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Pointers along the way #51

Faith vs. optimism
- Jacob Ninan

It is through our faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved (Ep.2:8), and it is through faith that we can receive things - blessings, answers to prayers, help, healing, deliverance, etc. - from God (Mt.9:29). What if our 'faith' is not of the kind that God has in mind? What if what we consider as faith is one we have been taught wrongly by the others or we have made up by our own imagination?

It is possible to have a false faith, isn't it? The apostle James talked about a faith without works which was dead and worthless (Jas.2:20). Isn't it possible that some of us may have that kind of faith and are not aware of it?

Looking around at Christian circles I get the impression that there are those who, without being conscious of it, live as though faith is the same as being optimistic. Now faith is optimistic, but to have faith is not the same as being optimistic. Imagine if someone thought that God would certainly take him to heaven because he was born in a Christian family or he went to church or did some good things for other people, etc., even though he has never recognised himself as a sinner, repented and trusted in Jesus as His Saviour! Certainly he is optimistic, and thinks he has faith, but obviously he does not have the faith that can save him.

We can infer from this example that for our faith to be acceptable it must conform to the facts revealed to us in the Bible concerning faith. If we are just optimistic about the future it will not help us unless our optimism is based on things God has told us. If God has not promised something to us, we can't be sure of getting it just by wishing for it and hoping for it with optimism. Genuine faith has an assurance and conviction about it because it is based on God's clear promises and not on our wishful thinking (He.11:1).

How do we get genuine faith? By 'hearing' what God says concerning anything (Ro.10:17). We can depend on it because it is God who has said it. If He has promised something we can be sure He will do it. 'Hearing' can refer to God speaking to us when we read His word or listen to someone preaching it. It can also be when God speaks directly in our heart through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit may bring to our mind something that God has said in the Bible, or He may specifically tell us something in line with the general principles given in the Bible. But whichever way He speaks, when we hear Him we can have faith.

It is not wrong to be optimistic. But we can avoid a lot of disappointment if we learn to distinguish between the certainty of faith and wishful thinking.