Traits of a Godly Person: Faith - Part 2

Last week we took a look at a Biblical example of a man who had great faith. The faith of the Centurion in Jesus, to heal his servant, was so strong it made Jesus marvel. This week I would like look at our own faith. Do you have faith like the Centurion? Do I? If not, what can we do differently that will cause Jesus to marvel at our faith? Today, I want to look at a few of the verses where Jesus speaks of faith, then I want to compare a living faith to the development of a child

Image by  congerdesign  from  Pixabay

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

This first quote from Matthew 17 occurred shortly after Jesus had cast a demon out of a man’s son. The disciples had tried to cast out the demon, but were unsuccessful.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?”
20 And He *said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
21 [But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”]
— Matthew 17:19-21 (NASB)
Image by  GOKALP ISCAN  from  Pixabay

Image by GOKALP ISCAN from Pixabay

These are mustard seeds. They are tiny. Jesus compares faith to this tiny seed. He says if we have faith, even this small, we can move mountains. Wow! Just wow! The fact that I have never moved a mountain, puts my faith to shame. Obviously, God doesn’t want us throwing mountains all over creation, but you get the point. We don’t have to have a mountain of faith, to do amazing things in Jesus name.

13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.
14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
— Mark 10:13-16 (NASB)
Image by  WikiImages  from  Pixabay

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

In this passage, Jesus becomes indignant with the disciples for keeping the children from coming to HIm. Once again, I am amazed by the emotion exhibited by our Lord. The word, indignant basically means becoming angry because of something unjust. Jesus must have felt that the children were not begin treated justly, because they were being kept away from him, as though they didn’t have as much right to talk to Him and be near Him as the adults did.

Jesus then goes on to make an important point, which I have brought up before. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Jesus just made a statement about faith that is often overlooked. We must have child-like faith to enter God’s kingdom. What exactly does that mean?

Children go through a certain progression in their development that coincides in the progression of our faith. Let’s take a look.

1 - Look & Listen - When a baby is first born, they experience a sudden assault on their senses. The sounds, sights and feelings outside the warmth and comfort of the womb must be overwhelming. As the tiny one grows they begin to use these senses to learn about their environment. They hear their mother’s voice and see her face. As the days pass, their eyesight and hearing becomes more clear and they begin to find pleasure in looking at their mother’s face and hearing her voice as she sings and talks to them. Looking and listening become a way to learn and grow.

Image by  fancycrave1  from  Pixabay

Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

In the same way, when we accept Christ as our Savior, we must look and listen. We need to become familiar with His face and His voice. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to see God in His word, the Bible, and in His creation. He also gives us the ability to hear Him through the Scriptures, Biblical teaching, personal devotions, music and even through the singing of the birds in the early morning. However, we need to actually look and listen. We need to learn the lines of His face, the color of His eyes, the wave of his hair and the sound of His voice.

It has been scientifically proven that if a child does not bond with his or her mother early on, the child will undergo certain psychological impediments as he or she develops. We are God’s creation. The movement of humanity away from God developed when Adam and Eve sinned. That inability to bond with our Heavenly Father has impeded our ability to develop psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is only after we traverse that gap, by walking the way of the cross, that we see His face, and hear His voice clearly.

2 - Reach - As baby grows, he/she begins to reach for mom’s face. I can remember playfully chewing on both of my daughters’ hands when they were little, as they began to smile, and coo. Babies will reach towards toys, and other brightly colored objects, continuing their path of exploration and discovery.

Pixabay - toddler reaching

Our faith grows and solidifies as we reach for God. Reaching involves beginning to get outside our comfort zones. Many of you grew up in the church. You were used to hearing the songs and prayers, and had the example of others in relationship with the unseen God. For someone outside the church, becoming a Christian is much like the birth of a baby, bringing them into a world of light and sound that they are not used to. Reaching for God may seem a little odd, but it becomes quite natural as we grow in our faith and relationship with Christ.

How do we reach out to Him? Reaching is about focus. When my grandson was just learning to crawl, I was reintroduced to the focus that a little child can have. He would see something across the room and immediately fixate on it. Then, as he gained more mobility, he would scuttle himself towards the prize. Nothing could deter him, once he was focused on that thing he wanted. I know my girls did this too, but being a grandmother allowed me more time to watch that little guy develop. It was beautiful the way the Lord spoke to my heart through that tiny boy.

This is exactly what reaching means, to focus and yearn for that prize that is across the room. As a Christian, my focus is to be Jesus. I reach for Him as I study, read, pray, thank and rejoice.

16 Rejoice always;
17 pray without ceasing;
18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit;
20 do not despise prophetic utterances.
21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
22 abstain from every [m]form of evil.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 (NASB)

3 - Crawl, Walk, Run - From the point of reaching to the actions of crawling, walking and running, it is a very short time period. Look at how much a child develops in the first year and a half of his/her life. It is amazing! They go from being totally dependent to having the desire to be fiercely independent.

Image by  Sasin Tipchai  from  Pixabay

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

As we grow in our faith in Christ, we mature learning to see Jesus’ face and hear His voice. We deepen our understanding of Him, and His desires for us as we reach for Him. Once we are mature, we don’t stop moving forward, but our development changes. We no longer have the immature faith of a new believer. Now we have been through hard times. It is in the difficulties that our faith is challenged. When tragedy comes we need to run to Jesus. We may be so tired we can only walk. Or we may be on our faces and the best we can do is crawl. Each time we reach for Him our faith becomes more real and more solid. Each time we remember His promises, our faith deepens and broadens. Every day that we focus on Him the Spirit works in our lives making our faith live.

