Wednesday, December 10, 2008

MEGA Faith pt. 2

The word translated “great” is “megas.” According to Jesus this woman had “mega” faith. Only twice in the Gospels does Jesus commend someone for having “great faith”; the centurion of Matthew 8 (also Luke 7) and this Syrophenician woman. Interestingly, both were Gentiles; men and women outside the covenant nation.

I think it is important for us to note that faith is not graded on a scale of 1 - 10. This woman had great faith because she had so little upon which to build her faith. She was a pagan who was raised to worship Astarte and other false Gods; not a Jew who was raised to worship the one true God. She didn’t have the scriptures. She knew very little about the God of the Bible. She was lived in an area that Jesus had not before visited. Her faith was great because of where she started, and what she believed Jesus could do.

The disciples on the other hand were repeatedly rebuked for having “little faith.” It was little based on all the advantages they enjoyed, all they marvelous works they had witnessed, and all the powerful words they had heard.

They had observed as Christ healed every imaginable disease, dysfunction, and deformity, yet while on board a boat that was tossed by a monstrous storm they woke Jesus up in a panic. “Don’t you care that we’re perishing?” Was their accusation masked question. “Why are you afraid? Oh you of little faith.” Was His reply, and He calmed the storm (Matthew 8:23-27).

When Peter began to sink, after walking on water, Jesus reached down and asked, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:22-32)

It never occurred to the Apostles that Jesus could feed the 5,000, and even after He did they asked Jesus, when surrounded by another vast, hungry multitude, “From whence can a man satisfy these [men] with bread here in the wilderness?” (Mark 8:4) Jesus once again demonstrated that He can satisfy man, both spiritually and physically.

Following that miracle Jesus warned His followers about the “leaven of the Pharisees, and…Herod.” But they thought it was a subtle rebuke for failing to have food on hand. He wasn’t rebuking them then, but He was when He said: “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?” “Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? (Mark 8:14-21; Matthew 16:8)

That a woman with a pagan background and little knowledge and exposure to Christ could be commended by the Lord for her great faith, while His own followers, who were raised on the Word, and who were daily in the presence of the living Word, would be repeatedly rebuked for their little faith should be a sobering warning to all those who have been raised in a Christian home and/or have been serving Christ for any length of time. Do not become glazed over in your walk with and service to the Lord. Constantly remind yourself of His past goodness and mercy, not so that you can live in the past, but so that you may know that He will deliver today, that He will never fail, that God’s mercies and compassions fail not, they are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness! Be a MEGA faith follower of Jesus Christ.

What does that kind of faith look like? Jesus’ brief conversation with this woman shows us at least three characteristics od MEGA faith. We'll look at the first one today and finish with the last two tomorrow.

Particularity

This woman’s faith was great because the object of her faith was great. She had faith in Jesus Christ the Lord. This was not faith in general but faith in a specific Man. He was (and is) real. His words and His works are real. This is not mythology. This is not fantasy. This is not wishful thinking. Faith in Christ is based on reason, on historical facts and evidence. It is not an unreasonable, blind, “you have to feel it in your gut but don’t need your mind” faith! The first sentence in Nathan Busenitz’ book Reasons We Believe is a succinct statement of this fact. He writes: “Faith, no matter how sincere, is only fantasy if it is based on bad information.”

One may be sincere in his faith, but it is ultimately worthless if it is founded on error.Faith is only sensible if it’s placed in the right object. Someone jumps out of a plane with no parachute and says “I believe!” That person is not very sensible, and you can be assured that he will soon be a blotch on the ground.

Belief and faith are popular topics in our culture. Just Google “I believe” and see how many different song lyrics you find. R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly: “There are miracles in life I must achieve But first I know it starts inside of me, oh If I can see it, then I can do it. If I just believe it, there's nothing to it. Hey, cuz I believe in me, oh, If I can see it, then I can be it. If I just believe it, there's nothing to it.” This song is great if it’s just about being self-confident, but we cannot do miracles and they definitely do not start inside of us. That’s misplaced faith.

The Platters used to sing: “I believe for every drop of rain that falls A flower grows, I believe that somewhere in the darkest night A candle glows, I believe that someone in the great somewhere Hears every word.” That’s like having faith in faith. It’s nonsensical. It’s flimsy and mystical.

This nonsensical, unsubstantiated, weak faith is nothing new. The Quaker and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “The steps of faith fall on the seeming void and find the rock beneath.” You had better be sure of the rock before you step into the void. Faith doesn’t step into the void to find the rock beneath. Foolishness does, but not faith. Faith says, “I believe the rock will hold me up” and steps believing. Wishful thinking is not faith; it’s grasping at straws.

Your faith is only as great as its object. Sincerity alone does not make your faith great. Sincere belief cannot compensate for a faith that is founded in error. On Mt. Carmel the prophets of Baal were sincere when they jumped on the altar and cut themselves while crying out to their god. Obviously, they were earnest in their beliefs, but their zealous faith was worthless because it was centered on a dumb deity, a mute, man-made idol. Faith is only as good as its object. A general faith won’t do. Faith in faith is nonsensical. For faith to be right it must be properly directed.

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