Faithless- To Be or Not to Be

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“…and be not faithless, but believing.”  John 20:27 (at the end)

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I like to look at words, not just any words, but the words of Scripture.  I like to know what they mean in Greek or Hebrew, not because I’m some wise scholar, but because I don’t want to miss out on what the Lord is really trying to say.  I don’t know Greek or Hebrew, so I have to rely on what others say.  In a sense, I have to exert a measure of faith in their words, and their interpretations.  And that’s kind of like what Thomas was being asked to do before You, Jesus, appeared to him and rebuked him with these words.

Now, I’ve already been searching out what the original words meant here.  “…and don’t be ‘apistos’ but be ‘pistos.'”  “Don’t be without faith, be with faith.”  And after reading what faith was to Biblical scholars over the years and in the present, I stopped for a minute.  What if I didn’t have a computer or a library of books from Biblical scholars?  And I don’t have a library like that.  What if all I had was Your word?  What if I didn’t know Greek and I didn’t know Hebrew?  Oh, wait a minute, I don’t!  What if all I had was Your Word?  Would I be able to discover what faith was?  And would I be able to experience it for myself?  I mean, would I be able to really understand and have faith rather than just know about it?

So, what if today, I throw out the things I’ve been gathering from all the other sources?  Would I be lead to the same truth?  I mean, I could touch all those things that others have said and put it together with Your Word and believe because of that, or I could just look at Your evidences in Your Word and in my own life and believe.    But I can’t help thinking about all the people out there in the world who don’t have the resources that I have, and come to an unshakeable faith in You.  I think of a woman in a prison cell in a Muslim country who by God’s intervention received an unopened package containing a Bible.  She read that Bible and understood.  She is a sister in Christ today.  And she doesn’t just study God’s Word, but she lives it out for the sake of others and draws others to Him.  

I think of believer after believer I have met, who came to this “faith” upon hearing, reading, and experiencing the Word of God for themselves.  And it changed their lives.  It empowered them.  They became “mini” Jesus’s in the world.  What You said, what You did, they ran out and did; they took every word literally.  Your light went on in their hearts, and they ran out lighting up the world around them.  

They didn’t have any other resources to go on for a long time, and some still don’t.  But they have the one Resource they all need for faith.  You.  This isn’t just a word for them.  It’s not “theology.”  Faith is a Person.  Faith is the way of life of that Person.  And personal faith is life itself in that Person and living in that Person.  Faith is seeing and knowing and experiencing the character and person and heart of God in and through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

And you just can’t experience something by waiting for it.  I can sit in my basement forever and not experience seeing the sunrise if I never get up and walk up the stairs and look out my picture window.  Waiting in the basement will never bring the sunrise to me.  I must take the steps.  And so is faith.  There are steps I must take.  And they are not easy steps because we have been taught by the world to be skeptical.  But You, Lord, want to teach us a better way of looking at things.

Now faith isn’t an easy thing.  Jesus often said things like, “Oh, you of little faith,” “I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel,” Why are you fearful, Oh you of little faith?”, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”, “Oh you of little faith, why reason among yourselves?”,  “Because of your unbelief,”  “Where is your faith?”  And maybe I need to ask myself these questions and not just think I ought to ask them of others.

“Where is my faith?”  You, Jesus, asked this of Your disciples when You were rebuking the wind and the waves.  The storm had arisen and disciples were loosing their cool and “freaking out” while you were resting in the base of the boat.  Obviously You were in control but it didn’t look like control to them.  Nope, this storm isn’t what being in control looks like.  This storm isn’t what safety looks like.  Well, not to them, and not to us.  But to You it looked like control, safety, and a lesson in learning what faith looks like by learning about the One our faith ought to be in.  If my faith is in my efficiency, or the efficiency of the boat, or the efficiency of the weather, brother, I’m sunk.  My efficiency, my capability, my life must be in You.  Where is my faith?

