Today’s crash courses on faith is limited to few chosen verses of seemingly easy adherence. For instance, Rom 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Similarly, Jn 5:24, Jn 11:24-25, Jn 14:12, Mk 16:15-18, Matt 17:20-21, Jn 11:40 etc. All these verses are absolutely true and relevant to faith. But when taken in isolation, just to establish strange doctrines, they are terribly misleading. Because they represent only parts of the whole truth. Only fragments, in fact, from the extensive lesson on faith taught by Jesus Christ!
FAITH IS BELIEF IN ACTION:
Jesus’ teaching on faith is extensively given in Gospel of John, chapters 5 to 16. A careful study of the aforementioned portion leads us to discover that faith is not mere belief. But that, faith is belief in action. Actions of obedience and endurance. A look into the practical aspects of Jesus’ teaching on faith will show us why?
For, it is noteworthy that :
- It stretched over a good deal of time during which, He was constantly on the move.
- It was interspersed with great wonders and miracles (Jn 6:5-13, Jn 6:16-20, Jn 9:1-7, Jn 11:38-44 etc).
- It continued unhindered even though His life was under constant threat , and
- The great multitude that had followed Him initially, had dwindled (Jn 6:66) down to a mere eleven (Jn 6:70, Jn 13:30)!
The reason though confounding, is true! In spite of the signs, the miracles and the wonders, people do not believe in Him (Jn 12:37-41, Jn 5:46-47, Jn 7:5, Jn 7:47-48, Jn 8:45-46, Jn 8:48, Jn 10:19-20, Jn 10:25-26). They could not accept His teachings (Jn 6:60). Read Jn 6:66, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” And, some who believed were afraid of the Jews (Jn 9:22, Jn 12:42-43) and would rather please men than God. Whatever be the reason, their faith did not sustain long.
THE DISCIPLES’ TEST OF FAITH:
Thus, towards the end, during the final lessons on faith (John 13 to 16) only eleven disciples remain. The period also signifies Jesus’ last days. Humanly speaking, not an ideal time to build faith! Miracles had seemingly ceased to happen. Besides, Jesus was willingly offering Himself up for death.
Not surprisingly, the disciples find their faith severely tested. They loved Him, no doubt. They were sure they’d readily die with Him if it came to that (Jn 11:16, Jn 13:37). But to their added horror, Jesus makes a few hard-hitting revelations:
1. Peter’s denials of Him (Jn 13:38).
2. The terrible grief that would overtake them (Jn 16:20).
3. His own death and departure from their midst (Jn 13:33, Jn 16:16).
4. About fear that would grip them and scatter them, each to his own home (Jn 16:32).
5. And lastly, that after He was gone they would be persecuted, and some even put to death! (Jn 17:11-12, Jn 18:8-9).
How could faith survive against such graphic details of a gloomy future? And indeed, the disciples were greatly troubled and grief-stricken (Jn 14:1). But to their credit, let it also be acknowledged that they do not leave Him (Jn 6:67-69).
YOU BELIEVE AT LAST!:
Again, the reason is confounding, but true! As Jesus Himself testifies of them in Jn 16:27 and Jn 16:31, “You believe at last!”.
What a contrast to today’s teachings of faith, founded on rosy pictures of good health, success, riches, fame and worldly glory!
A careful study of the following verses will help throw more light on the difference between the two: Matt 7:21-25, Lk 10:17-20, Jn 15:20, Matt 11:20-24, Matt 10:24-25 etc.
It becomes very clear from the above verses that the latter of the two is not the saving faith (Matt 7:21-23). Also refer James 2:14. It is simply the use or misuse of the Power in the Name of Jesus Christ. Read, Jn 14:13, “And I will do whatever you ask in My Name…”. It draws the crowd. It rakes in the money. It brings much fame and shine. It also brings instant success as christian ministers.
But, taken on Jesus’ appraisal of it, such a faith does not even boil down to the size of a mustard seed! Because Jesus has assured, faith the size of a mustard seed can actually i.e. to say literally, move mountains (Matt 17:20-21). Till date, there’s been no report of such an expression of faith! In other words, such a faith is hardly the size of a mustard seed. And therefore hardly enduring!
For instance, such a faith cannot be employed if something in your life is willed by God. Like Jesus’ death on the cross. You will need the richer faith, also called Enduring Faith. To learn more, let us return to Gospel of John, chapters 14 to 16 – the concluding lessons on faith.
[BEWARE! Only a commitment like that of the disciples, “…Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6:68-69) will nurture Enduring faith in us.]
