Faith or education, which is more important? At the boys’ karate class last night, I heard the instructor ask all the kids this question. One boy didn’t know, so his instructor sent him over to ask his father. His father’s response wasn’t surprising to me: they were equally important in his eyes. I say it’s not surprising because I look at my own life. Before I became a Christian, I would have told you faith was worthless. It didn’t amount to anything. So of course education was most important. When I first became a Christian through Christ’s saving grace, I was still very much a product of how I had been raised. So I would have said they were equally important, just as that father did last night. But as I’ve walked with Christ these past 15 years, I’ve come to understand how truly limited anything is compared to faith. Let me give some examples that I’ve seen around me.
Education won’t get you through the loss of your mother in a horrific car accident. Faith will. Education won’t help you take in your relative’s kids when you’re financially in the hole after a car accident cost you your health and your own son has a medical condition that is going to require surgery and there are only a few places in this country that can do it. Faith will. Education won’t allow you to walk away from a job with no job on the horizon in a bad economy after you determine that the company doesn’t live up to your high standard of integrity, because the excuse is always there that they are doing business the same way as everyone else. Faith will. Education won’t sustain you as you work to provide technical opportunities for folks in Uganda as you and your family struggle for what we consider the basics here in the United States, when the six-figure life you walked away from sits ready for you to re-embrace any time you want it, but it means walking away from those you are trying to help. Faith will.
I could go on and on and on. Yes, I believe education is important. But it’s not as important as faith. Education is depending on ourselves. Faith is depending on the Almighty. Who is more capable, us or Him? This was a lesson Jacob had to learn well. He was used to doing it his way. And he was used to succeeding. Even when God assisted him, he still saw his own hand in the schemes, like with the flocks between him and Laban. But there came a time when Jacob had to come to terms with who was really in control.
Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”
He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
– Genesis 32:24-28, NASB
Jacob must have been in tremendous pain. He suffered a hip dislocation and yet continued to wrestle. As day approached, Jacob wouldn’t let go, despite his exhaustion and pain. He knew he was wrestling with God or an agent of God. All his former days he had clung to his own abilities and his own capabilities. Now, on the verge of facing his brother, having come face-to-face with the cause for the strife (his own actions), Jacob knew his own abilities and talents were of no use. He had come to realize that his entire life up until this point he had done it the wrong way. And so he clung to the man he was wrestling with, not willing to let go until he received a blessing, and therefore, approval and acceptance. Jacob knew he needed God and he held on because he did not want God to leave him without accepting him. It was no longer about trusting Jacob. It was now all about trusting God. Jacob had learned the lesson well.
This is where God wants us to be, too. He wants us to put aside what we think we know, what we think we ought to do, and what we feel and just trust Him by faith. He is all-powerful. There is nothing He cannot do to accomplish His will. He is all-knowing. Our knowledge and wisdom is limited. His is not. Yet despite his power and knowledge and wisdom, we so often fall into the same trap as Jacob and think we know best and can do it best. We will even go so far as to dismiss Scripture, dismiss the ways He has given us of seeking wisdom, such as through prayer, because we have believed the lie that we’re better than God. We may not admit it, we may not say, “Yup, that’s me,” but any time we choose what we believe or think over what He says, no matter our justification (which is really another word for excuse), that’s exactly what we’ve believed. And then we miss out on what God could do because we don’t trust Him.
I’ve made that mistake far too many times. And I know every day there are things which tell me I make that same mistake again and again. But every day I try to put my trust in the Lord more and more and make that mistake less and less. Every time I’m willing to take a baby step in that direction, I have seen God work in a way that left me in awe. I saw it this summer at missions camp with my team. I watched as God used this tough old evangelist to reach two boys who came from an orphanage and lead them to Christ. He knew what they were going through. He had been in an orphanage himself as a kid. And he looked past their brashness and their toughness and peered into their hearts and got to work where God called him. Now we both have two more brothers in the faith. I saw it when I accepted what I believe is God’s decision and broke it to my oldest son that we wanted him to focus on guitar and that meant no more soccer in the near term. Those who know how much I love soccer and love to play soccer know how much that hurt to do. But I know God wants him on guitar. I see and hear the progress every week. We hear continual positive feedback from his instructor. And I see him stepping up to take on harder and harder challenges. He is looking to take those skills he’s learning and play for the Lord. One day I would not be surprised if he is up there leading worship and that’s his “job.” And that’s not something I would have thought two years ago. But God sees and knows things I don’t.
As you examine yourself closely, ask yourself who you are trusting more, yourself or God? If you’re trusting yourself more, consider how illogical that is. Also consider that the Scriptures are filled with people whom God used to do so much more than they were capable of, all because they trusted Him. And for them will be great reward in heaven. Anything and everything we work for in this lifetime will pass away. Jobs, positions, salaries, titles, and stuff are ultimately meaningless. But the things of God are everlasting. And we only get them by putting our trust in Him. We only receive them by having the faith to do it His way, even if we don’t see how He’s going to make it all work. It’s like we’re at the top of an old multi-story house that is in bad shape when the power goes out and everything is bathed in complete darkness. We feel God put His hand in ours and He says, “Come on, I know the way. Trust me, and I’ll get you out.” Do we try and find our own way out or we do we trust Him? Because ultimately, that’s exactly the position we’re in, only that rickety old house is something we call life.