Genuine Faith

Do you have genuine faith? That is something I have been asking myself lately. I pray. Sometimes I even feel a connection to God in prayer. I go to Church. I even put money in the basket. However, I must ask myself–we must all ask ourselves–is our faith genuine? George Barna of the Barna Group says:

Americans are willing to expend some energy in religious activities such as attending church and reading the Bible, and they’re willing to throw some money in the offering basket. Because of such activities, they convince themselves that they’re people of genuine faith. But when it comes to truly establishing their priorities and making a tangible commitment to knowing and loving God, and allowing Him to change their character and lifestyle, most people stop short. We want to be “spiritual” and we want to have God’s favor, but we’re not sure we want Him taking control of our lives and messing with the image and outcomes we’ve worked so hard to produce.

Am I truly willing to give God control? And what does that mean? What does it mean to have genuine faith? I believe the answer to that is in the Scriptures. Jesus states, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24). Complete denial of self, suffering, and trust is all that is required. Easy, right? I only wish it were as easy as writing it down on paper.

Having genuine faith requires a complete and total change in the way we are living our lives. There are three things that are absolutely critical in the process of making this change: self denial, sacrifice, and trust. I will discuss self denial in this blog and address the others in subsequent blogs.

The first thing we need to do is to deny ourselves. My last two blog posts were about prayer. I believe that prayer is the key to the denial of self. We constantly try to control everything in our lives. It is just a part of our human nature. We even tend to do this in our prayer. My boss (and pastor of one of the churches I serve) recently said in one of his homilies that prayer is not meant to be a negotiation with God. It is meant to be a surrendering of your will to His. Jim Beckman in his book God, Help Me reiterated this for me when he said, “anytime we find ourselves telling God what to do, we’re in trouble.” In order to deny ourselves we must change the way we pray. We cannot try to control the direction of our prayer. This is very difficult for me to do because I’m in the habit of telling God what to do when I pray. I want to be in control of my life. Prayer, according to Beckman is “marked by God’s revelation and healing, not by fixing and figuring out.” This “fixing and figuring out” is self centered. It is “telling God what to do”. It is trying to negotiate with Him.

In my marriage, as in all marriages, there is a relationship. Whenever my wife is struggling with something I have a tendency to try to figure out what’s wrong and then fix it. I think that all men have this tendency. This, however, has never worked with my wife. She keeps trying to tell me that she wants me to acknowledge what she is going through. She also wants me to relate to her, and respond in love. That response is a natural response that comes through the conversation and the relationship.

Through prayer, we are to enter into a conversation–a relationship–with God. Just as in spousal relationships, we are not to try to figure it out and fix it. We must be present to God and honest with Him from the depths of our soul. When we do this, God will acknowledge, relate, and reveal Himself to us and heal us. Be honest with God. Tell him what you are feeling–at the deepest level of your being. And then be quiet. Don’t try to fix anything, but allow God to reveal Himself to you. God will respond to our struggles in love if can just shut up and allow Him to. This type of prayer will enable us to let go of ourselves. It will allow God to work through us. When we are able to accomplish this on a consistent basis, we will be able to deny ourselves and take an important step towards having genuine faith.

(Note: The concept of the dynamics of “acknowledge, relate, and respond” also come from Beckman’s book. They are not my thoughts, I’m not that smart. I want to give credit where credit is due.)

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Published in: on June 5, 2009 at 11:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

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