One of the best explanations of faith that I have learned is this: “Faith is simply a good opinion of God”.
This makes it so simple for me. When I need faith, I don’t have to look at myself to produce faith. I just need to look at God. And true enough, in times where I am low in faith, it’s because my opinion of God at the time needs adjusting.
Our Worries Speak a Bad Word about God
Let’s say I’m worrying about money, what is my heart really saying? It’s saying “God might not provide this time”… “Remember that one time when you were in tough times? That might happen again. If God allowed it before he can allow it again”… “You’re on your own. Do whatever it takes to make ends meet”.
Does that make God look good? Does that glorify him? No. And who suffers? God? Or me?
Let’s say you’re worrying about your health. What are you really saying? “God may or may not heal me”… “Sometimes he lets us stay sick to teach us a lesson”… “What about XYZ? He got sick and he’s a good Christian guy”…
Is that having a good opinion of God? No, not at all.
Where Faith Comes From
That’s why the bible says that faith comes from hearing the Word of God. Because the Word of God always shows you how good God is! Did he ever blast someone with sickness to teach them a lesson? Would you do that to your own child? Will you give your son a snake if he asks for an egg? What more your Father in heaven! Did Jesus ever refuse to heal someone? Was there anyone ever in lack when Jesus was around? Is there any account of someone dying when Jesus was around? Lazarus died when Jesus wasn’t around… but he resurrected when Jesus arrived. The Word of God has a good opinion of God.
The bible also says Faith is a gift from God. It’s something God does. Our hearts always have a tendency to be veiled… and God always lifts that veil. Just this afternoon I was worrying like crazy about something. And there was this voice in my head saying “why are you still worrying about this? Aren’t you the guy who always talks about Grace vs Anxiety, etc etc?”.. That’s the voice of the enemy kicking me when I’m down. But you know, when you’re caught in the middle of it – it’s really, really hard! You can’t “get a grip” on yourself. God has to get a grip on you.
God is asking you today: “When will you learn to have a good opinion of me? Am I not your Father who loves you? I will take care of you. Be confident of that and rest”.
Unless you people see Signs
In John 4 (where we left off a long time ago!) Jesus went back to his hometown after his trip to Jerusalem. He knows that people there don’t have a good opinion of him. Here’s what he said:
John 4: 48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
In those words you can almost feel Jesus’ frustration. Of course he wants them to believe! This is the problem with unbelief. Unbelief is basically saying “God is not so good”. In the case of the people there, their unbelief sounded something like: “If this guy is who he says he is, he better prove it”.
Where does this come from? Why do people need a miracle before they start believing?
The Law and Unbelief
One of the biggest reasons, is because of our religious background. The Jews lived in the time of the Law. The Law basically says you need to earn your blessing. If you haven’t been following the law lately, you’re not receiving anything from God. This mentality is still prevalent today- and it does bigtime damage to our faith in God. If we lived in this frame of mind, if we’ve been taught anything that sounds like this growing up, we’re basically saying “God will give only what I deserve”. If God blesses us we say: “Well and good, I deserve it.” On the other hand, if we don’t feel like we deserve anything, but we need a miracle – healing or provision we don’t come to God at all. And if we did, we don’t come expecting. Because we feel we don’t deserve it.
This is why many times we feel like we’re on our own. Because our minds still haven’t been renewed about the matter at hand and we’re still dwelling on the whole meritocracy mindset of the law. You see, God has no problem giving. We have a problem receiving.
The Law does not give people faith. It causes people to work. And work is the opposite of faith. Faith rests in God. A Work Mentality says “I’m on my own”. If I ever get rich, it’s because I earned it. If I ever get “blessed” it’s because I deserved it. If I am healthy, it’s because I took good care of my body”. It’s all “I, I, I”. A Work Mentality also says things like “I won’t get blessed today because I have not been behaving well.” It turns God into an impersonal, uncaring economic force. Not a loving Father.
The more we preach LAW, the worse our opinion of God becomes. We see God as someone excited to punish sins, and unwilling to bless. We do not see his heart which delights in mercy and grace.
Grace and Faith
This is why the message of Grace changes everything for us who believe. Grace says “God will give you something you do not deserve. Not because you are good but because He is Good.” Looking back at the story in John 4: Jesus was complaining that people needed a sign, but he still healed the sick boy in the story. He has no problem giving us signs and wonders! It is just frustrating for him to know that many times, we refuse to believe at face value – just taking him at his word, or just assuming the best from him. Why? Because he loves to bless us! He hates to see unbelief robbing us!
