ARReconciling Our Faith with RealityIs it true that if you just have enough faith, all your problems will
disappear? Is genuine faith proven only by a happy and peaceful life? Take a look at some examples to see what the Bible has to say.
There are many obstacles that come our way when it comes to improving our faith. As an encouragement and a guide we can look at characters in the Bible such as Abraham, Daniel, his three friends, Joseph, Paul, and Jesus to know that we are not alone in our transgressions and endurance of trials. By looking past our own needs and abiding by His will and not our own, we can go through any ordeal with joy and praise to the Lord. During prayer and supplication we should not only repent and unburden ourselves to God, but also give thanks to Him. He will give us peace and contentment.
A believer once asked me, "Why is it that after all these years of
believing in the Lord, I still have so many problems? Don't I have enough
faith?" This believer had problems with family, work, and
interpersonal relations, and people told her that if she had more faith in
God, everything would be okay. Soon, she began to doubt whether she had
any faith at all.
Is it true that if we just have enough faith, all our problems will
disappear? Is genuine faith proven only by a happy and peaceful life?
Let's look at some examples from the Bible to see if this is the case.
Many consider Abraham the "father of faith," but he encountered
family conflict with Sarah and Hagar, ultimately having to send Ishmael
away. Jacob spent his early years laboring for his uncle Laban and his
later years mourning for Joseph. He described the days of his life as
"few and evil" (Gen 47:9). Joseph spent the majority of his
youth as a slave and prisoner in Egypt. And Moses saw God face to face,
yet He describes his days as ones of "labor and sorrow" that
soon "fly away" (Ps 90:9-10).
As these examples show, many of the saints in the Bible encountered
difficulties, just as we do today. Being a Christian does not mean that we
live in a utopia or an ivory tower, cut off from the rest of the world.
The Lord Jesus does not want us to be removed from the realities and
troubles of the world (Jn 17:15); instead, He wants us to overcome the
world through Him (Jn 16:33).
God Moves the Mountains
Why did this believer ask, "Do I not have enough faith"? The
question stems from the belief that faith can and will change reality,
that problems will disappear, work will go smoothly, and family members
will live in harmony. We point to Jesus' words in Mark 11 and assert that
faith should change reality:
Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this
mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his
heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have
whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you
pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mt
When we face great mountains—our personal problems, family problems, or
career problems—we want to move them and make them disappear. We believe
that faith can make the mountain disappear because we think that is what
Jesus promised us. But we must pay attention to Jesus' other words in this
passage: "Have faith in God." Let's think about this idea a
bit—do we believe that we can move the mountain, or that God can move the
There is a very important differentiation here. When we want something to
change in our lives, do we pray only for what we want, or are do we pray
for God's will to be done? It's important for us to understand that God
has the power to change reality and that He will do so if He wishes.
Things don't change just because we want them to and believe that we can
do it. Our responsibility is to bring our requests before the Lord with
the faith that He can accomplish anything and then leave the decision up
Matthew 8 describes the story of a man who faced a great mountain—leprosy.
He probably endured both physical pain, as his body slowly deteriorated,
and emotional pain because he was cut off from his family and all of
society. When he came to the Lord Jesus, he did not forcefully ask to be
healed, although he wanted it desperately. Instead, he said, "Lord,
if You are willing, You can make me clean." The man wanted so much to
be clean, but he understood that the power and the decision lay in Jesus'
hands. Jesus answered him, "I am willing; be cleansed."
This man had the correct kind of faith. He didn't focus on changing
reality to get what he wanted; rather, he had faith that Jesus could
change reality. These are two vastly different attitudes and
understandings. Having this kind of faith means that instead of believing
that you can receive anything you want just because you ask for it, you
believe that God will fulfill your request if it is His will. This is
faith in the power and mercy of God.
God Has His Time
We often wish that things would change immediately, that our problems
would be solved tomorrow. Our prayers are fervent in the beginning, but if
things haven't changed and we feel that God hasn't answered us soon
enough, then our prayers cease, our faith dwindles, and we settle back
into our daily lives.
When Abraham was seventy-five years old, God promised him that that he
would have a child. Abraham, of course, wished that he could have the
child immediately, but he didn't receive Isaac until twenty-five years
later, when he was one hundred years old. Unfortunately, Abraham didn't
hold fast to his faith during these twenty-five years of testing. After
ten years he took Hagar as his wife, and she gave birth to Ishmael. This
lack of faith created much strife in his family.
Oftentimes, we don't persist in our faith because we want something right
away. But if we want something to change and believe wholeheartedly that
God can change it, then we should keep our hearts at peace and wait
James tells us that our faith in God must face the test of time in order
to be perfected:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing
that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have
its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (Jas
It is through trials that a person's faith grows roots and is established;
it is under the test of time that faith surpasses our desires. Joseph was
sold into Egypt when he was seventeen, and he didn't become prime minister
until he was thirty. He spent thirteen years as a slave and prisoner.
