Last night I was watching an episode of Supernatural – in which the main characters come across a Faith Healer. Story aside, I was struck by a comment that was made in the closing moments of the episode.
“If you’re going to have faith, you can’t just have it when the miracles happen. You have to have it when they don’t.”
Since then I’ve been giving a lot of thought to faith. As I’m wont to do, I went first of all to the dictionary and came across the following:
- Belief and trust in and loyalty to God;
- Belief in the traditional doctrines of religion;
- Firm belief in something for which there is no proof;
- Complete trust.
The question that I want to ask is what it actually means to have faith. We all know some of the most famous verses on Faith, including what Jesus said.
“…Assuredly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” ~ Matthew 17:20
And of course…
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. ~ Hebrews 11:1
I don’t think faith is quantifiable. I grew up hearing Matthew 17:20 with the terminology that faith should be the size of a mustard seed; but here it says that our faith should simply be as a mustard seed. It’s not talking about quantity, but rather characteristics. When I read this verse, I don’t see Jesus telling me how big (or small) my faith needs to be, but rather what my faith needs to be like.
So what are the characteristics of a mustard seed?
A mustard seed is usually only a millimetre or two in size, but some plants can grow two well over two metres tall. The funny thing that’s coming to mind as I write this is Paul Kelly’s song, “From Little Things Big Things Grow,” (and the Australian Industry Super Fund ads!). This, though, is the imagery that comes to mind while I ponder this ‘definition,’ so to speak, of faith.
See, what I’m visualising isn’t the size or measure of faith, but the potential that is held within it. We’re talking about how much can be achieved. Why, though, Jesus talked about throwing a mountain (or a mulberry tree, in Luke) into the sea, though, I don’t know. Perhaps he was just picking an illustration that really pointed out, ‘impossible.’
The thing with looking at it this way means that you stop looking at faith as a quantifiable thing and instead look at the results.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. ~ James 2:18
Notice that James doesn’t say that he’ll show the size of his faith by his works, just his faith.
I feel that we need to shift our mentality on faith as being this muscle, that if we exercise it enough it will get stronger and we’ll see bigger and better miracles happen. When the woman with bleeding touched Jesus’ cloak, He didn’t tell her that the size of her faith had made her well, simply that it had made her well. The Bible says that she believed – if we constitute faith by this ‘size’ concept, then would that imply that there was some ‘belief scale’ that she had to reach a certain point on before it would work? If she’d been lower on the belief scale, would she not have been healed?
Our faith will always be the mustard seed. What we look for is the size of the plant that grows from it. When you look at a mustard seed, you don’t see the plant, do you? You see nothing but the seed. Faith is the evidence of things not seen – you know – you just know that this seed can grow into a spectacular plant!
Faith is the seed from which miracles grow.
So, one of the favourite comments that I’ve heard from people here in Wellington since I got here, is that “you can’t beat Wellington on a good day.”
Well first, obviously they’ve never been to Perth.
Second, it’s a bit like claiming that nothing can beat the Loch Ness Monster. It can’t be proven unless you actually find the Loch Ness Monster, so if it’s always just a mythical dream, then of course the statement’s never going to be proven false!
I got caught in the rain tonight, and got drenched.
To be fair, though, yesterday was a good day. The sun was out all day, I got to enjoy a nice walk along the waterfront with one of my colleagues from New Zealand, who was nice enough to talk and guide me through a lot of the places around here, and actually, yes, Wellington really is a nice city. Maybe not ‘unbeatable’ but definitely a nice place to visit.
It’s kind of like someone grabbed Melbourne, and squished it into Hobart proportions. You lose a lot, therefore, of what Melbourne would have, but the culture, the flavour, those kinds of things, they’re still here.
Last night, also, since it was nice, I rode the Wellington Cable Car to the top of the botanical gardens, and then enjoyed a beautiful walk through the gardens back down to the city. It was a very pleasant experience. I met these four people from Chile on the cable car, two actually live here in Wellington and the other two were filming a TV show about people from Chile who now live in New Zealand.
I love meeting people.
This is a pretty major chapter for Moses and his family. Miriam dies, she gets a small one-line obituary in verse one; and also Aaron dies at the end of the chapter, his death is a little more informative.
