Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When is faith the easiest?


Today has been stressful. I’ve a major assignment due soon, but no clue what I’m going to write. I have a topic, but no thesis statement, no resources as yet found, and no ideas. I’ve been praying, but see only fog. I’m not confident in myself, which is normal, but am concerned about my confidence in God. Otherwise, if I trusted Him would I feel so stressed?

Isn’t it easier to trust God when all is well? When answers come to prayer and when His guidance is clear and easy to understand? This is a very common response as illustrated throughout the Bible.

During the Exodus, God gave the Law to Moses and “Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 24:3)

His directions were clear and at that point, they were confident they could obey them. They repeated their confidence when hearing His words read: “Then (Moses) took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” (Exodus 24:7)

God also gave clear directions for worship and the utensils for worship. He said, “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.” (Exodus 25:40) The people were enthusiastic and filled with great desire to obey the God who had delivered them from slavery. They followed His instructions to the letter.

In the second reading, the love story unfolds with the bride finally locating her lover, a picture of the bride of Christ, the church, gladly moving into the presence of the Lord. “Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go . . . .” (Song of Solomon 3:4)

Isn’t this the way it is? We seek the Lord and when we sense His nearness (even though He is always near), we want to hold Him close and never let Him go. We want that special sense of His presence all the time, along with assurance of His care and guidance. Yet for reasons we may not fully understand, sometimes God is silent. Sometimes He does not answer our prayers right away. What happens to our faith then?

So (Jesus) came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. (John 4:46–54)

Perhaps Jesus was testing this man when He said the official would not believe unless he saw Jesus do signs and wonders. However, the man seemed more concerned that his son would live, so he ignored the accusation. But it could have been true. I’ve been there. I’ve asked something of God that seemed to be His will and seemed to be the right thing to ask, but in my heart, I was testing God. Would He perform for me? Did I really believe He would? Or could?

I’ve been studying whether or not signs and miracles will aid or produce faith in God. Can a Christian prove the existence of God or the validity of faith by them? Or do miracles serve only to bolster the faith of those who already believe?

It seems to me that in this instance the official was sincere but not certain. However, he asked Jesus to do a miracle and when his child was healed and the timing showed the healing happened just as Jesus spoke, his certitude increased. He knew the power of God because of the miracle, and believed. Even his entire household believed.

Is faith easier when God blesses and does what we want? For some it might be. For others, a deeper faith manifests itself when everything goes bad and it seems as if God is gone or not listening.

Job is the major example. He lost everything except his wife and his life, yet he hung in there with God. He complained, argued, and sputtered a great deal, but in the end, God commended him for speaking what is right. The Bible also says he held to his integrity; his faith did not depend on God’s blessings, but on God’s faithfulness.

At this, my tension is a bit lighter. At times, God jumps in quickly to help me. At times, He has left me hanging so I could exercise my faith and hang on anyway. He has been silent about some things for many years. Will I still trust Him?

These silences and absences are not tests like those I can pass or flunk. They are tests that prove something about God. From them, I understand that the faith He grants to His people is not about how we feel, or about the circumstances of our lives. Instead, it is about His faithfulness. He is my gracious and wise God — all the time. 


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