Faith is Not a Feeling
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I've heard those in the church say in terms of walking by the Spirit "let peace be your guide". I believe such a disposition is not only unbiblical but is detrimental to the Christian walk. Really such a saying is the "Christian" version of the worldly saying "follow your heart". Scripture says just the opposite, that we are to walk by faith and not by what we feel, see, or experience (2 Cor. 5:7). Some of us even discredit our having faith because certain feelings are absent. Because we don't feel a certain way we conclude we must lack faith. This too is errant. Proverbs puts it this way:


He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But he who walks wisely will be delivered. - Proverbs 28:26

For example, when you sat down for breakfast this morning how did the chair make you feel? Did you feel joy, peace, excitement about sitting in it, or more likely, did you just sit in it while you were thinking about your food, or the day ahead? Or for that matter, while you ate your oatmeal were you overwhelmed with emotional joy about it? Or did you just eat it? Disclaimer: I hate oatmeal but I eat it. Here's what I'm getting at. Even though I hate oatmeal, when I sit down everyday to eat it I exhibit faith that one, it's not poisoned, two, it's good for me, and three, the chair i'm sitting in will hold me during this time. In all these things I exhibit what scripture defines as faith (Heb. 11:1) "assurance of things hoped for" (i.e. that my food isn't poisoned, and that it's good for me) and "conviction of things not seen" (i.e. that the chair is strong enough, that the company making the oatmeal did it according to US standards for food, etc). Where are my feelings? Well I hate oatmeal and I'm frustrated at how long it takes to eat (you can't scarf plain oatmeal...too awful). My feelings...irritated. Does the presence of my feelings signify the absence of my faith? Not at all. The fact I feel indifferent toward my chair, or even opposing feelings toward my oatmeal doesn't in anyway nullify the trust I'm exhibiting in both.


When God initially reaches us, He often, like immature babes, meets us on the level of feelings to woo us in...and it's great. And one day when we are with Him it will be unimaginable. But right now faith (not feelings) are what are precious to God (1 Pet. 1:7). Why? Well I digress, but because faith opens the door to grace (Rom. 4:16). I believe God actually uses feelings to refine faith for nobody feels good when they are "tested by fire" (1 Pet. 1:7).


Unfortunately today feelings have been given more credit than they should and they've been given authority where they have none. To those with Anxiety & OCD struggles I actually wrote an article on wrestling with this very thing. But we're not alone in our wrestlings, many times in scripture we see Godly men warring with their feelings so we shouldn't be surprised that we are too. We Christians often want to feel our way into faith. We are waiting to feel first, then we will trust. But this is grotesquely out of order. Feelings come after faith, not before. I like how Billy Graham put it, "fact, faith, and feeling. They come in this order, and the order is essential". Elsewhere (in one of his books, if memory serves me) Graham wrote, we walk by faith and feelings will be pulled into alignment. In light of this consider what David wrote.


For You, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made a revelation to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You. - 2 Samuel 7:27

As implied, David felt unworthy of such a blessing from God. However after making a deliberate choice to take God at His word David then found courage. Not before. When you see "therefore" in the bible it means what is about to come is originating from what came previously. God said it (fact), David chose to trust God's word (faith), David then found courage (feeling). Courage is an interesting word in itself and it's not to be confused with bravery. Bravery is the ability to confront pain, danger, or attempts of intimidation without any feeling of fear. Courage, on the other hand, is the ability to undertake an overwhelming difficulty or pain despite the eminent and unavoidable presence of fear. Bravery is an inherent characteristic; it doesn't involve much thinking and manifests itself as second nature in those who are brave, this is unfortunately what many Christians are seeking. Courage is a result of mindfulness, it's an act of the will to press on despite one's fears. This was the state of the Apostle Paul.


I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, - 1 Corinthians 2:3


Paul himself asked God to take away this tormentor (2 Cor. 12:7-8), but God didn't want Paul to be brave, but rather to rely on Christ despite his weaknesses.


Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10


On a side note, I wonder, like Paul, what have you been repeatedly asking for God to change or remove from you? I've spoken to Christians who say things like "If God would only take away this (insert feeling here) then I would be a successful Christian".


Hebrews 11:11-12 speak of the faith of Abraham and his wife Sarah in regards to them having the ability to conceive even though Abraham was a man "and one who was as good as dead". Hebrews 11 is often called the "faith hall of famers" and if so, Abraham is properly among them. Paul in Romans 4:20 wrote this about him:


19 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, - Romans 4:19-20

Abraham did not waiver in faith that what God promised He would also be able to do. In contrast consider what was recorded in terms of what was going on in Abraham's heart when God made this promise:


17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man a hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, give birth to a child?” - Genesis 17:17


How is it that we can say Abraham was unwavering in his faith when we read verses like this where he literally laughs and in his heart questions how God's word was to come about given their circumstances. But notice He doesn't doubt that God's word would come about, only he doesn't feel things line up properly that they would so the next verse Abraham says to God "Oh that Ishmael might live before You!". Notice in the above verse where it states "in his heart". Abraham believed God, but his heart felt differently..and that's okay.


Faith then is not a feeling but rather something that can be present regardless of how we feel. We can find this to be true even of Jesus.


38 Then He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” - Matthew 26:38-39


Luke gives us some additional info.


44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. - Luke 22:44


Thank God He didn't listen to His feelings nor filter His faith through His feelings. It would have been detrimental had Jesus waited to get His feelings under wrap before continuing in faith. Jesus Himself who was always perfectly faithful was emotionally distraught to the point of death. Yet He kept entrusting Himself to God despite those feelings.


Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. - Philippians 2:8


23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; - 1 Peter 2:23


Even with Christ His faith operated even when His feelings were not in alignment. So by this we can conclude two things. One, faith is not a feeling. Two, faith can operate despite the worst of feelings. This is the definition of being courageous.


The word there in Philippians 2:8 for obedient in the original Greek is hupékoos which is an adjective derived from hupakouó which the HELPS Word-studies defines as "properly, to obey what is heard". So in that sense Jesus is taking God at His Word despite His feelings (John 5:19, 5:30, 8:28, 12:49) which we know from the garden that even with Jesus when He was in the flesh, His feelings were not always in alignment with His faith and we can conclude that His faith then was not a feeling nor was it rested on His feelings which we often mistakenly do. This was the same mistake Peter made.


28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” - Matthew 14:28-31


When Peter heard the command of God "Come!" He took Him at His word and walked on water. But when Peter lost focus of that and his feelings took over, it was only after he became frightened that he began to sink. Peter in a moment of taking God at His word walked on water, but in the next moment of calculating his circumstances no longer took God at His word but listened to the circumstances and became frightened. Notice what Jesus says thereafter "...why did you doubt?". Jesus was addressing Peter's faith. Peter knew the command was valid, after all, he did walk on water (fact) but despite knowing the validity of God's word Peter allowed his circumstances and his feelings to get the better of him. On that note, notice the compassion of God "Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him..." Even when we're being corrected we're in the arms of God.


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