About ten years ago or so, a 40-something year old man in our church got cancer. He had wife who loved him and two children. SS was well-liked in the church. Many people desperately prayed for his healing–individually and in Sunday school classes, small groups, prayer meetings, and 24-hour prayer vigils were held for him. Despite all this prayer, the cancer continued to ravage this him. One guy, a close friend of this SS, used to visit Sunday school classes and passionately plead with people to pray for him. He declared that SS wasn’t healed because people didn’t have enough faith. He said that the prayer, “God’s will be done” was a cop-out, prayed by people with weak faith. (Please don’t judge this man too harshly, he was feeling grief over his friend’s illness, and struggling with his own faith.) In just a few months, SS succumbed to his illness and died.
This crisis of faith that the church went through at this time, caused me to ponder different types of faith. I think there are two–no, three–types or levels of faith.
One type is what I call Because Faith. People with this type of faith love and trust God because He saves, delivers, rescues, heals, answers prayer, and blesses with good things. Now, don’t get me wrong, this can be a powerful type of faith because it takes faith to believe that God will heal a disease or that He can provide for our needs, or rescue from an overwhelming problem. And when God delivers, rescues, provides, and answers, there’s so much awe, joy, and praise.
But what do you do when, despite many prayers, a loved one isn’t healed, a marriage ends in divorce, a friend is killed in a car accident, a child is protected from a molester, an overwhelming problem isn’t fixed? I think often people with Because Faith then go through a crisis of faith. “I trusted You, God, and You weren’t there!”
Another kind of faith is what I call Even Though Faith. People with Even Though Faith trust God even though He didn’t seem to answer, protect, rescue, deliver, or heal. I think Even Though Faith is a deeper kind of faith because it isn’t dependent on circumstances going the way I want. It trusts even though I can’t see a way out. I believe Habakkuk had Even Though Faith when he struggled with why God’s people suffer, and then concluded:
[Even] Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Hab. 3:17-18)
I always considered Even Though Faith to be deeper than Because Faith because I have seen some people whose faith was base on good circumstances. When life didn’t happen the way they wanted, they felt God had abandoned them or they had lost their salvation. But I think we need both types of faith. There are good reasons to love and trust God–because He is loving, merciful, forgiving, faithful, good, because He answers prayers, delivers, rescues, heals. But we can’t just have this type of faith. We also need to love and trust God even though we suffer through multiple trials and difficulties. When God answers our need in miraculous ways, that builds our faith. We need to have our faith strengthened. But if God always gives us what we want, in the way we want, when we want it then we never learn to trust. Even Though Faith is necessary to teach us to walk by faith, not sight, and to persevere.
A third type of faith is Your Will Be Done Faith. At first I thought that a person who said, “Your will be done” to God had Even Though Faith, but I think it goes beyond it because the person doesn’t trust God because He does good things, and he doesn’t trust even though bad things happens, but he trusts God simply because God is God. He trusts God is faithful, good, and loving apart from circumstances. He understands that God’s thoughts and ways are far above our own. He recognizes that God uses both good and bad things for good. I think this is an expression of ultimate faith, submission, and dependence on God. I think Paul had this type of faith when he said in Philippians 4:11-13:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
I would like to say that I have progressed to the point in my faith where I have Your Will Be Done faith. Live can be scary, and I tend to flicker in and out of the various types of faith, sometimes rejoicing because God answered a need, sometimes trusting–or struggling to trust–Him even though life is hard, and sometimes trusting Him because He is God.