Last Sunday Aleta & I watched the powerful Darfur mini-documentary "Invisible Children" with a group of friends & had an engaging conversation together afterward. One of the issues we talked about was faith & it's power to really change circumstances (e.g. "move mountains", etc.). Dave Luce, one of our friends in the group, compared faith to potential & kinetic energy.
In terms of gravity, potential energy is energy that is stored up by a body positioned to fall while kinetic energy is energy that is released by a body that is falling. For example, a weight held in the air has potential energy related to its mass & how fast it will fall if released. Nothing will actually happen, however, until that potential energy is released to become kinetic energy or energy-in-motion. As I continue to reflect on the parallels between this idea & the mechanics of faith, I've become enraptured by the metaphor.
The Choice of Faith / Asking
Letting go of the weight is what turns potential energy into kinetic energy. I liken this action of releasing to the choice of faith or asking in faith. Doubting is like holding onto the weight. If we mostly let go but still hold on with two fingers, the weight will not fall & nothing will happen. Unleashing the kinetic energy of the weight requires a total release... i.e. total faith without entertaining any doubt at all (Mark 11:23).
Limited Potential Faith-Energy
There is an irony in the choice of faith as related to potential energy, however. If a person releases a weight that's just barely off a table, very little will actually happen... no matter how fully they let go! They can believe without any doubting at all; but if the "potential energy" of faith is very small, then very little will happen in response to that courageous choice to believe. This is the "littleness of faith" Jesus so frequently talks about in His ministry on earth. In Matthew 17:20 He says that even a meager amount of potential faith-energy (the size of a mustard seed) will move mountains, indicating that His disciples' faith was very, very, very little, hardly off the ground, nearly void of potential energy. They had no faith-energy to release... just like many of us.
This is why, frequently, Christians ask for something - really believing & without doubt - & nothing happens. They have little or no potential faith-energy to release... no matter how seriously they have chosen to believe. The choice to believe, in itself, is not faith. Faith is more than a simple choice... at least, faith sufficient to produce results beyond salvation. Mature & effective faith is the result of a process. It is faith that has been "grown", as the Apostle Paul puts it.
Significant Potential Faith-Energy
On the other hand faith that has grown mature in an environmennt of "abiding in Christ & His words abiding in you" (John 15:7) has tremendous potential faith-energy that can be released. It's the same weight as before, but it is held high in the air & will cause a great crash & carry a powerful force when released by a choice of faith. Maturity - the raising of the weight - appears to be connected with holiness & intimacy with Christ. The more we resist sin & live in God's intimate grace - the more our faith gains altitude.
Gravity is the Power
Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of the analogy is the power source for potential & kinetic energy. The power or force doesn't come from the releasing or even the weight itself. Rather, the power that gives substance to both forms of energy is the gravity which pulls the weight! Gravity is a constant. It is there, ready to bless potential energy with its 24/7 reliability. Very few people feel anxious when they jump in the air that gravity might fail them & leave them hurling into outer space. Gravity cannot deny itself... even as God cannot deny Himself. God is our gravity. He is the force behind our faith. He is always present & ready to catalyze great things for us when we cooperate. That is to say, He consistently acts with power on whatever we have lifted high & fully released.
Holiness Raises the Weight of our Faith
The challenge in all this seems to be that we need to raise our faith high into the air as we mature in godliness. After all, "If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear" (Psalm 66:18). It seems to me that Jesus said again & again that we need not only to live in God's forgiveness but also to train ourselves to cease from sin in the first place! "If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny yourself, take up your cross, & follow Me" (Luke 9:23). "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Then, we can begin releasing all that potential energy we have stored up in spiritual maturity!
This draws an overwhelming quanity of previously fuzzy New Testament Scripture into clear focus for me. For example, "The effective praer of a righteous person accomplishes much" (James 5:16).