It would be nice to have future binoculars (lenses that would reveal the future). If I had them, I could have saved myself a lot of grief. You too?
While we do not have future binoculars, we have something even more valuable: Faith. By faith, we are assured of a future we cannot see. How so? Seeing the future would be seeing outcomes. Faith is trust in God over and regardless of outcomes.
If we could see outcomes, we would trust in them more than we would trust in God. Because we trust God’s promises, character, and integrity—who He is—more than what we see, want, or expect, we can be confident of our future despite our inability to know outcomes in advance.
In today’s Scripture passage, Jesus speaks of faith and outcomes. He says (in so many words) that if we have faith, we can receive the outcomes God has for us.
When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Mat 21:20-22 NIV)
Some have construed these verses to imply that we can choose whatever outcome we want, and God is bound to do it. Some flaws inherent in this thinking are: It puts us in control, renders God little more than a cosmic vending machine, and promotes an attitude that conflicts with humility (the foundation of the kind of relationship we must have with God if we are to agree with Him).
This kind of attitude also reduces faith to a formula. God does not let it work this way–for which I am grateful. I believe I understand enough to know that it is in my best interest not to know my future but to trust God who holds, determines, and enables it.
This is how it should work: 1. Through discernment, we perceive how we should pray (aware or unaware). 2. We apply the kind of faith of which Jesus spoke. 3. Then … it happens. This kind of prayer begins in God and is expressed through us back to Him. Think of it as a loop or a complete circuit.
When we pray in faith in agreement with God, it is not possible for it not to happen. Too often, however, we pray with manipulative attitudes or desperate motives and are surprised if a prayer is answered. I have shared this with you before, but it bears repeating again:
“Aside from the cross, any spiritual success in prayer creates problems with pride, but in Christ, we cease all boasting (1 Cor 1:31). Therefore, even the good prayers of men must be stopped, and every mountain must be brought low until prayer becomes an act of God in men undeserved, not a striving after Him by which He is manipulated.” (From The Elijah Task by John & Paula Sandford)
This challenges me and is continually transforming the way I perceive God and communicate with Him. It has and continues to have a profound impact on my life and relationship with God.
Since we tend to complicate things, let me summarize it and make it simple in closing:
- Seek to pray in agreement with God.
- Believe that God will respond.
- Avoid inserting your thoughts or desperate feelings.
- Focus on who God is over what you want/need.
- Be mindful that God is in control, and you (we) are not.
Remember that we all are learning and will continue to learn as long as we are breathing air on this planet. Be especially mindful that learning is a process, not an event. Therefore, do not be hard on yourself but give yourself grace to learn.
And as you do, trust God.
From ministry friend Randall Vaughn.
(c) 2023 Randall Vaughn • All Rights Reserved • http://www.e-min.org