Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Challenge of Faith

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)

And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him." Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me." And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17:14-20 (NKJV)

One of the toughest issues we seem to grapple with is faith. Faith tests our hearts. Do we really believe or do we only say we believe? The story of this man who brought his epileptic son to Jesus is a particular challenge to overly comfortable theology.

The man brings his son to the disciples and they try to minister to him but nothing happens. This is the point where we, many times, fall back on our comfortable theology and say,"It must be God's will for him to be this way." But here comes the rub. God in the flesh comes into the picture and what happens? The young man is healed from that very hour. Hmmm.... Houston we have a problem here.

But the rub gets even bigger. The disciples asked Jesus how come they couldn't get it done and Jesus tells them that it was because of their unbelief. Yikes. Jesus didn't say it wasn't my will or not in my timing it was because of their unbelief. He placed the responsibility squarely back on them.

I don't know about you but that tests my heart. As human beings we continually reach to be right; to be justified; to have someone say that we're okay. But, truthfully, we are fallen, imperfect beings who frequently struggle.  That's part of the human condition and it is okay to acknowledge it, but it can also be a trap if we try to pass off our weakness, shortcomings and sin as God's best for our lives.  You would do me no favor by telling me that a lie I have bought into is the truth.  You might make me feel better momentarily but the long term implications will be costly.

Herein lies the challenge of faith. Do I believe God or do I believe something else? When challenged with scripture that tests my preconceptions how do I respond? Does my heart leap at the possibilities or do I fall back on my theology to justify myself and try to dodge the implications?

Faith, belief, unbelief matter. In Mark 6 and Matthew 13 we read accounts of how Jesus did very little among his own people because of their unbelief.  Unbelief will effect your prayer life.  It will make a difference in receiving what God has for you. Jesus said, in Mark 11:24, "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." Take Jesus at His word -- you'll be glad you did.

If faith mattered to Jesus it matters to us.