Faith used to be such a vague concept to me. A very spiritual sounding word that people used the most when they hit hard times. Honestly, in my various religious legalistic experiences, 'faith' was an expression of self-righteousness, often displayed with the air of a martyr. You see, men and women of faith could often be found standing by God even when they thought him responsible for disease, poverty, and death. The worse off they were in life, the more people proclaimed them super-holy saints of incredible 'faith'. But really, it doesn't take faith to believe that God would inflict suffering on me, it's easy to believe I deserve suffering or punishment sometimes! It takes faith to believe that God will never ever punish or use suffering to 'discipline' me because Jesus doesn't deserve ANY punishment ever again and I AM IN HIM.
To be sure we all pass through trials and suffering at times (and I believe true persecution is in a different category altogether). We have an enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion seeing who he might devour. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against a spiritual realm of spirits who wish us harm and will constantly accuse us and oppose us. BUT we also have an advocate who intercedes for us!!! One who has defeated evil forever and has given us eternal righteousness that can never be defiles or stolen from us. One who came to sympathize with us in our weakness out of lavish and exorbitant love for us, his own people. He will not leave us to suffer but will always intervene on our behalf, there is already abundant grace available to deliver us out.
I understand faith in a way that I never could before since seeing grace. Faith is simple, it is a response to experiencing God's love in a real way, whether his voice or his touch. Faith sees God, sees Jesus, and says, "yes! he does love me, I am precious to him!" Faith is not ashamed of the sufferings of Jesus, but rejoices in his love just as a baby does not apologize for causing his mother pain but reaches out for her loving arms and feeds on her joy in him. Faith leans so fully on the love of Jesus that all fear is banished in light of his beautiful goodness. He is all Goodness! He is all Kindness! He will never never never hurt one of his own. I know this because I believe he is good and he loves me. He has shown me again and again and again. Which one of us will give our child a stone when he asks for something to eat? Doesn't our father in heaven know how to give us good gifts even more? Infinitely more?
Faith is not a work we use to obligate God to perform for us at our word. Faith just receives God's love simply without question, without trying to earn or deserve, without suspicion. Faith sees Jesus and is satisfied, is overwhelmed with joy, is full to overflowing. Faith approaches God without agenda or cunning, with no need for lobbying, begging, or persuading. Because faith believes, more than that, RESTS, in the wonderful free love of Jesus.