Friday, November 15, 2013
I have been active on my bus blog, primarily due to Lane Jensen's absence from the blogging world and my attempts to fill that hole. I still view this blog as more important, but unfortunately I haven't had the motivation to write anything. This is a bummer, since God has been teaching me a lot lately.
Maybe I should just rename this blog, "Rantings of a Really Lazy Blogger." But that would just be ripping off Al Margulies's blog name, and really, my blog ain't that funny.
On a side note, to the one person who read this blog on November 6, I thank you. Your efforts of pageviewing didn't go unnoticed. Really. It's kind of hard to miss the only pageview your blog gets in two months.
But back to whatever I'm trying to say here, I am a college student. Until December 12, I am a college student. After that, I will be just a guy. A guy with a certain amount of work lined up for me. I'm not talking about a job in my field of expertise specifically. I just know that God has something lined up. It will all work out. I'm not worried.
Hey, let's talk about worry! I can talk a lot about that! Not because I've worried, but because I haven't been. Or mostly haven't been. I don't know if I told you my story about my phone in Denver yet. Telling you that will make this paragraph make a lot more sense.
So, I was on vacation in Denver in June. I had a lot of high expectations for some really awesome things to happen. I had been there four days or so, and I had already been stuck in a tornado shelter, calling to the Coors Field bullpen, proving that TriMet's fare structure is truly unequitable, finding the best intersection in the world (Taco Bell, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Chipotle, light rail, and bus mall, all at 16th & California), and spending time with my grandmother. It had been way more exciting than I had even expected was possible.
It was Thursday, and I decided to go meet up with my youth choir, Priority, as they sang at a retirement home. Yay! I get to see Priority (which wasn't certain in and of itself). Then our director threw me a t-shirt and had me sing in the choir. And then I spent the whole rest of the day with them, going to the mall, hanging out with all my friends, and getting the honor of being included in the selection of tour dates (long story). And I got a ride back to Grandma's from one of my heroes and best friends in life, Jon. Perfect day, and I hadn't even reached the day of utmost excitement, the epic theme park day (which was kinda the reason I "happened" to be in Denver that week [shh..don't tell anyone...]).
And then that night, in all my wonder at how awesome that day had gone, I had a great shock come upon me: where is my phone? I had it in the van ride to Grandma's, but I couldn't find it anywhere in my room! Could I have dropped it in the street? The yard? Did somebody take it? To make matters worse, the battery had just died on it, and I needed it for the theme park day.
Then I heard that inaudible voice that comes from time to time speak clearly: "This is a test." So I sat there on my bed thinking about how everything had gone so perfectly according to plan so far, plus some. I thought about how God had been continually proving His faithfulness to me throughout the trip. And I kept getting the sense of a voice saying, "I have made everything go right so far. But now things are not certain. This is a test. Will you trust Me?" So I declared that I would not worry. I basically told God, I know that whatever happens will be the right thing, but if I get my phone back (charged), I should never worry ever again. And so I went to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up and realized, hey, I could just call Jon on Grandma's landline and ask him if he found the phone in the van! Maybe he could get someone with the same phone the charge it! So I picked up the phone and dialed the number (his being the only Priority number I knew by memory). And..."(cue the three phone tones of terror), Please enter the 4 digit long-distance access code." Long distance access code? Well, so much for easy. And with no phone, it meant I had to call the transit district to get scheduled times for a bus I didn't have the printed schedule for. So, wad of paper schedules in hand and a confident smile on my face, I walked out the door of Grandma's house.
Of course, since this is not TriMet, all the buses ran perfectly on schedule. I got to see some really cool parts of town I had wanted to see. Even one of the drivers went to the church that Priority had done a service project at. It was a bus trip of a lifetime. I arrived at the hotel. I said a prayer: "Lord, this is it. I trust You." And I walked in the door to find Jon in the lobby.
"Hey, Jon," I said. "Did you happen to find my phone?"
"Yeah, I found it on the floor of the van. It's charging up in my room."
