In life there are two kinds of faith, an instant faith and a sustaining faith. We all have experiences where our prayers are answered almost immediately, but other times; we must wait, often not knowing whether the answer to our prayer will ever come as we hope. Both faiths are needed in our journey of life.
1. Instant Faith
In the book of Acts chapter 28, we can read an incident where the apostle Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake in the island of Malta. The people there waited for Paul to swell up or suddenly drop dead, but instead, Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. I believe Paul prayed a short prayer or at least claimed the name of Jesus while shaking off the snake that had just bitten him. His faith produced the result he had hoped for, to be unharmed. This is an example of an instant faith. Faith that produces immediate result.
Moses parted the red sea. He didn’t have to wait for his prayer to be answered. It was instant faith at work. He raised the staff he held in his hand over the red sea and divided the ocean so the Israelites could walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground. Samson experienced instant faith too when the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him as he took a jawbone and killed 1000 philistines with it.
I heard of a story about a medical missionary and his family. They were living in a third world country. One night for some reason, they couldn’t sleep inside the house, so they had to stay outside unprotected. The missionary was concerned for his family’s safety and their belongings. So he lifted up a prayer asking God to give them divine protection. Sure enough morning came, and they were alright. A few months later an injured man was brought into his clinic. The missionary went to treat this man, but when the injured man saw this missionary, he was shocked for he had recognized this foreign man. He then confessed to the missionary that on that night a few months ago, he and his friends noticed the missionary and his family sleeping outside. And they meant to rob them, but as they approached, they saw 27 soldiers on guard surrounding the family. The missionary was thankful to have learnt about this. A few months later, he and his family went back to the United States. He shared this testimony with the people at his church. After he shared this, some people came to him to explain that on that night, 27 people gathered in a prayer meeting and they were specifically praying for the safety his family. God answered their prayers instantly. Their faith had produced instant result.
I believe we all need to continue exercising instant faith in our prayers because we have a God that is able to do miracle then, now, and forever.
Now, let’s take a look at the second one:
Let’s take a look at the apostle Paul again. We now know that he has had experience with instant faith in the island of Malta. But in the book of 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NLT) he was struggling with a thorn in his flesh, and three times he begged the Lord to take it away. Each time the Lord said “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So here is the apostle Paul, a man who survived a poisonous snake bite, a man who once prayed for a dead man and raised him to life, struggling to experience instant result as he pleaded to God to take away his thorn in the flesh. The bible doesn’t mention what that thorn in the flesh is, but some predict it has to do with Paul’s eye. He might have an eye disease. Whatever it was, Paul had to endure. He needed to exercise sustaining faith by grace.
A few months ago, some friends took me to visit a young lady in the hospital. This lady in her 20’s had just married for 5 months. But shortly after, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer was in its late stages that the doctor had no choice but to perform mastectomy. She prayed for healing and miracles. Friends and families all joined in unity to fast and pray for her hoping that she didn’t have to undergo surgery and be cancer free. But that didn’t happen. She had to go for the surgery and the chemo therapies and she must accept the fact that she is to not have children in the next 5 years. All this is overwhelming for a young lady to endure. Some of her friends ask me a difficult question after our visit. They asked why God heals some people and not others. This is the kind of question that we’ll find answers in heaven someday. But I tried to empathize with them for their hearts were troubled. So I prayed a short prayer asking God to give me wisdom to answer them. And I got an understanding and explained to them that it is great for those people who experience instant healing, for the Lord is glorified. But for those like this young lady who must endure and exercise sustaining faith, it is an honor to carry the cross in life. It is an honor because people like her will experience God’s special care, His sufficient grace and a chance to grow closer to God. The God of all creations wants to get close to us. If temporary suffering on earth can draw us closer to Him, then it is an honor.
It takes maturity for people to understand, to accept, and to exercise sustaining faith. Like my wife always say, sustaining faith is like a being on a long bridge where we can not see the end yet, but we must keep going, enduring, hoping, and believing.
Samson had to exercise sustaining faith too when he was in the prison. I’m sure he prayed many times there, asking God to give him back the strength he once had. But God’s grace was sufficient for him. All those times where his instant faith was at work, it brought victories and glory to God. But in that prison, his sustaining faith brought him the honor of being close to God. It developed a good character in him.
I have a friend who suffered multiple sclerosis in her teen, she became handicapped. It’s been 13 years now she’s lying in bed or sitting on a wheelchair. Unable to do physical activities she once could. We keep visiting her and praying for her. We keep believing that healing is in store for her. But in the years of enduring all this, we have witnessed how she has grown closer to God, she has mastered the mandarin language from scratch so she could serve in our church as an interpreter, and she’s writing a book about how her sickness is not suffering for her.
As we understand these two kinds of faith, an instant faith and a sustaining faith, we have a complete understanding of how faith can be exercised. Sometimes, we will be able to gain instant result and beat our goliaths right away. Other times, we must endure the way saint Stephen, John the Baptist and other great men and women have done.
If you are struggling with issues in your life. It may be a health issue, a relationship issue, a financial issue, or the loss of a loved one. I encourage you to pray. Do believe in miracles. Believe that your faith can produce instant result so the name of the Lord is glorified. But like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said, if not… Then exercise sustaining faith. Be secure to know that His grace is sufficient for you. I pray that you can use the time of enduring to grow closer to Jesus.
It is an honor to know Him more.