‘Probing Deeper’ Meditations: 16. Limiting faith?
Mt 13:58“he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”
Faith opens doors. Faith, put most simply, is hearing God and responding positively to Him. Faith, said the apostle Paul, comes by hearing (Rom 10:17). Real faith, it seems to me, is so often absent from the Church. No or little faith is needed to plan and run ‘services’. You can plan a Bible Study without faith. You can utter words at a Prayer Meeting without faith. Faith involves the awareness of God’s presence, faith is being godly, involving God (really) at every step of the way. Faith was there in Jesus and it was there in the apostles in Acts. Faith was the crucial ingredient for life to flow.
But now we come to a scripture that tells us that Jesus was limited because of the lack of faith of the people where he was. I wonder how we view this scripture? Is it that somehow some mystical power called ‘unbelief’ made Jesus impotent, or was it rather that because the people were negative in respect of him, they simply avoided him or didn’t come near him with their needs?
Elsewhere, when the crowds came to him in numbers he healed them all (e.g. Mt 8:16) but here not a lot happened. This was not down to either Jesus’ unwillingness or his apparent impotence. Do we perhaps stand apart from Jesus in this respect, fearing he might put mud in our eyes (Jn 9:6) or he might ask us to wash seven times (2 Kings 5:10)?
Now if we are to probe a little deeper I need to ask, why did I say earlier you can run services, bible studies and prayer meetings without faith. Look below the surface of that. It is possible to ‘perform’ each of those things without any revelation, without any sense of the Lord’s direct guidance. I’ve been there, I’ve done it. If you are a leader it is as if sometimes you run on autopilot. Choose a few favourite hymns, say some appropriate sounding prayers, concoct a right sounding sermon and you are home and dry. Now please understand – God CAN use such times – but not as much as He would like. Jesus obviously performed some miracles here but “not many”. He expected normally to perform many but here he was limited.
Let’s put out some measuring sticks: in your ‘church services’ can and does God turn up with prophetic words of direction, speak personally into specific people’s lives, do people say their lives have just been transformed by the ‘message’ or given answers to crucial questions they have over life at the present, are people healed or delivered in our presence? People may say ‘nice sermon vicar’ or ‘what a nice service that was’ but are their lives being radically and clearly changed week by week to become faith-visionaries? Honest answers on a post-card…