And that day ended up being probably the best day of my life so far. Phone in hand, I spent time with my friends at the theme park, having a total blast. And the rest of the vacation continued to be just as awesome. A weeklong trip, where nothing went wrong.
So, now I say: should I worry? I'll admit, there have been moments since then where worry has attacked me, but either God wakes me up and points out His continued faithfulness, or I just remember all the things He has done, relax, and watch Him work. No, things haven't always been comfortable, and no, things haven't gone "my way" all the time. But God has never failed me. Everything has worked out. And I can proceed knowing that He will provide, even when it seems impossible.
So, yes, God has shown me that I don't need to panic about getting a job right out of college. I'll work for my family, which will give me some much-needed time off to recover from this term. And there are plenty of opportunities on the horizon. But earlier this year I worried a lot about this time of my life. Now I just have faith that God is in control of everything. And this gives me confidence.
Because, really, why should I ever worry again?
Monday, July 29, 2013
" 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.' " - Jeremiah 29:11
I feel like I have gotten off on the wrong foot. If I am going to share life with you on this blog, I probably should define what my life is first.
God likes to teach me things by creating a high-level theme and then explaining how each detail fits into the big picture. I have grown to understand such concepts as grace, mercy, love, and joy over the years through these learning periods. It is a shame that I wasn't blogging then, because it would have been wonderful to have shared these as I learned them. Though I will definitely fit these into the posts as I go along, it is more prudent that I tell you about what God has been teaching me about lately: faith.
Faith can be defined in many ways and has many applications. Read Hebrews 11 if you want to see what faith in action looks like. The most pressing component of faith that God has been revealing to me over the last few years has to do with trusting in God's faithfulness and then acting accordingly. This is how faith is best defined in my life.
Back in 2011, I was going about my business when, suddenly, God felt it appropriate to make me two really big promises. The first year or so after each promise was made mostly consisted of me trying to prove that these were really promises of God and not some figment of my imagination. But, alas, they most certainly were of God, for there is no way that these things could just happen or remain happening over the long haul in the way they did if they weren't of God. This was one component of faith I learned: trusting that what God said was actually what He said. This is most important in light of His Word, but He also makes promises to people, either through His Word or through other means, and it's up to us to remain faithful to believe in the truth of those promises.
I would love to go into specific details about these promises. However, due to the world-wide nature of the world-wide web, it would be in my best interest to wait until they come to fruition and then tell you all the details. Besides, it will be even more faith-building for you when I can say "This is what God promised, and here's the fruits." While I can't tell you right now exactly what these promises were, I can tell you some interesting comparisons between them that will help you see how God works.
The first promise was something like this: "This is where I am leading you. I am not giving you an instruction manual on how to get there. Instead, just trust Me to lead you along the way. You will get there. Just trust Me and follow Me."
I think many of the promises God makes are like this. We can see the destination, and we know that we are guaranteed to arrive there on time. However, the road is foggy and the map is torn to shreds. Therefore, we just have to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit inside and follow where He leads. This seems so difficult, especially because we like to reason out the possibilities of success or failure. But I have found the truth that God is faithful to His promise, and that doesn't change regardless of the situation.
So, how's the journey going so far? Well, it's not exactly what I was expecting. I am in a totally different place than I reasoned I'd be at this point. But where I am is so on track and is making a difference in the lives of people that I can tell that this is where I'm supposed to be now. And anyway, this is only part of the way along the timeline to the destination. There's still a ways to go. But I thought I would have to wait a long time to see any fruits of this promise; instead, I'm already seeing part of it coming to pass.
The second promise is totally opposite from the first. I was minding my own business when God made the promise to me in sentence form, as He spoke in my mind so very clearly what exactly was going to happen, it might as well have been audible. I was taken aback, and I laughed it off. Again, I heard in my spirit the same words, (to the equivalence of) "This is going to happen." So I started to pray and listen, as the Casting Crowns song "Already There" started playing over and over in my mind out of the blue. And instead of giving me the destination and just telling me to trust Him with the details, God began to list out the details of what would happen along the way. It all made sense, it all was logical, and it even made other things in life make more sense. But what I was left with was a set of answers to some serious prayers I had prayed and a detailed list of what would happen over the next year.
