Jesus said that with God all things are possible, but how do we know that’s true? The only way is to exercise faith and give God a chance to show us just what he can do. This doesn’t mean dressing up in spiritual lycra in flourescent colours and pounding away on the running machine or working up a sweat on the cross trainer. It doesn’t even mean that you have to wait until your puny faith gets a bit stronger. It simply means using what faith you have – a mustard seed size will do – and believing that what we as humans may consider impossible, is perfectly possible with God.
The readings at the 2pm SLT service on Tuesday were Judges 6:11-24, Psalm 85:8-end, Matthew 19:23-end. The reflection follows:
In the last couple of weeks there has been work going on at our house to refurbish the utility room and a small shower room next to it. The existing cupboards were being ripped out as one of the first jobs so it was necessary to empty everything out. It’s quite amazing what you find when you do a job like that! We had a couple of small drawers and they were stuffed full of lots of little items that somehow never found a proper home.
Among those items were packets of seeds of various kinds. There were seeds for flowers and herbs and vegetables all unopened, well except the one that had fallen down the back of the cupboard and had been opened by a mouse nibbling it! Of course, we have not yet benefitted from the produce which those seeds could give us, and the reason we haven’t is that we haven’t planted the seeds. The potential is still there in the seeds, but unless they are planted that potential is not going to be realised. There will be no pretty flowers, flavoursome herbs or healthy vegetables to enjoy.
Jesus paints a rather amusing picture of a camel attempting to get through the eye of a needle. It certainly makes impossibility very easy to visualise. This feat is not just difficult or time-consuming, it simply cannot be achieved. Humanly such a thing could not be done, but with God everything is possible Jesus assures us.
If we continue with the seeds theme, it’s as though Jesus is handing the disciples (and us) a seed packet marked ‘For God all things are possible’. In the same way that I cannot prove a packet of seeds in my utility room drawer will give me carrots until I plant the seeds, we also cannot prove that all things are possible for God unless we give that ‘seed’ a chance to grow. The way we plant this seed is to exercise faith.
Some people seem to have a great deal of faith. They trust God to bring things out right and weather storms in a calm way because of their great faith. They are rather like the child who shouts ‘Catch me Daddy!’ and launches herself from the top of a wall towards her unsuspecting father, never doubting that he truly will catch her and she will be safe. Those of us who have less faith might look on enviously and think, ‘Well it’s all right for them. I wish I had as much faith.’ That’s a bit like standing in the local gym in your brand new fitness outfit and looking at the trim and muscled people who are there. You might say to yourself, ‘I wish I was like them, toned and muscular.’ Standing looking won’t change you, but getting on the machines, even at the lowest settings, will move you a little way towards being like those you stood and admired.
When we look at a person with great faith, we actually don’t know if they were always like that. We can’t know what they have done to get to where they are when we observe them. It’s the same with the toned people at the gym. Were they weaklings when they started or grossly overweight? One thing we can be sure of is that faith will get stronger if it’s used, just as muscles do.
Jesus doesn’t ask us to have our faith fully grown from the beginning. He said that if we had faith as big as a mustard seed, not an avocado stone, we would move mountains. When we think of the parable of the talents, the man given the smallest amount was not condemned for being given such a small amount, but for not using what he had been given. As we exercise our faith we will see results and that will build our faith up.
God is generous and often gives us more than we ask for, in my experience. I remember when our middle son was two years old, he fell against a table and cut his tongue. It was bleeding profusely. We washed away the blood as best we could and could see a flap of tongue hanging on. As you can imagine, my husband and I drove to the hospital as fast as we could. I had James sitting on my knee. As we drove I prayed for him. I guess my faith was pretty small. I asked God to help James be co-operative with the medical staff so that he could get the help he needed. As we drove along, I could hear his voice getting more and more muffled as his tongue swelled. When we got to Accident and Emergency we were seen pretty quickly by a nurse. James was really good and opened his mouth when asked – an answer to prayer. But there was more to come – the nurse could see no injury at all and nor could the doctor who checked also. I had asked for a little and God gave me more than I could imagine. Since that time I have not doubted that God can heal in answer to prayer. My faith really grew that day.
Not only does God not mind our having a very tiny amount of faith, I don’t think he minds if we come to him as the last chance. Think of the lady who had spent all she had on doctors before touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak and being healed. As Jairus was rich I imagine that he had had the best help money could buy for his daughter but in the end he came to Jesus when he knew she would die otherwise. The centurion would have been able to access help also but came to Jesus for his servant to be healed. Probably the friends of the paralysed man thought they had nothing to lose by lowering him in front of Jesus. We have no idea what the man himself thought. Sometimes we need friends to exercise faith for us. Of course, no matter how late people left it or how unsure they may have been that Jesus would help them, just in coming to him they were exercising faith and Jesus responded.
Jesus is happy with us being honest with him about our level of faith. Think of the man whose son was possessed by an evil spirit. The disciples had not succeeded in healing the boy. That must have been quite a knock to the father’s faith. When Jesus came down the mountain from the transfiguration, the man was still prepared to try again. He openly admitted to Jesus that he was struggling to believe. In the old translation he said, ‘Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.’ In a more modern rendering it is: ‘Lord, I believe. Help me where faith falls short.’ Even with that struggle going on in the man, he received what he longed for, a healed son.
Some people argue against what God promises rather than having faith. Gideon was told he was a mighty warrior but all he could see was that he was the least in a family that was in the least clan of Manasseh. That didn’t stop God acting through Gideon. Moses told God that he couldn’t speak so there was no way he could go to Pharaoh and tell him to let God’s people go. God acted anyway and made it happen.
No matter how big the problem and how small your faith, try to use what faith you have. As the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews said: ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God.’
Helene Milena – Lay Pastor