Originally published Tuesday, 18 November 2014.
Do you ever read the stories of Scripture and see your own heart among its pages? In recent weeks I have been preparing a talk for a ladies retreat where I am soon to speak. One of the focuses of my talk concerns the Israelites wandering ways. As I've gone through the pages of redemptive history, I see myself in the actions of the Israelites, especially when it comes to their weak faith.
In Exodus chapter 4, Moses and Aaron told the Israelites that God would deliver them from Pharaoh. They showed them great signs and miraculous wonders. The Israelites believed that God sent Moses to deliver them and they worshiped God. Then in chapter 5, Moses went before Pharaoh for the first time and told him to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh responded in anger and made the work load harder for the people. They were punished and beaten. The Israelites went to Moses and Aaron and said, "May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (v.21).
They responded like this time and time again. When they got to the Red Sea and saw the Egyptian army bearing down on them, they said “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness”(Exodus 14:11-12). Then even after witnessing God peel back the sea and drown their enemies, as soon as their stomach began to rumble they said “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 6:3).
I do the exact same thing. I say I believe God can do anything and then when he does it differently than I expect, I stomp my feet and say he did it wrong. I follow him when he gives me what I want but as soon as scarcity arrives, I complain and say, "This is not how I'm supposed to be treated!" I grumble about the provisions I'm given and returning to slavery begins to look appealing. When the future seems filled with giants, like the returning spies, I want to give it all up and return to the desert rather than believe the promised land is worth the effort to stay and fight.
The truth is, my faith is quite small. Imperfect. Weak.
Though the Israelites are known for their weak faith, I see evidences of it in the New Testament as well. In fact, over and over I see Jesus extending grace and accepting the imperfect faith of those he called. Take the disciples who Jesus often admonished with, "O you of little faith!" They constantly questioned him and doubted what he could do. Even after witnessing Jesus feeding the five thousand, they were concerned when they didn't have anything to eat. Jesus said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? (Matthew 16:8-9).
Those who came to him for healing didn't have complete faith either. A man asked Jesus to heal his demon possessed son saying, "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.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24).
In Calvin's commentary on the book of Mark he commented on how God responds to our weak faith: "This agrees with what I have lately noticed, that God deals kindly and gently with his people, --accepts their faith, though imperfect and weak,--and does not lay to their charge the faults and imperfections with which it is connected...Though we have not such abundance of faith as might be desired, there is no reason why our weakness should drive away or discourage us from prayer.”
The late Francis Schaeffer wrote a letter to a man who struggled with doubts. He wrote "You may go through a period of darkness, but once we have accepted Christ as our Savior he has promised to hold us fast forever. Our salvation does not rest upon our holding on to Christ, but upon his work as He died upon the cross. Because He is God, His death has infinite value and can cover every spot. Thus when He promises to hold us fast and to never let us go, He is doing so upon the basis of the infinite value of His shed blood as He died for us....You have been in a relationship to this personal God--in the way God Himself has provided through the work of Christ--and as such you can look to Him to help you through the darkness." (in Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer: Spiritual Reality in the Personal Christian Life, p.142).
This is what my heart desperately needs to grasp: It's not about what I can do but about what God has already done through Jesus on my behalf. It's not the strength of my faith which saves me but the object of my faith. It's who my faith is in and not how strong it is that matters.
Because in this life I will face trials, circumstances, and mountains that are too high for me to climb. I will have fears, doubts, and worries. I will feel weak in faith. Like the Israelites, I may see God's wonders in my life one day but the very next day doubt he can provide my daily bread. But I must keep my eyes focused not on my circumstances or on how strong I feel but on the object of my faith, Jesus Christ. His blood is sufficient; his grace is more than abundant to cover my weakness. No matter how weak, small, and imperfect my faith, I need to come to God in prayer saying, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" And though there may be times when my grip loosens and I just can't hold on, I have to remember that Jesus never loses his hold on me.
What about you? Do you ever feel as though your faith is weak?