So a year later, after all the things God had told me would happen came to pass perfectly and on schedule, that's when I came to the full understanding that this was, in fact, going to happen. My faith finally caused me to totally trust in the words that He had spoken to me. You may wonder why God doesn't just explain what will happen and instead opts to leave you out of the details. I have found that, contrary to popular opinion, it actually requires way more faith to believe when the plan is laid out, because that is a lot more information to trust God to make happen perfectly and on schedule. It makes the "trust me" promise seem like no burden, when I've seen the "here's the plan" promise work exactly as planned, and even blessing me along the way above and beyond my wildest expectations.
I served as counselor this year at Royal Family Kids Camp. The camp verse for the week was Jeremiah 29:11, and the challenge was to just rest on that and not worry about anything. Why should I worry? Why should I fear anything? God has promised in His Word that He knows the plans He has for me, plans for a hope and a future. And, for some reason, he has chosen to reveal a few examples of these plans to me, which have built my faith extremely.
After completing the first year of the second promise, God chose again to outline the next 12 months. These included some very extreme events that challenged my faith to an even higher level. But, I'm eight months in, and everything is again on schedule according to that plan. I speak with certainty concerning the validity of the initial statement, because the probability of everything happening according to this plan without providential intervention is about the same as seeing an actual pig sprout wings and soar away. But here I am, my faith strong and indestructible. Even when the arrows of Satan attack me, that shield of faith protects me and helps me to grow even more, regardless of the circumstances. And it makes me see how faithful my God truly is.
So I'm excited to share with you about God's faithfulness to these promises going forward. And in a few years, I will be able to tell you what He actually promised.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I decided that it would be a cool idea to make a daily log of trip to Denver this year. I mean, somebody out there would probably find it interesting. And from what I've learned about vacations, they are rarely boring. So here is my Denver travelogue. I hope you enjoy it.
Ahh, my first ever plane flight by myself. See, whenever I fly, I have to take decongestant pills so my ears don't explode. So when I was getting ready to board the plane and realized my pills weren't in my pocket, that wasn't exactly a welcome realization. Providentially, the pills I had taken earlier that morning and the night before were sufficient enough to keep me from having ear fireworks. Or maybe it was because I landed 5800 feet higher than when I started.
I found it funny that there were signs in Denver's airport directing passengers to tornado shelters. I mean, that is something that will never be seen anywhere in Oregon. So when the announcement came over the intercom that the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning that included the Denver International Airport, I was rather shocked. Next thing I knew, I was spending 30 minutes in the men's restroom (the tornado shelter) hearing the same annoying pre-recorded announcement about the tornado warning over and over and over again. I called my mom, the tornado stories television program connoisseur, to inform her I was in a real-life tornado situation (much to her obvious shock). Also, my aunt was on her way to the airport to pick me up. All this, and I had only been in Denver for less than an hour.
After about 30 minutes, there was finally a new announcement saying that the threat of a tornado was no longer. Turns out that three tornadoes had actually formed and one touched down, but apparently it didn't do any damage. Eventually, I was able to retrieve my luggage and meet my aunt who took me to my grandma's house.
It's always nice to see family you rarely get to see, so the rest of my evening was mostly just visiting and catching up. But as my aunt said, I have just arrived and it's already a vacation that I will never forget.
You can keep up with my Coloradoan escapades by searching #psdenver13 on Twitter, or following along at @pstanley92.
Friday, May 24, 2013
"Lord, where did the feeling go?" Closer than I thought, actually.
I have been struggling for some time chasing this feeling I couldn't explain.
I always thought I had the formula down pat. A certain amount of days this, a certain amount of days that. If I followed the pattern just right, I would find this feeling of happiness I once often had. Sometimes, the plan would work and I would reach that euphoric place. But then, something would come up and it would be gone. And it wouldn't come back.