Many times my wife and I have fights about words. You know those arbitrary sentences which can either mean something very good or very bad? Those cause many fights! Sometimes I get hurt and say “That’s not what I meant! Why did you assume that I meant that other horrible meaning?”. I do it a lot to her too! And she says “Why can’t you give me the benefit of the doubt? Of course that’s not what I meant!”. We fight because we do not assume the best from each other all the time. We choose to believe the worst. It is the same with God.
If we ever wonder if God will provide – why can’t we just assume he will? If we don’t have enough faith to be certain, let’s just assume the best. Don’t say “well I’m afraid to hope and be disappointed”. Faith is having a good opinion of God. Say “He will not disappoint”. The people in Galilee in Jesus’ time did not believe God would heal, give, provide, love and care for them. People today – even Christians – have the same difficulty in believing. The oppression from years and years of being preached the LAW did that to us.
The Sign of Jonah
In another account, Jesus says that only a “wicked generation asks for a sign”. Please don’t read this and feel bad – like Jesus is calling you wicked for your unbelief. He was specifically referring to the Pharisees and Sadducees. But he also warned against their “yeast” or their teaching – which infects us with the same unbelief. And what do they teach all the time? The law! They were the most legalistic, religious bunch! And they were hypocrites by default, because no one could live up to the standard they were demanding – or were saying that God demanded. It’s their message that made people have a bad opinon of God.
But anyway, Jesus continued to say that the only sign they were going to get was the Sign of Jonah. And what is the Sign of Jonah? Jonah was in the belly of the whale for 3 days. Jesus was referring to his death and resurrection. That should be sign enough for everyone!
My friend, the sign of Jonah is the gospel. It tells you that Jesus died for you! It tells you that if you believe God cannot be good to you because you don’t deserve it, remember that he was “bad” to Jesus even if Jesus didn’t deserve it. Jesus took our place. Jesus’ death threw that whole “business of deserving” out of the window! That gives us the divine right to expect good things from God. And Jesus rose from the dead! That’s a declaration that his death was accepted by God as payment for our sin. That there was more Good in Jesus’ life than the Bad that he was punished to pay for.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
If God gave you Jesus, that is proof enough of how good he is. He values Jesus more than anything in the universe. And yet he did not withhold Jesus- he gave him to us.
Guilty of Presumption
In the past I would be afraid to pray with faith because I did not want to be guilty of presumption. But today I am telling you – that it is far better to be guilty of presumption than to be guilty of unbelief! (Sorry for using the word guilty. Either way you can never be guilty again because of the cross! But you know what I mean!)
So like I said a while ago I was struggling with a certain worry. Do you know what I did? I picked up my bible (no I don’t always do this when I’m worried! But good thing I did a while ago)… and decided to pray.. I prayed the most presumptious prayers ever.
- I did not say things like “God if it is your will….” I just assumed it was his will.
- I didn’t say “In your time, God…” I just said out loud that I expected it at a specific time.
- I didn’t say “If you want to God” I just assumed and believed he wanted to.
And when I was done praying like that, I felt his pleasure over me. Like he was saying “you sounded much better right there than you did a while ago when you were worrying like crazy”.
God did not say “What a presumptuous boy”. I know it was more like “Now there’s someone with a good opinion of me!”. I wish I could be like that always!
The Real Sign and Wonder
Our hearts can be so hard. When you see Jesus saying “Oh you of little faith”… he means it! But that’s something he came to help us with too!
Remember that God does not demand from you. He supplies to you. The faith he wants to see in you – he will give it to you as well. For me, I would have no basis to believe God, no basis to have a good opinion of him – if not for the Cross.
The Cross is the reason why I do not need to look at myself – whether or not I deserve God’s goodness.
The Cross is proof that Jesus loves me so much.
The Cross is proof that the Father will not spare anything, withhold anything from me. He loves us that much.
Unless we see signs and wonders we will not believe. But we see the cross. And it’s impossible not to believe.
The real miracle – is what happens in our hearts when we accept the message of God’s love, grace, mercy and favor for us – through his son Jesus. The way we see God begins to change, and everything changes along with it.
Thank you for your cross Lord! I look upon your cross and believe! Everything is a YES and AMEN because of the cross! Continue to change the way I see you!