There was a woman with a bleeding problem for twelve years.  She probably had to spend a lot of time in her “basement.”  But she kept having faith that she would be healed.  She took the steps to go to doctor after doctor.  But the objects of her faith were not sufficient for the job.  She could have given up and stayed in her basement after twelve years of failure, but she didn’t.  She kept on.  “If only I can touch the hem of His robe.”  Jesus, she knew, was different than the doctors.  He could surely heal her.  Just one touch.  And that’s all it took.  “Daughter, be of good comfort: your faith has made you whole; go in peace.”  Because she believed and walked in that belief, she received the gift of that belief.  She received more than healing, she received a new glimpse of Jesus.  He didn’t just heal her, he confronted her.  He stopped to know her and be known by her.  Because that’s what faith does; that’s what faith is all about.

What about the faith of a mustard seed?   Should I be tossing mountains into the sea?  What about that mustard seed?  How does it have faith?  What if it just understands it’s purpose in the Creator and it just simply obeys the Creator?  “I want you to die  to self by planting Yourself in my soil and producing something more.”  Does the seed say, “Why?  I don’t really feel like doing that.  I’d rather become a movie star.”?  The seed just fulfills what it was created to do in the Lord.  What about me?

A blind man heard Jesus passing by.  He started making such a ruckus calling for Jesus to have mercy on him, that the people around him were embarrassed.  But Jesus, You weren’t embarrassed by his desperation for You.  You called him to You.  You brought him near to You.   You gave him his sight according to his faith.  Now that blind man couldn’t have come to You fully on his own.  But You heard and You brought him to You.  So I can have faith that even if others won’t help me come closer to You sometimes, You always will.

These people heard part of the  Good News of Jesus.  And they acted on faith.  Many have heard the full Good News of You and done little or nothing with it.  What should be the greatest profit to us in the world, has been left to waste because it wasn’t “mixed with faith in them that heard it.”  Paul says in Romans 10:16 “But they have not all obeyed the Gospel.”  He continues, “so then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”  See, the Hebrew “hearing” was always tied in with doing, with following the hearing by the appropriate action afterward.  So to not follow by the appropriate action afterward was disobedience and out and out refusal.  It’s the point of exhibiting faith versus no faith.

Faith has to do with showing and telling, neither one stands alone.  It has to do with throwing away laziness and being a follower.  A follower doesn’t sit on the sofa all day.  A follower gets up and goes.  And a follower patiently endures.  Because we’re not just following a cause.  We are following a Person, Jesus Christ.  And the wonderful thing is, this One I follow, is the same One who is in me!  I follow His actions and His character and He will bring them forth in me.  It’s a win, win situation!

Now, how could I not continue talking about this win, win situation without going to Hebrews 11?  See, faith is tangible.  It is attainable.  There is an unseen dimension to faith but it is always tied in with the seen.  I didn’t see God create, but I can see the evidence and touch the evidence of His creation.  I have His word to verify it.  I can trust His Word because it has been so trustworthy on everything it says.  

But what was faith for the people in Hebrews 11?  Was it just a doctrinal teaching?  Was it just a head knowledge?  Or did it go deeper?  Was it a personal knowledge about You Yourself, Lord, and Your immutable, unchangeable character?  And then was that followed by actions that demonstrated that understanding?

Abel offered a sacrifice that pleased You, whereas, Cain did not.  That, for Abel was called faith.  Let me remember that.  Knowing what pleases You and doing it is equated with faith.  What about Enoch?  He walked with You.  You mean that’s all he did?  That was sufficient?  He loved to spend time with You and his spending time getting to know Your heart so pleased You, that You just took him right up to be with You?  Spending time getting to know You more intimately pleases You and is equated with faith.  

Noah heard Your words of the events to befall the world of his day.  It put fear in his heart.  He had never seen or experienced rain but from Your word, He knew it was something to be feared, even if he didn’t know what it would be like.  He didn’t know what it would be like floating in an ark, experiencing loneliness in a world practically devoid of people, or even what life would be like afterwards.  He heard and he believed and obeyed and trusted that God had more than his back.  He trusted that God had his past, present, and future all taken care of.  And he acted in faith.

Abraham heard Your voice.  You told him to go.  You didn’t even give him an address.  “I just want you to go and I’ll tell you when I want you to stop and stay.”  And he didn’t whine or dig in his feet.  He left on the greatest adventure of his life.  Why?  Did he leave for the adventure?  I don’t think so.  He left because He knew the character and faithfulness of the One He was following.  But wasn’t he like a new believer?  Yes.  But this is what real faith looks like.

