Our Lack of Faith Frustrates Jesus

Faith and Christ-following are inseparably linked. My post from yesterday began with two classic verses on faith from Hebrews: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6), and, “Faith is being sure of what we hoped for, and certain of what we cannot see” (Heb 11:1). Then I asked a simple, yet troubling question; “Does your level of faith match that expectation?”

The high points from yesterday’s article are; biblical faith will stretch us out of our comfort zone, which is why we resist it so often. The average church-attender has grieved (Eph 4:30) and quenched (1 Thess 5:19) the Holy Spirit so often that they cannot remember the last time they experienced the flow of the Holy Spirit in and through them. Having sincere faith does not make faith real. Having great faith does not mean everything happens on our perceived timetable. Faith is messy

Our lack of faith frustrates Jesus. In Matthew 17 we find a story of a Dad bringing his son to Jesus for healing because the disciples could not help the son. The Dad says, “I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him” (Matt 17:16). Then from Jesus comes a response out of deep frustration; “O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you?” How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” (Matt 17:17)

Later the disciples asked Jesus, “Why couldn’t we heal the boy?” (Matt 17:19) Jesus responded with “Because of your lack of faith.” (Matt 17:20) Wow! What an amazing exchange… makes you wonder what Jesus would say to our churches and individual Christ-followers today.

Great faith isn’t so much about being great in quantity, as it is about quality. Jesus went on to say, “If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain. ‘move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt 17:20-21) The phrase “of a mustard seed” indicates small, but quality verses large, but weak.

Jesus’s frustration was because he knew that our absence of faith forfeits the power of God flowing in and through us, which is exactly what happened in the story I am referencing from Matthew 17. The disciples were unable to heal the boy due to their lack of faith. I wonder what have we have been unable to do due to our lack of faith?

Biblical faith begins and ends with God. God does not need you and I to make up stuff for Him to do. Biblical faith is us choosing to believe in Him and what He wants to accomplish, then aligning our hearts, minds, and actions to walk in agreement with His purposes and plans. Biblical faith is always in agreement with God. No word from God is without power… but neither does He need us to “speak” for Him.

The average christian has traded a messy, uncomfortable, stretching faith, for a tame, comfortable, set of facts. But they have also traded off the very power that God promised to transform their lives, their churches, and their communities. But God has a better way. He wants us to choose to receive His gift of faith though the Holy Spirit so He can transform us, then use us as His agents of hope and restoration.

Faith is Messy

“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). Obviously, from God’s perspective, faith, defined as, “being sure of what we hoped for, and certain of what we cannot see” (Heb 11:1) is a requirement to please God. Does your level of faith match that expectation?

There is what I can noun faith; believing in God, heaven, hell, Jesus’ resurrection, etc. Noun faith simply believes in the facts. But then there is a verb type of faith or an operational faith. Operational faith is a spiritual gift that the Holy Spirit gives you to accomplish the work God ha assigned you (1 Cor 12:7-11). But it is also a choice on our part.

We can choice to accept or reject that gift of faith. Operational or verb faith is exactly that; its about doing something or allowing God to do something in and through us. Operational faith will stretch us out of our comfort zone, which is why we resist it so often. The average church-attender has grieved (Eph 4:30) and quenched (1 Thess 5:19) the Holy Spirit so often that they cannot remember the last time they experienced the flow of the Holy Spirit in and through them.

Having sincere faith does not make faith real. Real, authentic, biblical faith is more than being assured of the facts and being assured you will spend eternity in heaven. The average church is in a state of decline or plateau because simply there is a lack of faith and follow-through. There are lots of “sincere” believers, but most are not willing to step out of their comfort zones and chase after the heart of God.

Having great faith does not mean everything happens on our perceived timetable. We can chase after God, but it is so easy to assume we know the plan or the timetable. The process or the journey is more important to God than the outcome or result we are after. We think result. God thinks journey. The end result alone tends to leave us unchanged, and even creates a pressure to perform to try to earn God’s approval. The journey transforms us into the person God wants us to be.

Faith is messy. Proverbs 14:4 is an interesting verse; “Where there are no oxen, the stable will be empty and clean, but neither will there be the abundant harvest that comes from the working strength of the ox”. Having a sincere noun type faith is clean, and it does not stretch you or make you feel uncomfortable, but neither will there be the powerful working of the Holy Spirit that brings an abundant harvest.

The average christian has traded a messy, uncomfortable, stretching faith, for a tame, comfortable, set of facts. But they have also traded off the very power that God promised to transform their lives, their churches, and their communities. But God has a better way. He wants us to choose to receive His gift of faith though the Holy Spirit so He can transform us, then use us as His agents of hope and restoration.

Right now, God knows you; where you are, your circumstances, your victories, your failures, etc. He loves you, and wants to empower you to walk the journey you are currently on in the power of the Holy Spirit. He really can transform you. Are you feeling unsettled, or empty, or like there just has to be more? I’ve been there too. There are many distractions and short-term warm-fuzzies, but there is only one lasting path of hope.

