People use the word faith a lot.
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is a song that so many find moving. We are not faithful by nature… and we weep when we raise our hands and sing “He’s Been Faithful.” We know that in our moments of fear, through pain and tears… there’s a God, who’s been faithful to us.
But we don’t really know the depth of “faith.” We have “faith” in some one, or some thing. We interchange “faith” with “trust.” We do things in “good faith.” We use “faith” like a deposit into savings, hoping our “faith” will garner returns in goods and services from God. We send in seed “faith” money. We gotta have “faith” according to a popular singer. All of those things are really misnomers of scriptural faith.
So, then, what IS faith? People MISquote this scripture constantly… it is not the EVIDENCE of things hoped for. It’s the opposite. Seeing it in front of you isn’t faith. Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for; the EVIDENCE of things NOT seen.” Faith is believing against a crisis in hope. We keep on even when it seems all is over or lost. It is believing even when things are seemingly about to fail. Faith is KNOWING even when it’s illogical and you can’t prove it. That seems dangerous, and can be if you are following a wrong path or a person that has abused your trust and misled your faith. Or it can be one of the most powerful things on the planet, if you are correctly placing your faith in God and using your God-given brain and heart and instinct to follow right, instead of wrong.
People want GREAT faith. They think mustard seeds and mountains are the sum total effect that Jesus left with us. Not even. People tout from pulpits and matronly dinner tables that if WE only would believe ENOUGH, magic would happen and we’d walk around flinging rock cliffs into oceans. Well… maybe we would, but to what purpose? Just to prove faith, or to serve God better? Do you think faith is there to act as a spiritual ATM, giving you every wish and desire? Do you think faith is so you can get a better purse or nicer car? Do you think every person has the SAME faith? Well, Romans 12:3 says that EVERY person gets “THE measure” of faith. Some translations indicate it varies, but several translations indicate everyone gets the same measure to start with. And I think we as Christians DO get the SAME measure to start. What is that?
Belief is where we start. Belief in Jesus, in salvation, in repentance, in grace, and in the gospel. What happens after is up to us. The level of powerful, overcoming living is up to YOU. Faith is like a muscle… Everyone starts with musculature and a certain level of ability. We develop those. Some atrophy and wither. Some are damaged they become cripple. Some are weak and are never used enough to be more than what they are, always depending on others to do the job. And some just never get used at all. Faith is like that…. the more you use and develop that faith, the stronger and more it can be used. What one person can lift is different when two are there. Faith is like that. What one person can accomplish in faith is different than what TWO people praying in faith can accomplish. Faith can grow when you are obedient in “little” steps of faith into a great and strong faith. When you trust God to bring you through a small trial and you are obedient in the smaller details… you can face the bigger and harder trials and your faith with carry you more easily.
Today is “Maundy” Thursday. Traditionally, it’s a great day for communion because it’s the day Jesus held the Last Supper with his disciples. He knew what lay ahead. He had his own measure of faith and he was “ready.” He gave instruction to his group, his friends, his family… his disciples on this day that he’d be betrayed. He’d be killed. He’d be the sacrifice for the world. And, yet… being the rabbi he was, he still took the time to impart a lesson: he gave instruction to let them know he’d live again. He instructed, through his casual teaching that they should have “faith.” Now, if someone told me over dinner they were dying and that I needn’t worry, they’d see me next week… I can admit that I’d scoff. I’d laugh at them or commit them or even doubt them. And to listen and believe Jesus took big faith – GREAT faith. But why? They’d seen so many miracles that they should have no problem with it, right? They lived with Jesus, traveled, witnessed, proselytized, and converted so many WITH Jesus and they had seen it ALL. They saw the resurrection of Lazarus. Their faith then, individually and collectively, should have given them no pause for what they were facing, right? But, even still… Thomas doubted, Peter denied, John was heartbroken, Mary moved on to France, Judas was misguided in thinking it’d be a slap on the wrist and that an earthly kingdom would follow. Everyone had their own level of faith at that point… worked and grown, and tended into what they could fathom Jesus was to them. They each had to carry their own faith, and make their own way after this event. This supper. This Maundy.