The worst thing we can do is become stagnant. If a child suddenly decided to no longer crawl, he would never learn to stand. If he/she never stood, they would never walk, and if they never learned to walk, they would never know the pure joy and delight of being able to run.

Let us run with Him.

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
— Hebrews 12:1-3 (NASB)


The Imperishable Prize

There may be no other simple six letter word that invokes so much stress and fear as change. Have you ever considered how much change you go through in a day, a week, a month or a year, let alone your life time? I was thinking about the changes that I have encountered in the last month. My daughter found a new job which changed her schedule, so that changed my grandson's schedule, which in turn, changed my schedule. Certain procedures at my place of employment changed, which changed how I did the schedule and changed the amount of time I had to spend working on the schedule. Changes are not always good. Sometimes, they are just excruciatingly frustrating. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

In the last few months my daughter and son-in-law have had both cars in the shop, my nephew who was supposed to get married, didn't, another nephew had a daughter which no one was aware of until the mother went into labor and my hairdresser decided to give up being a hairdresser for a different full time job. All of these changes in some way affected my world. Wouldn't it be nice to just go a few hours, days, weeks or even months without changes?

And let's not forget the change, that wonderful time period that all women get to look forward to. Weight gain, hot flashes, abnormal periods, oh the joy! 

Don't get me wrong, many changes are good. Giving up smoking or excessive sugar is good for your health. Ending a toxic relationship is good for your well being. Starting to exercise can, not only help your heart, but improve your mood. Reading can open your mind and imagination to new worlds and learning something new can help delay memory loss. Much of change is good and necessary. 

God does not want us to be static. Webster defines static as showing little or no change, action or progress. Our lives are supposed to change and grow as we come to know Jesus more and as we learn to trust and obey Him.

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
— I Corinthians 9:19-27 (NASB)

The Apostle Paul was not only uniquely aware of change, he was an agent of change. Once a top shelf Pharisee, persecutor of Christ followers, he met the Lord Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. You can see his conversion in Acts 9:1-19. This intellectual Jew, raised in the strict order of the Pharisees, became a Christian. He changed. He went from killing Christians to believing in Christ and becoming one of the greatest leaders in the early Christian church. 

Paul knew that change did not end the moment he became born again. He was aware that his faith was going to be an ever evolving and changing thing. His desire became, to become all things to all men, so that Christ might be preached. He wanted to do his best and he knew that meant working at his faith and his relationship with Jesus.

I am thoroughly convicted by the above passage.

1. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run - Really? Do I remember I am even in the race, let alone that I am supposed to be running. I am not a runner, but I am smart enough to understand that being in a marathon takes hard work, discipline and practice. What do marathon runners practice? Piano? Chess? Painting? No! They practice running. They run to build their endurance and then they run to increase their speed. So the first question I need to ask myself is, 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Am I running in the race or am I sitting on the sidelines being a spectator? I believe there are times we are on the sidelines. Runners get injuries, after which they have to take time to heal. As Christ followers and as human beings we get injured. We feel pain. And often that means we have to sit out for a spell. However, the analogy goes deeper. Let's say I am one of those marathon runners. My goal may be to win or just to make it to the finish line. If I fall and get injured do I stop or do I keep going? That all depends on the extent of the injury. We live in a world of hurt and pain. Our churches are filled with hurting people. Once in a while we get hurt by one of those hurting people. Does that mean I'm out of the race? Not if God is on your side.

2. Run in such a way that you may win - Winning? Hmmm. I don't feel like I am winning when I keep getting knocked down over and over. But think about it. A soldier who goes into combat keeps getting up and firing back until he can't get up any more. He knows the prize - to win the war, to keep people safe and protect human dignity and freedom. He fights for that to his very death because he is focused on the prize. So my second question is,

Am I running to win? - I have been. I am answering that question honestly. There are times in the last few years where I feel like I have hunkered down in a trench to hide and hope I don't have to ever show my head in the race again. But, my heart says, I want to run and run to win. Jesus' Spirit in me, is not going to let me give up, not if I really believe in the prize.

Pixabay

Pixabay

3. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things - Excuse me? What did you say? Self-control? What is that? You mean you want me to not eat that other donut? You mean you want me to take a walk when I would rather sit in front of the TV? You mean you want me to hold my tongue when that customer was extremely rude to me? You mean you want me to love, give and care even when there is nothing in return? So my third question (no, I don't know how to count) is, 

Do all things, really mean all things? - Uh, yeah! So true, but so hard to do! But what is the motivation? For the Olympians past and present it is to receive a perishable wreath, or gold medal. For a Christ follower it is to receive an imperishable wreath. To hear Jesus say, "Well, done." To me, that seems worth the effort. 

4. Therefore I run in such a way as not without aim. I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. - It seems to me we need to have a purpose for what we do...not without aim, not beating the air. Disciplining ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My fourth question then is,

Pixabay

Pixabay

For what purpose? - Paul says it is so that he might not be disqualified. Paul didn't want to mess up, not for his own pride and reputation, but for his Lord. Our goal as a follower of Christ should be to lift Him up; to glorify Him; to turn people toward Him. 

What does that all have to do with change? Everything. Every day we experience change we can either take it in stride and glorify Jesus, or we can whine and complain. I know I am not always going to run with the aim in mind and at times I may even be beating the air, but I want to keep running. I want to remember why I run...for the imperishable prize.