When Faith Answers
One definition of faith by Merriam-Webster is “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” Rather than define faith, the Bible describes what faith does. “Now faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) or as the NIV translates: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” True faith is marked by confidence and assurance – not so much because of what we believe but because of the One in whom we believe.
This week many of us were surprised by God. We have been praying for a young man who is in the process of battling leukemia. He has been in the hospital for around two months undergoing rigorous chemotherapy which hopefully will result in a 0% production of leukemia cell blast and thereby make him a candidate for a bone marrow transplant. Earlier this week, biopsy results indicated that he was, in fact, at 0% production. Unfortunately, however, instead of being able to rejoice over the biopsy results, he was in ICU facing another battle as infection in his body resulted in septic shock.
To say his situation seemed dire is practically an understatement. He was placed on life support and listed in critical condition. Yet, as all who knew this young man or who had heard about his battle, prayed, prayed, and prayed some more – a miracle began to unfold. Even the doctors were baffled that although there was 0% white blood cell production, his body was beginning to heal. The color was slowly returning to his face and his body seemed to be responding to the antibiotics. This young man’s battle is surely not over; he has a long way to go. But for those of us praying, the hopelessness we felt as he was taken into ICU has now been replaced with expectation and renewed hope.
I wonder. Why were we surprised? As I thought about this I was reminded of the story of Peter when King Herod began to harass the church. He had already killed James, the brother of John, and then he seized Peter and put him into prison (see Acts 12). But while Peter was in prison, God sent an angel to deliver him and bring him out of the prison. Peter went straight to the house of Mary where many were gathered to pray for him. However, when Rhoda went to answer the door, she heard Peter’s voice and, without opening the door, ran to tell the others that Peter was there. But they didn’t believe her. Finally, as Peter continued to knock, they opened the door to see him. And “they were astonished.”
I’ll be honest. I cannot help but be both surprised and astonished when God answers prayers in such spectacular ways. Why is that? When I have fully surrendered my life to Him, when I believe with all my heart that my God can do anything, when I fully trust Him in every area of my life – why should I be surprised or astonished? And then it occurred to me. I’m not surprised because I doubt that God could or would act. I sincerely believe that my life, my world is in God’s hands and I trust Him totally and completely. Could it be that the answer of faith cannot help but be overcome with wonder and amazement when what we know in our hearts is suddenly, unexpectedly seen with our eyes?
As Hebrews 11:1 teaches, we learn that faith is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” When what we believe through faith, not by sight, suddenly becomes a visible reality, we cannot help but be astonished! When God makes visible what the Spirit has confirmed to us in our hearts, faith answers with giddy excitement and wonder. Look and see! God did that!
But, sometimes, as we all know, we do not see the miraculous answers. We believe. We pray. But loved ones die, innocent victims suffer, and evil triumphs over good. The writer of Hebrews acknowledged this as well. “Others were tortured …. Others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:35b-38a). But faith answered. Through faith they endured affliction. And in faith, they died with confidence and assurance – “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
The answer of faith places our hope, confidence, and assurance in God alone – not in what we may be able to see or understand. But every so often, God chooses to surprise us with the miraculous and we stand astonished and amazed! I thank God for these special surprises that encourage us, that renew our expectation and hope, and that remind us of the confidence and assurance we have in Him. And I thank Him that when we don’t see the miraculous, when the surprises don’t come, we can still stand astonished and amazed because we have Him. He is our hope, our confidence, and our assurance – forever – when faith answers!
“So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
(2 Corinthians 5:6-7)