Monday, October 10, 2011

Faith, it ain't easy

The apostle, Thomas, has often been called doubting Thomas because he was the last of the eleven apostles to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. When Jesus confronted him, and Thomas felt the nail holes in Jesus' hands and placed his finger on the wound in Jesus' side, Thomas finally believed.

What Jesus then said, as with all things Jesus taught, was true: "Thomas, you believe because you see me; blessed are those who don't see me yet still believe."

Faith is a difficult proposition for us humans because we are sentient creatures. When Moses left the Israelites to go up the mountain and receive the Law from God, he was gone a long time. As the time passed and still no Moses, the people became impatient and agitated. We can only wonder if they weren't pacing back and forth in the desert thinking about the certainty of home and hearth back in Egypt on the one hand, and an unfulfilled promise of a paradise flowing with milk and honey on the other.

Finally, with no sign of Moses, the people caved in and cast an idol for themselves. The golden calf they constructed gave them something to see and touch, and, perhaps more importantly, a measure of control.

The Israelites were quite wrong in what they did. Every time I read that account I shake my head in disgust. God had proved Himself faithful time and time again in objective and observable ways. He had protected Israel through all the plagues, liberated them from their oppressors in Egypt, parted the Red Sea for them, routing the pursuing Egyptians in the process, and went before them day and night as a visible pillar of fire. God miraculously fed and watered them. Yet, with the first sign that their leader, Moses, wasn't coming back, the people panicked, and, forgetting everything they had witnessed, took matters into their own hands.

I mean, how stupid and fickle could they be? If I was given a tenth of what God had given them in terms of validating whom He is, I would never worry about another thing again.

How stupid and insensitive can I be? I'm a Christian. By that I'm supposed to mean my leader, Jesus the Christ, has temporarily disappeared to the mountain, where He is writing His laws on my heart, so that when He returns we can be one together in the eternal paradise flowing with milk and honey--the kingdom of heaven. And He has given me the Holy Spirit to teach me, strengthen me, and light my way during the long slog through the dark and treacherous desert. God has given me all He had given Israel and more; yet, at the first sign of trouble in my life, I panic, and more often than I care to admit, take matters in my own hands.

Faith is tough. It's hard to keep our eyes focused on God whom we cannot see, and hope in a promise so long in coming.

Dense stands of trees of doubt tower all around us, cutting off much of the light. Many of these have grown from saplings we planted, ourselves. For example, debt overwhelms us in our pursuit of the American dream to the point that we start to doubt God's faithfulness. Of course, everyone else has planted their trees, including those spiritual forces opposing the kingdom of heaven. Regardless, selfish-ambition provides the seeds, and conceit cultivates and nurtures the forest.

There is no paucity of persons urging us to turn back, claiming that nothing lies beyond the trees except more trees. And in the midst of a burgeoning darkness, we wonder if they might be right.

None of this should surprise us. Jesus taught us that the gate leading to Life is narrow, and few would go there. He also said the times will become so dire that even those who truly love Him will begin to doubt.

His words should bolster our resolve to remain patiently fixed on Him, clinging, despite the doubt screaming in our ears, to the certain hope we have in Him; we need His strength because His words also tell us that faith ain't easy.


Jeff said...

And Moses said “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” Exodus 32:25

No matter how foolish we are the Lord calls us back too - "Come to Me!"

I kick myself for being so stupid so many times. But in my heart (the heart the Lord gave me) I feel the pull and run back to the Lord - and that is the difference that sets Christians apart from the world. When we sin we come back; Exodus 32:27 is the fate of those who don't answer the call.