Last year, I started working with a trainer. You know, I meet a guy every day at the gym and he tortures me for the next hour. For him, I’m not doing good unless I’m feeling bad. If I haven’t crumpled over in agony, grabbed a torn muscle or thrown up sometime during the hour, he’s failed at his mission.
According to him, all of this is necessary for me to get stronger. The pain has to be endured for the muscle to repair itself from the damage of the workout (yes, you damage your muscles when you work out) and in repairing themselves, grow stronger and bigger.
There is no shortcut. If you want to get stronger, you have to workout. You have to push through your limits if you want to grow. Small victories have to won every day or there’s no victory at all.
For all the sermons we preach on faith, for all the discussions we have about “having faith,” you’d think we know how it works. Rather, you would think we know how to live in faith. Few of us do. Every church will have one or two people who know how to live this way. Go to any congregation and find the ones they congregation calls “saints” and you’ll know who they are. That’s the point. Everyone knows who they are because there are so few of them.
Most of us, however, live mundane lives well within the limits our natural abilities. Most of us rarely, if ever, enter to the realm of living in faith.
Part of the reason is most us don’t understand what faith is. Words like “faith” and “believe” are thrown around every day in church, but rarely are they given definitions we can live with in our real world. The writer of Hebrews tell us “faith is the assurance of things hoped for” which means living with the confidence Christ will keep the promises He has made to us and creation.
His creation will be restored to more purely reflect His original intent and those who are redeemed will join Him in His eternal rule. Sadness will be wiped away and death will be defeated. That’s the short version
Then…but not until then. Until then, we’ll have troubles. Jesus promised that. We are, however, to be a good cheer because He’s overcome the world. That’s faith — living joyfully in the middle of all our troubles confident of Christ’s ultimate victory even though it looks like we’re behind on the score board right now.
Faith is alignment.
Faith is making decisions that bring our lives into sync with Jesus’ teachings, molding ourselves into the likeness of the life He lived. Through prayer, study of the Scriptures, and obedience, we bring our lives into greater alignment with Jesus’ word and thus, more under His Lordship.
And we learn by doing small things first. When you begin working out, you don’t start on the heavy end of the dumbbell rack. You start on the light end with the smaller weights. Then, you gradually work your way up.
You don’t run a complete marathon on the day you start running. When you start running, your first goal is the run to the end of the block.
And it’s the same process in following Jesus. You don’t begin preaching to thousands and healing the sick. You begin buy making yourself show up for prayer and Scripture. You help take care of struggling family in your church. Maybe you head to the coast and help with disaster relief efforts. You set up chairs for senior adult dinner. You show up and do the small things first, then you’ll be trusted with greater opportunities.
In doing this, you’ll learn how faith works. Most of the time, the most important thing you do is show up. The Spirit is working all the time drawing broken, confused and lost men and women to Christ. When this happens, our role is to join in the Spirit’s work and become a guide to the lost friend who’s trying to find home.
You would have learned this important lesson in small ways. You would have shown up in all those moments when you didn’t think anything important was going on only to later realized there was something of eternal significance in that moment and you wouldn’t have been anywhere else. You would have learned it by being obedient to Christ, not for reward, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes, the lesson will be so subtle, you won’t even know you’ve learned it until someone else points it out.
When someone asks how you have become such a deep person of faith, you’ll be surprised anyone considers such a person. If you have an answer at all, you’ll end up saying something like, “I don’t know. I just kept showing up.”
So, where is the next place Jesus wants you to show up? Don’t worry if it’s a little uncomfortable. That’s to be expected. It’s stressing your faith, making your faith sweat a little more each day, that makes you stronger.
Jesus is already working somewhere. Are you strong enough in your faith to get where’s He’s working and join Him?