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Faith is Never a Mistake
by David A. DePra
The Bible shows that the historical deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and their journey through the wilderness, and their entrance and possession of the promised land, are representative of the spiritual journey of the Christian. We are delivered from the old creation by the Blood of the Lamb. We are brought out into a spiritual wilderness. But God is taking us on into the fullness of Christ.
The experiences of Israel along the way of this journey, including their reactions of unbelief and disobedience, are also representative of ourselves. These things were written as examples for us, Paul states, so that we might learn from them. There is much to learn from Israel’s unbelief – so that we might, "not fail by the same example of unbelief."
One question that often arises in the Christian experience that also periodically arose in the journey of Israel is this: Is faith in God ever a mistake? Is it possible to trust God and be wrong to do so? Israel thought so.
Faith is never a mistake. But we do make other mistakes – mistakes of reasoning, interpretation, and of course, mistakes of presumption. Yet if we really trust God, He will deal with all of those things in a redemptive way. Faith is never a mistake because faith ultimately means I surrender to God.
Israel had a certain amount of faith – mostly through Moses – that God would deliver them. God didn’t require much. Of course, they had no idea what was ahead of them. They thought only about being set free from slavery. But God had an entire relationship and history prepared for them.
It is like this with us. We are often pressed to the Lord with an immediate need. That need might be circumstantial or inward. It might be a one-time need, or a continual need. But often we go to the Lord with that need because we have a certain amount of faith – imperfect as it might be – that God will handle the situation. But just as was the case with Israel, there is more God wants to do than to simple solve our problem. He wants US. He wants to develop and establish us in Christ.
Because we do not realize this greater purpose, we remain focused on the immediate need. And we expect God to resolve it. Thus, if He does not, it might seem as if it was a mistake to trust God. Indeed, if God does not resolve the need to our liking, many turn back and refuse to go on. But faith in God is never a mistake. Our small faith is just the first step. God is calling into something eternal. He will get around to resolving the problem. But concurrently, He wants to establish us in His Son.
God wants to meet all of our needs – but IN Christ. Thus, in the beginning I might give THINGS to God. But ultimately, I must give myself to God. And what I get back is Jesus Christ and all that is in Him.
A Great Purpose
God had brought Israel out of Egypt through a series of great miracles. Immediately they found themselves in a vast wilderness. But a wilderness provides NO resources for living. This meant that Israel had no way of fending for themselves. Do we think this was an accident? No. It was of God. God wanted Israel to have no hope except in HIM.
Now, this is interesting. God planned to bring Israel into a condition where they had no way of providing for themselves. And yet once He did, they did immediately face NEED. They were hungry. They were thirsty. BUT -- God was NOT responding.
Doesn’t that seem strange? God draws them out into the wilderness wherein they must solely rely upon Him – but He lets them suffer need? Right away we must come to terms with something: God is purifying motives. He is after more than just giving them water or bread. He wants a relationship with them.
If we turn to Deut. 8 we actually read God’s explanation of these kinds of situations. He tells Israel WHY He allowed such conditions to prevail, despite His promises to provide for them:
And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou would keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. (Deut. 8:2-3)
God said that he allowed Israel to hunger – to humble them and prove them. To purify their motives. Why? So that they could enter into His greater purpose. Through this He was actually preparing them for the Promised Land. Our initial faith in God is often likewise ignorant to His purpose. But if we continue we will see the Truth.
God knows that most of us come to Him for what we can get from Him. We come to God because it pays us to. This is usually all we know to do. Therefore, God must take the initiative to draw us to Himself in deeper ways. If I have come to God only for what I can get from Him, what will I do when I don’t get it? In fact, what will I do when, instead of gaining through faith, my faith in God COSTS me greatly? This is the proving of faith – the exposing of the Truth about my faith.
When God allows these conditions to persist, some of us accuse God. Or maybe we try to develop a religious pattern that we think will get God moving – maybe we try to prove to God we are righteous and worthy. But none of that works. God will create a situation where we have no hope but HIM – we really never had any other hope; God is simply showing us the Truth – and then for a time God may not meet our need. Maybe for a LONG time. But will we continue to seek God? If we do, we will find Him.
