My uncle saw the colours of the Dutch flag on the jumpers at the Footscray Football Club when he emigrated from Holland in the 1950s. He chose ‘his team’ in a moment of emotion and then endured fifty years of Australian Rules Football misery. All that changed last week as the renamed and revitalised Western Bulldogs finally reached the top of the mountain for only the second time in their history. The most unlikely of successes was a fairy tale come true. (Some bulldog supporters may be handed harps if they stay in the clouds any longer!) Importantly, there are some principles for believing against all hope for miracles that still come to pass in more important areas of life today.
1) Our hope needs to be grounded in certainty
Faith is, according to Hebrews 11:1, the substance of our hope. It is what keeps us coming back to the well again and again in an endurance of sure belief. Our hearts are, says Proverbs 4:23, the actual wellspring of the very words of life. These come from the Bible. We have to treasure them (Luke 12:34) and hide them in our hearts (Psalm 119:11) so that they arrest us with conviction. It is God’s promises which give us certainty and anchor our hope so that believing is seeing (so long as what we believe comes from godly revelation and not simply reading into the Bible what we want it to say).
2) Our certainty is grounded in God’s Word
The Word of God, then, is the basis of the faith that fuels our hope (Romans 10:17). God’s words wash us like water (Ephesians 5:26), cleansing our minds from the dust of secularity which pervades and pollutes us daily (Romans 12:2) and which rob us of believing biblically. In Romans 4:18, we are inspired by Abraham who “hoped against hope” to trust in God’s promise for a son in his old age. More correctly this is interpreted as, “believing against expectation in what he hoped for.” The question is whether we will be moved by faith in God’s promises or in what we see and feel with our natural senses (2 Corinthians 5:7).
3) God is still in the miracle business today
Abraham, we are told in Romans 4:20, did not waver in unbelief, but was fully convinced that God was able to deliver on His promises. When we embrace His promises to us, those which He has revealed through His Word, we are challenged to likewise cling to them as the sure foundation of our own hope. They help us to discover that God still calls “into existence things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17). Miracles still happen, not through simply clutching to God in desperation, but adding to our desperation some faith bullets to the gun of prayer. Faith-based praying demolishes the strongholds of unbelief and deception that are erected in our minds (or over the minds of others) to undermine hope (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Of course, God can work sovereignly in spite of our attempts at formulaic approaches. At the heart of faith is trust that God is in control when, clearly, we are not. We don’t find in the Bible, however, that Jesus or His disciples held prayer meetings in the face of crises. Principles of faith serve as reliable guides to increased miracles in ministry, rather than resorting to theologised platitudes to appease the lack thereof.
Even though a healthy respect for God’s sovereignty does have a theology of suffering and unanswered prayer, it seems that too many Christians are content with a lack of the miraculous power that typified the everyday faith of the early church in the Book of Acts.
The first Christians maintained lifestyles of prayerful trust and dependence on God and responded to His leading. However, they then ministered to people’s needs with authority instead of petitioning God to do what He had already empowered them to do. They acted on their belief and mandate as faith-filled conduits through which the Spirit enacted miracles.
And He still does so today through ordinary men and women of faith like us. This faith is founded on God’s Word which remains the basis for salvation in every circumstance we face, a salvation which in Luke 8:12, 36 and 48 is revealed to be spiritual, emotional and physical (the same word is used in the original Greek translation of each verse).
So, if the footballing faith of a bulldog supporter can transport him to ‘doggie heaven,’ how much more can our own ‘bulldog faith’ in God, bring Heaven’s best to the world through us?!