 

There is a Right & Wrong Way to Play Every Game

Football season, at all levels, is in full swing. From the flag football leagues to the JFL leagues, from the local high school teams to the favorite college teams, to the NFL, crowds of varying sizes gather for football games all across America on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Some sports draw larger crowds than others. It is just the nature of the sports, but is also the nature of Christ-following. Sometimes the “crowd” of our family, friends, an strangers watch as we walk out our relationship with Christ, but most of the time we walk it out in front of just a few of our closest friends and family. Whether it is the football player making a great play to the cheers of hundreds of fans on a Friday night, or the runner gutting out the steep hill in the backside of the cross-country course, athletes make plays. Some are seen and others are unseen.

As you make “plays” as a Christ-follower, some of those actions, behaviors, and attitudes are seen and others hidden in the privacy of your life. But Scripture says that God, who sees everything, even that which is hidden, will reward those who diligently and wholeheartedly seek Him. Play hard, because even if no one else sees, God does not miss a thing His child does, thinks, or feels.

There is a right and wrong way to play the game. Any game. Whether it is monopoly, basketball, football, volleyball, or tic-tac-toe, there is a right and wrong way to play the game. Play hard. Play fair. Demonstrate class and integrity. Persevere though setbacks. Demonstrate sportsmanship. Always play full speed. Give your best. Play with pain. And so on…. Scripture would say, “In every thing we do we should do it as unto the Lord”. Hit them hard, help them up, and then remind them that you will be back next play.

Christ-following is the same way. There is a right way and a wrong way to play the game of Christ-following. Many people who consider themselves to be Christians just simply do not know how to play the game of Christ-following. As with a sport where there should be no space for cheating, or cheap shots, or dirty play, and so on. Nor should there be space for gossip, negative attitudes, doubt, fear, disobedience, spiritual stagnation, selfishness, arrogance, divisive attitudes and actions, apathy, and so on.

When you go to a sporting event, there are certain players that catch your eye; they are just fun to watch, because of how they play their sport. Their heart, enthusiasm, attitude, intensity, and work ethic are contagious and fun to watch. Likewise, there are those who are fun to watch as they follow Christ. Seeing their selflessness, surrender, humility, faith, right attitudes, obedience, courage, perseverance, teamwork, on-going spiritual development, character development, work ethic, and so on, is inspiring.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow Christ”. People are watching. Let’s strive to “play the game” of Christ-following in such as way that those around us are inspired.

Some Trade-Offs Worth Making

Life is full of trade-offs. Trade-offs are determined by our value system, in other words, what we place the highest value on at that time. Our trade-offs determine the results of our lives. As we make the various trade-offs of our everyday life, our decisions are leading us down a path that is paved with the results of the various trade-offs we have made. If the path we are traveling is not taking us to the designation or end result we are hoping for, it is the direct result of the trade-offs we have made.

In my article from Friday, September 23rd, I asked you to consider trade-offs you are currently making that are either having a negative affect on your life or will have a negative affect if you do not deal with it. In this article I will write about some trade-offs worth making.

In Matthew 4:17-22 we find a great story about Jesus calling his first four disciples. Peter & Andrew, then James & John, left everything to follow Jesus. They “immediately” traded their known life for unknown results of following after Jesus. Think of all Peter, Andrew, James, and John exchanged or traded-off to follow Christ. They left everything, and they did it “at once”.

Trade knowledge for experience. Knowing something is great, but it is only though experience that we really find freedom, truth, and life. In the Garden of Eden, there were two trees; the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. Always choose “to eat” from the tree of life.

Trade control for trust. Control is a myth. Choose silence your need to feel in control by demonstrating your trust in God. God’s ways often do not make sense. Choose trust anyway. According to Jesus in John 14, trust and obedience are the truest tests of our love.

Trade regret for repentance. Life is too short to live it filled with regret. Repentance, defined as, a change of mind, a change of direction, and a change of purpose is God’s solution for regret. Let go of your past, and allow God heal you, restore you, and remove your condemnation.

Trade security for significance. Nothing of significance can happen in a completely secure place. Significance requires risks, vulnerability, and a willingness to be stretched out of your comfort zone. If you want to make a difference, you have to be willing to move past security through uncomfortable risks to significance.

Trade spectating for participating. Get out there and enjoy life. Actually live life versus merely watching life past you by from the bleachers. Trade flesh-responses for Spirit-responses. Galatians 5 say that our flesh and the Holy Spirit are always at war with each other for control. Yielding to the cravings and tendencies of our flesh strengthens our flesh and weakens the work of the Spirit within us. Surrendering to the working of the Holy Spirit, increases the flow of the Spirit, and weakens the battle of our flesh.

Trade inward focus for outward focus. Most people think inwardly, or about themselves and their stuff. Choose to think outwardly; about others. Thinking of others first is a mark of maturity and humility. Thinking outwardly will change your perspective.