I think we all want to have more faith. We want to go through the circumstances that life hands out, the tests and trials and frustrations with full, triumphant confidence that God has it.
But then life hands us that circumstance.
We started well but now we’re waiting and well past the initial resilience we first had.
We meet up with that test and in fear of what might happen, rely on our own ways.
We don’t see and because we can’t see we begin to fill with self-doubt and really – God doubt.
“I believe; help my unbelief!”
Those are the words of a father whose son desperately needed to be healed. In our 100 Days with Christ study, we read Mark 9 this week which tells of a boy who was demon-possessed, causing seizures where he foamed at the mouth and gnashed his teeth. The seizures often nearly took his life as he rolled into fires and rivers.
The father had brought his son to Jesus, but Jesus wasn’t there. And when the apostles tried to heal him, they could not.
Picture the scene: A crushed father. A heartbreaking need. Powerless apostles. Disdainful rabbis. An expectant crowd.
The perfect setting not just to meet need and move on but to teach those who would follow Jesus about faith. Critical lessons we need to get down deep.
First, unbelief is a sin. I’m tempted to call it a weakness. A wrestling. A less-than constitution as if God hands out faith of different sizes to each of us.
But Jesus sternly rebuked his apostles for their unbelief. You see, He’d already equipped them with everything they needed to heal this man.
Faith is the Samsonian lock of the Christian; cut it off, and you may put out his eyes—and he can do nothing. ~ Spurgeon.
Second, all things are possible with God. Who knows how many times this father’s hopes had been dashed over the years. It seemed improbable. Even the apostles – those closest to Jesus — had been unable to help.
And so, bringing his son to Jesus, this father cried, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
We may have to wait well past our point of natural resilience.
We may have to fight off fears and imaginations of what could happen.
We may not see the possibility in the situation at all.
But there are no if’s with God.
Finally, we need to know faithlessness can result from prayerlessness.
When the disciples asked Jesus privately why they’d been unable to drive the demon out, Jesus told them it could only come out by prayer.
Oh friend, how easily we forget that we’ve been equipped but we must also be empowered through prayer.
It’s not a try-harder faith.
My faith will fail every time if I try in my own strength. Faith is a gift from God and we must go to Him regularly, boldly, unceasingly to give us what we do not have on our own.
These recent words from Beth Moore have stayed with me:
WE WILL NOT LIVE BOLDER THAN WE PRAY.
THERE ARE PARTS OF OUR CALLINGS, WORKS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND DEFEATS OF THE DARKNESS THAT WILL COME NO OTHER WAY THAN FURIOUS, FERVENT, FAITH-FILLED, UNCEASING PRAYER.
If we find ourselves faithless, perhaps it’s because we are prayerless.
There are no if’s with God. When we go to God, He will give us the faith we need to walk through the circumstances life hands us.
This post first appeared at LisaAppelo.com. For encouragement delivered straight to your inbox and free access to The Print Collection, subscribe here.
This week has been a struggle.
I struggled to put on my game face each morning, to slog through math lessons and spelling corrections and sentence diagrams when I really wanted let my kids go play. Every February, I wonder whether I’m really serving my children (or me) by homeschooling.
I’m struggling with the calling to homeschool.
Not only that, sometimes all the writing and working and researching and creating feels like it’s leading nowhere. I wonder not whether I’ve heard God but whether it’s going to really work out. It’s hard to faithfully follow when there’s no divine fast track.
I’m struggling with the calling to write.
And while I know struggling is part of our walk with Christ, that it’s typical in God’s callings and that He shapes us through struggle, it still leaves me weary and wondering.
This week, as I read in John 6 of the disciples’ struggle crossing the Sea of Galilee, I felt like I was in the boat with them. While they were struggling against the wind and waves of a Galilean sea, I was straining at the oars in my own life.
You may be familiar with this story. The disciples got into a boat while Jesus withdrew alone to a mountain. As the disciples rowed across the lake, a fierce squall arose, tossing the boat. Looking up, the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water toward them and were terrified.
But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”
John gives us the bare bones of this story, but Matthew and Mark add some telling details that teach critical truth about how we believers should see struggles in our calling.
First, Matthew notes that Jesus made the disciples go ahead of him in the boat.
