The Rescuers, Faith, and the Power of Positive Thinking
When difficult times come, people recite an oft-used platitude that is meant to be comforting: “Have faith.” Seems a little vague if you ask me. Have faith…in what? That things will turn out okay in the end? That’s…nice, I guess? Just believe that things will be good and they will be good.
Sure, that sounds like a real thing.
So what does it really mean to “have faith” and what are we supposed to have faith in?
I recently watched The Rescuers. I haven't seen it in ages, and guys, I didn't remember it being that emotional. Every time someone tells the orphan, Penny, no one would want to adopt her, I was practically screaming, "Sweet girl, I WILL ADOPT YOU!"
Penny is kind, caring, and imaginative, but the thing I find the sweetest about this tough little girl is her faith.
What is Faith
At the beginning of the movie, Penny is talking with the orphanage cat about how sad she is to not be adopted, and Rufus the cat encourages her by telling her to believe and keep the faith.
“Faith is a blue bird, you see from afar. It's for real and as sure as the first evening star, you can't touch it or buy it or wrap it up tight but it's there just the same, making things turn out right.” – Rufus, The Rescuers, 1977
Rufus and the Bible actually describe faith very similarly.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
– Hebrews 11:1 NIV
The Greek word translated for confidence is hypostasis. It can be used to mean confidence, like a firm trust and assurance. It can also be used to mean a firm foundation or a substance with real existence. Rufus is right – faith is just as real as a bluebird or a star.
Just because we cannot touch it or see it, does not it mean it is not real.
The Greek word translated for assurance is elegchos. It is used to mean conviction, or also evidence or proof by which a thing is proven or tested. Faith isn’t just something you feel – it can be tested and proven. Rufus’s proof of faith is that things turn out alright in the end.
The proof that we as Christians have is in what we hope for. The Greek word translated for this idea of hope is elpizō. It means to hopefully trust in. The thing we can hopefully trust in, the proof of our faith, is our salvation.
Our English word for faith is sometimes defined as believing in something without any proof. But the Bible obviously doesn’t define faith this way at all. Faith means that we have a firm foundation of proof that we can trust in God to save us. We can have confidence – a full belief in the power and trustworthiness of God, with total freedom from doubt.
The Power of Faith
Being reminded to “have faith” can keep us going in the hard times. But how does it make everything turn out alright in the end?
Beyond waiting to be adopted into a loving family, Penny has many more difficulties to go through before the end of the movie – being kidnapped by Madame Medusa, herded by crocodiles, and sent down into a tiny shaft with the potential of drowning – but she never loses her faith, clinging to her belief that everything will turn out all right.
If Penny hadn’t had faith, would everything still have turned out alright? Or was it the power of her faith that caused her situation to be put right?
The power of faith is talked about many times in the Bible.
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20 NIV
In this story in Matthew 17, the disciples are unable to cast a demon out of a boy, and Jesus says it is because they have so little faith.
But guys, a mustard seed is so small. I don’t think Jesus is saying you need to have buckets full of faith to do incredible things. He’s saying if you have faith – any faith at all – amazing things can happen.
Where Do You Put Your Faith?
Faith absolutely has the power to make things turn out alright. But it's not really about your faith or how much faith you have. Like if you just believe enough, everything will turn out alright.
That sounds like the power of positive thinking. And while I do believe that thinking positively can change things like your attitude and your outlook, the power of positive thinking does not lie in your ability to change your circumstances if you just think about it hard enough.
The point of faith isn't to believe that things will turn out alright if you believe that hard enough. That's an exhausting circle that collapses in on itself when something doesn't turn out quite like you hoped.
Faith When Things Go Wrong
It doesn’t work to simply have faith or even have faith that things will turn out alright. Because what happens when things turn out wrong?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” – Daniel 3:16-18 NIV
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were faced with a horrible situation and we very easily could have had a worst-case-scenario ending. But Shad, Rach, and Benny didn’t say, “Let’s just have faith everything will turn out all right” or even “This is it, boys, time to give up the faith.” They knew everything could go bad here, but they still chose to have faith. Not faith in a happy, death-free ending. But faith in God. Faith that He is who He says He is, no matter what happens. Faith that God is God, and He is in control.
The power of positive thinking and believing that everything will turn out alright only gets you so far. But having faith in God gives us strength and comfort and a firm foundation, even in the hard times.
Penny got her happy ending, being rescued and adopted. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego got their happy ending not being burned alive. I’ve had some happy endings in my life, and I’m sure you’ve had some, too.
I’m also sure that some endings have been quite sad and hard. Sometimes we have faith in God and things still turn out badly. But those circumstances do not change who God is. And that’s why we need to have faith in God, not in happy endings. A bad ending, when we were hoping for a happy ending, just looks like a bad ending. But a bad ending, when we are hoping that God will work in us, is an opportunity to see Him move.
So that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
– 1 Corinthians 2:5 NIV
Faith isn't about believing. Faith is about the object of your faith. Faith is about WHO you believe in.
We can’t rely on the power of positive thinking to get us out of hard times. We can’t just “have faith”. But we can simply have faith IN GOD. We can have faith that He is at work. We can have faith that He is the one working everything together for our good. We can have faith that He is the one making things turn out alright.
When the tough times come where do you put your faith?
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