Originally written December 17, 2014
Time Magazine had named Ebola Fighters as Person of the Year, and I was watching a news story about the brave doctors, nurses, and volunteers that are currently helping to fight Ebola. I was struck by one nurse’s comment of how the children stricken with Ebola often pull at the face masks of the volunteers. This poses a danger because if pulled off or away, it puts them at risk of catching the deadly virus. The nurse went on to express sadness that because of this, they were not allowed to hold or carry the children.
My heart too was sad upon hearing this and yet my immediate thought was of Jesus. There isn’t a place in the written text that tells us, when dealing with a leper, that He held up a finger and said “wait a moment please, I need to put my hazmat suit on before I can touch you”. Instead, we find the Lord not hesitating to reach out. I thought too, of scriptures like Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever”; and John 14:12 – “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
So what gives? Either the God of yesterday is the same God of today, or He is not! Either we WILL do greater works, or we won’t. Which is it? Romans 3:4 says to let God be true but every man a liar, so I choose to believe His character is consistent – that He DOES heal, love, redeem, and forgive today just as He did in biblical times. I also believe Matthew 17:20, which says “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
Before you go thinking that I’m some kind of snake handler, or that I’m trying to make room for such, let’s take a closer look at faith vs. unbelief.
Matthew 14:24-33 tells us a story of Peter walking on the water. He was able to walk on water as long as his eyes were focused on Christ, but (as we see in verse 30) as soon as he turned his gaze towards the storm, he began to sink. In verse 31, Jesus tells Peter “…O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? “ (NASB).
Mark 4:37 – 41 tells us a story of Jesus being in the stern of their boat, asleep on a pillow during a fairly significant storm (vs. 37). His disciples, full of fear that the boat would sink and they would all be lost, woke Him up and asked “don’t you care that we’re drowning?” (verse 38, paraphrased).
Jesus was able to sleep in the middle of the storm because He knew He didn’t come to this earth only to drown in a storm. He was there to die on a cross. Knowing this gave Him confidence and trust in the Father’s purpose and plan for His life on earth. He was at peace, no matter what outward circumstances were.
In verse 40 of this story we find Jesus asking His disciples why they were so fearful, and the by now very familiar question “how is it that ye have no faith”? They had been with Him, heard His sermons first hand, listened to Him tell them of the Father’s plan and what was to come. At what point do you think it all would have sank in enough for them to instead say “Hey, have you been listening? We aren’t going to drown as long as Jesus is on the boat, and in that case, this is just another ride at Six Flags man – WOO HOO”!
The flip side on the same coin of lack of faith is unbelief. Did you notice in Matthew 17:20 Jesus began His statement with “Because of your unbelief”?
Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:6; Hebrews 3:19; Mark 16:14; Matthew 17:20 –those are all verses that talk about unbelief and the role it plays in preventing the Power of God in our lives from being effective. God has chosen not to override our will. If we will not believe, he will not force miracles on us. Hebrews 3:12 even goes as far as to say “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God”, so here we see that unbelief is a sign of an evil heart. That is pretty serious!
Satan has had millennia to strategize and figure out ways to hide and oppress God’s light and love and purpose for our lives. Oswald Chambers states that God’s purpose for us is to make us one with Himself. I think that sums it up pretty good!
The society and culture we live in today has worked for years to condition us that God is not alive and working among us in the same ways He did when He was among His disciples. Miracles were for a purpose back then, but they don’t apply today. Besides, Jesus is coming back any day now so “chuck” the earth and everything on it – I’m going to the mountaintop to pray and wait (oh don’t mind that – it’s my butt sticking up in the air as my head is currently in the sand, you see). And then there is the thing that we all know, medical knowledge has come a long way. We need to listen to what society and culture say about disease and healing. Of course, by all means pray! But don’t expect God to do much and just know sometimes He says NO.
Really? Is that what we’ve really been relegated to believe? The sad thing is that it doesn’t stop with medical healings. It permeates itself through our entire belief system. Can you in this moment say that you are so full of confidence and trust in the Father’s plan for your life that you can without hesitation reach out and touch a leper, or an Ebola patient, without fear? Do you have the faith that moves mountains? If your answer begins with “no, BUT…” then there is the possibility that your faith meter, like mine, may have been corrupted by peer pressure. RBC Ministries in a recent “Our Daily Bread” article defined peer pressure as a satanically inspired system of values and ideas that cultivates a lifestyle that is independent of God.
So if confidence and trust in the Father’s plan for me = faith, then how do I know the Father’s plan for me? How do I ensure that I don’t have an evil heart of unbelief that has been conditioned to listen to the lies of Satan? How can I have confidence my prayers will be answered? By going back to God’s purpose, which is to make us one with Himself. A.W. Tozer puts it this way: “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love”. Salvation is the beginning of sanctification, which is the process of making me whole, pure, and one with my God.
Isaiah 26:9 says “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness”. Psalms 63:1 says “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is”. Psalms 27:8 says “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek”. Psalms 119:11 says “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee”. Psalms 42:1 says “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God”. John 10:27 says “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”.
If you want to know and understand God’s will for your life, pursue God. Get to know and understand God Himself so well that you know His voice when you hear it. That is where confidence and trust in God’s plan for you comes from. He is the foundation faith is built upon. Knowing the purpose for your life is you summed up in God and He in you will give you the faith and confidence you need to live as new testament Christians lived. Colossians 1:27 says “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
When we begin to move into this realm, we notice that our prayers change. We’re no longer using God as our “On Star” guidance system or the slot machine pull that provides us health and wealth. We’re not even trying to become perfect specimens of what He can do (i.e. the snake handler). Instead, our hearts are so aligned with His heart that His purpose becomes our purpose, his faith becomes our faith. Whoa – to appropriate the faith of Christ (think about that one). I need not worry that my faith isn’t any bigger than a mustard seed when I am appropriating His faith instead, and that’s the kind of pretty cool stuff that shakes and changes the world we live in!
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