Getting my athletes to believe in their ability to perform a gymnastics skill is most of my job. The technical mechanics of how the skill is performed is usually taught in just a few lessons. But it can take months and years for some skills to be repeated through drills, spotting and other training practices before they become convinced that they can do it on their own.
Confidence means “with faith”. There are two roads to faith, and both are necessary.
Our thought life is the core of discipleship. What we think determines what we feel. Emotions are the expression of our thoughts. The film industry knows this well. They deliberately craft stories to create an emotional viewing ride for the audience. They know what they need to put in a scene to bring us to tears, or to burst out with laughter. Fear in an athlete is an emotion resulting from the of thoughts about the possibility of accidental injury. Fear is important because it creates caution and carefulness. No athlete will survive long with reckless abandon. However, panic is an extreme fear that causes loss of control of the body and is more deadly than the reckless abandon.
Getting an athlete to control fear begins with the path of discipleship: controlling their thoughts. We are told in 2 Corinthians 10:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor 10:5 NIV)
While many believers tend to see this passage in context of spiritual warfare, they may misunderstand what “spiritual warfare,” truly is. They may imagine that they are physically wrestling with demons. Thoughts are not demons, and demons may plant those thoughts, but as thoughts, they belong to us. Our natural view of life will bring in thoughts that should be rejected that are contrary to the way of Christ.
Philippians tells us the thoughts of Christ, and thus the way we strive to think.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things. (Phil 4:8 NIV)
Fear is controlled by thinking on the positive. When I train my athletes, I ask them to tell me what went right in the skill to counter their natural tendency to look at what might go wrong. This increases confidence, which means belief that they can do the skill. For our walk in Christ, it reminds us of the goodness and care of God towards us, and brings confidence, or faith, that God is with us in the midst of our trial.
Reading our Bibles on a daily basis is not so we can argue doctrine, but to build our faith through reminding ourselves of the marvelous power and wisdom of our heavenly father. Every time we pray, we are reminded of the presence of the living God in our lives who listens and attends to us as though we are the only people alive on Earth. Every time we share Christ with others we experience the anointing in ways that the other disciplines do not, and thus, know Christ through another facet of His character.
Head faith is only a door. It can be the door to softness or hardness of heart, softness or hardness of conscience, or the door to greater belief or unbelief. The term “unbelief” is a little misleading. There is no such thing as non-faith. It refers to our not believing God. But we continue to believe in something, which is the world, lies, or selfish rationalizations. Fear resides in unbelief. Jesus said,
Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. (Luke 8:50 KJV)
Andrew Wommack teaches that belief and unbelief work in us simultaneously. On the one hand, in our heads we acknowledge and believe what the Bible says about our healing, but on the other hand, in our hearts we are overwhelmed by the experience of sickness or injury, and believe our natural senses.
This is the same challenge I have to overcome as a coach. My athlete can tell herself that she has done the skills right, but in her heart she believes she may get hurt. She does not need to have been hurt to believe this in her heart, either. Seeing someone else get hurt is almost the same as being hurt one’s self. Heart faith is the faith of reality. Removing the unbelief from her heart takes experience in reality.
No one is afraid to stand on two feet and walk. However, at one time in our infancy we could not do this. We had to try standing up as babies, and we fell down. We held onto table edges, to stand up without falling. We tried and tried until we could walk. Now, we have walked on our feet so many years, we have no fear, nor think about it. We just do it. That is because the reality of experience has been built up in our hearts so we believe without any unbelief. Unbelief can be re-introduced again, of course. Take drugs or drink alcohol, and those substances will be real experiences that will undermine our faith in walking.
So, to get my athletes to believe in their heart that they can do the skills, they are trained with drills, spotting, crash pads, and mats a multitude of times so they experience performing the skills in reality. It is axiomatic in gymnastics that an athlete should not perform a skill in competition until they have successfully performed the skills by themselves a thousand times. Performing a routine adds new distractions and pressures. They have to increase their endurance; their focus on music and dance flowing in and out of skills; pressure from being judged and scored; distractions of babies crying in the audience; and more. They need to be able to perform the skills with out a second thought.
This is true, with our discipleship in Christ. God is not in a hurry. He has a multitude of experiences He uses to shape our character in Christ’s image. It is through our obedience to God in the multitude of small things over years that heart faith is developed as a reality. The big trials will not be overcome by those who do not trust God in the little trials. If you want to experience supernatural healing, you should believe God in the little headaches instead of immediately reaching for the aspirin.
The apostles of Christ did not believe the miraculous immediately. They lived with Jesus for three years, obeying Him in the little things before Pentecost endued them with the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. When they went to the towns of Israel without purse or script (Luke 10:4), their heart faith was being built. When they handed out the loaves and fishes to feed the multitude (Matt 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6), their obedience continued to build their heart faith. When Peter caught no fish after the resurrection (John 21) but obeyed the Lord from the shore who told him to cast his nets in again, his heart faith was built further so after the resurrection he had the heart faith to believe that the lame man at the gate called Beautiful would rise up and walk (Acts 3:6).
Neither should we assume that the apostles who lived with Jesus had an advantage. Paul never met Christ in the flesh, yet when he spent three years in Arabia before coming to Jerusalem (Gal. 1:17-18), it was unlikely that he was alone in the wilderness for all three years. Instead he read the Tanak with the eyes of Christ, and prayed spending time in His presence, and shared Christ to others, just as we can today. Indeed, his faith in the reality of Christ in his life was so great that he told the Galatians who had never seen Christ in the flesh, that Christ had been shown crucified to them (Gal. 3:1). Evidently, he was speaking of himself as a vessel of Christ’s life through whom the Galatians had seen Him crucified before them.
Before I believed in Jesus, God had developed heart faith in me towards Him. As a 19 year old I read the Bible from cover to cover with the exception of the book of Psalms. I had two Rhemas in reading the Gospels. First, I realized that I was “the pure in heart that would see God” (Matt 5:8) and that I was “the good ground that would produce much fruit” (Matt. 13:8, Mark 4:20). Throughout my young adult life I had experienced God in different forms through my dreams, and had angelic visitations in that twilight zone between sleeping and waking. All these were real experiences that built up my heart faith when I finally believed in Jesus at the age of 32, then experienced the new birth.
Yahweh through Amos cried:
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3 KJV)
His context is Yahweh walking with Israel, but the principle of agreement is implied. Agreement is the means of unity. The power of God is manifested through unity. This same agreement needs to exist between our hearts and minds for Christ to be manifested through us to others. This same agreement of belief in heart and mind needs to exist for gymnasts to have confidence in performing skills on their own. This same agreement of heart and mind needs to exist for the miraculous power of God to perform. This same agreement needs to exist between a husband and wife for unity in marriage. This same agreement of heart and mind needs to exist in friends and believers for unity in Christ.
This agreement is clearly demonstrated in the mission group to Ecuador that Jim Eliot and Nate Saint shared with their wives. After their murder by the Huaorani. Their wives went back and forgave them the murder of their husbands, and the tribe came to Christ.
Our maturing in Christ is the direct result of our minds and hearts agreeing in faith in Christ. But heart faith will not be experienced as a reality unless there is the mind faith that directs us to take the leap of faith that obedience to Christ requires. It takes both. We persist in both our reading of the Bible and acting on the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Bible study that we know what are the promptings of the Spirit because we understand His character and know Him. It is through the multitude of obedience that we can navigate a hostile world and not be distracted from the calling of Christ in our lives.