Need stronger faith? What if God wants you to work for it?

I don’t like working out. There is always something else I could be doing or would rather be doing. So I’ve honed my workout down to the minimal amount of time and work I need to do to accomplish my goals.

What if go to God for better lenses for our faith glasses, but he prescribes a workout to strengthen our faith muscles? 

What if go to God for better lenses for our faith glasses, but he prescribes a workout to strengthen our faith muscles? 

My goals are pretty simple. All I want is to maintain a basic amount of strength and agility as my body gets older. I’m not looking to get stronger, run long distances, lose weight, or grow muscle mass through my workouts. I just want to make sure I can hike long distances, fish in streams for hours, climb stairs two at a time, and feel good physically. Just everyday stuff. 

And I know I can impact that, to some degree, through exercise. I can work out. And even though I have simple goals, my workouts have to make me stronger because my aging body is getting weaker. To maintain I have to gain. (Sounds like a slogan for a gym membership.)

But there are some aspects of aging that I can’t, through exercise, fix or make stronger. 

A few days ago I was having a bad eye day. Everything was a little more blurry and my eyes were tired from reading even though the day was still young. And this had been going on for about three or four days. I couldn’t figure out why.

Usually, when I have a bad eye day, it has to do with not changing my contacts, but I had changed my contact in my left eye, the one I use for reading. Strangely enough, when I changed the contact in my right eye, the one I use for distance, it took care of the problem. 

But while I was having one of those bad eye days, I thought about a commercial I had heard years ago on the radio about a clinic you could go to or a book you could buy (not sure which one) that would teach you how to strengthen your eyesight through exercises for the eyes. 

Now, I don’t know if that works or not, but I recalled it that day, and I thought, it might help or it might have helped a few years ago. But I concluded that the most it could do is improve my bad eyesight a bit. Probably not worth it to me. Remember, I don’t like working out.

So, here’s my question: Is faith something you can strengthen like you strengthen your body or is it something you can’t really strengthen, like you can’t really strengthen your eye sight? 

I think most people would say you can strengthen your faith. And I’m one of them. 

I think that we, too often, wait for more faith to just hit us, to appear out of thin air. Or we ask God to give us more fait or stronger faith. 

We go to God for better lenses for our faith glasses. 

But what if God, instead, wants us to work out our faith muscles? 

Do you need greater faith for some of the challenges you face daily or problems that are looming in your life? 

What if I told you that the Bible actually offers a workout for faith? 

Would you use the workout? 

We’re talking about how to work out our faith muscles this weekend as we look at the early chapters of Joshua and see everything that God tells the Israelites to do to strengthen their faith. They are going to need it to enter and to conquer the promised land. 

Maybe you have a friend who loves to work out. Invite them to come to church this weekend to learn how to work out their faith muscles. 

Okay, as I reread what I wrote, it sounds a bit cheesy, but you get the picture.

Yes, we can be brutally honest with God. But wait.

Don't move too fast. It doesn't turn out well for everyone.

Brutal honesty is not in and of itself a virtue. You can be brutally honest and, at the same time, a torturer, murderer, abuser, or racist. Yes, a person can be brutally honest and unrepentantly evil. 

It seems God may be looking for something more than brutal honesty from us. 

When the Psalmists are brutally honest with God, God not only seems to accept it, he canonizes it. Their complaints become our very prayers as we pray the Psalms. 

Our prayers then accuse God, "You have disgraced us, abandoned us, and forgotten us." 

You have rejected us and disgraced us. (Psalm 44:9)

Our prayers taunt God, "Wake up! You have obviously fallen asleep." 

Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
    Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
(Psalm 44:23)

These are the prayers God has given us to pray. 

But when the Israelites complain about the meal God prepared for them, he sends poisonous snakes.

And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. (Numbers 21:4-6)

What's the difference? There are no hard and fast rules on this. But here are some thoughts. These thoughts are not separate options that could stand on their own. They are meant to be one.

Don't take being brutally honest with God lightly and don't take it for granted. He is the Almighty and holy. The Psalmists don't presume; they appeal to God's own promises, to his covenant, to his own word. 

The complaints in the wilderness are cries of spoiled discontent; the complaints in the Psalms are cries of spiritual disorientation. Given God's promises (or, at least, their understanding of those promises), the Psalmist is having trouble matching their experience with God's own promises to his covenant people. 

And those prayers of complaint and taunting are usually resolved in praise. In those prayers the content of the praise often voices God's answers to our disorientation, although his answers are rarely simple or lacking in mystery. 

One more thing. God seems to tolerate complaining better when we do it to his face. The Psalmists address God directly in prayer. The wilderness Israelites complain about God, but they don't complain to God. So one speaks to God to whom they relate personally. The other speaks to God as consumers entitled to good service. 

Fear God, but don't be afraid to be brutally honest with him.

Unless, of course, you have good reason to be afraid.