Telekinesis and Faith
This is the first in a three part series on understanding true faith.
When my brother and I were about 5 and 7, we just knew if we prayed and believed hard enough, God would give us His power so that we could turn on and off our bedroom light with our minds. Our prayerful grandmother rooted us firmly in the understanding that God hears our prayers and answers them. (Mark 11:24) And if God says that with faith we can move mountains, how hard could a little telekinesis be?
We may have been a smidge off the mark, but our young minds were just beginning to understand the significance of faith in the life of a believer (Hebrews 11:6). We can smile at the silliness of such childish ideas, but the Church is permeated with inaccurate beliefs about faith, and that’s no laughing matter.
These false beliefs are familiar to all of us, and we need to expose and correct them when they surface. Three common ones come to my mind. First, we can think that what we think should happen will happen if we just believe enough. Second, we can think our faith is void if we have uncertainty. And third, we can sometimes view faith as a “Jesus Take the Wheel” attitude that exempts us from any action. In this three-part series, I will explore and correct these false beliefs to give a better understanding of what true faith is.
#1-Faith is Not a Stubborn Insistence on What You Believe Should Happen.
When this truth hit me, I was a stressed-out, overachieving teenager. I believed that if I prayed hard and had faith, I would finish my upcoming finals week with all the grades I wanted. I wouldn’t have articulated it like that, but that’s what my worldview was. That is, until Daniel chapter three upended it.
During Daniel’s lifetime, the conquered Israelites were living in exile under the Babylonians. When King Nebuchadnezzar commanded everyone to bow down to his massive golden idol, three young Israelis—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—faced being thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing.
They answered him with boldness:
O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, emphasis mine)
They knew that God could save them from the furnace. They believed that He would. But they were committed to following Him to whatever end, even to the very loss of their lives. Their faith was not contingent upon their preferred outcome.
This contrasted so sharply with my “believe hard enough and I’ll get good grades” thing (which, honestly, isn’t that far from the “believe hard enough and I’ll turn lights off with my mind” thing). Of course it’s foolish to believe that serving God guarantees telekinesis or good grades…but what about well-being? Or safety? Or even life itself?
Ultimately, faith means that we do not put our hope in the condition of our circumstances, but in the character and promises of our God.
At the very root, faith means trusting that God is who He says He is—which, according to Exodus 34:6-7 means He is loving, patient, faithful, and zealous for justice—and that He’ll act accordingly. I usually think I know what’s best, and ask for it fervently. Yet I’ve also come to notice that, typically, God’s ways are entirely different from what I was imagining, and also far superior. I strive to submit to that.
While there are times when our faith is realized as we’d hoped—after all, the three young Israelites were ultimately saved from the furnace—there are other times when God’s followers have had to trust that, even when things didn’t go as they would have chosen, God is to be trusted, and the ending will be better for it.
Take Jesus as an example. When he was faced with his own suffering and death on the cross, he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). The Gospels tell us that Jesus was “deeply distressed and troubled,” his soul “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
The reason for this tremendous distress is because of the sheer immensity of what he was going to endure for you and me. The cup depicts God’s wrath on sin and evil. As the only sinless person to have lived, Jesus was the only one who wouldn’t be subject to this cup’s outpouring, the only one worthy to be spared, as requested in his prayer (2 Cor. 5:21). But, unlike Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, things did not go as Jesus asked.
You see, because Jesus was God’s Son and also a perfect human, he was also worthy—the only one worthy—to take the cup of God’s wrath on our behalf. He trusted his Father’s will and the outcome was certainly the better for it. He overcame, as his resurrection shows, and he gave us eternal life in the place of death (Rev. 5:9-10).
So, keep this in mind when you are tempted to get hyper-focused on your own ambitions and plans. God is working out His plan for the redemption of humanity, including ourselves. Letting go of your white-knuckled, tight-fisted grip on how you think things should go frees you to cooperate with God’s plan to bring His Kingdom to the world. You can trust him for the very best outcome.