January 20, 1990
Imagine eating a well-balanced meal but less than an hour later (after watching several food commercials on television), a strange gnawing sensation comes to the mid-section. Can it be? It feels like -- hunger! What is your choice? Head for the leftovers? Or the cookie jar? Or rely on what you know about nutrition?
We KNOW it is highly unlikely we NEED more food so soon after a good meal, but anyone who has ever been on a diet realizes appetite is seldom related to actual need. It takes will power to resist the urge for munchies when we KNOW we don’t need any. Pardon the pun, but eating according to what we know about nutrition (instead of eating according to how we feel) is a gut-level illustration of living by faith.
The Bible defines faith as a conviction concerning something we cannot see but we KNOW is true (Hebrews 1:11). Biblical faith KNOWS God exists; KNOWS He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6); and KNOWS that salvation from sin is through Jesus Christ, not our own efforts (Ephesians 2:8-9). This faith believes the Bible because God SAID it, not because feelings always confirm it. God wants us to LIVE by faith also, that is, act according to what He says -- even if our feelings contradict it.
Feelings can rise up from all sorts of conditions. For instance, life has a way of handing out rotten lemons and even though God says He will “work all things together for good for those who love Him, there are occasions when it seems not even God could add enough sugar to make decent lemonade. What will be believed and lived by then? God’s promises or life’s raw deals?
My human responses to sour situations can be extremely negative. If I live by my feelings during the tough times, anger and bitterness will result in retaliation with worry and fear leading to all sorts of counter-productive responses. However, walking by faith is more like looking for a tall glass in anticipation of a cool, refreshing drink even when there is no sugar in sight.
Basic to faith is an understanding of and a reliance on the character of God. He says He loves us and has plans for our good (Jeremiah 29:11). That isn’t how most of us see it when tragedy strikes -- how can a loving God allow tragedy? During bad times, we may not FEEL loved -- yet following those feelings makes a liar of God. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love...” Which is true? His Word? Or our feelings?
Choosing to walk in faith means believing He is not lying. We may not understand the tragedy but we can be convinced of His love. Faith also means confessing: “I may not feel loved but God says I am, therefore I will believe Him and act accordingly.”
The actions of a loved person are different from one who fears rejection. If I live by feelings when life is sour, I will wind up sitting in a corner feeling sorry for myself, waiting until I FEEL loved before doing anything positive. However, even common sense realizes I don’t turn another person’s love on and off by my changes in mood.
Faith encourages me to stop looking to my own feelings for direction, especially when they contradict the Bible. If I’m honest, I have to admit that when I let my moods govern my life, I’m actually considering myself more reliable than the Lord. That is idolatry.
A life of faith in God is definitely a decision. But just as television commercials can create artificial hunger, so can life’s lemons (and our resulting emotions) generate artificial beliefs about God and life. More and more I realize how important it is to base life on something far more reliable than opinions, feelings, or personal desires. Only the Word of God gives objective, unchanging guidance. Without it, things like a growling stomach and appealing advertising would get me every time!