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Are You Setting Yourself Up for a Crises of Faith?

Written by Phill Coselli, Teaching and Research Intern

As long as I’ve been an adult in the church, I’ve noticed that many other adults have been steadily setting themselves up for a crisis of faith. What’s worse is that I’ve seen them set their own children to have crises of faith at some point because of what they’re being taught.

So, what do I mean by a crisis of faith? In general, it’s when someone puts their own faith to the test and the outcome is unsatisfactory. Sometimes people don’t realize that they are putting anything to the test, they just thought that faith was supposed to work a specific way and it didn’t. The most common scenario I see is with prayer. Time and time again I see people pray for healing, or a job, or a relationship, which would all be fine normally, but instead of it being a humble request set before the will of God, it becomes a test. People were taught somewhere that with enough faith and petition to God, their prayers would be fulfilled and if their prayers don’t get fulfilled then that probably means they didn’t yet have enough faith or that they hadn’t set themselves up as God wants them to be.

For example, say someone’s loved one is sick and they pray for God to heal them. If the prayer was left right there as is, as a humble request before the will of God, then it would be a wonderful prayer. But it usually continues with thinking that if they pray with enough conviction, and if they fix all the sins in their life, their loved one will be healed. Alternatively, they may make a demand of God. They may say that God better heal their loved one or they’re done with the church. These prayers are examples of bargaining with God, and they come from an unhealthy understanding of what faith is. See, this person has learned somewhere that having faith bears goods results and that lacking faith has consequences. Perhaps it was from one of Jesus’ parables about being able to move mountains with the faith of a mustard seed, or from Philippians 4:13.

Regardless of where it comes from, it’s a dangerous misunderstanding. Jesus never promises material results from our faith; He says that if we understand and trust in who He is, and if He wills it, then anything is possible. In the story with the mustard seed, the disciples still didn’t fully understand or trust in who Jesus is as God. The healings and exorcisms failed because the command to heal lacked authority. The disciples seem to have believed that they had been given the ability to heal. They weren’t given an ability powered by their faith-o-meter, they were granted the authority to heal in Jesus’ name.

Let’s go back to the person with the sick loved one. There’s simply nothing this person can do, or believe hard enough that would ever heal their loved one because like the disciples, it never depended on them. God grants the authority to heal according to His will, not the effort or “amount of belief” of a person. I’m not saying that’s easy to hear or take to heart. I’m not saying I always like it either. It’s hard to believe that there’s simply nothing we could have done to change things sometimes. It’s also hard to believe that God might do nothing to heal a loved one.

It might be helpful to think of faith as recognition. God is working in this world and His Spirit is with His followers, but we have to know who God is and understand what Jesus did for us in order to recognize what He is doing. Christians should give thanks to Him because we know that the blessings we do have come from Him. If we believe blessings are attached to our faith in God, we’ll eventually run into a rough patch in life and think that the blessings ran out because of our faith.

In the biblical story of Job, his friends claimed over and over again that Job must have sinned somehow, that his faith had weakened, and that was why all those bad things were happening to him. It had nothing to do with Job though, which God reminds him of. God’s will is unknowable to us on a certain level, and Job needed to be reminded that his righteousness and piety was never what had given him all the blessings he had in the first place, it was God’s will. Job understands at the end of the story that he should live a life according to God’s desire for him out of thanks and recognition for the blessings he did have.

It’s also important to remember that things in this life usually result from choices we and others make, but everything is also ultimately subject to the will of God. We also can’t mistake things that God says are good and approves of as the same as things that He wills. Just because it would be good that all people be healed right now, doesn’t mean that the healing will happen now or even soon; it may not happen until the resurrection. Because we are still dealing with the results of sin in our world, it is not a mark against God that He allows bad things to happen. The choices we make could result in poverty, riches, sickness, or health. But the outcomes of our choices ultimately all rest within the will of God. Our faith-o-meter doesn’t power anything because it doesn’t exist. We either recognize God’s authority, blessings, love, and judgment, or we don’t. If we don’t, we may become disillusioned about why things happen as they do.