Naturally, I start believing that something is wrong with me. Maybe it's some sin I can't get away from, or some stress at school that I can't release. And the more failed tries to reach that feeling, the more I just let the sin or the stress have more power.
But then I have a good moment with God. So now everything's okay, right? Well, for a couple of days. Then I find myself feeling worse and not getting better, so I step in and try to fix it. I think that I got this under control, that I can make this right. And suddenly, I find myself failing my own plan, and then failing in general. And then I'm in an even worse place than I was before.
What is going on? Why is it so hard to catch this feeling? All I want is to be okay. So why aren't I?
My sins are forgiven, my life is all planned out and being orchestrated by the hand of God. No guilt, no shame. I am saved! I am free!
I am free.
So why do I feel like I am still in chains?
That's when I do a root cause analysis to discover the real problem. I feel terrible, but I'm saved. I feel stuck in a rut, but I know I've been freed from sin and death. And I'm doing well. Not perfect, but well. That's all I can ask, right?
Then the memo comes quietly through the metaphorical fax machine: I'm missing the point entirely. It's not about how many mistakes I make or how I handle the stress. It's about Jesus.
And then I realize what's wrong. I'm living like I'm going through the same struggle I thought I was freed from. I am no longer bound to my mistakes, I am only bound to Christ and He has taken care of all my sins on the cross. Once for all of them. Seems like the only person who never understood that I'm free was me.
So I run into the arms of my Father who takes me in regardless of anything I've done. He's given His everything so I could run to Him. And I realize that the purpose of my whole life is to be with Him. And then I go back to life and, instead of seeking to do things right, I seek Him. And because I am seeking Him and Him alone, I live like the Christian I was called to be. Not because I am putting in extra effort, but because I am seeking Him and everything just falls in place.
And I find that feeling. All along, I thought it was something I had to do. Instead, it was just from being with Jesus and having His Spirit on fire within me.
And because I'm truly, truly free.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
But I have found myself having no problem giving of my time and energy. I feel that that's the only natural response. However, the semi-broke college student thing has convinced me to be cheap, and therefore it's even difficult to spend money on the people I care about the most. This attitude isn't right. I think it's why God challenged me to begin tithing: to train myself that all things are His to begin with. It's a standing challenge that I believe will train me to recognize the value in trusting the Lord with those things.
The verse in Malachi 3 that says to bring the tithe into the storehouse is well-known, and people debate whether it means that Christians are still under the legal obligation to tithe. Regardless of this view, God's promise at the end of that verse is clear: "Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (Mal. 3:10b [NIV])"
In other words, giving your best to the Lord will produce blessings above and beyond anything that we could ever imagine. So why are we so reluctant to give?
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Saturday, April 27, 2013
The church has a lot of big words. Many of these we speak and really don't understand them, and they tend to scare off people who aren't in the church. This isn't the words' fault; they just don't get explained well.
One of these words is 'testimony.' A testimony is simply telling the story of what God has done in your life. See, the world can argue with anything you say if you try to convince them that God is true or that the Jesus is the only way to God. It's sad, but true, especially since there are no truer truths than these. However, the one thing you can tell someone that they can't argue with is the things God has done personally in your life. This is your testimony: how can someone try to tell you that what happened to you actually didn't happen?
You go to a foreign land and tell someone that God is great and loving, and you likely will see many people receive this truth eagerly. This is the reason that the Gospel is spreading like wildfire across Ethiopia right now. The people in these areas of the world see their need and see Jesus as the remedy, especially since there is so much spiritual oppression. Jesus is freedom and hope, something they don't have.
But in America and other more developed countries, people are comfortable where they are. Although they may see where they are in need, most of the time they can rationalize it away with the false hopes of the world. The need is not plain as day, and therefore, when Jesus is presented to them, it is easy to reject Him because (they think) they don't need Him.
I went through much of my teenage years knowing God quite well but not really recognizing how much I needed Him. This meant only taking in as much of Him as I had the time for or I had the attention for. Then I got to a place where I realized that I could either give up totally or run to Him as fast as I could to get as much as I could because I needed more of Him than I could imagine.