Can you imagine being in his position? You’re marching up this hill with your brother and son, knowing that this is the end. It’s time for you to hand over the mantle of leadership to your son, and you know that you’re not coming back. I can’t imagine what I would be thinking in Aaron’s position as I walked up the mountain.
But to go back to the beginning of the chapter…
I started reading this, and threw my hands up in disgust saying, “AGAIN?!” When the Israelites started whining and complaining. I hope that there was a lot more time between these events in reality than there is between them as I read them, because it’s just now getting to the point of frustrating.
But it’s funny, it happens to us too. I mean, reacted with, “Again?!” when I started reading this, but then it didn’t take long for God to tap me on the shoulder and ask me to look at my own life.
How often do we end up coming back to the same spot, it might be a different circumstance, or a different situation but the way we react to it is the same.
The Israelites aren’t growing, they’re not ready to enter the promised land. Really, they’re not even ready to be a nation, which is demonstrated in the next chapter. They still aren’t in that position of faith to just decide to go, and trust in God to get them through it. Israel politely asks Edom for passage through their land, and when Edom rejects them, Israel meekly turns tail and goes the other way.
We need to get into a position of faith, a position of confidence in God to enter the promised land. We need to stop whining about the struggles in our lives, and instead trust God, and believe in him, because when we believe – really, truly believe in our hearts – that God’s got our backs?
Nothing is impossible.
In God is victory.
I had a rather interesting experience today.
The computer server at work has been having difficulties for the last two weeks. We’ve been going through no end of issues with our computer systems in general. Today, once again, our server started having issues and causing mayhem in the office. People were unable to access email, save files, all those bad things that lead to them asking me what’s going on.
…Which actually makes me feel kind of warm, needed, even if it is to fix problems.
Anyway, after about half an hour of just nothing working, the decision was made to take the server offline, reboot, and refresh it. So while it was shutting down, I prayed over it as well.
It came back up online with no problem, and quite quickly. I called our IT provider that afternoon to ask how things were going, and they were shocked that it was “flying along now”. I told one of my colleagues when it was rebooting that it would be fine, because I’d prayed for it. He came back to me and said things were running faster than he’s seen them in the four or five months he’s been with the company. So I just said, “I told you so.”
God’s amazing. Last night I was talking to a friend about John 14; where Jesus says that he will do anything that we ask of our Father in his name. Today, I was at Koorong when I saw a statement: “Faith is not believing that God can do something, it’s knowing that he will do it.” (or something along those lines). This is all in the week after I spent time talking to a friend over last weekend, in which God revealed to me that I don’t struggle with the belief that he can do anything; I struggle with the belief that he will do it; and that goes back to issues in the past, I know that. It also probably goes to my own mindset as well, I struggle with my analytical mind that focuses on the natural order of things.
God created the natural order – which means he’s the one who can change it if need be. What we need to get a hold of, is that he will do it.
Interesting thing I discovered tonight. In Hebrew, the book of Numbers isn’t actually called Numbers. The Hebrew title actually translates along the lines of “In the Desert” or “In the Wilderness”
Numbers starts off with a census, though. And what a census. The Israelite nation was huge – this is a massive number of people for a nomadic nation. Or at least I would think so. My vision of a nomadic people would be sitting in the matter of hundreds, at best, up and rising and moving each morning; laying their tents out each night, all those kinds of things.
So God grabs a few helpers for Moses and Aaron in counting the people. I don’t blame him – I just wonder why he only picked one person from each tribe to help count.
Now comes the interesting part, though; and I feel a little let down by the text here. It does say that the names, clan and family of every male over the age of 20 who could serve in the army was to be recorded. Can you just imagine having a hold of that document today? We’d have this hugely detailed record of just who the Israelites were, at least when it came to families and relationships. Being interested genealogy, as I’ve mentioned before, that would just be amazing to see.
But what an army this must make. In total, over 600,000 men. Apparently this brings the estimate of the people to between 2 and 2.5 million people for the whole nation – and that’s why I get astonished to picture them as a tent-dwelling semi-nomadic nation. It’s a lot easier to have 2 million people stay still than it is to have them wander around in the desert.
The family of Levi, though, are set apart. They’re not to serve in the army, they’re not to be counted in the same way, and they’re the ones who are to camp around the Tabernacle, to set it up and pull it down. So we still have twelve tribes, with Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh splitting into two tribes; and a thirteenth tribe dedicated solely to the Lord’s work.