This past week we took one of those spiritual gift tests, and I wasn’t really surprised by the results, except for when I looked at the category that I scored lowest in: faith. So I was like, well that’s great, a missionary who scores lowest out of like twenty different categories in faith.
I’ll be honest, though, I wasn’t really surprised. I’ve always struggled with my faith. I don’t mean questioning my salvation or the source of my faith; I just don’t have a lot of faith.
Nate and I saved up all our money to come to school at the MTC for two years. We didn’t ask anyone for help. We planned well in advance; we were conscientious of our spending. Our savings has the money we need for tuition and all of our other expenses. We have our monthly budget planned out for the next 30 months of our lives. But then I hear people here at the training center say “we don’t know how our family’s going to pay for next semester, but we’re here by faith that God wants us to be here.” Part of me is always split in my judgment. On the one hand I’m thinking, you should have saved up your money like we did and planned better. On the other hand I’m thinking, dang, God, I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t have come. What’s wrong with me?
Last night we ate dinner with a missionary couple who went to the field with only 5% of their recommended support raised. They talked about staying on the field for 20 + years with nothing. I wouldn’t have gone. No way. I don’t have that kind of faith.
They mentioned a time when they were working here in Missouri at the MTC and a student (with no money) felt strongly impressed to go to the airport, and if he went God would provide his ticket to go overseas. So he went to the airport with crumbs in his pocket, and an hour later he was sitting on a plane.
We talked about George Muller, in his orphanage, how he would set out the breakfast bowls in the morning for his children without any food in the entire house, sit down with the kids to pray and invariably food would show up at the door. My soul rejoiced, but simultaneously thought, God, if I put out the bowls, the food wouldn’t come. What a horrible thought, but I thought it, and I believed it (I still believe it).
Then they went back to the missionary story about the airplane ticket, and they said another missionary later on heard of the story and thought, what a great idea! I’ll just go to the airport too and believe with all my heart God will provide the ticket! An hour later, he wasn’t on a plane, he was back in his car driving home. Yep, that’d be me, the one in the car and not on the airplane. But the missionary couple didn’t look at us and say, this kid just didn’t have enough faith. They smiled and said, “You can’t live by someone else’s faith. You have to live by the faith God has asked of you.”
What a freeing thought. God didn’t ask me to come here with crumbs in my pocket and trust that he’d provide my finances. He asked me to work for three years and put my money in savings and come up with a three year budget. So who’s more godly? Me, because I came with money and a plan, or the family who came not knowing how they’d pay for next semester? Neither of us. We’ve both acted according to the faith that was asked of us. What was asked of me was to turn in a resignation letter at the end of a three year career. And what was asked of them was to sell their house after six months and come to Missouri. We both have responded faithfully.
Faithlessness would have been me saying “God I’m not saving my money. I’m just going to move and have faith you’ll provide the money.”
Faithlessness would have been them saying “God, I’m not moving. I’m just going to stay here and save enough money first.”
I’m not a failure, I just don’t have the gift of faith.
And now I can say with happiness and not guilt, If I set out the bowls every morning, it’s true, the food wouldn’t come. If I went to the airport and waited for a ticket, it’s true, the ticket wouldn’t be there. But it’s not because God loves me less or I believe God less, it’s because he hasn’t asked it of me. To step out in faith is foolishness if you’ve not been asked to do it. What a relief to know I’m not a failure, I just don’t have the gift of faith.
“Have sound judgment as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” – Romans 12:3
“To one there is given through the spirit a message of wisdom, to the other a message of knowledge, to another a gift of faith through the same spirit…all these are the work of one and the same spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 12
Like the father in Mark 9, I can boldly approach the throne, even as a missionary, and in complete openness say –
God, I believe. Help my unbelief.