We’re in the middle of a fantastic study by Andy Stanley, and in it he talks a lot about “circumstantial faith”. That is, our faith in God based on our current circumstances. I’ve always been intrigued by this because I grew up in a world of TV preachers who told me that all I had to do was be good and expect that God would bless me and then I’d have a great life. My life experience didn’t seem to work that way though. I mean, generally if I was a good person, people would be good in return, but not always. And I’d still get sick and lose jobs and lose people in my life and all that. And at the same time, really crappy people I know would have all kinds of great things going on in their lives. So God seemed a lot like a slot machine to me. Pull the handle, cross your fingers and maybe you’ll score. And honestly, I’d just as soon not believe in any god if that’s how it works.

But Stanley really boils it down and talks about what faith really is. Faith is not expecting God to make life easy or fun. We know that doesn’t work. Faith is really believing that God will do what he said he will do.

Now that’s powerful because the next question is; What did God say he will do? And Stanley refers to Hebrews 4: 14-16, and in that passage it says that God will give us Mercy and Grace to help us in our time of need. This is absolutely huge. God never said we’d have great lives. In fact, Jesus said just the opposite, that life is pretty much gonna suck sometimes (totally paraphrasing there. Jesus never said the word ‘suck’). But think about it; Out of 13 apostles (if you count Judas and his replacement), most of them were murdered, one committed suicide (Judas) and one was exiled to an island somewhere. That’s not quite the American definition of “The Christian Life” is it?

So once we put away the slot machine god, or the genie god, and get down to what God really promised us, in my mind it becomes a lot more powerful. Mercy and Grace: Mercy means forgiveness and compassion, Grace is the undeserved favor of God. And so this becomes much more real and meaningful because we know that life will be tough, but we also know that we have our creator to forgive us when we fail, and help us through the tough times.

We’re just getting started in this study and there’s already more wisdom being dealt than my puny mind can capture. I know I’m going to have to go back through it again and really dig into the scriptures Stanley refers to. If you’re interested in checking it out, either for yourself or your group, it’s called Faith, Hope, and Luck: Discover What You Can Expect From God.