You can tell Your friends about Jesus, His love and greatness, and the hope of heaven. Some of your friends may be interested and want to hear more. This is solely due to the drawing of the Holy Spirit. But, it is increasingly getting difficult to convince people to be receptive to the message because of their difficulty in seeing their need. But if they see by your actions that you live like a Christian, and also hear you tell of what God has done in your life, then they will likely give it a second thought. It's hard to argue with that.
You know the expression "wearing your heart on your sleeve?" Well, I wear my testimony on mine. You may have seen me wearing two rubber wristbands on my right wrist. These aren't decorations or supporting some cause. Other than balancing out my watch on my other arm, they represent my testimony. One is a yellow Generation Unleashed 2009 wristband, where God met me in such a way that I can never doubt His existence or love again. This represents what God's done in the past. The other, a white TriMet wristband. Yes, I love TriMet, but that's not why I wear it. It represents promises God has made about my future. So my entire life is represented on my arm. They tell my testimony.
What's your testimony? Do you think you even have one? You think, "I wasn't formerly living in a lifestyle of incessant sin, which God saved me from. I didn't have some amazing, miraculous healing done which led me to Him. I grew up in the church! My testimony isn't that powerful." If that's what you think, then you and I have a similar testimony. And it is just as powerful as someone with one that is book-worthy. God has done something in your life; that is sufficient.
So take joy in your testimony and tell people about it. They can't deny it. And once they are listening, tell of God's love. A testimony's a beautiful think, isn't it?
Saturday, February 16, 2013
I've been too excited to write this blog entry. So I couldn't wait and am writing it now.
Pray, Live, Tell, Serve, Give.
So yesterday, I wrote about prayer. Prayer is what keeps us in that close personal relationship with God. And as we follow through with what His word tells us, whether through the Bible, prayer, or other legitimate means, faith is produced in us. And as I said in my "Grab the Rope!" entry, faith requires (and should naturally produce) action.
But what is that action? Most people think of "works" as serving opportunities or outreaches, missions trips, generous offering outlays, or standing on the street corner with a big sign. While most of these are beneficial as a form of "works," I don't think that's what that verse (James 2:17) is talking about. Those things would be better placed in the "Serve" category in the Campus Missions credo.
From my studies through the books of Hebrews and I Timothy, those "works" have struck me more as the things we do and decisions we make on a daily basis, not necessarily even in view of other people. They are the things we do that define who we are.
But don't the great works of our faith (service projects and mission trips) define who we are? They define some things about us, and sometimes they make a name for us. But they don't define who we are in the depths of our hearts.
Here's an example. In 2004, Mel Gibson gained much fame for his part in producing and directing "The Passion of the Christ." Many Christians have accepted the movie as a great depiction of the story of Jesus. Mel gained a lot of credit for the significant role he played in making the movie a reality. But not very long afterward, he was arrested for DUII, bringing to light other details about who he was that showed his true lifestyle as different than how a believer ought to live. His gained fame from his part in "The Passion," but it was his subsequent actions that defined who he was.
Now, I'm not here to judge Mel Gibson; that's not my point. My point is that a person is (or should be) known as being a Christian by the decisions they make every day, not the few big successes (or failures).
I was born a Christian. Well, not exactly, but as I was taught how to walk and talk I was taught that I was a Christian. And I believed it. I always believed that God was real, and never doubted anything about God that Mom taught me. When I was in Junior High, I realized I could experience a relationship with God personally, not vicariously through Mom. And after these initial encounters, I dedicated my life to teaching others that they can know God personally, and that this type of relationship is what makes life worth living.
But there were some things about how I acted on a daily basis that were contrary to the person I was supposed to be as a Christian. Now, I'm not saying I was Jekyll and Hyde, perfect church kid at church and evil twisted hypocrite at home. Not at all. I was just like everybody else, dealing with things that always tried to hold me down and keep me from spreading my wings of faith and really flying. And sometimes, I would let those attacks keep me down, and I really would feel like Jekyll and Hyde.
