Instant Coffee, Instant Faith

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My friend Rebecca loves her coffee strong and dark. Those one-cup coffee makers don’t cut it for her. The options that give you a decent sized cup make coffee that is too watered down and weak. According to her, the only button that makes almost “real” coffee is the one with a tiny teacup on it. Elf coffee. Like a little espresso shot – with much less impact and caffeine.

A cup of coffee made in this machine has all the right physical elements – grounds and hot water. Yet for die-hard coffee fans, it is sadly disappointing. Something crucial is missing.

So . . . how can you make good coffee?

Well, you have a couple options. You can drip brew it (the option loved by most offices). The time it takes for hot water to drip, drip, drip onto and through aromatic coffee grounds makes for a much better coffee with more flavor and body.

But what if you want an even better cup? Then you buy a French press. This method combines hot water, time, and pressure to make an even better caffeine supply.

In the one-cup coffee maker, the water just runs straight through in the hopes that the sudden rush of water will magically make coffee. But genuinely good coffee needs time and pressure to brew properly.

A lot of times, I approach the Christian life like a Keurig machine approaches coffee. I want instant results.

Have you ever thought these things? (I definitely have.)

  • “I prayed the prayer – I’m good.”
  • “I do what God asks of me – why is my life a mess?”
  • “I had this amazing spiritual moment that seemed to change my life, but I don’t know why this sin-struggle still hasn’t gone away.”
  • “My friend asked my forgiveness – why does she still keep hurting me?”

This is what I’ve had to keep learning: following Jesus isn’t an instant or easy thing. We hear people talk about when they “made a decision for Christ” and their life changed immediately. They broke their rock-and-roll tapes in half, gave up drugs (and never wanted any since), gave away all their stuff to the homeless, and started spontaneously preaching like the apostle Peter and a thousand people gave their life to Jesus.

I’m exaggerating, and maybe some of those tales are true, but from where I’m sitting, that kind of instant, complete change is the exception, not the rule. Instant coffee is not real coffee, and instant faith is not real faith.

Real Faith is Mundane, Not Instant

When God opens a person’s eyes to their need for Christ, a hard, painful process begins. God uses faithfulness over time and through immense pressure to make a person more like Christ.

Psalm 1 has so much wisdom for our Keurig-style Christianity:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by    streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

The person described in this psalm is not rushing after the next best thing to help them instantly grow. There’s no new technique or teaching that’s making this man prosper overnight. No. He is relying on the everyday dripping of God’s Word.

It is not the massive floods that cause a tree to grow – it’s the steady stream of water day after day, month after month, year after year. The Christian life does not consist only of great breakthroughs; it consists mainly in mundane, steady obedience. Like David prayed, it is the pursuit of “one thing . . . to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”

Pursuing God faithfully gives a person unique stability and depth that allows him to produce fruit. A tree does not will its fruit to grow – it just happens when it is well-nourished. Our lives are like that. We can’t will ourselves to produce fruit. The Christian life doesn’t produce instant results by pouring a bunch of water suddenly. For growth to happen, there has to be a steady and permeating trust daily in the ordinary means of grace. Then God Himself produces the fruit.

God’s Mundane Faithfulness

God is faithful through the mundane everyday of our lives. It’s not just in the storms or on the high mountains that He is faithful. It’s when we sit at a stoplight. It’s when we pour ourselves a glass of lemonade. It’s when we’re folding socks. He knows and cares about when we sit down and when we rise up, as Psalm 139 tells us.

God uses the everyday to prepare us. The big moments came for the men and women of faith because they were faithful with what God gave them today.

For the apostle Paul, some days were for making tents and arguing with people in the city square. Other days, he was stoned, shipwrecked, or living in prison. But the faith that sustained him as a tentmaker is the same that sustained Him as a prisoner.

God didn’t change in those different situations. The power of long-lasting faith in our lives is that it doesn’t change in those situations either. It is modeled on and rooted in the faithfulness of God.

Our Mundane Faithfulness

Faith is not just about the major acts of faith like building an ark. Noah was just as faithful when he was eating breakfast with his wife or chasing animals around in the ark.

We don’t hear about those “everyday” days in the great men and women of faith’s lives. We only hear the highlights. I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of trying to live only for the big acts of faith:

“Oh, Abraham sacrificed Isaac, so I need to find some big sacrifice to make for God” or “David slew Goliath, so I need to go find my own giant to slay.”

What we don’t see are the years Abraham sat in a tent and waited for God to finally fulfill His promise. Maybe drinking goat milk. Maybe combing His beard. Were those days of waiting less an act of faith than climbing Mount Moriah with Isaac?

Or how about the years David spent sitting out in a field alone talking to and singing to his father’s sheep? Was that less obedience than putting a rock in a Philistine’s head?

No. Maybe God shows us the highlights of others’ lives so that we have a vision of what days and weeks of mundane faithfulness can lead to.

Ordinary, mundane faith. It was the faith of Brother Lawrence as he washed dishes and peeled potatoes, while reveling in the presence of God. It is also the faith that sustains Saeed Abedini in his prison cell in Iran. This is the faith that goes with my bi-vocational pastor from selling welding supplies to preaching in the pulpit. It’s everyday, but it’s extraordinary.

What does faith look like for you in the ordinary and mundane of today?

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“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1