This past Sunday, Pastor Patrick Kelley at River Pointe Church said something that made me sit up and take notice.
He was telling the story of Ruth, who the Bible tells us labored in Boaz’s fields gathering barley. She worked from sun up to sun down, taking her bounty back to Naomi, who proclaimed God’s goodness.
God was faithful to Ruth, but it took her working hard and moving forward for Him to step in and answer her prayers. If she had sat by idly waiting for him to make food appear before her, she would have been waiting a long time. That’s because God doesn’t disclose everything to us. He expects us to have an active faith that propels us forward even when we don’t know what will happen or if we will succeed.
That’s incredibly hard and getting harder all the time. We live in a world where answers to every single question we might have are just a quick Google search away. We’ve become accustomed to quick – sometimes immediate – results that answer our questions before we need to make a decision or take a step in a certain direction. The guessing has been removed. And with it, a certain amount of faith has dropped off as well. After all, there has to be some doubt or lack of surety in order for faith to blossom.
We’re educated. And what we don’t know, we can find with very little effort. As a result, we have little to no patience. The minute we decide we need something, we expect it to be available to us. And we transfer that mindset to God. We ask and we expect to receive, and when God appears to remain silent, we question His existence.
We’ve all looked at younger generations and lamented their seeming lack of work ethic. To us, they appear lazy, easily bored or frustrated, and quick to give up. They look for the shortest, easiest path to success. If they can get the answer quickly, that’s better than taking the time to figure it out on their own.
But younger people aren’t the only group guilty of this – we all are. And this crosses over into our prayer lives. We fully expect to ask God for something and see immediate results. We expect him to deliver to us whatever will meet our perceived needs, and then some.
Looking at the story of Ruth, we see that she never had that mindset. Instead, she moved forward and worked hard, all the while praying for God’s help. And he delivered… but only AFTER she took steps forward. Growing up, I heard more times than I could count the aphorism of the time: God helps those who help themselves. For years, I thought this was a Bible verse – that’s how often I heard it.
It’s not, but it is a definite theme prevalent throughout the Bible. Again and again, God shows us that we must have faith, yes, but we must also have action. In fact, our actions – our willingness to move forward without knowing the results – are what builds our faith in God. When we prayerfully take action, we trust He will step in the moment it’s needed.
As Pastor Kelley says, “Pray as you run toward the answer.” God doesn’t want our reliance on him to be an excuse for passivity. The hardest part is taking the first step, but once we’ve done that, God will show up.
We must believe God will provide, even though we don’t know His plan. And when He does provide, we must give Him credit, not explain it away as a coincidence or good luck.
More importantly, we must never allow ourselves to become paralyzed by our problems. We can’t just sit around waiting. We must run toward an answer. We must actively seek what is next in our lives. When we do, God will provide.