We've all been there. I knew God was allowing me to deal with those things for the purpose of deepening my faith. And these times of varying connection and devotion to Him made me understand what His love, grace, and mercy really mean, better than anybody who doesn't ever get that low.
But when Priority (the High School/College choir at PCC) went up to sing a certain song, I knew God was speaking to me: "If you really want to be called a Christian, you need to live like that."
Listen to the song here.
So all the struggle to be free of these things became so easy, as all I had to tell myself was that I am a Christian, and that is not how a Christian lives. This meant my life glorified God. This meant my life's witness was complete. This meant my Jekyll lost his Hyde. And this meant my life was open for God to use in even greater ways, and I saw the rewards, both in my life and in the lives of those God touched through me.
Now, this is what is meant by the "Live" in the paragraph above. We, as Christians, will never be perfect on this earth. But, it should be our goal to try as hard as we can to get there. That's what Christ wants of us. He didn't just save us and say, "Wait until heaven to live for me." We can live for Him now! That is our witness, what defines who we are. These are the good deeds that speak louder than what our words can say, but that also validate what we claim about our faith. The faith produces these deeds.
But you may say that there is no way in the state you are currently in that you can live like that. This is a lie. The important detail is that God will give you the strength to get out and will provide the healing you need to stay out. He also provides the forgiveness so we can let go of past mistakes, and grace and mercy so that when we do make mistakes we can continue to move forward. God wants you to succeed. That's why He died for you!
So, when you are feeling like the challenge to be the "perfect Christian" seem too daunting, know that God is on your side and reach out for His strength, and remember the words to that song.
"I want to live like that and give it all I have, so that everything I say and do points to You..."
Friday, February 15, 2013
So, the youth ministries at Portland Christian Center have recently revived the "Campus Missions" that we focused on a few years ago. I still, to this day, receive emails from the Campus Missions organization since I was a Campus Missionary when I was ending high school and starting college. My Fire Bible was given to me by the organization when I signed up. And although we all kind of stopped focusing on the formal responsibilities of what we signed up for (considering most of the people who signed up with me have gone on to college), the five key principles of Campus Missions are still ingrained in my mind.
Pray, Live, Tell, Serve, Give.
I still think that no one list of "tasks" so clearly and succinctly sums it up better than these. Not only can these be applied to the life of someone who has formally taken on the responsibilities of a Campus Missionary, but these are the underlying principles of living that "missional" life that Pastor Ray has repeatedly taught us about. To me, the missional lifestyle is not a special, higher way of living that is different from what "normal Christians" choose to follow, but is the natural response for someone who has responded to the call of Jesus to surrender our lives to His will and follow Him. It's the way we are supposed to live.
On a former blogging spree I went on a few years ago, I sought to teach what these five concepts meant, and so I started a string of five entries, one for each. Pretty sure I never got to the fifth one. And so it went with any blogging initiative I began in the past. But this time around, behold, I have the Blogger app! I have no excuse but to write about them.
And the thing is, these are things that God has taught be so much about since the last time I tried to teach (about something I really didn't understand), and these have also been the source of much of what God has taught me. There's too much deep, juicy stuff that God has taught me for me to just keep it quiet. So, here I am again.
"So, here I am again." That sounds familiar. It sounds like what I felt like every time I used to go to God in prayer. "Again" meant, like, since the last time I talked to Him, which was like, oh I don't know, three weeks before! Do you think those prayers had any power, considering how "often" I came before Him?
Well, things have changed. I have since come to the realization that there really is no way to have that deep, personal relationship with Jesus without going to Him in prayer as often as possible. And while I pray every night (increasingly on my knees, passionate to seek Him), that's still not what prayer for a person living the missional life means.
"Pray without ceasing." - I Thess. 5:17 (NASB)
I think that makes it clear enough. But do you want it to be more clear? Okay.
