Of Discontentment and Faith.

Four days ago, I learned that for various reasons, my team may be flying home on June 30th.

It’s only a day sooner than that July 1rst flight-…but it’s June. June. Something about that one missing day has made the inescapable reality that I will soon be flying home for good more tangible to me. My days of rice and sand, 6 AM calls to prayer and relentless heat, marriage offers and Muslim women, are numbered.

That number is 85.

About a year ago, I titled this blog “Audacious Faith” in hopes of learning what the audacity of actually taking God at His word might look like. I wondered how Senegal might change-how my life might change-if I lived like I really believed that God was as big and powerful and loving as He says He is. The greatest moves of God throughout history have been in response to absolutely audacious requests from people who really believed in His exclusive power to save-and I wondered what might happen if I began to live my life with a sort of reckless daring that necessitated great moves of God.

And now I find myself with only 85 days left to do that in Dakar.

Lately, I’ve been delving into Hebrews 11. You probably know that this is the “Hall of Fame” chapter that upon a cursory reading, seems to simply laud men and women who “by faith” accomplished astounding things for God. And these are the greats-people like Joshua who had the audacity to ask God to literally make the sun stand still because he needed a couple of extra hours of daylight to kick some Amorite tail. [Ha, and you’re talking to the girl that had trouble believing that God could get her through track season.]

I’d read Hebrews 11 many times before. It was orange highlighted and underlined to beat the band-but somehow, I’d managed to entirely miss the point. The chapter begins by defining faith as “being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” If I hope for something, I clearly don’t have it yet. Hope implies discontentment. And discontentment screams “This is not it! The ways things are right now is not how they will be. There’s more.”

The idea that discontentment is foundational to faith was rather startling to me. Faith anticipates a better day-it anticipates that the promises of Christ will come true no matter how much it has to fight for them or how long it takes.

Faith simply believes-and then it acts. Faith moves. Faith perseveres.  

Hebrews 11 is a vault containing a lengthy list of people that  really believed. Noah building a mammoth boat in the middle of the desert, ignoring the condescending taunts of his neighbors and friends, confident that it was going to rain. Joseph asking the Israelites to make sure that when God called them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, they took his bones with them. [And why is that one noteworthy? It was 300 years before the Exodus. Joseph had no idea when or how the Israelites would be freed-but he knew somehow, sometime, God would do it.] Samson, Moses, David, Samuel-people that didn’t have the foggiest idea when or how but they knew God was going to move.

And the glorious news is this: they’re not the point.

Hebrews 11: 13-16 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

The million dollar question: why was God “not ashamed” [I think it’s fair to say that that’s an understatement for “proud”] to be called their God?

It wasn’t the boats that were built, the seas that were parted, or the cities that fell. It wasn’t even because some of them were martyred. In an entirely counter-intuitive spin, God was proud to be called their God because of what HE had done for THEM. He’d prepared a “city” for them-and in the midst of a listing of great acts of faith, He is simply proud of what He did, and their desire for it. Each of those “greats” had one thing in common: they were discontent. And in the midst of that discontentment, they truly believed that God was better than life itself. Worth looking absurd for, worth leaving home for, worth living for and worth dying for. Their desire for God-for what He had already done for them-calls attention to His superior worth over all that the world has to offer.

Neither Hebrews 11, nor my life or yours, is about us. Our greatest acts of faith [which we are indeed called to make!] are insignificant in light of what God has already done for us-reconciled us to Himself through Jesus. And He is delighted with us not because of what we have done-but because of what He has done.

To an often faithless girl like me, that’s exceedingly good news.

Comments

  1. Ashley,
    I enjoy reading your posts in general. I actually just read Hebrews 11 today so it was neat to read your thoughts after meditating on it. Lately, I have been so aware of my own inabilities so it is really great to be reminded that it really isn’t about me at all! Thanks and keep up the good work,
    -Grace

  2. Ben Ober says:

    Ashley, the Bible study you led on Hebrews 11 last week was fantastic. Glad you posted some of your insight here to share with a wider audience. Hope everyone else enjoys as much as I did.

  3. wow. LOVE button puh-lease!

  4. Grace-That’s so fun that you’ve been thinking about it too! I looked at your blog and am excited about your SP this summer. I’d love to get you in Senegal one of these summers!

    Ben and Aicel-thanks kids. :)

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