsor a child!”
At the time, I was a seminary student struggling with the finances I already had. Now, I sense in my heart God prompting me to sponsor a child. I asked myself: “With what money? I cannot even help myself – I’m going to help a child that I don’t even know?” These questions were loud but the conviction to sponsor was even stronger. I looked at Kristyn and she already knew. I wrestled with it, wondering how this was going to work out. I sponsored a child that day. I’m still sponsoring since 2009. I realized that there’s no need to fight God. You will lose. Yield to His Way! Let faith lead you to make decisions that honors God and in turn, blesses you.
Mistake #2: Trusting God Only When Things Are Good
Death. Divorce. Health Crisis. Financial Strain. Relationship Breakdown. I’ve experienced all and more in my life. It has not always been easy. One of the easiest mistakes to make is to trust God only when things are good. By good, I mean what we each consider good by our standards. We can fall easily into the trap of treating God like Santa Claus, expecting all our gifts and wishes to be granted in a moment, no questions asked. Trusting God in the fire of challenge is where faith is tested. Claiming to have faith and living out your faith are two separate things entirely.
Here’s the hard-hitting truth that challenges me: Trusting God in the good times only reflects poorly on the quality of your relationship with Him. Ouch! I cannot raise the faith flag when it’s convenient and lay it down when it begins to challenge my comfort zone. Yes, faith in God will stretch you. It’s supposed to! Yes, faith in God will challenge your perspective. It’s supposed to! But, faith in God during adversity does another thing – it demonstrates the strength and resilience of God never to let you go.
Mistake #3: Thinking that God Doesn’t Have a Plan
One of my favorite Scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 where it says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I get excited reading this! But, one mistake I made early on in my faith journey was taking this text out of context. Yes, God wants to prosper me. But, it may not mean a large deposit in my bank accounts. Or even this – His purpose is not to harm me, but it never said it wouldn’t hurt. Faith stretches us where it hurts. It deals with our wounds and our misconceptions. But, God’s purpose is for faith to inform our everyday living. It’s to help us grow and not to tear us down.
The highlighting of three major mistakes serves to point us to this truth – when we yield to God’s way, even when things are not always good, we can trust His plan will work through and in us. When this happens – our mistakes turn into a message that leads others to God. – RF
Watching The Parade (…While Waiting For Your Promises)
What do you do when others receive what you have been desperately waiting for?
It’s a question I receive quite often and have contemplated myself from time to time. It’s similar to watching a parade.
The massive floats and colorful banners are on display.
The procession of bands play with precision and on beat.
The grand marshals and celebrants wave boldly to those watching.
And you are watching all of this activity on the sidelines.
The same scenario can be likened to waiting for what God has promised you. This process would be manageable if you only were experiencing the stretching of preparation. But, quite often, the process of waiting extends much farther and wider than we tend to admit. Many times, God will allow you to be exposed to the success, achievements and accomplishments of others — just to see how you will respond. It’s like watching the parade go by.
I’ve never seen a parade that doesn’t draw attention and crowds. Other streets are blocked off in order for the parade to go on uninterrupted. You’ll hear the crowds cheer the participants of the parade with great enthusiasm. When others are blessed with opportunities and God’s promises for them coming to pass, it should be celebrated! God answered prayers! God honored the wait! In the midst of the celebration, has the question ever rose up in your heart: “God…how long must I wait?” or “When is it my turn?” or “I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but have you ignored me?”
If the truth be told, these questions wrestle with our faith from time to time. Doubt creeps in like a thief ready to rob the treasure of faith. Worry mounts like a brick wall tumbling down. Jealousy seeps in like a suffocating odor. If not checked or addressed, the sin of unbelief will cripple you at every turn. I know the parades of success go by, even those blessings that you’ve been praying for. I know how difficult it can be when others (unintentionally or in some cases intentionally) talk about their blessings at every turn. How do you handle it when you are battling coming to terms with your own waiting process?
Here’s some tips that have helped me along the way:
(1) Celebrate Others More Than You Celebrate Yourself
In our narcissistic-driven culture, we are told to celebrate ourselves as if we are gods ourselves! It’s all about us, all the time. But, if we are to overcome the envy, jealousy or depressive state that comes with others receiving what you’ve been waiting for — celebrate others more than you celebrate yourself! This takes time but it also takes intentionality. I’m not suggesting putting on an act as if you are happy for someone. God does not honor inauthentic presentations. God gets glory when we celebrate what He is doing in the lives of others. Rather than focusing on what someone received (in the right, honorable manner), celebrate the Source!
(2) Meditate On His Word and His Sure Promises
The reason why the “parade of manifested promises” bother many is because they spend too much time harping on it. When you focus on what God is doing through and in you, there’s not much time to languish over what you could have done in comparison with others. The way to focus is to meditate on God’s Word and His promises in His Word. Joshua 1:8 declares “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” The Word speaks for itself.
(3) Compliment! (Don’t Compete)
I’ve personally witnessed others being blessed and promises coming to pass — for the benefit of others! It wasn’t only for them but for those connected to them. This is why we celebrate as well! Why compete when you can compliment? Why give “shade” when you can shed light on what God is doing in the lives of many?
Despising your waiting is despising God’s preparation in your life. While you watch the parade of promises coming to pass in the lives of others, learn and grow from it! Discover ways to glean from their experiences and humbly ask how they persevered through trials. God allows the parades to go by externally to expose you to what He’s working internally. – RF