Tag Archives: doubt

Mustard Seed Faith May Often Be Faith Enough

 

One Easter years ago (almost two decades!), I got to play the Apostle Peter in a community Easter cantata. I enjoyed it. For one thing, the music was really good; for another, I like Peter. I think everybody likes Peter.

But, another apostle really high on my list (I suppose it’s okay to have favorite apostles?) might not make the top slots on many folks’ lists. He does with me! I’m speaking of the Apostle Thomas.

I doubt that Thomas (See! Thomas and I get along already!) asked for any evidence just before he met the Risen Lord that the other apostles hadn’t already pretty much checked out before he had the opportunity. But his are the seemingly doubt-filled questions that make it into Scripture. I think his questions were excellent, and I’m glad he asked them.

I like Thomas, and I love the fact that once he saw the risen Lord, his “You are my Lord and my God!” is one of the most stirring affirmations of faith in all of Scripture. By the way, I appreciate the author who pointed out that nothing in Scripture ever indicates that Thomas actually retraced the nail prints in Jesus’ hands with his own; it was enough for him that Jesus loved him so much that He invited him to.

It’s okay to ask questions.

It’s okay (though rarely comfortable) to deal with honest doubt.

Oh, there’s a blessing in childlike faith, and Jesus tells us to strive for such. But there’s also a blessing in learning to work through and, when necessary, live with some honest doubt. Jesus never once turned away an honest doubter.

Thank God for days when the sun is shining, life seems very good, and faith seems to come easily.

But, in a different sense, on days when the sun of your happiness is cloud-covered, when even getting through one day at a time seems too great a task and you wonder if you can even manage one moment at a time, one heartbeat at a time—thank God for His assurance that sometimes faith as small as a mustard seed is faith enough to deal with a mountain of doubt.

On those cloudy days, thank God for another honest man in Scripture (Mark 9:24), much akin to Thomas, I think, who said, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief!”

On difficult days, maybe faith just means wordlessly making the same commitment Peter made when the crowds following Jesus (they liked free food and were hoping for more loaves and fishes) abandoned Him. When Jesus asked sadly, “What about you? Will you leave, too?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.”

On some days, in the midst of all we don’t understand, don’t like, and have a very hard time dealing with, maybe simply praying, “Lord, there’s no other game in town! You’re my only realistic hope, my only choice! Just help me through one moment at a time!”—is faith enough.

And pretty strong faith, at that.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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Would a Miracle a Day Really Keep Doubt Away?

pillar of fire

When we’re talking about people and what they believe, is it not true to say . . .

*Most people believe what they want to believe.

*God wants us to use our minds, but facts may or may not have much to do with what some people believe.

*Seeing is not necessarily believing.

*Not having faith is not possible. Everyone believes in something. Many in our society are so desperate for a god that they bow to the most popular and pathetic god of all. Instead of worshiping other gods or God, they worship themselves.

Years ago, G. K. Chesterton made fun of skeptics who would “complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.”

Not believing is not an option for anyone. We all put our faith in something or someone.

I admit that I used to make the common mistake of thinking that living by faith would be easier if God would just make his presence a little more obvious.

Maybe God could part the waters of a sea, go before us in a “pillar” of cloud or fire, shake a church sanctuary on cue at the end of a prayer, “wow” us in an obvious display of his glory! But how many miracles per month does it take to bolster “faith” lest it falter during a drought or even a dip in signs and wonders? Is “a miracle a day to keep doubt away” faith really much faith at all?

But, sunrises aside, if we could just see God’s power obviously and often at work in amazing ways that no one could miss, wouldn’t it be easier to fall down and worship in amazement and awe?

The short answer is, no, it wouldn’t.

The Israelites of old saw the plagues of God and walked out of Egypt through the miraculously parted Red Sea.

God visibly led them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Each day God fed them with his manna.

They trembled when Mount Sinai quaked with God’s very presence, but . . .

But Egypt is barely out of the rearview mirror and already they’re yawning at God, griping, and begging Aaron for a golden idol to worship.

Years later, in John 6 the crowd Jesus has recently fed shows up wanting more food. He tells them that God wants them to believe in the One sent by the Father, and they ask him to make belief easy.

“Show us a miraculous sign—something like what Moses did in the desert as he gave our ancestors manna to eat. Then we’ll believe!”

No, manna hadn’t really helped very much. Not then. And when the Bread of Life sent from heaven stands before the crowd, they want a greater, more eye-popping, sign.

So at times do we. But no sign is greater than Jesus himself. May we open our hearts to his Presence each day and believe.

 

  You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.come! It’s way short of miraculous, but it’s not that bad, either! 

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


“Lord, I Believe! Help My Unbelief!”

prayer01

Two little twin boys recently walked up to our house with their mom and little sister. They could hardly wait to show us their two buckets filled with several layers of . . . woolly worms! Woolly caterpillars. The kind that seem to be everywhere right now. Pretty cool little creepy crawlies, those worms! Pretty cool little guys, those great little twins!

Now catch this woolly transition: Woolly worms are one thing. Woolly thinking about faith, and particularly about faith and prayer, is another.

The “prayer of faith” is a biblical term. But both prayer and faith get twisted pretty often by flashy TV preachers and their bunch into something much more akin to magic and superstition than Christianity.

What I’m thinking of is the very common, very mistaken, notion that praying with the kind of “faith” that is the key to “powerful prayer” means working ourselves up into some highly emotional and extremely subjective state so that we can make a desperate request of God absolutely expecting him to answer with exactly what we want. We’re most likely to get exactly whatever the “it” we want is, this approach says, if we “amp up” our “faith” so as to bar the doors of our minds to any possibility of our not receiving “it.” If we don’t get “it,” then the purveyors of such “faith” tell us that we just didn’t “believe” hard enough, and we must work harder to banish all doubt.

Such an approach is unbiblical, mistaken, and often, arrogant and cruel. As C. S. Lewis once wisely wrote, this kind of thing “is not faith in the Christian sense; it is a feat of psychological gymnastics.”
For a picture of real faith, and for a real corrective to the other sort, Lewis points us to the Son praying to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” The perfect Son. The perfect Father. The perfect prayer. Perfect faith. And the answer was No.

And may I point you to another amazing picture of another poignant scene? Another father. Another son. Another prayer.

The son is terribly afflicted by an evil spirit. (The disciples have struck out on casting it out.) The father “prays,” asking Jesus, “If you can do anything,” (it’s the same Greek root word for Jesus’ request to the Father: “if it be possible”), “heal my son.”

Jesus replies, “‘If you can?’ Everything is possible [the same word again] to him who believes.”

I love that father’s response: “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” And, despite faith-flaws and weakness, the answer to this father is Yes, and this son is healed.

We have a Lord who counts our honesty about our weakness—even our weak faith—as much more valuable than our ability to build in ourselves some emotional state that supposedly excludes all doubt.

Faith in God, even a little faith, much smaller even than the “mustard seed” sort Jesus also taught about, is still real faith. Perhaps faith in the quality of my ability to believe is also faith of a sort, but it’s the wrong sort. It’s faith focused in me, not faith focused on God.

 

     You’re invited to check out my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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