We all do the same thing today, don’t we? We believe as a last resort. We are preached to, prophesied over, and we read the scriptures and we “know” what’s facing us. Scripture foretells it, we see it in the devolution of society, we see it in historical cycles of hurt, and war, and human suffering. But we act like we are… numb… over… or shocked… by the things we know. But we still act like ANY solution will be better than faith or God. Don’t ask in prayer that God help you with a bill… no, go to a check cashing place that charges 150% interest and creates a domino effect on your finances. Don’t pray AND seek medical help. Ignore that and keep your illness and your pain to yourself… why would your Christian family uphold you? No. Pain shared is pain halved. We are TO BE THERE for one another, carrying burdens (real and emotional). We say that our faith is symbolic and that the time of living BY faith is over and that biblical things no longer apply. But, is it? We rationalize what we can’t prove, but that still happen. I’m a witness, in flesh, that miracles are still real. I have vacillated numerous times over my own healing. I have wondered if cleaner living and helped me heal. Or did God? Did I do something that created spontaneous cell growth and help? Or did I get healed by God? Did I dream it all? Did I really speak in a real tongue under anesthesia or is my Doctor crazy? Do I really believe that God put skin on and died for me? Or is this a collective trance meant to control the masses and create moral order? Is the evidentiary support of science a threat to my faith, or does it bolster my faith? When we talk about praying the cancer off of somebody, or a cold, or a back ache, or pain, or mental anguish, or emotional instability, or spiritual oppression… do we believe it? It’s easier to take a pill than to trust God for a need. That’s why rich people and privileged people and our society have SUCH a hard time with faith. Why do we need God? Why do we need angels or protection or even help? Do our lives have “room” for faith? Mind over matter makes the body heal… not prayer, right? Surely, no, not that. We preach that our collective socialization with one another IS the breaking of bread and that rote prayers ARE what God intended. It’s hard to fathom that we’d interrupt our scheduled lives if God said to pray for three days for a breakthrough. Would we skip work and do that? Would we file that under PTO or Sick time? We don’t want the inconvenience of obedience and trials that increase faith. We certainly don’t seem like we want GREATER faith or the responsibility that comes WITH great faith.
Today is “Maundy” Thursday.
Tomorrow is “Good” Friday.
Sunday is “Easter.”
Where is your faith? Do you believe? Are you having a last supper moment and wondering what will happen to you? Are you able to be in Communion with God? Do you believe that even though it’s dark, light is coming? Do you know that for the “lack of evidence” so many claim that there is someone that was the First Born to the resurrected? Our God isn’t a dead God that is worshipped in memoriam… our God is alive and still working. There’s no need for fear or sadness or even doubt. But are you at a place where you can accept that? Is your faith “tired?” Are you tired of trying and believing and seemingly failing? You can’t have great faith, until you are obedient and grow it. You have start somewhere and from that place it grows. But when you ignore those opportunities for faith, when you sideline and bench your faith, when you prove you don’t need faith… the result is atrophy. Your faith WILL wither. It WILL become small and hard and dried up. It will retreat into itself and become that much harder to access. Layers upon layers of justification, rationalization and even condemnation will cocoon and hide that seed of faith. Playing church, being a whited sepulcher, running from God, open rebellion, sin… it all covers and hides and assaults your measure of faith. It weakens and proves that YOU can MAKE it on your own. Watering down the truth of the gospel and preferring to have easy conversations and sermons that only focus on the prosperity of the gospel, and not the work it takes will harm your faith. It will make it that much harder to believe, to really be open to the fact that we are not all there is, that God really does LOVE everyone and anyone and that WHOSOEVER means YOU, too.
I want to repeat that: Have faith… let me encourage your faith… the faith that is hidden, scarred, abused, and scared… HAVE FAITH that there is a God that loves you and cares for you. That YOU are reachable, findable, and restorable. HAVE FAITH that regardless of what a human being told you in error, cruelty or because of being misled… GOD LOVES YOU. You are one of the “whoever” that God died for, resurrected for, and for whom is infinitely equal to any other human. God Loves YOU.
Happy Maundy Thursday. It may get darker tomorrow. But Sunday will come. It will happen. Light will come.