Regular faith allows us to look back at past unpleasant times and say "God, I see now that you were teaching me and growing me. I understand now at least part of what you were doing. Thank you." Great faith allows us to look at current unpleasant times and say "God, I guess you are teaching me and growing me. Keep it up until I have learned all I need to learn. Thank you!" Somewhere I read "Faith and obedience will remove mountains of evil. But they must go hand in hand." I like this thought, but is faith without obedience really faith? The primary purpose of strong faith in God is not so that He can do more work through me, but so that He can do more work in me. My lack of faith hinders my effectiveness as his servant and it also blocks my becoming like him. I do not need to develop a plan for my life...month...week...day...hour. Instead I need to discover God's plan, which has been in existence for thousands of years. I need the faith to believe his plan is better than mine and the courage to put it into practice. Faith says to God "If it is your will I will attempt the impossible and accept the uncomfortable."
We put our faith into action when we take a step of obedience into the unknown, following His will even when we cannot foresee the results. We explain such faith by saying “We step out of the light into the darkness, not knowing what the darkness holds.”
Abraham exhibited such faith when he followed God’s orders to relocate his family and possessions without knowing his final destination. Such faith requires obedience, knowing God can make the results pleasant or unpleasant. Suffering may or may not follow.
Such faith-action is admirable. Surely it pleases God. But even greater faith is required when we are called to take a step of obedience knowing for sure the results will be unpleasant. This is when we step into the darkness, knowing the darkness holds suffering.
This faith assures us God will protect us during the suffering, rather than from the suffering. This is “fiery furnace” faith. (Daniel 3:17-18) It is the faith possessed by martyrs of our faith when they refused to forsake their beliefs, knowing that torture and death awaited them.
When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane He knew exactly what suffering awaited his obedience But his faith in the Father allowed him to say “not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
God expects us to also have faith that permits us to eagerly obey even when there is guaranteed suffering ahead.
Faith and obedience are as inseparable as the two sides of a coin.
God sometimes calls us to acts of obedience that have the possibility of undesirable consequences. We hesitate. We procrastinate. We rationalize. Then, finally, we call our weak faith into play and do the thing He has asked.
And because He is our Father He still supports and protects us. The possible unpleasant results do not happen. Our faith grows stronger. We are more willing to be obedient next time.
So each act of obedience results in increased faith. That increased faith, in turn, brings about a more instant, joyful and confident obedience the next time He calls. We become more mature Christians because of the upward spiraling interplay between these two spiritual aspects of our lives.
James was referring to this connection when he wrote “anyone can see that I have faith by the way I act”(James 2:18 LB) It was obedience that directed James’ actions. He was doing the things God selected for him to do, not the things he had chosen for himself.
If we are disobedient, we need to ask the Father for increased faith that will give us the courage to obey. If we lack strong faith we need to act in obedience anyway and our faith will be strengthened when we observe his protection and provision.
And our reward for increased faith and obedience? The greatest reward of all: “Well done” from our Father. (Matt 25:21 LB)