I have a confession to make from my college days. It’s rather embarrassing, but here goes: Every day after lunch a large group of us guys would gather in the commons of our dorm to watch Days of Our Lives. That’s right – the soap opera. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I was young and foolish.
Anyway, I remember one storyline in particular that lasted for a couple of weeks. A number of the characters from the show went on a ski weekend in the mountains. There was an avalanche. A woman named Hope was lost. They searched and searched, but could not find her. Her husband Bo was beside himself, but then his friend John Black stood up to address the group. “We have to have faith that we will find Hope,” he said.
We have to have faith that we will find hope. For many in our world today, that is their definition of faith. Faith is positive thinking. Faith is grasping, hoping – convincing yourself that things will work out the way you want them to.
Smiling preachers on TV tell you to think positive. God is all-powerful. He can do the impossible. They quote the Apostle Paul who said, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). You can achieve your dreams – you accomplish anything – if you just have enough faith.
They’re right when they say God is all-powerful. He can do the impossible. Paul did say, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” That doesn’t mean, however, that Paul thought faith was simply positive thinking.
Paul wrote those words to a church in the Greek city of Philippi. Paul was in prison at the time. He didn’t know if they would set him free or have him executed. Yet over and over again in the letter, he encourages us to rejoice. Paul was a positive thinker, but not in the same way some preachers use that term today.
If you have a chance this week, read Paul’s short letter to the Philippians. Paul didn’t believe he could accomplish anything he put his mind to. Paul believed that God could accomplish everything he promised. You see, faith isn’t trusting that things will work out the way you want them to. Faith means trusting in God’s promises.
Paul trusted that God would use his imprisonment for his good and for the good of others. Paul knew that even if they killed him, he had a home in heaven waiting for him because of Jesus.
God doesn’t promise you a life free of suffering here on earth. He promises you a life free of suffering in heaven. What he promises here on earth is that he will be with us and make all things – even the pains and problems – work for our good. Faith trusts those promises.
At the end of his letter, Paul told the Philippians, “I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation.” Paul could be happy whether things worked out the way he wanted them to or not. What was his secret? “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” Paul could handle anything and everything that came his way with the strength God gives in his promises.
Faith isn’t simply positive thinking. Faith doesn’t mean that if you just believe hard enough things will work out the way you want them to. Faith means trusting God’s promises and that faith gives true hope.