You Try Walking on Water!

From my 2009 Journal. God delighted in King Solomon and showered him with honor and wealth and blessing. But it looks to me as if God’s delight was conditional: If you do it My way, you’ll get rewarded. If not, I’ll zap you (I Kings 3:14). Is that how I tend to view God? The first time calamity strikes, I ask, “What did I do to anger God?”

Visual: It feels like I’m walking a tightrope: keep my balance, walk carefully the straight and narrow path, but I’m doomed because the winds of adversity will knock me off. I might start out well, but I’ll finish with little faith. It’s easy to take my eyes off Jesus at the finish line and look down in fear. Then boom! I’m done for.

It’s like Peter walking on the water. Something about his story has always bothered me. When Peter got scared of the waves and started to sink, Jesus’ words “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt 14:31) feel like a rebuke, a statement of shame. I feel like coming to Peter’s defense and saying, “Yeah, but he was the only one who even got out of the boat and tried! Give Peter a break already! Why slap him down after he made the attempt?”

I can hear Peter defending himself: “I tried; I did my best, it was instinctual, and my best wasn’t good enough. Yes, I have weak faith; so what? I’m human after all.”

Were Jesus’ words really a rebuke as in “What’s the matter with you? Why didn’t you calm the storm? Why are you such a scaredy-cat about the weather?” Was Jesus angry at Peter? Weary? Disappointed? Disgusted? Sad? Or were his words simply an observation about the condition of Peter’s heart? I think Jesus had just held a mirror up to Peter’s face. (“But just wait till after the resurrection, Peter. you’re going to be a rock!”)

So back to the tightrope visual. God gave Solomon a pole—the Law and God’s promises. When he started to get imbalanced, he failed to correct his course and eventually he dropped the pole and tried to make it on his own. Disaster! Yes, I too am weak, frail, and easily blown off course. But have no fear—I, too, have a pole in my hand to steady me: The Word of God and the Living Word Himself.

Why do we ask how?

From my 2007 Journal. Why do I question God? When He declares something is true, why do I doubt it? Why do I fret so and try to figure things out for myself? I may think I have the solution for an issue I’m struggling with—but it is very limited. My imagination isn’t big enough to figure out His solutions.

God said to Moses: I will provide meat for the Israelites. Moses asked: HOW? Shall flocks and herds be killed? Collect all the fish in the sea? God said, Is the LORD’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you (Numbers 11:23 NIV). You’d think that Moses, who had witnessed spectacular miracles before his very eyes, would not question God’s ability, power, and creativity. But he wants to know HOW God will provide.

Jesus said to his disciples: Feed the multitudes. The disciples asked: HOW can we do that? We don’t have enough money to go into town and get enough food for this many people. Jesus said, How many loaves do you have?

God says: I will supply all your need according to My riches. I ask: HOW?

DollarI’ve asked for resources for my daughters’ education and for their potential weddings, and then I fret when I think He may not come through, and I brainstorm ways I can get the money to make it happen. Instead, can I not sit back, relax, and watch Him work?

And so, dear Lord, I release to you my worry over where the money is going to come from. I will quit fretting, quit scheming, and simply ask. I ask for faith that will move mountains. I ask for willingness to be obedient when You speak and ask me to do something. I will trust You to guide our paths. I want to unleash Your creativity through faith instead of doubt. Lord, help my unbelief. I am releasing to Your care our checking account, our savings, our retirement funds, the college needs. I will allow You to direct how and when I need to work and how and when I need to be involved in ministry. Guide my footsteps today, Lord Jesus. I don’t know what Your plan is for me today, but I’m open to follow Your lead. Amen.

A 2018 Update. As I reminisce, I’m in awe at how God provided our financial needs. All three girls graduated from college debt-free. And two of our daughters, now married, managed to pull off their weddings within our budget. Now I can say that I, too, have witnessed miracles before my very eyes, and my faith has grown as a result.

Do you think asking HOW is a lack of faith? Why or why not?

How Do You Draw Faith?

Bible

The history of the Mission under which I grew up includes a little story about Roland Bingham, one of the founders of the Mission, arriving at the train station with no money in hand, but with faith that God would supply his need. And God did just that. (You can watch a 1968 reenactment of his life here.) So when I heard that story as a child, I began to berate myself that I did not seem to have enough faith. I wasn’t sure I could ever pack my bags and blindly go off somewhere and expect God to meet my needs.

