Maybe you were the child that all your parents had to do was look at you sternly and you stopped misbehaving. Or maybe it took much more effort from your parents before it finally sunk in that what you were doing was wrong. Parents correct their children out of the love they have for them, not because they want to be mean, but because they want only the best for them. Our Heavenly Father does the same for us. Deuteronomy 8:5 says, “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” When we can view difficulties in our life as loving correction from God rather than just punishment…our entire spiritual perspective and faith will be impacted and increased.
We are all sinners. We are all caught up like fish in the net called evil. There is not one among us that is righteous…for we are all bound over to disobedience. But we have a Savior…His name is Jesus, who came to save us from our sinful life and give us hope. For when we put our trust in Jesus and the Good News of the Gospel…that promise spoken about in this Scripture is made alive in us…the wonderful promise of eternal life in heaven through His Son, Jesus.
How do we go about increasing our faith? First, it’s about believing and accepting the Gospel Message…that Jesus came to save and redeem us from eternal punishment by His life, death and resurrection. Secondly, our faith is built up every time we trust and obey God and then see Him working in our life. Thus, over time, our faith increases, like layers of bricks being built up to form a strong wall. Finally, with that increasing faith comes a confidence that there’s nothing impossible for God.
Throughout the Book of James we see him arguing the difference between faith and active faith. Just believing in God, he says, isn’t enough…for even the demons believe in God. (James 2:19) What the Lord demands from us is to demonstrate our inward trust in Him by outward actions. In other words, to not only hear His Word, but put it into practice. For faith without works is considered dead and accomplishes nothing for the Kingdom of God.
This story about the boy and the evil spirit was important enough to be in three of the four New Testament accounts by the disciples. Matthew, Mark and Luke all give slightly different takes on this event, but the main thought rang true throughout all three…the disciples couldn’t heal the boy on their own. But instead of admitting defeat, giving up, or walking away, they came to Jesus searching for answers. In Matthew 21:21 Jesus replied to their inquiry by telling them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt…” Doubt is being double-minded or having a divided mind. So when we doubt, we sway back and forth between faith and fear…never achieving full confidence and trust in what God can do. But just like the disciples, if we will go to Jesus admitting our shortcomings, He will speak truth in order to dispel our doubt. And if, like the boy’s father we ask Jesus to, ” Help me overcome my unbelief!” He will show us the way.
Even when we’re not thinking about Him, God is still thinking about us. He is continually adding to and filling us with His loving kindness and mercy…even times when we don’t really deserve it. And God’s steadfastness towards us often puts to shame the poor example of trust we have of Him. For regardless of how often we’re mindful of Him…God is always thinking about us.
Earlier in Genesis, God had promised Abraham and Sarah a child. ” I will make you into a great nation.” (Genesis 12:2) But like most of us…they allowed fear and doubt to overshadow their hope and expectations. For in this verse, God led Abraham out into the cloudless night sky to observe the stars, (they estimate there are 1 Billion Trillion stars in our universe), and then reassured him that his offspring would be as numerous. God does this for us also. He can cause a Bible verse to suddenly become alive and take on new meaning…banishing doubt and bolstering our faith in Him. He can strip away fear and strengthen our trust by bringing into remembrance all the things He’s done for us in the past. And just like Abraham, we too can look up into that starry sky and see God’s wonder, power, and majesty…and be assured of His love and faithfulness for us.
It tells us in Genesis 5:22-24 that Enoch lived for 365 years…faithfully walking with God…and then he was no more, because God took him away. The word used here is “translated”, or conveyed to heaven without tasting death. The only other person to experience this was the Old Testament prophet Elijah. But unlike Enoch, Elijah’s departure was witnessed as he was carried off by a whirlwind. (II Kings 2:11) What these two men did have in common though was their unshakable faith in desperate times, godliness in the face of persecution, and the boldness to speak the truth no matter what.
This verse implies… it’s not about us…and it’s not at all about our “righteous acts”. That’s because God’s infinite mercy and kindness towards us isn’t based on our works. It’s actually quite the opposite…for in Isaiah 64:6 it says, “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags to God.” And if you think about it, we can’t even take any credit for the relationship we have with God…for without the Cross spanning that chasm between God and man, we’d be lost. No, all honor needs to go to God, the Creator and source of everything. All glory needs to be ascribed to Him… for He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. (Exodus 34:6)
Our Heavenly Father is both benevolent and altruistic when it comes to blessing us. But we usually take that graciousness and turn it into prideful thinking. “Look what gifts the Lord has given me!” I Peter 4: 10-11 reminds us that we are to use those gifts to serve others, not flaunt them in front of people as trophies. The Apostle Paul warns us here that’s it’s all about our state of mind when regarding our giftings… it’s all about gratitude, not attitude and humility, not vanity.