You and I are going to be exposed as the religious frauds we are. We need to get that settled. But the good news is that God does this all unto a redemptive end. He wants to brings us to repentance so that we might we are real need for Him and to establish us in real faith in Christ.
The wilderness does this. God puts us in a place where WE cannot help ourselves, but He doesn’t seem to want to help us. Faith will seem like a mistake. But it isn’t a mistake. We are now in God’s purpose.
This ought to explain much. It explains why God sometimes seems so indifferent to us in our suffering. It explains why God doesn’t seem to do much when people cry out to Him. He is doing plenty – but it is not what we think, or often what we want. Yet He is faithful to do what is best for us in the eternal sense. We have to come to terms with this. It is what God is doing. And it is best.
Israel was barely out of Egypt when they began to encounter contradiction to the promises of God -- contradiction to their faith in God. They faced hunger and thirst almost immediately – by God’s own leading -- despite God's promises to provide for them. It was at that point for them, as it is for us when we face a similar contradiction, that it might seem as if our faith in God was a big mistake.
Below we read of four times in God’s early dealings with Israel where they faced situations that made it seem as if their faith in God was a mistake. Note the similar reaction in each case:
And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.(Ex. 14:11-12)
So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? (Ex. 15:22-24)
And the children of Israel said unto them, "Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger!" (Ex. 16:3)
And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, "Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" (Ex. 17:3)
Note what is going on in every one of these situations. Israel, as far as they could, had believed and trusted God to protect and provide for them. And as I noted, they were RIGHT to do this – God WANTED them to do this. But then, despite their faith, they faced GOD ORDAINED conditions wherein God did NOT keep His promise – at least not immediately. He had promised to protect them – but Egypt was pursuing them. He had promised to provide for them – but they hungered and thirsted. And what was their reaction? Each time they suggested that it was a MISTAKE for them to trust God. They said, "We were better off in Egypt. We burnt our bridges and abandoned ourselves to God. But we were fools to do so. All it has accomplished is to bring us out into the wilderness – our faith is going to result in death. We have made a horrible mistake to trust God."
Have you ever faced a similar situation? Perhaps you made certain choices to believe and trust God – choices that meant burning bridges and setting your life on a certain course. You have right believed that God would provide all that you need – both materially and spiritually. But it has not happened – as far as you can tell. You have been led into a wilderness where you cannot provide for yourself – and yet God isn’t providing for you as He promised. Was your faith a mistake? Have you miscalculated? Have you missed the boat?
Note especially this one statement: By faith you have come into a situation where you cannot provide for yourself. But God isn’t providing for you. Isn’t this the situation wherein we are tempted to say, "Has God led me into this situation simply to leave me? All this time when I believed God was with me, was I deceived? I was better off before I believed God. Did I make a terrible mistake in believing that God would take care of me and guide me into His will?
When faith in God does not make things better – indeed, when things get WORSE instead of better – it is so easy to believe that we have miscalculated. We trusted in the Lord and everything is as if He was never there to begin with. Unbelievers have it better. How can this be the outcome of faith?
It can be the outcome of faith. Why? Because when we believe God we are surrendering to Him – haven’t we learned that? And so all of these conditions are geared to making that surrender real. We gave ourselves to God, and He is taking us. We said we wanted to lose our lives into His hands, and so He is taking them out of our hands and into His. Do we want Christ to be our life? Then we must lose ours. What did we think this was going to look like? It will look like a mistake – at first – to natural thinking. It will be OTHER THAN we expected. But it is exactly the will of God.
FAITH is always the will of God. Always. Therefore, faith is never a mistake. There are no exceptions. Faith is fundamental to relationship with God. Faith is a walk in TRUTH.
What is Faith?
Many Christian people have been sold a bill of goods about faith. We hear such phrases as, "I am believing God FOR….." The heretical Word of Faith heresy, which suggests that you can, "confess into existence," what you desire from God, has formalized what is already in the hearts of many people. Indeed, for the last two thousand years professing Christian people have devised religious patterns geared to getting God to do for them what they want Him to do.