Jesus not only knew the disciples were in the storm, but sent them into it.
He could have gone with them. He could have had them wait till morning to avoid it altogether. But instead Jesus sent them out knowing they’d encounter a storm.
Struggling against the wind and waves of the sudden storm was precisely where Jesus wanted them.
Second, Mark tells us as Jesus was praying on the mountain, He saw the disciples straining at the oars. Jesus wasn’t in the boat with them, but He sure saw them.
Difficulties and setbacks can cause me to wonder where God is in all of this. Why can the path of a calling feel so adrift? Like there’s no real progress?
Jesus may feel far off, but the truth is that He sees every bit of our struggle.
Finally, Mark says it was the fourth watch of the night when Jesus came to them. The fourth watch is from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. They’re the darkest and coldest hours of the night, just before dawn.
A friend once laughed as he said that God is never late — but He’s rarely early.
How many times, after waiting and struggling, have we seen God finally move in the fourth watch?
God will allow our circumstances to go way beyond our margin so that when He moves, He alone gets the glory.
Following God’s calling does not mean it will all be smooth sailing. In fact, Jesus said in this world we will have trouble.
But this we know:
God sees our struggle.
Our struggle can be precisely where God wants us.
God may let us strain against the oars before He moves.
Every one of those 12 disciples in the boat, struggling against the storm, had been called by Jesus. Their calling was sure.
In the same way, our struggles are never a reflection of whether God has called us. Struggles may leave us weary and wondering how God is working. But struggles as we follow God can be the mark of His sure calling.
P.S. You can download this month’s free scripture cards for 100 Days with Christ here.
You can learn more about the FREE 100 Days with Christ Bible reading plan and journal and get your copy here.
It was inky dark as we piled into the car after another late weeknight basketball game. As I started home, my youngest two in the backseat started squabbling – again – over the Nintendo DS. We’d long ago outlawed any little handheld computer contraption but some kind soul had handed this one down to my kids and in a moment of weakness I’d allowed it.
Their words escalated as one child felt the DS had been given to her and she wasn’t feeling generous just now. Plus, using it would run the battery down and she claimed she wanted to save it.
Meanwhile, my GPS kept insisting on an incorrect turn and I was struggling to find my way down unfamiliar streets in the pitch blackness. Amid the backseat bickering, I finally reached for the confounded DS and with a string of words meant to correct, proclaimed that no one would use the DS if it couldn’t be shared nicely.
Lying in the bed the next morning, God gently painted a picture of my own hoarding. I also had things I’d been clutching tightly as my own – professional opportunities I wasn’t willing to share with friends and peers.
God prodded me: Whose kingdom are you building?
Ouch. Soul-searing truth I so needed. With a contrite heart and fresh perspective, I openly shared those opportunities with friends and peers.
Whose kingdom am I building? Does my day, my agenda, my time, my motive reveal that I’m building my own kingdom or Christ’s?
Only one will make us happy. This world – and our own flesh – will convince us we need to get more, do more, be more to be happy. But Jesus teaches we can only be happy when we’re about His kingdom.
The Greek word for happy or blessed is makários and comes from the root to make large or extend. It describes the believer’s not just happy but enviable position when God extends His benefits to us.
We don’t become happy or blessed by enlarging our own kingdom, our own Facebook followers or position or bank account.
In the downside up of God’s kingdom, we learn —
Whose kingdom am I building?
When I’m building my own kingdom, I’m competitive.
When I’m building God’s kingdom, I’m cooperative.
When I’m building my own kingdom, I hoard.
When I’m building God’s kingdom, I share.
When I’m building my own kingdom, I need it now.
When I’m building God’s kingdom, I need patience.
When I’m building my own kingdom, people are image-makers.
When I’m building God’s kingdom, people are image-bearers.
When I’m building my own kingdom, my comfort is primary.
When I’m building God’s kingdom, my comfort is secondary.
When I’m building my own kingdom, my burdens are heavy.
When I’m building God’s kingdom, my burdens are His.
When I’m building my own kingdom, it’s about my story.
When I’m building God’s kingdom, it’s about His glory.
Father, today, may we be always, only about Your kingdom. We pray for Your kingdom to come, for Your will to be done in our life, in our home, in our time and hopes and agenda – as it is so perfectly done in heaven.