There is an old story, true or not I’m not sure, about a man who strung a tight-rope across Niagara Falls to show his skills. To the gathered crowd he asked, “Who believes I can push this wheelbarrow to the other side on that rope?” A great cheer went up, universal agreement that he could do the amazing feat. “Ok, who will ride in the wheelbarrow?” he asked, to a now silent crowd!
Sometimes I think our faith in Jesus is similar to the ‘belief’ in that crowd. We think He can do what He says, but we are not quite willing to entrust our lives to Him, without reservation, radically committed to His way as a disciple. We hope for eternal life through Christ, but that is out on the horizon, in a realm over which we know we have no control, so why not? What’s to lose? Living for Him today is, for some, an entirely different proposition. Will we do what He teaches, even when it challenges our personal comfort? Will we pursue His will, even when it means abandoning some cherished goal of our own?
Our continued reading in Matthew tells us short stories about faith, times when Jesus challenged the people standing around to believe. “Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment.” (Matthew 9:20-22, NIV) “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.” (Matthew 9:27-30, NIV)
Faith! How do I believe? Is my faith strong, shaping my choices, or just part of the background in my life, a faith whisper, a tradition summoned for times of crisis only? Before we throw up our mental defenses, arguing that it was a different time, or that the era of miracles is over, or that we would believe if only Jesus were standing there alongside of us, let’s look at the sacred text and ask the Spirit what He is saying. The best commentary on Jesus’ words come from Hebrews: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)
The baseline for knowing God and His best for us is faith; that assurance, matched with trust, that causes us to shape our lives around His promise and His plan. Some make Jesus’ words mean that ‘if we believe enough’ we can make miracles happen at our command. I do not believe that, for this reason. Miracles are in God’s hands, not mine. I can’t force them to occur by saying the right words, working up the right emotions, or quoting the Bible loudly enough.
But, if I refuse to trust God with an active faith, I will not experience His power and provision for my life. Oh yes, He is always active, but without faith I will not see His work. How many times are we like those first disciples who prayed for the release of Peter from prison but when he showed up at their door, knocking to get in, they didn’t open it, fearing that it was his ghost. (Acts 12) Their faith was deficient, they did not, apparently, expect God to secure Peter’s freedom. I have done that, too. After praying for someone or something, when my prayers are answered, sometimes I fail to thank God, chalking the results up to coincidence or good fortune. What a failure of faith.
Two words come to mind for me when I think about faulty faith – one is presumptive; the other is gullible. Faith that is not God-centered will lead us to a place where we mistakenly think that we are in charge of God’s power to heal, to restore, to enrich. No, we are not. We are partners with God in faith, but He never surrenders His right to rule to us. Many are the sad Christians who have been deceived by quacks and false prophets who speak persuasively, who tell grand stories, which lead to false expectations and disappointment because the ‘faith’ of which they speak is not centered on God.
Genuine faith is powerful because it is the connection between God and me. Faith allows me to put my life, my concerns, my fears, my hopes under His care. Knowing that He is a loving Father, a good God, I can radically trust Him. That is faith. And, as He speaks and leads, I can cooperate with Him to see His power brought to our human experience. Deep and real faith bridges the gap between Heaven and earth in ways that defy my complete understanding. If I could understand it all, if I could reduce it to explanations I could fully grasp, then it would no longer be faith. Most everything we are taught in our present world argues against faith, teaching us that seeing is believing, that only what can be verified by rationale argument is to be trusted. But, what if our natural is too limited, our natural senses insufficient to see and know the living God? Ah, yes, that is the beginning of faith.
Faith is both a choice and a gift. We invite God, the Spirit, to stir faith in us; and we respond with surrender – heart, soul, mind, and strength – to Him. Faith is primarily relational. Ask the Lord to make this word from the Word alive to you, to meet your doubts with His faith and to transform you into a disciple that knows the joy of being truly Fathered. “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks. “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:9-13, NLT)
I tempered the storm though your faith was small
I prayed while you slept and the night waged war
We stood in the fire and we walked on sea
And we drank of the wine that was made of Me
Don’t turn your eyes (away) from Me
For My love won’t be undone
Don’t hide your face from Me
For My light has surely come
Surely come surely come oh
I carried that cross and I felt your pain
I took up your crown and I wore your shame
And death was a fire and its teeth were grim
But I left it behind along with all your sin
Lift up your eyes and see
Heaven is closer than you know
(Know I’ll never leave you)
(So) Lift up your voice and sing
Know that My love won’t let you go
(And I won’t forsake you)
(And My light has surely come)
Surely come surely come
And I’m closer than you know
And I’m closer than you know
Lord I hear You I know You’re there
Closer now than my skin and bones could dare
Breathing deep within me
You are always with me
I can see You where eyes can’t stare
Brighter now than the sun could ever dare
Breathing all around me
(God I know You’re with me here)
(God I know that You are here)
For I’m Yours and You are mine
And my soul knows well
You are here You are here
And my soul will praise You
And my soul will praise Your name
Singing holy is Your name
Jesus oh Jesus
Joel Houston | Matt Croker | Michael Guy Chislett © 2015 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CCLI License # 810055