Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Reflections on Faith

Good morning!

Forgive the wandering nature of this post. It's rather a stream of consciousness, but hopefully you find something beneficial in it.

I am currently reading through the Gospel of Luke, and today I came across the story of Jesus healing the blind beggar:

"As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.  And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, 'Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.'  And he cried out, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'  And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 'What do you want me to do for you?' He said, 'Lord, let me recover my sight.' And Jesus said to him, 'Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.' And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God."

Luke 18:36-43

I have read this story, or had it read to me, several times in the past, but for some reason today I find myself particularly intrigued by the blind man. 

Who is this man? 

He asks Jesus to let him recover his sight, implying that he has not always been blind. At one point he had his sight. I wonder how he lost it? Illness? Injury? Age? Is he old, middle aged, or young? The Bible doesn't say in this particular story.  Why is he begging? Does he not have a family to take care of him? Is this how he provides for his family?

He has obviously heard of Jesus before. He has heard enough to know he has the power to heal, and as soon as he knows who it is he calls out to him. 

He is not going to be discouraged either. The crowd tells him to be quiet, but he persists, not content to merely accept his lot when he is so close to his salvation. What makes him cry out, I wonder? What makes him desperate to see? What makes him believe that he can be healed and that Jesus is the healer? Does he know someone who has been healed?

Yet he does. He knows Jesus is the answer and he believes Jesus will heal him. 

Jesus honors that faith and his sight is restored.

But then, rather than go on his merry way, he follows Jesus. He glorifies God. He is now a living testimony to God's power. Other people see him and praise God.

What must it have been like for him? To lose his sight, live in darkness, and then, beyond all possibility, receive his sight back? How did that affect him for the rest of his life? Did he see other things more clearly because he was able to look closely? 

I am in awe of his faith.  Many probably would consider his situation to be his lot in life. "Well, it's really sad that he lost his sight, but there's nothing to be done but to accept it and move on." 

How often do I resign myself to less-than-ideal circumstances and deny God's power to bring about change?

On the other hand, we are also given the example of Paul who was content in all circumstances:

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

Philippians 4:11-13

So how is that different?

The common thread in Paul's contentment and the blind beggar's lack of contentment in this particular situation, is that they both trust in God's power to bring them through their trial. The blind man believes in God's power to deliver him from his situation, and Paul believes in God's power to sustain him while he lives with his situation. Both require faith in something beyond what we can see and touch and feel. Beyond what we "know" to be true. Beyond what the world tells us is realistic. Both require that we ignore those voices and trust that He knows better.

It is a simple answer, but not so simple in practice.

Many times I may begin a journey praying in faith that God will act. Then when He doesn't, or rather, when I do not see the evidence of His actions, I give up and decide that God wants me in this situation.

Other times I look at a situation, determine immediately that it is hopeless, and, rather than ask for God's power to work in the situation, I give up and claim to be content.

Sometimes, I don't ask because I don't want to be told "no".

In all of those scenarios I deny God's power and His goodness. 

I deny that He is working for my good in a less than ideal situation.

I deny that He is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine.

I deny that He wants good things for me.
Here's the thing about being content in any and every situation. It comes from knowing that good things are coming and the story doesn't end in this yucky spot. Maybe not for a while. Maybe in this life. But they are coming, and the story has a happy ending. And yes, that requires faith to see beyond our present circumstances. 

"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God."
Hebrews 11:8-10

Having faith means that we acknowledge our own blindness and we reach out to the One who can see perfectly.

"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland."
Hebrews 11:13-14

Faith means seeing beyond what is in front of us and knowing we will take part in it one day.

"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.' He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back."
Hebrews: 11:17-19

Faith means believing that even if the worst happens, God's promise holds true.

"But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
Romans 8:25

The same faith that enables us to cry out to the Savior who can heal us also enables us to be content when He says, "wait". They are not two different kinds of faith, and we do not serve two different gods. We serve One God who sees far more clearly than we will ever see, and wants to bless us beyond our imagination.

Jesus said to the blind man, "Your faith has made you well."

May we have the faith that allows us to rely on God's power to act in impossible situations, and to wait for the eyes to see it clearly. May we follow Jesus and glorify God acting as living testimonies to His power, whether we have been delivered from a physical darkness or a spiritual one.