These long years were a great test of faith, but it wasn't until Joseph
passed through this trial that he was able to accomplish God's will.
If we believe in God's power, we must also believe that He knows when the
best time is. After we've placed our requests before the Lord, we must
give Him time to work. We believe that God can change reality, but we must
also understand that He will do things in His own time.
So no matter how long it takes for things to change, we should continue to
pray, to believe, and to have peace in our hearts, because we have
entrusted everything to God. Since God has the power to change things and
knows when and how best to do it, we no longer need to worry about it. It
may happen today, tomorrow, in two years, or in ten years. Regardless, we
will continue to believe.
Having true faith means that we do not forcefully place our desires before
God; instead, we lay our requests before Him, and if it is His will, He
will make it happen, in His own time.
True Faith—The Change Within
The ability to change our circumstances through our belief in God is only
one aspect of faith. What happens if God chooses not to act? Where then
does our faith stand?
If we look at the examples in the Bible, true faith surpasses
circumstances and environment. This kind of faith no longer depends on the
situation; it is not shaken when the circumstances do not change.
Paul was chosen by God and did much wonderful work for Him. God
established many churches through Paul and gave him the ability to preach
and even perform miracles. You might think that a man with such great
faith had a problem-free life, but in reality, Paul had his own problems.
He had an illness that gave him much trouble. This illness was so severe
that Paul had to bring Luke, a physician, with him on his missionary
Paul asked God to take away this "thorn in his flesh" three
times, but God refused. Was this because Paul didn't have enough faith?
No, it was because through this painful thorn, Paul could understand the
true meaning of faith. God told him, "My grace is sufficient for you,
for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9). Paul
realized in his prayer that God's grace was sufficient for him. The thorn
was indeed painful, but the abundance of God's grace totally surpassed the
Today, when we pray about our needs, we often neglect what God has given
us and only dwell on our own thorns. If we pray for our career, we neglect
to see the blessings of our
family. If we want to change a person, improve our environment, or move a
mountain, we think only about the problems they give us, not the
blessings. We need to ask God to open our eyes so that we can see past our
needs to the grace of God.
True faith is marked by this kind of change in our hearts and in our
understanding of God. Because of this realization, Paul's attitude changed
toward the thorn itself: "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast
in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor
12:9). Paul no longer saw the thorn as something negative but as
something that allowed God's grace to be magnified. Earlier, he asked God
to remove the painful thorn, but later he gave thanks for it because he
saw it as something beneficial.
Paul realized the purpose of this thorn in his life, which is something
that we too must do when we face the realities of life. Once we understand
the purpose of our thorn, we will be at peace. Paul realized that God had
a purpose for his thorn: God didn't want him to become proud because of
the abundance of revelations he had received (2 Cor 12:7).
Paul focused on the grace of God, not on his own weakness. He realized
that through his weakness he could better experience God's grace, so he no
longer tried to hide his problems. He thanked God that he encountered
these problems, because through them he found joy, and he was able to see
himself clearly and change his inner heart.
Many people in the Bible exhibit this true faith, such as Daniel, his
three friends, and Jesus Himself. Sometimes God would change circumstances
because of their faith and prayer—He healed their sicknesses, rescued them
from enemies, and protected them from danger. But we shouldn't just focus
on these events.
If we look at the entirety of their lives, we see that they were closest
to God when they could understand His will and submit to Him during times
of distress. There were indeed miracles that happened in their lives, but
it was when reality didn't change that they learned to submit. They looked
at their problems with a different point of view and understanding, so for
them the problems were no longer a burden. On the surface the problems
were still there, but within their hearts, they were gone. This change of
heart gave them blessed and victorious lives.
Rejoicing in the Lord Always
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness
be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in
everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your
requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all
understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. —
A life of true faith is to rejoice in the Lord always, no matter what the
situation is—whether we gain or lose, succeed or fail, live or die—because
we believe that the work of God is the best, and that everything is God's
work. So we rely on the Lord and rejoice.
So what should we do when we face a challenging situation? We should tell
God what we need in our prayers., not only crying out to Him, but also
giving thanks. When we tell God what is in our heart, He will change it.
His peace, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and
As Christians, our lives may not seem different from that of a
non-believer's. We don't live in ivory towers, and we still encounter
problems like everyone else. But we are able to pray to God, and in His
mercy, He may change our circumstances. But if God chooses not to change
things, we must remember that it is during these times that our faith is
tested and transformed. This is when we begin to understand the purpose of
God in our lives and the meaning of the thorn in our flesh. It is during
these times of great trials and distress that our transformation brings
forth the greatest and truest faith.