The Kingdom of God can be very frustrating for people who like to have it all figured out.
You know the type I’m talking about. Chances are you even are that type: people who want to know exactly how and why they’re doing something before they set out to do it; people who set goals and have measurable outcomes for everything they do. People who, in other words, know exactly where they want to go and how to get there.
These can be great virtues to have. It’s wonderful to be driven, to have five-year goals and a Plan B in case things don’t go as planned.
But when it comes to the Kingdom of God, these things are not so great all the time. In fact, more often than not they’re a hindrance.
Because the Kingdom of God operates on faith. And you can’t have faith if you (want to) have it all figured out.
The commonest definition of faith in the Bible can be found in the Book of Hebrews:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
—Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)
The NLT, which is my preferred version (in case you hadn’t noticed), puts it like this:
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
I especially like the second one because it shows just how much faith goes against the ways of this world. The world will tell you “Seeing is believing”, but the Bible tells us we’re supposed to believe and be assured of the things we cannot see.
And it is something that is required of every Christian. (Habakkuk 2:4) It’s not something reserved for only “warriors of Christ” or when you’re feeling “in the Spirit”. Faith is required of us all. The Bible tells us it is impossible to please God without faith.
“…Anyone who comes to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.”
We come to God by believing He exists, even though we can offer no “concrete” proof for it. (In fact, all the scientific evidence points to the existence of no God.) When we pray, we don’t get an email informing us that our requests have been heard and Heaven’s administrative office will get to us shortly.
We have no proof that Heaven exists, or Hell, or that Jesus is not just some made up story to keep the little kids clapping in Sunday school.
If you’re a Christian (and I hope you are), then it means at some point you chose to not just believe, but act on something you could not prove or verify in any way.
So why is it that when it comes to living the Christian life, we want to know and prove and verify everything before we believe and act on it? Why do we want to have it all figured out first?
I personally know a lot of Christians who struggle to act on something they feel God telling them to do. And mostly they struggle because “What if I do it and it doesn’t work?” Or “What will happen after I do it? What will happen to me?”
If ever you find yourself asking such questions, I want you to know you’re in the right place—but you’re also missing the point entirely.
You’re in the right place because everything we do for God springs from that place of not knowing what will happen if we act. We all go through it. It’s just how it is.
But you’re also missing the point because not knowing what will happen is the whole point of obeying God in faith.
When you read the stories of people who were commended for their faith in the Bible, a common thread begins to emerge. I’ll give you a couple examples:
- “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give to him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.” –Hebrews 11:8
- “Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept going—believing that he would become the father of many nations.” –Romans 4:18
- “It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before.” –Hebrews 11:7
- “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us… But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you…we will never serve your gods…” –Daniel 3:16-18
I could go on and on, but do you see the connection? None of these people had any idea what would happen to them, but they obeyed God anyway. And God never offered them a Plan B. Yet they still obeyed.
That is what God commends as true faith.
Not knowing what will happen is the whole point of obeying God in faith.
There’s a famous story in the Bible about a guy who required concrete proof before he would believe that what Jesus had told the disciples He would do had actually happened. Jesus told the disciples beforehand that He would die and rise again (Luke 18:31-33), but when this man was told Christ had arisen, he wanted proof. He wanted to “be sure” before acting. He wanted to have it figured out.
But this man was not commended. Instead, his name has forever borne the taint of his refusal to believe because there was no “proof”.
These days, we call him Doubting Thomas. (John 20:24-29)
In my own walk with God there have been countless times when He has asked me to do something that has made no sense to me, but I’ve had to obey in trust and in faith. The one that comes most readily to mind is when God asked me to quit school.
Not once, but twice.
I am a two-time University dropout. In a world where education is everything and even first degrees are becoming useless, dropping out of University once was bad enough. Doing it a second time bordered on insanity. At least, that’s what everyone I knew told me.
Looking back, that was one of the scariest things I have ever done. My mind raced with terrifying scenarios. Who in this age would hire someone with only a high school diploma? How would I get a job? How would I survive? I raised all these questions before God, but His command remained the same: Quit school.
So I did.
And you know the funny thing? None of what I feared actually came to pass. After I quit school I got hired for jobs that even people with degrees were being passed over for. I found God’s hand of provision strong upon me, and it was truly astonishing. I can honestly say quitting Uni for the second time was the moment my life changed, because it was the moment I gave myself wholly to God’s care and provision.
And that’s not the only thing. I’ve quit jobs, left relationships and passed on wonderful-looking opportunities simply because God asked me to. In the moment I never knew why God was telling me those things, but in hindsight He’s always been right. Always.
But I had no way of knowing beforehand. No proof. Only the command.
Faith means accepting we will never have it all figured out.
Faith, by definition, comes with a lot of uncertainty. That’s what makes it hard. We are given no measurable goal, no physical promise, no proof that what we are doing (or have been asked to do) will work.
The only thing faith has to hold on to is God’s word, which doesn’t make sense to the natural mind (1 Corinthians 1:27).
Ironically, this is the very thing that makes faith the most sure and reliable thing there is.
Because plans fail, economies crash and loved ones die. Governments change and school degrees become useless. And even the things that don’t fail will all one day pass away.
But the Word of our God lives forever. (Matthew 24:35)
You trust Siri and Google Maps to get you where you want to go even if you’ve never been there before, so why can’t you trust the Eternal God to guide you? Even if obeying Him takes you where you’ve never been before?
Think about it. If Google crashes, your Maps will be useless. But we don’t worry about that because the thought of a whole Google crashing is ridiculous in our minds.
But if a company made by human hands is so trustworthy in our eyes, why do we find God so difficult to trust?
Why do we second-guess Him so much? Why do we act like when He tells us to do something it’s now our job to think through His plans as though we could come up with a better one? As though God’s instructions are flawed?
Do you think God didn’t look at the economy before He asked you to quit your job? Or that He doesn’t know good men were hard to find when He told you that person was not right for you? You think He doesn’t know how exactly you should go about building that company He has asked you to start?
So why are you waiting to be “completely sure” before you follow Him where He’s leading?
Look, you can’t have faith without uncertainty. If you’re waiting for your mind to be convinced before you do what God tells you to do, you will never do it.
Faith means accepting you will never have it all figured out.
But it also means knowing you don’t have to have it all figured out, because God already has it all figured out.
So trust Him.
Have faith in our God.
For He will never, ever fail you.