Losing Confidence in Faith: #27
The writer of the Hebrew Christians, in Chapter 11, verse 6, made this statement: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him (God). For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” It is not just the invisible, which requires faith, but also the visible and the unexpected accidents and incidents, which have disrupted and crippled my life. Where and when faith, in me or in myself, had to step up and pull me through my stretch of difficulties. Even as a handicapped person, I had to make choices, seek answers, and apply myself, and restore my life so I could serve God and man. You may think me unorthodox, but at times, I did feel that God and Christ were going with me, instead of me going with God and Christ. I did believe that what I was doing that I would and I did succeed. I could not sit back and wait for someone to come and improve my life. Our Lord made this suggestion:
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him? So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:7-12).
Just how Important is Faith in Myself?
To me, self-confidence and faith are twins. With regard to faith in God, even creation demands that I believe in a superior intelligence, energy, and force (Psalm 19:1-6), defined in the Scriptures as “Spirit and Breath of God” (Genesis 1:11-2; John 4:24). In relationship to me, God made me in “His Image” and in “His Likeness” with “His Breath and His Spirit” (Genesis 1:26; 2:7), before the world was created (Ephesians 1:4). And I was predestined to enter the world, through my parents, to be one of his servants in the Christian year 1930 A.D. The world God made re-creates and sustains itself and so is man whom God put in charge (Genesis 1:26-30). And then — God retired to give man and the world a chance (Genesis 2:1-3). And then, at the end of time, man will appear before God (II Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15). With all this in mind, I understand why God does not interfere in the affairs of men, regardless how bad they become. I shall discuss this further in other chapters.
How did and how does the Spirit and God talk to me? I must have been six years old when my conscience began to fear and sweat when I had an accident or did something wrong. I was told, by my adults, that God would punish me for the bad I did, and reward me for the good I would do. Unfortunately, there was more wrong than right, but God never showed up. However, He sent my father to discipline me and then teachers, preachers, and many others that I needed. When I was drowning, a Pole, who was an enemy, saved me. When I was burning alive, an Italian and a German, two army vets, saved me. Then, when I was dying of cancer, an army of people helped me rebuild my body, mind, and spirit. Now, all this I believe — for that is the way God speaks with me and works through me. My conscience is His Voice, and His Words fervently vibrate when I stray off His path. The Lord has been playing with my conscience all my life and kept me from yielding to the wiles of the devil.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:10-17).
It is in this life that my Faith and my Confidence need to be armed
For me, the possible realm, in which I live, has been a struggle and a battle against the forces that diminished my faith and my self-confidence. The Words and Examples of Jesus have become my armour and they have rebuilt my faith and self-confidence more than once. After the fire disabled me, I could have ended my life like the man who waited thirty-eight years for someone to put him in the pool of Bethzatha in Jerusalem. He needed someone to tell him, “Get up, take your stretcher and walk.” Jesus did tell him exactly that and he obeyed and he did walk. Later on, the Lord told him to stop sinning and prevent more suffering (John 5:1-9, 14). Like the paralytic, I also could have depended on others to care for me. Four men, with faith in themselves and in Jesus, brought the paralytic with no faith in himself, to Jesus (Mark 2:1-12). When they could not find any access to Jesus, they opened the roof and let their friend down in front of Jesus. Jesus saw the faith of the four men and not the faith of the paralytic. Sin was in the way of the paralysed man’s faith. Sin made him sicker than he was. The first thing Jesus said was, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Forgiveness freed his faith in himself and he could obey Jesus’ next Command, “Rise, take up your pallet and go home.” So he did and amazed the public.
I was on my recovery bed in the hospital, when a man of God told me that I would be a minister for Christ. And that comment brought hope and purpose into my life. Like the little lady, who used all her strength to get through the crowd to touch Jesus’ hem, so I too had to pass a jungle of thinking to reach Christ. I am so much more blessed than that lady, who had to go to Jesus in her condition. When I began to believe and practice God’s Word by distributing His grace, Jesus’ Spirit, God the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit’s Love began to reside in me (John 14:23-24). The Holy Trinity does manifest itself in who we are, how we live, and in what we do (Matthew 5:16).
One of the most moving encounters Jesus had was the touch of faith by a nameless woman, who had suffered for twelve years (Mark 5:25-34). Crowds surrounded Jesus. And Jesus was on his way to save a little girl. Suddenly, Jesus halted His movement. Jesus broke the silence by asking, “Who touched me?” In spite of her weakness, this woman had managed to get close enough to Jesus. By stretching her arms and reaching out with her hands, the woman was able to brush the hem of Jesus’ garment. Jesus’ question stunned most of the people. Many people were thronging Jesus. How could Jesus know that someone had touched Him? How could Jesus, possibly, detect a single person’s touch? We are told that Jesus knew the touch because this woman’s faith sapped Jesus’ energy. Jesus did not move on until the woman came forward and confessed what she had done. Then, Jesus publicly recognized her by saying to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you, go in peace and be free from your infirmity” (Mark 5:34). We must note that her faith just did not only heal her, but that her faith also saved her. Peace and healing were added blessings. Her real benefit was that she was saved and that she was delivered from whatever sickness that plagued her. We only can guess that it might have been bitterness and disappointment against those who used her and those who could not help her. We gather this from the statement, which she made that she had spent all she had on doctors who could do nothing for her. What is important for us to recognize is that salvation must precede our physical problems. It is when our faith boosts our soul that our body also will reap the benefits. Faith is powerful enough to sap energy from Jesus, our Lord, and it can also release some of our faith to others in need. But, how much more God can do if we allow Him to live in us?