Real faith only needs the Object of Faith.  Real faith is more than satisfied with You, Lord.  It doesn’t need answers, it just needs You.  It doesn’t need addresses and plans written in stone.  It just needs You.  I mean, were the “Ten Commandments” written in stone for Moses?  I don’t think so.  He didn’t need them.  He already knew Your heart.  He lived by faith, by dependence on You and in You.  The ones who didn’t, needed it written in stone.  The ones who know You by faith, have it written gently in their hearts straight from Yours.

Even Sarah, who laughed at God, converted her mocking to faith.  After He rebuked her, she must have gone on rejoicing and living like a pregnant woman.  And it certainly wasn’t because of her doing or Abraham’s doing.  It was solely on the basis of the faithfulness of You, God.  You said it and You did it.  Your every word is and will be true forever.  Even if I doubt, even if I don’t understand, it won’t alter Your word.  But it behooves me, it is in my best interest and the best interest of those around me, that I act in faith upon Your word.

You know, this is another fact about faith and those who live by faith and in faith, which is You.  They’re strangers and pilgrims.  I bet Abel felt misunderstood by his brother.  I wonder if sometimes, he felt like it was just him and You, Lord?  And what about Enoch?  Why wasn’t his family walking with him and You?  Was he always walking alone with You?  Was he lonely amongst his family and “friends”?  And Noah was jeered by his neighbors  and peers for how many years?  And I think I’ve had it rough?  No comparison.  Am I worried about where I’m going to live and who my new friends are going to be and what job I am going to do if I move and follow God to some land I don’t understand?  What about Abraham?  Did that hold him back?  Did being mistreated hold him back?  Did being misunderstood or afraid hold him back?  Did being imperfect hold any of them back?

See, Hebrews 11:10 says they were looking for a “city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”  And I think that means that they weren’t really looking for a city as much as they were looking for the place that God was preparing for them, the place where God was waiting for them.  They were all following after God and after His presence.  He was their foundation, and wherever they were going and whatever they were doing, it was because it was where He was and were they would continue to be closest to Him.

And it’s not just that they looked to Your presence in the here and now.  There was a time beyond, an unknown future in Your presence.  They didn’t understand it, but they believed and acted upon that belief.  Abraham offered Isaac because of his belief that Your word would come to pass.  Isaac blessed Jacob because he believed Your word would come to pass.  It was the same for Jacob and Joseph.  Moses’s parents hid him because they believed in the future of Your words.  Moses made choices based on the future of Your word.  

Of course people lived and died in their faith.  Some were delivered from harm and some were taken in that harm.  But whether continuiing in life or continuiing in death, their faith remains.  Because faith wasn’t just about actions or doctrine.  Faith was about a Person, You, Jesus Christ.  Faith was about knowing Your heart and letting You have ours.  Faith was about walking in that relationship because that relationship was more important than where we lived, what we made, who we knew, what people thought of us, and even more important than whether we lived or we died.  That relationship with God, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, with You,  was everything.  

Well, is it everything?  Do my actions, decisions, and choices verify that Jesus is everything to me?  What does my faith really look like?  Who is my faith in?  Do I live in that faith?  ‘Cause we all have faith in something.  But there is only One who is worthy of our faith.  And faith isn’t just a belief, it’s our whole life.  It’s more than a lifestyle, it’s when He becomes the air we breath.

Lord, I want to run hard after you.  Psalm 68:3 says, “My soul follows hard after You: Your right hand upholds me.”  The ERV puts it this way, “I stay close to You, and You hold me with Your powerful arm.”  The GNB says, “I cling to You, and Your hand keeps me safe.”  Sometimes, truthfully, I want to cling to You so much, I don’t know how to do it.  Because sometimes, so much around me is screaming, “Let go!  Stop holding so tightly!”  But I can’t.  I can’t let go.  I would be letting go of my very life.  See, sometimes, there is a loneliness of faith, because it’s absolutely placing everything in One.  And I have to learn how to place everything in that One before I can put everything else into it’s proper perspective.  If I’m wrong, Lord, then show me.  If I’m right, then continually put everything into a proper perspective in my life.  I want You to say of me that I lived by faith.  No matter the cost, You are worth it all.  And maybe, just maybe, someone else will decide that You are worth it all, too.

 

 

 

 

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