I often think of faith as being something that looks around and looks forward. On a grand scale, we have faith that Jesus is going to come back, that God will one day set things right, that “every knee will bow and every tongue confess.” On a more immediate scale, we have faith that God is going to provide for our needs, that he will protect us, that the things we experience are somehow working together for our good. Faith is, generally, an activity that looks around us and ahead of us.
But the other day I was reflecting on the fact that faith does not always look around and ahead. Sometimes, faith must look backwards. In fact, our forward- and around-looking faith sometimes depends on faith in reverse.
If you think about it, the Christian faith itself is a backward-looking faith. At some point in our spiritual journeys, we looked back and proclaimed our belief in events that happened 2000-odd years ago, in a tiny nation on the edge of the Mediterranean Ocean. We were not there, we did not witness those events and we’ll never be able (in my humble opinion) to prove with 100% validity that those events really happened. So whenever we act in a way that affirms who we believe Jesus is, we are using faith in reverse. Whenever we open up our Bibles and read stories – written by men we’ve never met, in times we’ll never be able to visit – and act on those stories, we’re using faith in reverse.
So this is not that unusual, this faith-in-reverse thing. We do it everyday. So why is it so important to me right now?
Anyone who does what we have done – raising support, moving our family overseas – will naturally run into crises of faith. These express themselves as questions. Is God really going to make this happen? Will our support ever be raised? Will our visas ever be granted? Will we ever sell all our things? Will we ever really be able to speak this language? Will the people allow us to minister to them? Will our work make any lasting impact?
The list of questions goes on and on, and as far as we can tell it doesn’t ever stop. Dealing with those questions in the moment, and having faith that God is still in control, often requires that we ask another question: “Well, how have these things worked out in the past?” That’s why we’ve worked to record those events, those “Stones of Help” as I like to call them, when we perceived that God had acted clearly and decisively.
But even knowing those events, we’re still required to use faith in reverse. It’s easy to second-guess, after a while, those things that seemed so obvious at the time. For that reason, I’ve noticed that my faith-in-reverse muscles have been really challenged and strengthened lately.
So I invite you, whatever you’re experiencing right now, to have faith with me. Let’s have faith that God will do what he has promised. Let’s have faith that God is working right now. And let’s have faith that what was true in the past is still true today!