Reading Jesus’ Words, I do hear Him and God the Father
Jesus told Judas, not the traitor, “…the word which you hear is not mine but the father’s who sent me’ (John 14:24). To the disciples Jesus said, “…if they kept my word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20). And Jesus prayed, “I do not pray for these only (his disciples), but also for those who are to believe in me through their word (us, you, and I), that they all be one; even as Thou, Father, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that Thou has sent me. The glory which Thou hast given to me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and Thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as Thou has loved me” (John 17: 20-23).
The Word of Christ is the Word of God and that Word the Holy Spirit reproduced in the New Testament and no one can alter or omit it (John 1:1). Dr. Luke recorded Jesus’ conclusion: “The law and the prophets were until John (the Baptist): since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one engters violently. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void” (Luke 16:16-17; Matthew 5:17-18; Mark 13:30-31).
Jesus used a Roman officer to demonstrate how powerful His Word and the Word of the Father, in heaven, is. The faith regarding a Roman officer, Jesus declared, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel” (Luke 7:1-10). The Jewish leaders had sent a delegation to Jesus begging Him to come and heal the Centurion’s servant. They told Jesus that this man deserved to be visited because he had done a number of things for the people. Jesus responded, and while He was on His way, a second delegation came with a new request. Their message was that their master did not see himself as worthy to receive Jesus. Their master believed that all Jesus had to do was to speak the Word of Healing and his servant would get well. This Roman did not need Jesus’ Presence because to him, Jesus’ Words were sufficient to verify his faith and his request. The incident reminds us of Thomas who had to see in order to believe. And for all our sakes Jesus obliged him:
Eight days later, his (Jesus’) disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Tomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:26-29).
So, What am I doing with My Faith at Ninety?
Well, I still depend on myself. Nearly seventy years ago, the fire did put me out of manual labor. To help me become dependent on public help, they gave me a small disability; however that was just not enough to live on. I could have remained uneducated, unmarried, and a burden to my family. I would not have become a minister, teacher, writer, or a publisher. When I disclosed my intentions to reach for that goal, most of the listeners dismissed me as being overly pretentious. What could become of a twenty-one year old who could not complete his elementary education because of the war, and then have a fire rob him of his physical ability? This badly hurt person, for that was all I was at that time, but I had an irreversible spark of faith in myself and a trust in Jesus, my Lord, which helped me see only my goals ahead. If I were to compare any of Jesus’ subjects, I would be the man with the one pound (Matthew 25:14-30). However, instead of burying my pound, I reinvested it over and over until I reached my ninetieth year. Even when I retired from the pastorate and I was diagnosed with cancer, I began publishing my Bible studies on the internet, entitled, “Stop and Think.”
I am at an age when I am supposed to wait on the Lord to take me home. However, it appears that the Lord is waiting on me to finish a task, which never gets done. It took me many years to realize what the task was. And here it is, even as a handicaped person, I was endowed with sufficient faith and energy to get me where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. Imagine, if I had begun waiting on the Lord seventy years ago, I would be sitting in a wheelchair tying up people from doing what they were intended to do for themselves and for others. If I had stopped using the faith I had, I would very likely have become the biggest failure to myself and an immense burden to others. With regard to my fellowmen, I do not imagine because too many people are waiting for God to come and even vote for them and clean up the world. That is not what will happen because God put man in charge when He made the world and man (Genesis 1:26-2:3). So, how much faith did God give to man to manage the world or even solve personal problems? The disciples of Jesus asked that question and the Lord gave them this answer, “No larger than a mustard seed!”
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” Jesus said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move hence to yonder place,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Matthew 17:19-21).
I vividly remember that I had no faith when I was drowning and hen I was burning alive, but the men who saved me had enough faith to keep me alive, and they were total strangers. Their impulsive moves were deeds of their faith that saved me. When I regained consciousness in the hospital, the “tiny mustard seed of faith” helped me unbury myself from the huge mountain that had fallen on me and all the other obstacles that stood in the way to become a small tree myself where some birds can find nests. Friends, if your faith does not move you, then remember the ten spies who died with their people in the wilderness (Numbers 13:30-33). Faith without deeds is not only dead — it also kills those who trust in you (James 3:14-28). Faith is serious business and we shall continue in the next chapter.