Reality Based Faith
Reality based and faith don’t seem to fit together. It is as if they sit on the opposite sides of a wide canyon screaming at each other. The two voices never quite meet up, but dissipate into nothing before they meet in the middle.
The idea of reality based faith grew up in front of me as I sat with a group of women from broken families who had just endured Mother’s Day. Some actually had a good day comparatively. Some had just survived. Some were in shock.
Expectations. When expectations are high and they go unmet, it is devastating. Comparisons. They often drive expectations. When we look around and we see others who seem to have so much or seem to have it all “together,” we believe we too should have a better life.
Not that long ago, it was rare for anyone to have indoor plumbing. Life was hard and few things were “expected.” Now, we somewhat expect things to be handed to us at a high level. Why? Because we see high levels of prosperity and we develop high levels of expectation.
Sometimes, those expectations aren’t reality based. No. Not even for a person of faith. I love Acts 14:9 where it says Paul intently observed a person and saw “that he had faith to be healed.” We quote verses like this to prove that God can do the impossible … and He can. In Acts 14:10, Paul speaks and the man is healed. There was a reality there in Paul and in the man that opened the door for the miracle to go forth.
Paul didn’t speak words of healing to everyone he met. There were times when healing was poured out like rain. There were times when some of his closest companions were sick and he seemed powerless to do anything about it (Phil. 2:25-27, 2 Tim. 4:20).
As I looked at a hurting group of mothers, I spoke about expectations grounded in reality. I shared about surrender to God and letting go of past pain so that God could give future vision—but not a vision based on what could be seen by looking around at others. For that mother who had been forced to legally release her children, there is a reality that cannot be quite like the one who still has legal rights. Yes, God can do the impossible. But there also is a basis in reality.
The man in Acts 14 had the faith to be healed. Abraham believed God and had a child long after he should have been able to have a child. That mother might be amazingly restored to her children someday—but Abraham didn’t get his child right away. There was a process of growing in faith. God created in him what was needed for the miracle to take place. Preparation was needed before the miracle could happen.
Too often, I see people look around and try to develop faith from comparisons. They see others and they want “that.” Those kind of expectations destroy true faith. Those kinds of comparisons shut down the miracle working power of God. When do miracles happen? When there is a kind of humility and simplicity that is able see God and hear God and respond. Those who are busy looking around cannot see or hear God. They generally are caught up in some form of self pity or jealousy.
My advice to that mother was to surrender any and all expectations. What if she didn’t get to be a significant player in the lives of her children? What if God used others to shape them into men and women of God? Was she o.k. with that? Or would she demand the right to be “the” person in their lives? Choices matter. Even the choices of others sometimes land on us in a way that faith struggles to overpower its outcomes. Past choices of several different people may mean that this mother never quite gets to experience what she sees as she looks around. That is reality based.
The person who is able to surrender his or her “rights” makes room for God to do amazing things. The authority of God to work increases the more we surrender. Yet, even great surrender cannot erase some realities. In 2 Kings 24:4, God speaks of the sins of Manasseh which could not be pardoned. No. Not even three generations later. There was still a reality of sin that could only be purged through judgment.
We teach a faith where there is no reality to sin. God can do whatever He wants to do. He just erases sin and consequences whenever and wherever He wants. That is not the true God. God speaks of a reality where even every word will be brought into judgment (Matt. 12:36).
Reality based faith. I don’t get to erase the foolish stuff I have done. I might be able to overcome it … or it might limit or shape my outcomes. That mother might one day get to have an amazing relationship with her children. But that doesn’t erase the years that have been stolen through years of stumbling through life.
If that mother isn’t able to surrender the hurt and the loss, she will never become the kind of person who will be restored so that God can do that kind of work. It takes a healthy person to have a quality relationship with children. A person who does not do what is needed to change cannot get that “miraculous” outcome from God. An unhealthy person might get a chance to reunite with her children, but the reunion will be short lived because sick people destroy relationships.
Reality based faith. There is a part of our lives that we have to give to God or there is no room for His blessing to happen. If God can’t walk us toward health, if He can’t stir us to surrender to Him in a way that we are becoming whole, we cannot know the fullness of His blessing.
Being fixated on outcomes that cannot happen will shut down our ability to get whole. Sometimes seeing the limitation is the prerequisite for the miracle. I am praying for that mother to see full restoration, but unless she fully surrenders to God, any restoration would be, at best, weak. Lacking meaning. Of short and minimal quality or duration.
If her reality changes, then God has reason to move heaven and earth to restore her relationship with her children. If she stays unhealthy, why would God want to intervene? So that the children can be broken all over again?
Reality based faith. Is your reality changing in a way that God has reason to bless your future? Or are you sitting around hoping that a fickle God chooses to bless you even though you haven’t created the kind of life that could preserve and multiply the blessing He would give you?
Put down the comparisons. Embrace what God has for you and for your future. Make room for God. Listen for what He tells you about your future. Then believe and prepare and believe some more. When our reality is receiving from God today, there is a basis for an unbelievable miracle tomorrow. Are you living your reality in a way that opens the door to faith and the miraculous?