Distinguishing Between Faith and Foolishness

by Joseph Franks

Faith is hearing the will of God, believing it to be true, and trusting in his sovereignty. True faith is then followed by faithfulness.

Faithlessness is hearing the will of God, not believing it to be true, not trusting in his sovereignty. Faithless is then followed by disobedience and disaster.

Then there is Faith-Based Folly. Faith-based folly is imagining one hears the will of God, believing God will bless all decisions made using  his name, trusting in the power of faith. It is then largely followed by disobedience and disaster.

In the Bible, numerous examples of faith, faithlessness and faith-based folly abound. In Numbers 14, all three are found side by side. Let us read the text and see if we fall in the faithful, faithless or fanatically foolish camps:

Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” … Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones  …  Then the Lord said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it … And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness  …  When Moses told these words to all the people of Israel, the people mourned greatly. And they rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the Lord has promised, for we have sinned.” But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the Lord, when that will not succeed? Do not go up, for the Lord is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies. For there the Amalekites and the Canaanites are facing you, and you shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.” But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed out of the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah.  (Numbers 14)

Faith is seen in the responses of Joshua and Caleb. Despite huge fortresses and giants in the Promised Land, and despite the negative majority opinion of their countrymen, these two men urged Israel to go forth and attempt the unfathomable. They were expensive worshipers willing to sacrifice all to obey God’s clear direction.

Sadly, their countrymen were faithless. All night long they cried and wept. They expressed their distrust of God and their lust for Egypt. They complained against the Lord, slandered his name, and made plans to choose new leaders.

However, after hearing the decree of discipline given by the Lord, many Israelites had a change of mind. They determined they would go forth into the land and prove their faith. They would name it and claim it. God would see their positive attitude and he would have to reward them. They were faith-based fool, and in going forth they were disregarding God’s stated will and imagining they understood his secret will. In their “act of faith,” they proved not to be men and women of faith, but a congregation of fools.

Therefore, in response to this chapter, two application questions come to mind.

Today, are we sinning against God by being faithless? Regardless of our preferences or wisdom, are we obeying the clear instruction of God. It is true that the Lord often commands his children to go forth and attempt the unpleasant or unfathomable. When we do so based upon the Scriptures, despite the cost, we are showing honorable faith. Therefore, let us quit trying to figure out God’s secret purposes and end, and let us do all that he has commanded. His will is to be followed whether we understand it or not. His will is to be followed whether we like it or not. Even if we die in the process, let us die in obedient faith. Let us hear. Let us believe. Let us trust. And let us be found faithful!

Today, are we sinning against God by being foolish?  Many times, based upon some dream, prophetic utterance, feeling in one’s chest, or series of odd coincidences, we ignore common sense and despise godly counsel claiming to be following the leading of the Lord. Tragically and irresponsibly, we go forth on a fool’s errand, against all odds, to attempt the unreasonable. In doing so, our intentions are good. We really think we are following the will of the Lord. However, in many instances the Lord has not truly commanded us to go down the crazy path. Therefore, we are not exercising faith, but foolishness, and this is sinful.

Therefore friends, let us obey the clear revelation of God regardless of the cost. And let us not live in some fantasy land imagining that God will honor all our wild endeavors if use his name and claim we are walking by faith. There is a fine line between faith and foolishness. Let’s not cross it.

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