Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pastoral Ponderings ~ When a Child of Little Faith Becomes a Little Child of Faith

          One of the oft repeated phrases of the gospels is, “O you of little faith”.[1] In my early years, struggling through the legalistic fog of trying to be the good Christian God’s word told me to be,[2] I imagined Jesus with a frown (or scowl) of disappointment on his face as he confronted whatever new expression of little faith I saw within my soul.

          However, as the grace of God has permeated my inner being with a growing experience of the grace of God, I have come to believe that Jesus’ face would have been quite different from the frowning Savior I had once entertained.

          Jesus was characterized by joy. When he considered coming into our world to suffer the shame of the cross, he saw “the joy that was set before him”.[3]That joy was that he would secure my adoption as a son of God,[4] and rejoice to identify me as his brother.[5] The joy set before Jesus included his conscious, willing, predestining choice to have ME as his brother, along with all the suffering having me would cause him.[6]

          So, when I look at Jesus as revealed in the gospels, it is my sarky mind that imagines a frown on his face when he speaks, “O you of little faith” to my soul. There is very good reason to believe that his countenance would have been that of the gracious and loving Savior who surely already sympathized with me in my weaknesses, and, as “God with us”[7] was already representing the throne of grace that was offering me the grace and mercy I required to help me in my time of need.[8]

          Which brings me back to my initial thought, that Jesus wants me to have the satisfaction that comes through trusting him, rather than the distress, anxiety, worry, and fear that comes from doubt, unbelief, and little faith. He consistently reminds me that my issue is “little faith”. If I address this issue, I will feel differently. If I meet Goliath with faith, I would obviously feel differently than all the others who meet their giants with fear.[9]

          How does God get someone like me to live by faith? He transforms me from adult-minded sarkiness into childlike new-hearted reality. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”[10] One of the characteristics of children is their faith. Children trust so easily that we need to teach them not to take candy from strangers, not to get into a car with a stranger, and not to walk away with any white-haired man that looks like grampa.

          When we compare the phrase “turn and become like children” to its synonymic[11] counterparts, repent and believe in the gospel”,[12] or “of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,”[13]we can see that “turning” is in reference to repentance, and becoming “like children” is synonymous with faith.

          Jesus once said to his disciples, daring to say such words just before they were about to witness his suffering, crucifixion and death, These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.[14]Jesus’ words are for our joy. The Scriptures are for our joy. The kingdom of heaven is about righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”[15]

          The way God wants me to think about him is, “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[16] When Peter was so filled with the waves of doubt and unbelief that he had far less faith about walking on the water than he imagined, he was still in the presence of the Savior’s fullness of joy. It was not a frowning Savior who reminded him that his episode of unnecessary, sinking fear was the result of his little faith. Rather, it was the joyful Savior who came to give us joy who wanted us to know the satisfying joy of trusting him in the midst of stressful circumstances. Joy feels better than fear, simple as that, and love must give us what is best.

          Or, as Scripture states plainly, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”[17] Aha! Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.[18] Jesus did not look at Peter through the law, with eyes planning his punishment. Jesus had come into the world for the direct purpose of saving sinners,[19] and Peter was a sinking-sinner if ever there was one. Jesus came to save him, joyfully saved him, and longingly reminded Peter that his problem was with faith. If Jesus could give Peter faith (which he did, of course), Peter would actually experience the highest level of satisfaction this earthly life could provide: the secure feeling of safety in the arms of Love.

          Doubts tell us to look at the terrible storms that come upon us, the severity of the wind and the waves, and the inner, fear-based consciousness that we are not able to do anything to stop what is happening to us. Faith looks to the storm-calming Savior who is with us in our boat. Doubts demand that we stop looking at the Savior who just enabled us to walk on the water, and pay more attention to the wind and waves that are all around us. Faith calls into our stupidity and reminds us that, whenever we have faith in Jesus, we can walk on the water with him!

          This past week has been saturated with both the Higher experiences of faith (along with the good feelings that are felt therein), and the Deeper experiences of little faith that left me feeling as lost and dead as a man sinking into the water. In both kinds of cases, Jesus had not changed. He was smiling at me with joy when I asked him to call me to walk towards him on the water, and he was smiling with love when he reached out his hand and said, “Monte, it’s your little faith,” as he graciously led me back into the boat.

          The waves go up-and-down, the storms come-and-go, friendships rise-and-fall, tides ebb-and-flow,[20] and “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”[21] “Therefore, Lord Jesus Christ, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’[22] so I do not miss anything of your joy-filled plans for me today!”

          From my heart,



© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30)
“And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” (Matthew 8:26)
“Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31)
“But Jesus, aware of this, said, ‘O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?’” (Matthew 16:8)
“He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of 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)
“But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:28
[2] Or, so I thought!
[3] Hebrews 12:2
[4] “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15)
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)
“…to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:5)
“…he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” (Ephesians 1:5)
[5] “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)
“For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.’” (Hebrews 2:11-12)
[6] Ephesians 1:1-14 about covers all these things.
[7]  “’Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:23)
[8] “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
[9] I Samuel 17
[10] Matthew 18:3
[11] I was so delighted to discover that was a real word!
[12] Mark 1:15
[13] Acts 20:21
[14] John 15:11
[15] Romans 14:17
[16] Psalm 16:11
[17] I John 4:18
[18] John 3:17
[19] “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10); The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (I Timothy 1:15)
[20] I kinda hear a daycare song going on here.
[21] Hebrews 13:8
[22] Mark 9:24

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