Have Faith In God

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Christ is born!

“Just have faith!” OK, I confess this gets on my nerves. What people don’t realize is that, when someone is struggling, the last thing they want to hear is some trite religious phrase that seems to reduce their very real and painful situation to some magic formula for relief! It’s not the way to help, dear one. Stop doing it.

We humans have always prefered magic over the hard work of faithfulness. There is simply no other explanation for the growth of the so-called “prosperity Gospel” or the seemingly never ending “power of positive thinking” sophistry so prevalent in American Christianity today. I mean there’s a best seller out there’s now from a minister that actually tries to co opt the timeless revelation of God as “I Am” as having to do with us! That ain’t what “I Am” means, honey!

Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Mark 11:22-26:

The Lord said, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you are receiving it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

So what does the Lord mean by “have faith in God” here? It sure seems like He is calling us to some pretty amazing and flashy results of our faith. I mean casting a mountain into the sea seems to be a pretty spectacular image for having faith! And He goes on to say that whatever I ask I can have if I believe! So, perhaps those “name it and claim it” boys and girls are on to something.

No, Jesus isn’t reducing the Faith, the Christian life, or the struggle of holiness to merely “name it and claim it” childishness. After all, for some of these folks it seems they’d be happy to die and go to Fort Knox rather than heaven, to listen to them reduce the Faith to nothing more than temporary comforts here and now! The problem these dear delusional and disconnected preachers don’t tie together what the Church insists must be tied together here! The Lord goes on to talk about the very internal and deeply difficult spiritual struggle of forgiveness and relationships!

The Lord ties having great faith with spiritual maturity, loving forgiveness, and the terrifying message that if I don’t forgive others, God will not forgive me! Sounds a great deal more serious and more mature than merely making sure you feel good about yourself. Yes, when the Lord says “have faith in God” He means that this faith, this devotion, this focus on God is meant to transfigure yourself into someone who is “LIKE” God. This means it isn’t impossible to forgive others. This means it isn’t impossible to let go of the hurts of your past that keep having your life circle back to that place of pain over and over again! You can cast that mountain of regret into the sea of God’s forgetfulness. You can grow up beyond the shallow moments that always seems to have you immaturely focusing on what you don’t have rather than what you are called to be! And it all begins with having faith in God, a relationship of loving God more than yourself and insisting that your life be measured, not by your possessions but by the Life of Jesus Christ! That’s true riches, not the “fool’s gold” of stuff that can rust or wear out or be stolen!

Today, do you have faith in God? Let’s make 2016 the year you abandon the childish language of faith as a magic formula to be comfortable, and adopt the mature understanding that God wants you to be “like” Him! Taking up the wise spiritual tools of our Orthodox Way of Life, let’s be Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. As we finish up 2015 and get ready for 2016, I want to thank all of you who’ve taken our 1st Annual Ministry Survey! And remind the rest of you, it isn’t too late to help us plan for 2016 ministry goals! Just click this link and take the 3 to 4 minutes the survey asks for and give us your feedback. After all, there’s no ministry without you! Thank you and Happy New Year!

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9 comments:

  1. Dear Father,

    Thank you so much for this message. This is a real struggle in my life.

    My question is this: how is the forgiveness, worked out in the privacy of your prayers, thoughts and feelings, manisfested in your life?eg if someone has hurt you and your loved ones badly and over a long period, and you ‘forgive’ him, what next? Is the relationship which died ‘resurrected’? Does one try to pretend the hurts never happened? How does that forgiveness work out in a practical sense.

    If this sounds confused…it is because it is, as I am.

    1. Dear Maria,

      Forgiveness isn’t about the one who harmed you; it’s about you. The ability to forgive doesn’t mean I suddenly forget to be wise and to pay attention to the real dangers of someone who has hurt me. No, forgiveness means that I no longer allow that hurt to shape every aspect of my life.

      But I am to be like Christ taught: wise as a serpent, but harmless as a dove.

      So, I don’t seek revenge, but I do guard my heart against this person’s ability to harm me again. I don’t pretend everything is OK, but I also don’t allow those past moments to be so huge in my sight that I can’t see anything else. I let go of the past, but I also maintain a wise and passionless vigilance against any other dangers.

      The key Maria is to leave judgement to God and trust that He loves even my enemies more than I love my own life. Leave the consequences of past harms to the Lord and don’t allow these wounds to fester forever. They only keep you a slave to a moment already past.

      God bless and keep you, dear lady and give you and your family a blessed New Year.

  2. I want to thank you, Father Barnabas, for the daily devotional you provide to us. The devotionals help us build our relationship with our Lord and so much more. I look forward to what you have in store for us here at Faith Encouraged for 2016. God Bless you and your family.

  3. Father, the response that you wrote to Maria is such an intricate part of this post. It “puts meat on the bones” of the message. Thank you, it is all such a blessing. A blessed New Year to you and yours.

  4. Thank you for giving your view point on the topic having faith in God. Indeed many times in my past I (like many) simply wanted things to just change magically without faith. Like a major change in our atmosphere, our lifestyle, our everything without any effort on our part, however we know that we can’t please God without faith and I believe it’s child-like faith that God is really looking from us. As we know children for the most part just believe what their parents say in the beginning, regardless of what that say until there are repeated events, promises etc. that were broken which hurts the trust of that relationship. I believe God wants us to believe in him with all of our being and by doing so we can please him because faith is the only way to please God. Since God is perfect and can not lie, sin ever and never ever will, this solely has us to trust God no matter what. However we must ask God to help us heal from our past let downs, broken promises and such so we can trust like a child again. I support your blog on this topic. I hope you continue to write more. God bless you in Jesus name.

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