"Pray continually" - I Thess 5:17 (NIV)
"Never stop praying." - I Thess 5:17 (NLT)
"Pray constantly." - I Thess 5:17 (HCSB)
Doesn't matter how you say it, if you want to take hold of the life that God wants for you (missional living), you must pray every opportunity you have. And for me, that looks like praying under my breath in public or getting on my knees at night because it helps me focus and keeps me from being distracted. Prayer is not an email you send once and then wait for a response within 24 hours - it's a chat screen on Facebook that's constantly up and connected.
People seem have a misconception about prayer that it's some devoutly religious, formal concept that just identifies you as being a Christian. While it should be taken seriously and revered, it is a deeply personal connection with my Friend, Father, Brother, Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and Bridegroom who is and forever will be always who I need and who I need Him to be. And that is why I stopped my homework and wrote this: I felt the urge to pray.
I hope you commit yourself to not just praying everyday, but praying continually. God is your Friend who is always there and who always wants to talk to you. So talk to Him!
Friday, February 8, 2013
Greetings (after too long a wait).
We are all engaged in a spiritual battle regardless of whether or not we want to be. One thing God has truly been teaching me over the last few months has been that, if we want to win this fight, we have to really understand which part we play in the victory and which part God plays. Too often we try to take control of something we're not supposed to take control of, or we try to make God do everything when, in reality, we have more of a part to play then we think.
When we realize what part each of us plays in this picture, that's when we come upon the true meaning of one of those "buzzwords" that we think we understand, but we may really not understand at all: faith.
Faith is trusting that God will keep us and lead us through whatever comes. But, sometimes, we think this means not doing anything and letting God do everything. This is not an accurate picture of what faith is; if it was, then there would be no distinction between those who believe and trust in God and those who simply believe but go no further.
On the other hand, sometimes we think that faith is doing everything we can to do what God wants us to do. We say, "My faith is shown by how I act, and if I fail You, then my faith has failed." Again, this is an inaccurate picture of what faith is, because it does not include what God does in the situation.
Faith is trusting that God will guide us out of whatever situation we might be in, and acting accordingly. It is not the action of our faith that saves us, but the action of our faith does demonstrate whether or not we are truly trusting in God to be God. If we are not living according to how God wants us to live, or acting like how he would want us to act in the trial we're facing, this is sure evidence that we are really not trusting God at all.
I was praying last night, and God gave me a picture of what faith looks like. It's like being in a dense fog, and seeing a rope be thrown toward you. But faith is not the rope, for the rope does no good if you just stand there and stare at it. Faith is grabbing the rope and believing that someone will pull you out.
I'll give you an example: say you need a financial miracle. You trust God that he will provide miraculously what you need. But it is unlikely that you will see any miraculous sign if you sit around all day and do nothing. You have to work hard, whether at an actual job or at just living life and loving the people around you. This shows that you're not worried about whether God will come through or not, but that you are trusting that He will provide and you are living accordingly.
Now, as I said before, we are in a spiritual battle that is deeper than what we see or feel. Every decision we make either demonstrates that we trust in a God who has already won the battle, or shows that we may believe that the victory is still up for grabs. The thing that we forget sometimes, however, is that the battle rages on all the time, not just in the trials. Even the times of plenty and goodness are times in which the battle still rages.
This is why faith is so important. It shows that we trust God that he has already won in every situation, and that we live accordingly. This is what James was talking about when he said that faith without works is dead. Faith is grabbing the rope when it is thrown to you, not just expecting that someone will tie it around your leg and pull. Faith is what takes us from simply believing in God to trusting completely in Him, and then living like that.
This, however, does not mean that we have to be have perfect faith in order to be saved. That's not the point; if our perfect faith could save us, then salvation through Christ Jesus would be unnecessary. But as a Christian, we should be striving daily to trust God more and give God glory in everything we do. Remember, this is the reason why Jesus came and died for us: so that we can have this faith and be able to glorify God in everything we do.
So remember, when you find yourself in the dense fog (whatever it may be), grab the rope!