Thursday, January 22, 2009

Do You Have Faith in Your Faith?

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:22-33

Throughout the gospels, Christ performs miracles commending people for their faith and claiming that it was on account of the people's faith that the miracle took place. This has led some groups to conclude that if someone wants a miracle, all they have to do is have enough faith and it will happen. The resulting fallacious conclusion is that if your miracle doesn't happen, then you didn't have enough faith.

So we hear about pseudo-Christian parents who deny medical help for their children because they have faith that God will heal them. And when their children die because they didn't receive medical care and they wonder with anger at how the media makes a big deal out of the fact that charges are brought against them for negligence.

My kids love to recount the story how the man in a flood turned down evacuation by bus, boat and helicopter because he had faith that God would rescue him. When he reached heaven after drowning, he asked God why he didn't rescue him and God replied, "I sent a bus, a boat and a helicopter. What more did you want?"

Peter called out to Christ in faith, "Command me to come to you on the water." In faith Peter was able to walk on the water. But faith in what? He knew he couldn't walk on the water without Christ's command. But he also knew that he needed faith of his own in order to walk on water otherwise unaided. So Peter also had faith in his faith.

However, when Peter saw the wind and the waves, his faith waned and he sunk in the water. In his sinking, he called out to Christ, "Lord, save me." He still had faith, otherwise he would have no reason to call out to Christ to save him. What had changed is that he he no longer had faith in his faith.

Do we boast in our faith or do we recognize our own weak faith? If we had faith like a grain of mustard seed, then we could tell a mountain to move it would obey. (Mat 17:20) Clearly, we don't have the faith of a mustard seed. Perhaps our attitude should be that of the father of a demon-possessed boy who told Jesus, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)

Christ asked the disciples in the boat, "Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?" The question was rhetorical. The answer is that we will have doubt. But Peter was there soaked but completely un-drowned. The question should help us conclude that even if we had Christ in person standing before us working miracles with the example of Peter that we could do the same, we would not have enough faith.

Peter himself worked many miracles from Pentecost on, but taught this about faith:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and l unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and a gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 1 Peter 1:3-9; 20-21

Inasmuch as faith is trusting in Christ, I dare say it is unfaithful to trust in our faith. We must have faith in Christ alone. Our faith may falter, but Christ is faithful to save all who the Father has given him.

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