Most of us believe God can move mountains. But how many of us believe he will? There’s a world of difference. We believe God can work mightily on our behalf, but we really aren’t sure he will.
In Hebrews 11:6 we learn that without faith it is impossible to please God. We must respond to God by faith. The basis for that faith, the verse goes on to say, is who God is—”Anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.”
And who is God? He is love. He is a giver. He is a helper and a provider. He is the Great Physician. He is the Creator. There are hundreds of things God is, and this is the basis for our trust in him.
Hebrews 11:6 also says we must believe God is a rewarder—”that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This earnest seeking is not a gritting of our teeth and a clenching of our fists. It is being serious about letting God help us—the very thing he wants to do.
Most of us begin projects and activities without ever asking God about them, forgetting that our life is God’s work and God’s ministry. He wants to do it. He has a plan. So we need to ask him, “What is your plan?” Then we need to expect an answer. This is the basis for seeing God work. Faith and a sense of expectancy are inseparable.
Why don’t we step out in faith and believe God? Why don’t we trust him and take actions that demonstrate our faith? A lot of us are afraid of making mistakes. There is nothing sinful about making mistakes, however. We learn far more from our mistakes than from our successes. The only way mistakes hurt us is to hurt our pride, and pride is no great virtue to cultivate anyway.
Sometimes we’re afraid we might embarrass God. We’re afraid to launch out into something in God’s name and have it fail. But God doesn’t worry about that. He’s been around a long time. Bigger and better people than you or I have failed at doing something in God’s name, but it hasn’t affected God one bit.
I once wanted to go to Africa, and I thought I would give God a little help in getting me there. I had a missionary friend in Africa who needed help, so I rounded up about ten people from our church and organized a trip. We presented the idea to the church and people prayed for it. It was a great idea.
About six weeks before we were to leave, we were praying about it and came to the conclusion that, although it was a great idea, God wasn’t in it. About two weeks later the chairman of the church board asked me how the plans for the trip to Africa were coming. I told him, “God’s not in it. We’re not going.” No one kicked me out of the church or anything like that. I just admitted that I had made a mistake.
Most people won’t do that. They will try to explain that God led in another direction. If that’s what happened, fine. But if you made a mistake, just admit it. Don’t dwell on the mistake, however—learn from it, and go on.
By the way, the next year God worked it out so I did get to go to Africa, for seven weeks.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. God gives us ideas all the time, yet we discount most of them immediately. Instead we should pray about them. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6 to pray about everything rather than worry about anything. We shouldn’t be afraid of ideas, because the Bible tells us that God is at work in us “to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). God has a good plan for us, and he is trying to lead us to do his will.
How does he do that? What is our receiving mechanism? The Bible is where we go to dig out answers, but our receiving mechanism is our brain, our mind. If we are seeking to do God’s will, he can give us thoughts and ideas.
You may think, couldn’t the devil slip in an evil idea? Of course he could, and you could probably come up with two or three bad ideas on your own. So how do we sort out these thoughts to be sure we end up with God’s ideas instead of the devil’s or ours?
God will expose our thoughts and deeds for what they are. John 3:20-21 gives some insight into this: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
The person who wants to do what is right brings his ideas and actions to God and listens to what God says about them. God can say, “Yes, that’s a good idea; it came from me.” Or, “No, that idea is not from me.”
This is a hard thing to do, but there’s a way to make it easier: Expect God to answer and to act. Many of us think that if God leads us to begin something, we’ll have to sweat it out alone until we finish that job. But in Philippians 1:6 Paul wrote that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God doesn’t leave things half-done. If he leads you to buy the Golden Gate Bridge on installments, he will also help you make the payments—just be sure that’s what he led you to do.
Generally we give up on prayer much too soon. We don’t pray expectantly or specifically because we don’t want to put God on the spot. Maybe we think we don’t want to bother God with our petty requests. After all, he’s a busy person.
How does God react to that kind of thinking? Let’s look at an example in Isaiah 7:10-13.
God told Ahaz to ask him for a sign, as a demonstration that God would do as he had promised. Ahaz refused. He said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” But the prophet Isaiah told Ahaz, “Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?” How did Ahaz try the patience of the Lord? Did he pray too much? No. He prayed too little! God is never bothered with our praying.
Pray about every idea that comes to your mind. God’s resources are unlimited, and he’s looking for people to give them to. He gives to those who are willing to ask and willing to receive. Believing God for ideas, and praying about them, is a demonstration of our faith.
Just as important as praying about everything is remembering what you prayed. Many times God answers prayer and we don’t recognize it because we’ve forgotten what we prayed. I’m a fanatic on making a prayer list, because what I’m thinking about today is probably not what I’ll be thinking two weeks from now.
I used to sell real estate. In 1974 business was bad and I considered quitting. I was working but not getting paid, and the Bible says the worker is worthy of his wages. I prayed about the situation, and told God I was going to quit if he gave me a good sales month—not another bad month, but a good one.
The next month I had a landslide. I sold more in that month than I had in the previous year and a half when the market had been good. But I quit, because I remembered what I had prayed.
Another demonstration of faith is reacting properly to circumstances we didn’t pray for and perhaps didn’t desire. What happens when you lose your job? The response of faith is to be thankful for what you don’t understand. We know from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that giving thanks in everything is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.
When you respond with thankfulness (by faith) to such situations, you are ready to take the next step God has for you. God has bigger plans for you than your company does. Nothing negative can happen to a Christian. We often think otherwise, but if God has allowed it, it’s not negative. Our wrong response makes it negative.
We think, God, if you changed these circumstances, I would be happy. God says, “If you changed your attitude we would both be happy!” All God wants to do through these situations is to build our faith. Having a thankful attitude keeps us receptive to God’s working, and enables us to accept any circumstances.
God is a giver with unlimited resources. God has big plans for us, and they are good plans. So we need to talk with God about the many opportunities he brings across our paths. And we need to be in close communication with him, not only in evaluating these opportunities, but also in giving thanks for situations we don’t understand or enjoy.