Magic Wands, Wishful Thinking, and Saving Faith

There was a time when I believed that God waved magic wands. I thought, ‘If I have enough faith to believe, then God will work a miracle. And if I do not have enough faith, then I can only blame myself when He does not come through.’ In short, I believed that God would wave a magic wand and make it all better – if only I could demonstrate enough faith.

Are there times when God intervenes in this earth’s history to prevent a tragedy or heal someone who is at the point of death? Absolutely! He is gracious and loves to do that. But is that the norm? God could have intervened and prevented Adam and Eve from putting us in the mess that we are in today. But He did not. Which means that God has something more than “magic wands” up His sleeve. We are going to look at what true faith is and how we ought to live in order to experience God more fully in our daily Christian walk.

"Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me" (Ps. 50:15).

I discovered this beautiful promise on my 35th birthday. The economy had gone downhill and I was facing a serious financial crisis. After paying my mortgage and vehicle payment, there was barely enough money left for food and basics. I had been out to my shop where I made my living, only to discover that during the night, the air compressor had blown up. As a result, I no longer had any way to make an income.  I was stuck with no way out.

As I knelt and began pouring my heart out to God, I remembered this promise that He had shown me that morning in my time alone with Him. I opened the Scriptures and told Him how I had no way of purchasing another compressor and that I believed that His word was true; He was my only hope. After my prayer, I had no idea what to do but I believed that He would work things out so that I could go back to work.

A few minutes later my phone rang; it was a family from church calling to wish me a happy birthday. I was touched when the young children sang along (over the phone) and for a few moments, my thoughts were directed away from my own struggles. As I thanked them for calling, a thought came to mind and just as I was about to hang up, I blurted out, "By the way, do you know anyone who has an air compressor they don’t need?" As I spoke the words I wondered why I was even asking. Who would have one of these just sitting around?

As I listened to their response, I could not believe what I was hearing! They had just been to an auction and there was an air compressor that was so cheap that they could not help purchasing it, even though they had no use for one. Now I not only had the air compressor that I desperately needed, but I had learned an important lesson. I discovered how our God loves us and wants to be at the center of our lives in tangible and meaningful ways. That is the whole point of being a Christian! I also saw that God did not wave a magic wand after I proved that I had enough faith to believe. But when I saw my desperate need and gave it completely to Him, He did what He had promised that He would do. He delivered me in His own way, and I had a wonderful testimony of a God who loves and cares for each of us.

Faith is not believing so hard that it will cause God to reward us by coming through for us. That is called wishful thinking. In the end, it will leave you disillusioned because that thinking is based on the foundation of presumption. Genuine faith surrenders the outcome to God even when facing a life and death situation.

“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Wishful thinking and presumption focus on our own will and leave out God’s will for our lives. True faith takes hold of God’s promises and then leaves it in His arms of love, knowing that He cares for us and will answer in a way that only Divinity can determine. The fruit of that kind of faith will be demonstrated when we have a testimony of His goodness and mercy to share with others. God’s goodness will be on display for all to see what an amazing God we serve. During this process, we will end up finding ourselves in the yoke with Jesus Christ our Savior (Matthew 11: 28-30) and we can begin a life-long journey of “FAITH”; fabulous adventures in trusting Him!

If we take God at His word and cling to what He said He will do, then we can be sure that we have saving faith. To further understand, consider the words of Paul, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom we also have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1,2).

We see that we are justified by faith and therefore, we have peace with God. This is wonderful news! By faith, we have access to the saving grace of God and that means that it is faith that opens the door to the grace that saves us. Since grace is “the unmerited favor of God”, many have not seen how this “unmerited favor” also applies to other areas of life. In short, God’s Grace is not merely limited to saving us, but offers a better life here and now.

Do you want good health or a long life? It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t. Now, does God wave a magic wand once we become a Christian and we suddenly receive better health and long life? No. He could immediately grant it, but as we have been discovering, that is not how He operates! He lets us choose whether we will believe and trust Him to fulfill His promises. You might ask, “What about the promise that He wants us to be in good health?”

