It seems there are four levels of faith:
1. Comfort faith
2. 11th-hour faith
3. Rack, Shack, and Benny faith
4. Even though faith
Comfort faith is the level I was at for a long time. I believed in God and claimed I trusted in Him to guide me…provided I wasn’t concerned about money, health, or anything else major at the time. Leah calls it “sunshine faith.” When it’s all going well enough, it’s easy to believe in God. It’s even easy to say you’re believing in God to bring you things that don’t have a definite deadline, like a house or the right person to marry. You feel good because you seem to have both a faith in God and a great deal of comfort in your life. A lot of people stay here because it’s such a nice place. Sure, trials may come, but with the resources they have, they’re able to get through most of them just fine on their own.
But God rarely uses people whose faith is at just this level. Following God requires a deepening of your faith with Him.
It’s also hard to let go of the things you have when your faith, not only in God but that He is better than what you are letting go, is weak. I think people either get contented at this level and so don’t seek God, or they know that seeking God comes at a cost and they’re simply not willing to pay it. Either way, this is the lowest level of faith, lulling those with it to sleep.
And there’s one last danger: when a serious trial comes, many people at this level will crumble. Their faith hasn’t been worked and so they have nothing to stand on. It would be like a 120 lb. guy walking into a gym after benching 40 lbs. at home and trying to bench 400 lbs. He’d be seriously injured, if not killed.
The second level of faith is 11th-hour faith. It’s a bit stronger because you’re willing to step out and follow God outside of your comfort zone, yet there’s still a safety net. Leah and I currently have this faith. We moved down to Houston, but when we think about our checking account, we think, “Ok, we can sell her car and that should bring in about 3-4 months’ worth of expenses. We also have our credit lines, which could float us for an additional 4-5 months. We’ll be ok, we’ll make it.”
Our faith is growing each day, but we’re not quite ready to fully trust God. We want Him to catch us, even though we’re not ready to let go.
There’s some good in being here. For one, it hurts, meaning that our faith is growing. I had a job search last year and God blessed me with a contract job. I was stressed, though, because we were down to about a month’s worth of expenses. This time, I’m taking it much better, but I’m not where I need to be. Not close. I keep thinking about what will happen with the search and, even when I daydream about what God could do, it’s still not letting it all go to Him to let Him decide what needs to be done. I’m still telling Him that I need a job, which is to say, that I need the first step, but then I can take it from there. And if He doesn’t come through for a while, it’s ok because I still have my safety net.
Then there’s Rack, Shack, and Benny faith. Those of you who know Veggie Tales probably get this reference to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar set up an image of gold 90 feet tall and demanded that all people worship it. These three refused, so the king gave them another chance. They refused again, saying, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16b-18)
This is powerful faith, what I call “even if” faith. They were determined to believe in God and serve Him, even if He didn’t come through for them. Even if they were to be burned alive for their faith, they would not budge. I’m not there yet. I could believe in God and serve Him through more now than before, but being faced with the prospect of being burned alive…I’m not sure I could be that strong. They were willing to let go, to have no safety net under them, and, though they were hoping God would deliver them, their faith didn’t depend on His answering their prayers the way they wanted.
This is where it gets scary, though, because you don’t know whether He’ll answer your prayers in your way or let you get thrown in the furnace. And if you do get tossed in, you don’t know that He’ll protect you. This is the point at which you still pray for your plan, but have accepted His.
Lastly, there is “even though” faith. This is a subtle, but important, difference from even if faith. With even if faith, you’re still wanting your will to happen. You’re hoping God gives you a way out and you’re still looking for it. You’re willing, you can be committed, but the faith is different because the focus is different. Jesus, as the man, didn’t want to go the cross, but He was willing to go, knowing full well that there was no way out, that He would, without question, suffer one of the worst deaths in recorded history, despite having done nothing to deserve it. He went, knowing that for a brief time, He would carry the weight of all our sin on Him, becoming the sacrifice to appease His Father’s perfect and adamant justice.
I don’t know if it’s possible; to be honest, I don’t even know if I want to have this kind of faith. It terrifies me to be willing to march boldly into a certain and horrible death, worshiping God the whole way. And it doesn’t even have to be death. If I knew for certain that God would not come through for Leah and I and that we’d be on the streets, that we’d never have kids, and that we’d live short lives marred with diseases and abuses, it would be hard for me to serve still. If I were to lose Leah, I would come back eventually, but I don’t think I could worship God when it happened or honestly love Him. I tell myself “one step at a time,” but I don’t know how far I want my steps to take me. I pray simultaneously for the boldness that I need to wield this kind of faith and that I’ll never need to have it.
If anyone had this faith, it was Habakkuk. In chapter 3:17-19, he writes, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food, though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” Or as Job said in Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
I am in the second level right now and part of my problem is I want to go back to the first as much as I want to press on to the third. I need to know more clearly the God I serve, and I need to let go of my own will in my life.