Much false teaching is along this line. Either we construct a religious system we think will accomplish what Christ has already finished, or we construct one that we think will get God to do what He says He already wants to do by grace. Or we say we are simply plugging into a system that God Himself has already formed – if we do THIS, God will do THAT. But is this faith? Is faith nothing more than me pushing God’s buttons and getting the desirable results?
No. In fact, these things are really the antithesis of faith. Faith is not something I do in order to get God to do. Faith is not a concession on my part that I make so God can be happy with me. Faith is not a merit I present to God – because it will please Him and get Him to do what I desire. Rather, faith is the outcome if hearing and embracing the Truth.
Read Romans 10:17: "Faith COMES by hearing….the Word of God." Can we see that if faith COMES that it wasn’t there to begin with? Thus, it is not out of ourselves as the source? So what is the source? The Word that God speaks – or, if you prefer, the Truth God reveals. Thus, faith is the result of God revealing to me the Truth, and me embracing that Truth. This is why Hebrews is able to say that faith IS the evidence and substance. Faith is the evidence and substance of the Truth of God in Jesus Christ finding a home in me.
Now, what this means is not only astonishing, but quite freeing. It means that REAL FAITH is impossible except it be the result of TRUTH. Thus, you and I cannot have real faith for anything except for the Truth. Sure. Faith comes by hearing the Truth, and therefore, real faith cannot be for anything except the Truth. So if my faith is in error, then it is not real faith.
Faith is not a merit – it is really the result of seeing I have no merits. Faith is not a concession I make – it is not my end of any bargain with God. No. Faith is the result of my seeing and embracing the Truth that God reveals. And what is the most basic Truth of all that God reveals to people? That He is faithful. That He can be trusted. "For without faith it is impossible to please Him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists, and that He is a RESPONDER to those who diligently seek Him." That is basic.
Now, all of that being said, it is still possible to THINK I know the Truth, or to think that I have faith, when, in fact, I do not. Perhaps what I call FAITH is nothing more than presumption. How do I know the difference?
Well, often I won't know the difference. We are all going to make many mistakes along the lines of faith. Some of them may be big mistakes. Most of the heroes of the Bible did things thinking they were in God's will, but they were not. Yet this does not mean they had no faith. It simply means their faith had to be tried. Their motives had to be purified. And often God must allow the mistakes of judgment we make to be used as tools to purify our faith. He is saying, "You were right to believe Me. But you are wrong about what it means; you are wrong about what I am doing. Yet if you continue to believe I will show you the Truth about My purpose."
In short, the solution here is the trial of faith. You and I cannot go wrong believing and trusting God. And if we are guilty of presumption, or are guilty of thinking that God is doing one thing when He is doing the other, God will be faithful to try our faith. By the time He is done -- IF WE OPEN OURSELVES -- we will see the Truth.
Faith is not a matter of seeing what God is doing. Rather, faith is a matter of seeing God. Or, to put it another way, I may not know where God is leading, but I can trust that it is sufficient that He knows.
When we think of, "a trial of faith," we often think that God is trying to find out if we have faith. Or we think that God is seeing if we will give up believing. This isn't the point. The trial of faith is a PROVING of faith -- it is the proving and exposing of the real nature of my faith. It is the PROVING of the Truth upon which my faith is based. Thus, if I have misinterpreted God, the trial of faith will eventually reveal this. If I have fake or shallow faith, the trial of faith will give me the chance to have faith built.
In short, God will seek to guide us into the Truth -- Truth about Himself upon which we can anchor our faith. But as we saw, faith comes by embracing God's revelation of Christ. Thus, our faith is not proven as a thing unto itself. No. Our faith is proven as God unfolds Christ. The more we see Him, the stronger our faith becomes.
