Mark 11:22 – "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. (NIV)
I needed a black skirt for a concert, so I googled the word "skirt", hoping to find fashion ideas. To my surprise, I got fishing sites and discovered that a skirt is a kind of fishing lure. This is not what I had I mind!
I got thinking: What if Jesus were to google the word "faith" in the web world of our thoughts? Would He scratch His head and say, "You call that faith?" Jesus did, after all, use the word "faith" differently than we typically do.
We often hear the word "faith" used to mean religious affiliation or the doctrines that people affirm. Based on this use of the word, the biblical people of Israel always had faith; so did Jesus' disciples. Yet Jesus often chastised them for lacking faith. He spoke words like:
"You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" … "You of little faith … why did you doubt?" … "Where is your faith?" (Matthew 8:26a, 14:31b; Luke 8:25a NIV)
Jesus was quick to spot the symptoms of "little faith", such as anxiety in threatening situations, worry about survival needs, sinking in the stormy water, confusion over Jesus' teaching, and failure to perform miracles of healing. To Jesus, these were sad outcomes of their disbelief, and not, by any stretch of the imagination, images of faith!
When I googled "skirt", I did not expect to see anything different than what was in my mind. It's like that with the word "faith". We may expect "faith" to be essentially a broadly inclusive religious expression. With this use of the word, any religious community can call itself "a people of faith" even if there is little evidence of vibrant trust in God and even if members are beset by symptoms of "little faith". These symptoms may even come to be expected as normal in the Christian life. Meanwhile, the true meaning of faith is severely devalued and compromised. Jesus' teaching about faith becomes muddled in people's minds.
To Jesus, faith was an attitude of confident trust in God according to His promises and revelations. God is our foundation of trust. This kind of faith (that is, trust) holds us up in the storms and tests of life. This is the faith that produces results.
In Scripture, faith is depicted as a precious commodity — of greater worth than gold. Surely, here is a word worth reclaiming! But how? The best way is to see it in action. Then we can know what it is.
There were very few whom Jesus identified as having "great faith". And they were rarely in the religious spotlight. One example is the woman who persuaded Jesus to heal her sick child, even though she was a Gentile. Jesus said to her, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." (Matthew 15:28b NIV) He could see her trust in Him, and so He healed her child.
Another example is the centurion whose servant was sick, but he didn't consider himself worthy for Jesus to come to his house to heal him. So he sent the message, "But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go', and he goes; and that one, 'Come', and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this', and he does it." Jesus responded, "I have not found such great faith even in Israel." (Luke 7:7b-8,9b NIV)
Since those days 2000 years ago, there have been many more examples of faith all around the world. What are your examples?
Prayer: Dear Lord, restore in our minds an image of real faith. Point us to examples of vibrant and victorious faith so that we may be inspired and strengthened in our own faith. Amen.