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A Lack of Faith

Now Satan is not going to take such great work lying down. We can expect Satan to oppose the work of authentic evangelization vehemently. Today “the whole world is under the power of the evil one,” (1 John 5:19), and Satan would certainly want to maintain the status quo. Satan will throw everything he has got against those among God's people who are out to change the world.

Satan already has all those evil things he scourges the world with. He has divorce, abortion, genocide, same-sex marriage, global terrorism. But the true people of God readily recognize his diabolical hand in all these. And authentic evangelizers will not easily fall for these evils.

And so Satan tries to be a bit more subtle. Indeed there are times when “Satan masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

We will need to put on the mind of God to be able to see how Satan is trying to thwart those whom God calls to do His work. We will have to see things as God sees them, and not as the world does. We will have to undergo paradigm shifts, letting go even of the good in order to take hold of the best, going beyond what is humanly possible to unleash the miraculous power of God.

Remember that God has already done all that is needed to defeat darkness and evil in the world. His abundant grace and the power of His Spirit are available to those He calls to do His work. So now it is all up to us. We can take hold of what God provides, and move forward in the power of His Spirit. Or we can be the ones to thwart God's intent.

None of us would ever want to thwart God s intent, but we might inadvertently or unwittingly do so.

A Lack of Faith

The first obstacle to becoming an authentic evangelizer is a lack of faith.

We are not talking here about basic faith, or saving faith, where one accepts Jesus as Savior and Lord and as such is considered a Christian. We are rather talking about expectant faith. This is faith that expects God to do the miraculous. This is faith that moves mountains.

God and faith

Without such faith, even God cannot do much. Shocked by that statement? You are thinking, is there anything that God cannot do? Is anything impossible for God? The answer of course is no, nothing is impossible for God. But according to the mystery of His workings in the life of the world, God has restricted His power based on the amount of faith that His disciples have.

In fact, God has restricted Himself to act in the world through His instruments, you and I. God is omnipotent and can do anything. With one wave of His hand, He can banish evil and darkness from the face of the earth. But God has not done so. Rather, He has decided to work in and through human beings. God calls, anoints, empowers and guides His instruments. But the work He is able to accomplish depends entirely on how His instruments respond. When they obey and give fully of themselves, God's work is manifest. When they do not, God's work is thwarted.

Unfortunately, seeing the sorry condition of the world today it must be concluded that God's chosen instruments have not been responding wholeheartedly.

Consider what Jesus did when his heart was moved with pity at the sight of the crowds because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. While he ministered to some of them himself, he basically turned to his disciples, saying, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38).

God has already prepared an abundant harvest, Jesus has already won victory by his death on the cross, but the actual harvesting will be done by Jesus' disciples. Unfortunately, there are too few of them. Not because God has not called on many, but because not many have fully responded.

Now know this: Jesus himself could not do much because of a lack of faith.

When Jesus came to Nazareth, his native place, many were astonished at his teachings. They could not figure him out, since they reasoned out that he was just a carpenter and had come from an ordinary family. So they took offense at him. The result? “So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people….” (Mark 6:5). Now appreciate this situation. Jesus had already done many mighty deeds - curing a demoniac, driving out many demons, cleansing a leper, healing a paralytic, restoring a withered hand, calming a storm at sea, raising the dead. Jesus was after all God. But now he was not able to perform any mighty deed! Why? “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:6). Lack of faith had limited the manifestation of the very power of God!

This is important for us to realize. We must not be the ones to limit God's power by a lack of faith!

Casting out demons

Let us look at the incident where the disciples could not drive out a demon. A man with a possessed son had come to Jesus saying that his disciples could not cure the boy. Jesus said in reply, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him here to me.” (Matthew 17:17).

Notice what Jesus says. He called the disciples faithless! They lacked faith in the power of God over demons. He called them perverse! The dictionary defines “perverse” as “contrary to the evidence” and “obstinate in opposing what is reasonable or accepted” and “arising from or indicative of stubbornness or obstinacy.” The disciples were not acting according to the evidence they had already witnessed of the power of God, were obstinate in not fully accepting their ability to do miraculous acts as reasonable, were stubborn in relying on their own narrow perception of what they could accomplish as God's instruments.

Jesus sounds really exasperated. “How long will I be with you?” The time was rapidly approaching when he would leave and his disciples would have to carry on his mission. Why were they still continuing to not fully act on their empowerment? “How long will I endure you?” After all the training and successful missions, now they were still hesitating and doubting!

To fully appreciate this situation, we need to be reminded that the disciples had already successfully driven out demons. They had been given their mandate: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:8). Jesus sent out 72 disciples in pairs, and they returned rejoicing, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” (Luke 10:17).

There was even a time when the disciples had become cocky with the power they were able to wield. When the people of a Samaritan village would not welcome Jesus, James and John indignantly asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” (Luke 9:54). Such hubris!

