It can be tough to figure out the secret to living by faith when we’re busy being angry at God. Trust me. I’ve had a little experience on this area.
A recent post [ You Don’t Need All the Answers to Stop Being Angry at God ] explored this dilemma with a look at the Israelites predicament in Exodus 14. Like them, we struggle to discover the secret to living by faith when we’re freaking out about God dumping us in the wilderness. Or so we think.
During times of testing, we can discover the secret to living by faith when God calls us to let go but not let up.
It’s one of those oxymoronic things that God calls us to do, like give up in order to gain, or humble ourselves in order to be exalted. Over the last year, we’ve had to try learn this truth as God has pried our fingers back one by one, leaving us, as it were, living with our palm wide open. And on that open hand, He placed a flat sheet of paper, representing our calling. Then He told us to run. With all our might.
The Problem with Living by Faith
If you’ve ever tried to do this before — and you should at least once in life — you’ll quickly find it to be an impossible task without some outside intervention. You might make a few halting steps with the paper in place, but as soon as you get any kind of momentum going — swoosh! The paper flies away and the ride comes to a complete halt. (If you try this feat at home, be sure to wear gloves so as to avoid any inadvertent paper cuts unless you are a licensed, professional FaithWalker.)
We have discovered that God often asks us to do what is only possible if He does it through us. There’s no way we can run at full speed with His calling in our hand unless He keeps it there. To complicate things further, when I relax and allow my fingers to naturally curl in to clutch at the paper, my efforts only push it up and off my hand, sending it all into a dizzying spin that may or may not leave me with those blasted paper cuts.
A Secret Challenge
There is another perspective to this paper-and-hand analogy of living by faith. Imagine you were presented with the following challenge:
- Keep your hand open flat in front of you.
- Lay a flat piece of paper flat upon your open hand.
- Now run with all your might while keeping the paper flat against your hand.
There is a secret way to do this. But it involves tension. It means meeting resistance head-on instead of running from it.
Here’s how: Begin running while smoothly but quickly raising your hand up in front of you with your palm now facing out ahead of you so that the paper is now still flat against your hand but perpendicular to the floor. Important: you can only make this move if you are already in motion. And the paper will only stay flat against your palm if you keep moving forward. If you stop, the paper will drop. It’s the resistance you meet that keeps everything in place.
I think God often works that way when He calls us to walk, run, and live by faith. I’ve noticed that God seldom calls us to pursue the easy option. We might choose it, but that doesn’t mean He’s called us to it. Instead, He picks the one that will meet the greatest resistance — for our good and His glory.
God calls His children to practice the art of letting go without letting up. It’s the resistance we meet that causes the miraculous to happen.
3 Key Steps to Living by Faith
For the secret to living by faith, we return to the instructions Moses and God gave the Israelites when they got angry at being led out of Egypt and into the wilderness. They saw the Red Sea in front of them and Pharoah’s army closing behind them. Im other words, the only options they saw were ones that would mean unthinkable resistance — a) taking on the worls’s most powerful army without any weapons or b) stepping into the waters of the Red Sea. Both seemed, no doubt, equally insane to the angry Israelites.
I have little doubt that each of us would have come to the same conclusion — we’re screwed.
But here’s what Moses and God said to them:
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. (Ex. 14:13-16)
- Stand still. It’s too easy to think “What other option did they have?” Apparently Moses thought they needed to be told to be still instead of, no doubt, panicking. You know, like you and I do when we freak out and try to do something, anything when we don’t want to live by faith. The Psalmist used the same language, of course, when he quoted God as saying that in times of crisis we should “Be still.” In times of crisis, when we are furtively trying to figure out how we can keep the paper flat against our hand, we reach for any and all options within our power to make it work. Like Abraham did when he reached for Hagar and got Ishmael instead of Isaac. We know how that worked out. The first step to living by faith is learning to let go and stand still. We must stop trying to do what only God can do.
- See His salvation. The psalmist also emphasized this same point when he said, “Be still and know that I am God.” According to my rudimentary linguistic research, the Hebrew word used there for know is based on the idea of knowing by observing. In other words, be still and know who I am — by watching Me work. God created us to delight in watching Him do what He does. In this case, what God was about to do was unimaginable.
- Keep moving forward. God asked them a seemingly bizarre question, “Why are your crying to me?” From His perspective, there was no problem. He tells them to go forward, toward the sea. He calls them to walk forward into the resistance. I can hear the Israelites now, “But there’s a sea in front of us. Did you miss that God? Not sure you have the latest Google Maps upgrade but we have the street-view here, and it doesn’t look all that promising. You aren’t actually asking us to walk into that! Oh, you are. Sweet swirling Egyptian leeks and garlic! Have you seen the statistics on that approach God?” Well, they likely had even more choice words. But they did move forward, into the resistance. And God did the impossible. We often get stuck right at this point don’t we? We refuse to keep moving forward until we know that we know that His plan has been tested and approved to be paper-cut-free. But that’s not how living by faith works.
Remember the lesson from the last post. God brings us into these faith scenarios to humble us and test us to see if we will obey Him. It’s humbling to begin to run forward knowing that the best of my plans will not be enough to part the waters. But when we practice the art of letting go without letting up, we ensure that we are obeying and all the credit for whatever happens belongs to the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Maybe that’s why Psalm 46 ends with this emphatic proclamation:
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalm 46)