Faith is a word I have spent a lot of time considering. Daily I recite Hebrews 11, the great “Faith Chapter,” with my students. No matter how much I read and discuss and meditate on the concept of faith, though, I never seem to stop learning new things. Faith has many aspects. This morning I was reading Matthew 17 which includes the story of a boy possessed by a demon. The boy’s father had taken him to the disciples, but they couldn’t heal him. Jesus was pretty upset with His disciples. He called them an “unbelieving and perverse generation” and he wondered aloud how long He could put up with them. Then he cast that demon right out. Later, the disciples came and asked Jesus why they couldn’t do anything for the boy. I’ve got to give them kudos for asking. I think I would have just slunk away in embarrassment and failure hoping no more demon possessed boys crossed my path, but they really wanted to learn and they were bold; so they asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”Jesus answers them, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Mountain-moving, mustard seed faith–that’s what I want! As I read these verses this morning, I sighed inwardly. I really need some impossible things to happen, but my faith is on par with that of the disciples. I felt defeated before I even got out of bed.
The devotional, though, was from Oswald Chambers and he had a completely different view of the subject than I was seeing. He said, “Faith by its very nature must be tried. And the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character has to be clear in our minds so that we remain true to God whatever he may do. ‘Though he slay me,’ announced Job, ‘yet will I hope in him.’ This is the most sublime utterance of faith in the Bible.”
What he is saying is that faith is being sure of God’s character. I never looked at it this way before. If I am sure of God’s character, I will trust him, just like Job. What it comes down to, then, is that faith is believing that GOD IS COMPLETELY GOOD. I have made the mistake for so much of my life of seeing faith only as a FUTURE thing. I have faith that God will work all things together for good. Other times, I have seen faith as a PAST thing. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command” (Hebrews 11:2) I have faith that God did create, and come and die and rise again. God was good and He will be good.
I say that God is good all the time, but what I really mean is that my current difficulty is good by virtue of the fact that God is using it to work together for good to come. Faith, to me, means holding on through the bad and believing that good will be. “All these people were still living by faith when they died, they did not receive the things promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” (Hebrews 11:13) Of course, these things are true as well: God was good. God will be good. But another aspect of faith, the one that hit me this morning, is that God is good now, in this moment, no matter what is happening in my life. If this seems obvious to you, I apologize. I have been too dense to see it.
This all brought to mind of one of my favorite quotes from The Screwtape Letters. The demon, Screwtape, is actually describing this kind of faith to his nephew, Wormwood, a “junior tempter.” He says that this kind of trust in God’s current goodness is dangerous to Satan’s side:
“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
A Christian who obeys in that kind of circumstance is one who believes in the true, pure and complete goodness of the character of God. I want to be that kind of threat. Believing that God is good in the darkest of times is the kind of faith that moves mountains. That’s the kind of faith I want. Right now: God. is. good.