 "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers" (3 John 1:2).

Does this mean that God uses His powers to automatically give us better health than a non-believing neighbor?  If this were so, it would be hard to answer why The Bible Belt and the Stroke Belt are in the same location. The Bible Belt refers to the region in the United States in which conservative, evangelical Protestantism heavily impacts the society and politics. The Stroke Belt is the “11-state region of the United States where studies show that the risk of stroke is 34% percent higher for the general population than it is in other areas of the country.” States in this region include Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana, and Virginia.

This means that the area with strong Christian values also has serious health issues. How do we make sense of this? If I'm a Christian, doesn't that inevitably qualifies me for good health? Fortunately, God has revealed the answer in the Scriptures and we see it in the text above, “Brethren, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers."

In this verse, God is admonishing us to rise above normality. God wants our soul to prosper and He wants us to be in good health. So how do we experience His heart’s desire for us? Does He wave His powers to grant such a blessing?

Proverbs 3:1-12 give us the keys to good health, wealth, and a long, prosperous life. There are six couplets within those twelve verses. Each one is God telling us that if we are willing to do our part, then He will pour out His blessing. He will cover us with “unmerited favor” leading to health, happiness and even prosperity.

"My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;

 For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you."

Proverbs 3:1,2

Here, God is working on the principle of “cause and effect.” If we are willing to remember God’s Law and keep His commandments, He will add length of days and peace. We see this played out throughout the entire Bible; God makes a promise and He asks us to do certain things so that the promise becomes a reality. The action we perform are acts of faith and not merit; we do it because we believe that God will do what He says.

His promises are conditional; if we are willing to follow Him, we won’t get lost. However, many times we want to go down a different path from the one that Christ is on while expecting Him to still guide us. We veer away from what He is asking us to do and at the same time, earnestly praying that He would fulfill His promises to bless us on our way. But this is not faith; it’s presumption.

Faith is believing that if we keep on His path, He will bless and guide us. Faith is also holding onto the promise that God will do what He says, whether in this world or the next. Now, because of His unfailing love, amazing grace, and tender mercies, God is willing to help us if we do end up going the wrong way. Nonetheless, He will not “magically” cause the consequences of our presumptuous actions to disappear. Since He is a Good Steward, He can use even our bad decisions and mistakes to help us to grow and become wiser.

His commandments are clear, and if we obey Him we can claim His promises. For example, there are many stories of children who put themselves in danger because they disobeyed a parent; the command to honor parents was violated. Another example is where the Lord has clearly stated that adultery is a sin (Ex. 20:14), yet many have chosen to walk outside of God’s plan expecting him to keep the family together. Instead, all that has resulted were broken homes and shattered lives. To claim God’s blessings while disobeying Him is wishful thinking – it’s presumptuous. We reap what we sow. Do you want to see God answering your prayers and fulfilling His promises? Then you must follow His Word. We can be sure that He will keep every word that He says.

You may wonder, “I have kept God’s commands and still have not reaped the blessings. I have seen obedient children die young. Why didn’t God keep His promises?” We also cannot deny that there are those who vehemently deny God, yet they enjoy long life and prosperity. These are very valid queries to which I will respond with God’s words to David in Psalm 37;

Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

In Hebrews 11, there is a list of faithful people who the Bible says died without receiving the Promise. Although God’s promises were not fully realized when they were alive, when He returns He will cover all basis for fulfilled promises.

God is not interested in merely being a spare tire; it is only when we let Him have complete control of our lives that we will experience the blessings that He wants to give. If we choose to use our own wisdom, then He will allow us to make our own mistakes. Yes, He will be there to pick up the pieces but what He wants is for us to experience His goodness and grace and they are all to be accessed by faith.

He will never force His will upon anyone. But He presents His blessings in such a way that if anyone is willing to co-operate with Him, they will receive a blessing from the arms of God who wants our soul to prosper and us to be in good health. He will bless each of us as we co-operate with Him. By His grace, we can move beyond magic wands and wishful thinking in order to experience saving faith.

By: Leslie Derfler

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