FAITH’S TOOLS OF SURVIVAL:
Thus we find Jesus granting the disciples, or rather promising them as was the case then, four special Blessings or Spiritual Aids to help them persevere in their faith. So that, it endures in the difficult times ahead:
- A great and unmatched Privilege – to ask for anything in His Name. (Jn 14:12-14, Jn 15:16, Jn 16:23-24, Mat 21:22, Mk 11:24). So that the Son may bring glory to the Father. LET US REMEMBER: GOD IS TRULY GLORIFIED WHEN WE ABIDE BY HIS WILL (Matt 26:39, Lk 22:42 etc.). AND NOT WHEN HIS GIFTS ARE MISUSED (Ex 30:37, Ex 30:32, Matt 7:21 to 25).
- The Holy Spirit – to all who obey His commandments (Jn 14:15-18, 26).
- His Peace that surpasses all human understandings and limitations (Jn 14:27, Jn 16:33, Phil 4:7).
- His Joy, even in the face of severe trials. (James 1:2, Jn 15:11, Jn 16:20-22, Jn 17:13). Heb 12:2 speaks about the joy set before Christ for which He endured the cross and scorned its shame. Some of the ‘Joys’ set before us are found in the following verses : Jn 14:2-4, Phil 3:14, 2 Tim 4:8, James 1:12, Rev 2:7, 11, Rev 2:17, Rev 2:26-28, Rev 3:5, Rev 3:12, Rev 3:21 etc.
The four special blessings cited above make for the ‘survival kit‘ of our faith. They are very very powerful blessings, incomparable and Holy. So one can imagine the kind of challenges one would have to face. A glimpse of it can be had in the passage from Jn 15:18 to Jn 16:4.
What are these challenges really? The Scripture is full of them. The Spirit of God calls them ‘tests’. Tests are inevitable in christian life. Without exception, it has been true for everyone. Hence the name, Enduring Faith. In fact one realizes one can only make a claim on faith if one has endured the tests of faith. 2 Tim 2:12, Rev 13:10, Rev 14:12. That’s right. No child of God is exempted from it.
The world will hate us dear brethren. It is our christian heritage. As indicated in Jn 14:30, after a short respite, following Jesus’ triumphant ascension into heaven the prince of this world has taken over with full fury. He knows his days are numbered. Therefore he focuses on us with unmatched vengeance.
A STUDENT IS NOT ABOVE HIS MASTER:
Paul’s personal testimony and life of the apostles and disciples generally (1 Cor 4:9-13, Acts 7:57-58 etc) exemplify the perfectly coordinated pattern of servant-Master or student-Teacher relationship with Christ. Read Matt 10:24-25, “A student is not above his Teacher, nor a servant above his Master. It is enough for the student to be like his Teacher and the servant like his Master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of His household!” And John 15:20, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his Master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also.”
EXAMPLE OF APOSTLE PAUL:
Let us first recall that Paul’s Calling was to suffer for Christ!
Read Acts 9:15, “But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my Name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for My Name’.”
Let us read what Paul had to testify of it: “….I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was ship-wrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Cor 11:23-29).
It is true that all disciples including apostle Paul performed great miracles. He won many gentile souls and planted many churches. Yet he only dares to confess to have kept his faith in the final lap of his life, 2 Tim 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”. Before that in Phil 3:12-14, we find him claiming to have attained nothing! but that he was pressing forward toward the goal with his confidence intact in 2 Tim 4:18. There was no question of complacency in Paul’s mind at any given time, as he knew he had to persevere in faith by endurance and obedience till the end.
TESTS OF FAITH:
Thus, tests are of two kinds owing to the two different Sources that they come from:
I Tests as in trials and temptations are of the evil one: (James 1:13, James 1:12, Job 1:11-12, Matt 4:1-11, Mk 1:13, Lk 22:31 etc). They are of seven kinds. Please understand and learn of them in the next article titled, ‘Faith – Part Two’.
II God’s tests of obedience: We need to know that God tests us too. (Gen 22:1-2, James 1:17, James 1:18-20, Ex 16:4, 2 Cor 2:9, 1 Thess 2:4 etc.). At the outset, they may appear severe like Abraham’s test (Gen 22:1-2). But, like Abraham if we respond in complete obedience, our faith will reap its immediate harvest of righteousness. Read 2 Jn 9, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” God’s tests of obedience are classified into seven commandments of His righteousness. Therefore, seek His righteousness and learn of them in Faith Part Three – Vols 1 to 7.
It is human nature to blame God for all our troubles (Gen 3:12). Righteous man Job did not accuse God for the sudden rush of calamities in his life but even he believed they were from God. Read Job 2:10, “….Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” However the truth is found in James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows.” Believe in these words. Moreover, it is an undeniable fact that most of us are ignorant of Christ’s teachings – His commandments. And of that which we presume to know, they are mostly misinterpretations! Substantiate your belief, and let your faith not be found wanting in endurance and obedience.
Forewarned is forearmed! Therefore, please do not miss out on this wonderful opportunity God has opened for you to enlighten, empower and equip you through His servant who is committed to serve you at no cost and with absolutely no strings attached.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28).
May God bless you!
To be contd….Part II “Satan’s Tests of Trials and Temptations”