Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thoughts on Believing God

Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-since he was about one hundred years old-and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he 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." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Romans 4:3, 18-25

I attend a ladies' Bible study at our local church here in Mexico and a few weeks ago, we had some planning sessions to map out goals and activities for the year 2010. One thing that we decided to do was to dedicate the first day of every month to prayer and fasting, each in our own way. Fasting isn't a discipline that I have regularly pursued, so I thought that this would interesting to see how this would work out for me as I participate with the other ladies in this way.

Wouldn't you know that I completely forgot about it yesterday?


But instead of waiting for next month to roll around and try again (besides, they might ask for reports at Bible study tomorrow, ack!), I decided to just work it into my day today (Yes, I know you aren't really supposed to let everyone know when you are fasting, but this all works into my thoughts on believing God...besides, I'm not going around all pitiful and hungry, looking for admiration or sympathy. Trust me, I am NOT holier than thou...).

Since this is designed to be an exercise for prayer and meaningful time spent with God, I wanted to choose some verses to meditate on for today. I was leafing through my Bible wondering what passage(s) to read when my Bible fell open to Romans 4. I have it marked because I'm supposed to read this chapter 20 times during Beth Moore's Believing God study that I doing this year (with my English Bible study group and yes, it gets confusing sometimes).

I think God led me to this chapter because He knows that this is what I need to think about today...specifically about what it looks like for me to believe God and live out my faith like Abraham did. Even though I have so much more revelation than Abraham did (the entire Word of God at my fingertips!), sometimes I think that Abraham had a distinct advantage because God talked to him out loud and in a very specific way (although I probably do Abraham a grave injustice because he lived a godly life without the benefit of any kind of written revelation from God!). Abraham knew that the promise was for him to have a child, a son. No question about that, it just didn't happen when and how he thought it would.

At times, I wish God would speak to me like that...but it seems like God's promises for me are kind of, well, harder to figure out sometimes. I mean, it's not like God says "I promise that you will get the money you need to pay for your visas" or "Yes, I promise you will have the funding you need for your ministry" or "You will be able to go inhabit the land of Venezuela." (Although I have to admit that God did speak to me very clearly that Miguel was the man I was to marry, but that's another story...)

I have questions sometimes...is this or that verse really for me? Am I taking things out of context? Am I hearing God right? Is this just wishful thinking or really something God has for me? What happens if I believe God for something and it doesn't happen the way I believed so strongly for? We hear a lot about people getting "a word from God"...nothing against that because I know that God does speak to people, but how do I really know that was God speaking to me and not just my imagination or wishful thinking?

I have heard some people say that just because we believe, for example, that a certain person will be healed and we pray that way, that it's already done...the miracle happens just because we pray with belief. But what about the times when people do pray for healing and they aren't healed? Case in point, II Corinthians 12:1-10. God can and does heal, but I don't think that I can presume that He will in every case.

I think that one of the keys might be in verse 21..."Abraham was fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised." I wonder if 'praying with belief' isn't so much the belief that God will do it, but that He can. Praying with belief, then, would be praying with the full persuasion that God can do anything He wants to; that God has the power to do what I ask. Taking into account, of course, that God's plan might be different than mine and I submit myself to His ways. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

So I was thinking this morning, what are some of the specific promises God has given to me, personally?

Philippians 4:6-7 came to mind..."Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

God's promise is peace when I present my prayers and petitions to God with thanksgiving.

There are more promises, I know, lots more...Matthew 6:25-34 is another favorite of mine. I think it would be good to ask God to lead me to them, and ask Him how He plans to use them in my life. Side-note...I've noticed that when one grows up in a Bible-rich environment like I have, the Word can become so common as to lose its meaning sometimes. I know a lot of verses and passages, but I think it would be a good idea to ask God to make them fresh and new and relevant all over again.

One thing this Believing God study has done is to challenge some of my wrong beliefs about God. Wrong beliefs about God make it hard to believe Him and take His promises to heart, so it is good to see these things coming to the surface so I can address them. For one thing, I'm realizing that I continue to struggle to feel deserving of God's blessings and His grace (darn, thought I had taken care of that!).

I tend to view God's grace as conditional on whether I am behaving in ways deserving of that grace...and while it's true that God does sometimes take us through hard times to teach us valuable lessons, God is not petty or vindictive or skimpy on the grace. I need to focus on the fact that God's grace is something I don't deserve and cannot earn. It abounds and is even more abundant in the face of my weakness.

I saw this quote posted on a friend's Facebook status today..."God is too wise to be mistaken. God is too good to be unkind. So when you don't understand, when you can't see His plan, when you can't trace His hand, trust His heart."

I like that, to know that I can trust His heart.

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