Friday, July 4, 2008

Faith--for What?

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!"

When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"

"Yes, Lord," they replied.

Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; and their sight was restored (Matt. 9:27-30).

“According to your faith will it be done to you." I believe that there is more to this statement than meets the eye. The blind men in this narrative believed that Jesus could heal them—and he did. Conversely, the residents of Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, did not believe in him, and no great miracles happened there.

One could say that belief or faith sets the stage for the Lord to help us, and that unbelief keeps us from receiving from him what we need. However, I believe that it is more accurate to say that both the blind men and the residents of Nazareth were believers—the blind men believed Jesus was a prophet who had miracle-working power, and Jesus’ hometown acquaintances believed that he was just a man like them so he couldn’t be a miracle worker.

I suggest that we all believe something, all of the time. And what we believe—what we really have faith in—greatly impacts our relationship with God and the outcome of our prayers. If you were to ask God for help, but remained anxious and uncertain, could it mean that you have greater faith in the problem than you do in God? In such a situation, things will probably just get worse: “According to your faith [that things will continue to be bad]will it be done to you.”

Is that not why the Scriptures urge us to do the kind of thinking that creates a climate for faith in God? For example:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Phil. 4:8).

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night . . . (Josh. 1:8).

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psa. 1:2).

"According to your faith will it be done to you." What Jesus specifically was saying here was that the blind men would receive from Jesus all that they believed he could do for them. I'm not going to claim that Jesus also meant that anything I believe is what I will receive. I am not going to claim that this verse proves that if I am anxious, that means that I have faith that things will turn out badly, and that is what "will be done to [me]." But at the very least, anxiety does prevent us from having faith in God. And without genuine faith that he can help, we are not likely to receive his help.

In the vicinity of Nogales, Arizona, where my family lived when I was in high school, was a butte-like peak referred to as "Monkey Mountain." The front of it was a sheer vertical wall, but one could make one's way up the back, which was not so steep. It was a favorite activity of our family to make this climb. After parking the car, we hiked some distance around to the back, picking our way through rocky depressions--possibly dry arroyos, or stream beds. Amazingly, when down in the lowest part of these depressions, the view of the mountain was completely cut off. If one spent much time down there, one might even forget there was a mountain just a hundred yards away.

Problems always loom large. When we are sunk down in the middle of a problem, the problem is all that we can see. God is much greater than the problem, but our view of him seems cut off. If we pray in that gloomy frame of mind, is that praying in faith? At such times, we have to purposely remind ourselves that God and his power, his love, and his solutions are still there--right over that pile of rocks. Since it will be done to us according to our faith, let’s make a point of setting our expectation on God. Let's not let ourselves become trapped by faith in the wrong thing!

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