So while it is possible for us to be wrong in what we think God is doing, it is nevertheless always right to trust Him. We can include in our faith the willingness to allow God to show us the Truth about our wrong presumptions. We can say to the Lord, "I am not going to put my faith in what I think you are doing. Rather, I am going to put my faith in YOU -- and be willing to see the Truth about what you are doing."
We are told to do this in Proverbs 5. We are told, "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Lean not upon your own understanding." It isn't that God won't bring understanding. But it is, "by faith we understand." In other words, trust God. But trust Him to open your understanding. Don't presume ahead of time that you KNOW.
This is fundamental to faith. It is really fundamental to losing your life into the hands of Christ. God has never told us to put our faith in what we think He is doing. He has told us to put our faith in HIMSELF. You cannot go wrong trusting God.
Israel burnt their bridges with Egypt and trusted God. He led them out into a place where they could not provide for themselves. But then He suspended His provision for them. This made it seem as if God was unfaithful and that their faith in Him was a mistake. We will encounter many situations like this in our walk with Christ. That is because God is bringing us on into the fullness of Christ.
There are many examples: Job was a good and upright man – God said so. Yet horrible things happened to him. Why? Abram believed God. Then year after year went by – each year making it more impossible for Abram or Sara to have children. Joseph had a dream. Then he was sold as a slave into Egypt. Moses believed God told him to deliver Israel. Then he spent forty years tending sheep. Israel believed God would take them to the promised land. They found themselves in a wilderness – thirsty and hungry. David was anointed king. He then lived for years as a hunted criminal. John the Baptist believed he was called of God as the one to prepare the way for the Lord. He found himself in prison awaiting execution. The apostles were promised by Jesus that they would reign and rule in His kingdom. They saw Jesus crucified. Were these people wrong to believe God? Wrong because things did not go according to their expectations? Was their faith a mistake?
Their faith was NOT a mistake. It was not a mistake even though in all cases what was promised did not come to pass immediately – and in some cases, did not come to pass at all the way THEY expected. It was not a mistake because they sought God – yes, at first for a THING – but they sought God. And in the end, the FOUND HIM.
Can we see this? We usually come to God because of some need. That is good and right. God not only wants us to come to Him for our needs, but He will often cause or allow the need so that we will do so. And usually, at the beginning, we expect that God will give us the solution. But what we need to see is that God really wants to give us Himself.
This explains why it sometimes seems as if faith is a mistake – it seems like it is a mistake because we have sought God for a need. We expected Him do something for us and never considered that there may be more in His purpose that we can imagine. In fact, the need over which we seek God is not the issue. God wants to reveal Himself.
I am not making a law out of this – sometimes out of sheer mercy and grace God just does things for people. Neither am I saying that God will ignore the need over which we have sought Him in favor of this greater purpose. No. I am saying that God wants to meet our every need – but IN CHRIST. He does not want to meet our needs apart from Christ. Thus, He will often bring us into relationship with Christ, reveal to us the Truth, and THEN meet our need, or resolve a problem. He knows that only then can everything be rightly according to His will.
It would be a shallow Christianity indeed if all our relationship with God consisted of was our going to him for things, and God giving us those things. We would never know Him. We would never be set free to live in those things to His glory. No. We might want things from God -- but God wants us. Then He can give us the things and they won’t do us spiritual harm.
Let’s go back to one of our examples – that of Job. Job spends all that time trying to figure out how to move God. He says, "If God would only explain this to me." He says, "God, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it." All he got from God was silence. It seems as if God was being unfair. But God was being absolutely faithful.
Job wanted to see the answer. But what God gave him was much better: Job saw God Himself.
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye sees you. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:5-6)
This is a lesson for all of us. When we begin to seek God in our lives we have no clue as to exactly what we are dealing with. We imagine it is about getting something from God. But it is not. It is really about receiving God Himself. But because we don’t know this, it will seem as if God is indifferent, or doesn’t care, or is not faithful. The real answer is that God wants to meet our every need. But He wants to do it as the outcome of a relationship with Himself.
Faith is never a mistake because faith is trust in the One who never makes a mistake. God will not fail to get us to where He desires if we continue to believe and trust Him.
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