Monday, April 25, 2016

New Endings

"The worst sentence is this:

'It’s too late to work on my goals this year.'

January is for resolutions and goals. It’s when we buy calendars and running sneakers and kale. That’s the only time you can really focus on changing your life.

By April, you’ve missed your chance. Too much of the year is already gone. The moment of inspiration has passed.

That’s garbage."

The above is a quote from Jon Acuff, in one of his latest posts, "Don't Say This Sentence This Month".  Then, there's also our graphic illustration from the Gospel Coalition.

At this point, you might be wondering where we're going with this.  And you might be more incredulous if I added that this is actually a continuation from Pam Enderby's wonderful guest post, on Saturday.

There was a graphic I shared on Google+, that said "You are your only limit.".  Yes, our faith is a gift from God, through His grace.  But He also allows us free will.  We are free to think however we choose.  That includes how much we believe, how strongly we believe, what we believe.  Is it any wonder that Jesus says to Peter, in Luke 22:32a, "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not:"?

We get an interesting picture when we look at what Jesus said about "thy faith" and "your faith". Maybe even more because of the rule of Biblical interpretation when something is mentioned more than once -- it's understood to have greater importance.  And Jesus is very clear about our faith and it's importance.

The very first time Jesus talks about "thy faith" in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, He says "thy sins are forgiven".  That's Matthew 9:2, Mark 2:5, and Luke 5:20.  In Luke 7:50 and Luke 18:42, we see Jesus say "thy faith hath saved thee".  

In Matthew 9:20-33, we see a healing, a resurrection of a young girl, and two more healings. Indeed, we see, in Matthew 9:22, the first mention of "thy faith hath made thee whole.", repeated in Mark 5:34, 10:52, and Luke 8:48, 17:19.  And that's where it gets interesting.  All of those are physical healing, but not just physical healing.  More often than not, healing came through a faith in God that also brought salvation, forgiveness of sins.  "Whole" wasn't just physical well being.

As we read the Gospels, we learn some interesting things about our own faith:
  1. Matthew 9:29b  "According to your faith be it unto you." - Faith drives our experience.  It ushers in the miracles in our life. Matthew 17:20b  "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." 
  2. Matthew 17:20a  "And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief". - A lack of faith can hinder miracles.  Whether it's healing, avoiding danger, or salvation, the good things are less likely to come without faith.
  3. Matthew 15:22-28 is the story of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus seeking healing for her daughter.  Jesus tested her faith by saying He only came for the Jews, suggesting anyone else were as dogs.  Her response brought us to Matthew 15:28, "Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." - Faith is not based on who we are, but on who we have faith in.
  4. Luke 22:32b  "and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." - Faith brings about a change in us, which is why salvation is possible.
  5. Luke 22:32b  "and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." - While faith changes us, it's also a beacon for others.  Whether we talk about our faith or others see how it effects us, it makes a difference in other lives, as well.
  6. Luke 22:32a  "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not:". - We come back to our quote from Jon Acuff.  Or there's a meme going around that I've actually reshared, more than once.  It reminds us that we can't change the past, but we can start fresh whenever we choose to and, from that point, create a new ending to our story.  That's applicable, at some level, to all of us.  And it highlights a real truth.  Failure can begin or end at any time, which means there's no set starting or ending times for faith.  If we lacked faith two seconds ago, we can still have it now!  There's reality to Ecclesiastes 7:8  "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit."
I can't speak for anyone else, but seeing what Jesus Himself says about faith, I'm excited about the possibilities, as my faith grows.  Are you ready for new endings, too?

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