So why then were they unable to drive out this particular demon? Jesus gave them the reason: “Because of your little faith.” (Matthew 17:20a). What had happened to their faith, given their experience of already successfully driving out demons? We can only speculate. Perhaps the manifestation of the presence of the demon in the boy was particularly severe. The boy was suffering severely, falling into fire, falling into water (Matthew 17:15). Perhaps his face was grotesque. Perhaps his head was turning around 360°, just as we have seen in the movie The Exorcist. Perhaps he was assaulting people or spewing vomit on them. We really don't know. But whatever it was, the faith of the disciples had been shaken.

And so Jesus had to remind them again: “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20b).

Mountain-moving faith! Nothing will be impossible!

We will be able to do what God Himself does! Why? Because it is God actually acting in and through us. We are mere instruments.

In fact, Jesus himself says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these” (John 14:12a). The works that Jesus did, we will be able to do! Why does God allow such power through us? Jesus says, “because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12b). In other words, his part of the mission has been done, and now it is our turn. Now we are to carry on his mission. His mission entails working miracles and doing the impossible. If his work is now our work, then we can do what he has done, and do even greater ones than those. We are just instruments.

But we need to have faith.

Peter walking on water

There is another instructive incident. This is Peter walking on the water.

The disciples were in a boat far out at sea, very early in the morning, when they saw a figure walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. At first they thought it was a ghost and they were terrified. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27).

The elements of the scene - walking on the sea, passing them by, the words of Jesus - made it clear that it was God speaking. Job knew that God “alone stretches out the heavens and treads upon the crests of the sea.“ (Job 9:8), and Asaph says, “Through the sea was your path; your way, through the mighty waters” (Psalm 77:20). The glory of God passed by Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:22), and the Lord passed by Elijah on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:11-12). “It is I” literally is “I am,” which is the revealed name of God (Exodus 3:14).

So Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water,” and Jesus replied with just one word, “Come.” (Matthew 14:28-29). Peter had seen Jesus walking on the water, he knew that nothing was impossible with God, he had faith in Jesus and so he asked Jesus to be able to go to him on the water. A humanly impossible task! But Jesus said “come,” meaning that Peter's request is granted, that he can actually do the impossible by himself walking on water.

And so Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus! He was accomplishing something impossible!

But then Peter began to notice how strong the wind was, how the waves were choppy, how it was dark and cold. He probably looked down and saw that he was walking on water! He had been at sea as a fisherman all his life and this was something a human being could not do! So he became frightened, and began to sink. Jesus had to stretch out his hand and caught him. Jesus said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

Again, faith or the lack of it determined the working or thwarting of a miracle.

The power of faith

But faith in God is very powerful indeed. The people of God throughout the centuries “by faith conquered kingdoms,…..closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires,…..Women received back their dead through resurrection.” (Hebrews 11:33-35). God assures His people of what He is capable of doing: “I will open up rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the broad valleys; I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water. I will plant in the desert the cedar, acacia, myrtle, and olive; I will set in the wasteland the cypress, together with the plane tree and the pine” (Isaiah 41:18-19).

In today's modern world, we no longer believe in miracles. Certain religious scholars have attempted to dilute what had always been considered as miracles done by Jesus and try to give a human explanation.

For example, there is the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, where on two occasions Jesus fed the five thousand (Matthew 14:15-21) and the four thousand (Matthew 15:32-38). Some people now say that what happened was not that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, but that the people began to share what they had brought all along. They say that the miracle was in the sharing. Baloney!

If this was so, could the disciples not see their carried provisions, such that they asked Jesus to dismiss the crowds so that they could go to the villages to buy food? Could Jesus have been so blind as to say that the people had nothing to eat, such that his heart was moved with pity for them?

The reality is simply that the people had no food, and Jesus provided for them by multiplying the loaves and fishes. It was indeed a miracle of God.

Miracles still happen

Today we must believe that miracles still happen. Why? For the simple reason that God is about renewing the face of the earth, and for God nothing is impossible. For the simple reason that if it is God at work, then anything short of miracles is not reflective of God as God.

We must have faith that today God still calls people to become His human instruments. And we must have faith that if God calls and chooses, then He will likewise anoint and empower. It is after all His work. And it is He after all to whom the glory belongs.

Responding in faith

So if today we are shown a vision by God of what He wants to accomplish in the world, and it is a seemingly impossible task, we must not doubt, we must not show lack of faith. We may ask God to tell us how He intends to accomplish His will, but we must ask in faith, already holding on to the truth that indeed God can accomplish the impossible.

Let me illustrate the difference between asking in doubt and asking in faith. This is in connection with the pronouncement of angels and the impossible conception of two cousins.

The angel told Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son. But since Elizabeth was barren and both of them were advanced in years (Luke 1:7), Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18). He doubted. He did not believe what the angel had told him. For that he was rendered unable to talk by the angel, “because you did not believe my words” (Luke 1:20).

On the other hand, an angel told Mary that she would conceive and bear a son. But since she was unmarried, Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1:34). She asked but not in doubt. Rather, she believed what the angel told her and just wanted to know how it would happen. She knew it would happen but jut did not understand how. She was asking in faith.

For us today, we are to ask how, but just as a way of seeking guidance, and not doubting that what God reveals will happen.

If we have faith the size of a mustard seed we can accomplish the impossible, for we are mere Instruments of God, and for God nothing is impossible.

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