“Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened.” Matthew 6:7
Faith has multiple polarities. Let me highlight three of them. On the one hand faith is easy as it can be, for believing in God is a natural expression of His gift to us. We believe because He has given us the “faculty” of belief, just as He has given us the faculty of sight, hearing, and touching. On the other hand faith can be very hard, as when we are challenged by hard times and wonder where God might have gone or what He might be doing.
Faith also is simple. A young child can sing with conviction “Jesus loves me, this I know” and arrive at the heart of the gospel. Many a well-trained theologian returns to this simple song to express a most cherished belief. On the other hand, faith is infinitely complex, for we do want to explore the meaning of the incarnation, the nature of our Trinity God, the intercession of the Spirit.
Finally, faith is extraordinarily concrete as we feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, visit the sick, etc. On the other hand faith is somewhat ephemeral. We cling to things hoped for and embrace the conviction of things not seen.
Sometimes we try and reduce complex issues to “one thing.” For example, you are praying about a particular personal challenge, say, you want to become less anxious. The request you make of God is straightforward, and you have asked for something very good. So why are you still worried? The “simple thing” here is to ask in faith and receive. Why have you not received? You can put a dozen different challenges in this equation and have the same struggle: a prayer for healing, the return of a prodigal, the salvation of a friend, etc.
The sad consequence of simplistic (not simple!) faith is that we tend to give up when the worry remains, the family member’s cancer returns, the child stays in the distant land, and the friend declines invitations. We give up at the very point where we should press forward.
Most of our requests to God defy simplicity. We are not asking Him for the answer to 2 + 2. Stay with the worry prayer for a moment. You are asking God to perform a renovation of character that involves your free will, your history and habits, even your knowledge. Who can possibly understand the levels at which God works? He probes and presses in your life in ways that will result in your eternal transformation. He may bring people into your life to accomplish His grand design. And you are miffed because He has not taken away your worry in a single day?
God gives us answers only as we are able to understand them. He leads us to discovery only as we have the eyes to see. He opens the door when we are ready to walk through. All of these things take time. Do not give up when the way becomes hard. Believing is not always easy. Do not be discouraged when faith is not simple. Be patient as God guides you to understand a new level of its complexity. Do not be frustrated when what you seek is not concrete. Trusting in “things hoped for” is not a waste of time.
You are in a relationship with God. Just think seriously for 10 seconds about those words. You are in a relationship with the infinite, immortal, invisible God, clothed in light and before whom the angels bow! This relationship is not mechanical. It has infinite texture and nuance.
For this reason, Jesus taught us to ask, seek, and knock, not so that we might receive a quick answer. God is not google! The tense of the verbs indicates ongoing action. We are to consistently and unceasingly ask, seek, and knock because our questions require a lifetime for God to form the answer. You must trust that your Father is working in multiple and mysterious ways, and you must embrace a faith that in many ways is also multiple and mysterious.
Dr. Terry Ellis
October 11, 2010