How does one define the word faith? First a little grammar lesson. By definition, a NOUN is a person (man, Mr. Jones), place (home, Iowa), thing (desk, lamp) or idea (love, courage). Concrete nouns like man or desk are easy to visualize or to draw on a piece of paper. Ideas not so much. We do have symbols for some ideas, like a Valentine heart for love or a dove for peace, but how do you draw faith?

Faith became a rather nebulous concept to me. I didn’t know how to visualize it . . . until I read this lovely story in the Bible about Caleb, one of only two spies who believed that the Israelite army could defeat the giants in the land of Canaan.

We pick up the story when the 40 years of wandering in the desert are over, and the leader Joshua is over 100 years old when Caleb approaches him with this request:

Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said (Joshua 14:10-14 NIV, emphasis added).

My conclusion is that faith is not blindly believing something without evidence or deciding to do something based on what I want to see happen. Faith is believing and acting on what God has already said.

So back to the story of the missionary at the train station.  God had clearly told Mr. Bingham to go to Africa, and so he packed his trunk and headed to the train station to begin his journey. It wasn’t until he took this step of faith that he was handed cash for the ticket. (If you want to read more of the story, click here.)

What does faith look like to you? Can you draw a picture of it on a piece of paper?

Pleasing God

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6 KJV).

From my 2007 Journal. I’m struggling with the concept of pleasing God. I know I fulfill Condition #1: I believe that He is. But sometimes I doubt Condition #2: that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. His rewards, I believe, are for more deserving people—those who have done grandiose things for Him—the Billy Grahams or the mega-church pastors, the self-sacrificing missionaries, the martyrs. Like David, I ask Who am I, that God is mindful of me? But this verse states that if I don’t fulfill Condition #2, it shows I lack faith (and thus it is impossible to please Him).

Because it’s not quantifiable, I think I need to define “diligently.” I find that seeking God is a time-intensive activity. Though my heart and will are always present, there are seasons of my life or times of the day when I feel more earnestness and diligence than at other times. When do I diligently seek God? Most obviously in my quiet time with Him. Second, while I’m in an inner healing prayer session with someone. But what about the rest of the time—when I’m chatting on the phone, writing an email, doing a jigsaw puzzle, or taking a walk? When I’m reading a novel, I’m not actively “seeking God.” We wouldn’t be able to function if that’s all we did—stayed on our knees in prayer 24-7. God expects us to sleep, to eat, to prepare food, to teach our children, to work at our jobs, to take breaks, to recreate, to have fun. Because I’m a one-track-minded person, I seem to be able to focus on God primarily when I’m alone and undisturbed. Even church is not an easy venue for me because there are so many distractions.

I can never seem to attain, never measure up. I always fall short of the glory of God. And It makes me sad that I cannot attain or measure up. He’s too far up, too far away, at the top of a sky-high ladder and I’m at the bottom looking up, like Jack and the Beanstalk.

In this fairy tale, Jack trades the family cow for some magic beans, and when he climbs the vine up into the sky, he discovers an evil ogre who owns a goose that lays golden eggs. I can feel Jack’s fear and dread as he decides to steal the goose—as if I, too, have done something wrong. I have stolen what is not mine, and I feel my mother’s disapproval for my foolishness in trading a cow for some beans. The fairy tale’s happily-ever-after ending seems like ill-gotten gain!

And so I rewrite the story in my mind: I would consult my mother before trading beans. If I had planted them, I would not have invaded the ogre’s palace. I would have attempted to make friends with him, and I certainly wouldn’t have stolen from him. And therefore, I would not have had to chop down the vine to murder him! The ogre would share his feast with me because he would be a generous and benevolent king.

And so God changes the visual for me. Instead of my planting a vine, God lowers a heavenly escalator, safe and protected on all sides to carry me up to His heaven. He has extended an invitation to me to enter His palace, to eat at His table, to sit by His fire and warm myself. He’s even given me a feather bed to lie down on when I become weary. And when I wake, refreshed, there are rooms to explore and meadows and orchards and climbing trees to enjoy.

abandoned-ancient-architecture-921914

Photo by Rick St. John from Pexels

In my new scenario, God is not an ogre in the clouds waiting to clobber me, but a relational Father who has created a child’s fairy palace for me to enjoy.

Am I pleasing to God? He chose me, proposed to me, asked me to be His bride. And I said yes. He’s preparing our home for us right now. And I’m preparing, making ready, having fun planning for the wedding, consulting Him on everything, because He has all the materials I/we need to have a spectacular wedding day.

So do I believe that God rewards those who diligently seek Him? The answer is yes. Therefore, I have faith; therefore I do please Him—because I do believe.

“I want to be ready when Jesus comes.”