How do we measure faith?
Jesus compares faith to a mustard seed (Luke 17:6), urging the disciples to see that this gift of faith comes with power to turn nature against itself -- as is evidenced by its work in the hearts of true believers who go from death to life, and darkness to light.
But how do I measure that faith in my life? What of the wide variations of faith deposits in the lives of other believers? Is it always disregard or neglect that keeps a disciple crushed under doubt and little faith?
J.C. Ryle and John Bunyan bring us thoughts on doubt and weak faith, which underscore the mercy of a gracious Savior who elects without regard for effort or merit or accomplishment.
First, from Ryle's commentary on the Gospel of John:
"Then He said to Thomas: Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side." John 20:27
We see here, how kind and merciful Christ is to dull and slow believers. Nowhere, perhaps, in all the four Gospels, do we find this part of our Lord's character so beautifully illustrated, as in the story before our eyes. It is hard to imagine anything more tiresome and provoking than the conduct of Thomas, when even the testimony of ten faithful brethren had no effect on him, and he doggedly declared, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side--I will not believe."
But it is impossible to imagine anything more patient and compassionate, than our Lord's treatment of this weak disciple. He does not reject him, or dismiss him, or excommunicate him. He comes again at the end of a week, and apparently for the special benefit of Thomas. He deals with him according to his weakness, like a gentle mother dealing with a froward child, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side." If nothing but the grossest, coarsest, most material evidence could satisfy Thomas--even that evidence was supplied. Surely this was a love which surpasses knowledge, and a patience which surpasses understanding.
A passage of Scripture like this, we need not doubt, was written for the special comfort of all true believers. The Holy Spirit knew well that the dull, and the slow, and the stupid, and the doubting, are by far the commonest type of disciples in this evil world. The Holy Spirit has taken care to supply abundant evidence that Jesus is rich in patience as well as compassion, and that He bears with the infirmities of all His people. Let us take care that we drink into our Lord's spirit, and copy His example. Let us never set down men as godless--because their faith is feeble, and their love is cold. Let us remember the case ofThomas, and be very compassionate and of tender mercy.
Our Lord has . . .
many weak children in His family,
many dull pupils in His school,
many raw soldiers in His army,
many lame sheep in His flock.
Yet He bears with them all, and casts none away!
Happy is that Christian who has learned to deal likewise with his brethren. There are many in the Church, who, like Thomas, are dull and slow--but for all that, like Thomas, are real and true believers. (via Grace Gems)
This beautiful and encouraging account of the Lord's kindness and patience with Thomas reminds me of the story of Little Faith that Christian tells to Hopeful along the journey to the Celestial City as recounted in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress.
Little Faith was set upon by robbers named Guilt, Mistrust and Faint-Heart, who stole from him and knocked him senseless while he was on his pilgrimmage. Though they took his spending money, he still had the treasure of his certificate, which would deliver him safely into the kingdom. And yet, it didn't seem to comfort him much because he did not take advantage of the promises and comfort it afforded, but neglected it, wallowing in worry and begging for help from other pilgrims. In fact, it was the disregard of the value of his identity in Christ that had made him such a target for the robbers. Thankfully, as Christian tells it, it was not of his own cunning that he was able to retain hold of his certificate, but "it was more by good providence." The Lord spared him even in his condition of faithlessness and neglect.
"But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:12-14)
Christian tells Hopeful, "All the King's subjects are not His champions, nor when tried can they do such feats of war as he. Is it right to think that a little child should handle Goliath as David did, or that there should be the strength of an ox in a bird? Some are strong; some are weak. Some have great faith; some have little. This man was one of the weak, and therefore, he was pressed to the walls."
How often I am hard pressed to the walls, and struggle in my faith, and yet how often I forget and dismiss or belittle those whose faith seems weak. It makes me wonder if I am truly aware of whence my strength comes if I am so quick to consider mine even one ounce greater than another's. Christian continues with instruction about dealing with the hazards along the way to the Celestial City:
1. "To go out equipped, and to be sure to take a shield with us: for it was due to the lack of one that, that he who approached Leviathan so boldly could not make him yield (Job 41:1; Isaiah 27:1). For, indeed, if that is lacking, he doesn't fear us at all. Therefore, he who had skill said, 'In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinquish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.' (Ephesians 6:16)"
2. "It's also good that we desire of the King that he give us an escort. Yes, that he go with us himself. This made David rejoice when he was in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. And Moses would have rather died where he stood than to go one step without his God. (Exodus 33:15) Oh, my brother, if he will just go along with us, why should we be afraid of ten thousands that shall set themselves against us? (Psalms 3:5-8; 27:1-3). But without him, the proud helpers fall among the slain. (Isaiah 10:4)"
"For my part," said Christian, "I have been in the fray before now. And yet, as you see, I'm alive through the goodness of him who is best. . . . "
Then sang Christian,
“Poor Little-Faith! hast been among the thieves?
Wast robb’d? Remember this, whoso believes,
And gets more faith; shall then a victor be
Over ten thousand-else scarce over three.”
This venue of inspirational blogging, with the attending temptations for know-it-allness and passive-aggressive swipes at those I deem are failures at representatives of Christianity, has been growing sour for me. I pray it is so because of the escort of the Lord, that His Spirit is breaking down my fear of being found wanting -- in my flesh, I am wanting and that should make me very afraid -- but reminding me that it is His gift of faith, His strength and worthiness, that brooks the divide and gains me entrance into the Celestial City, not mine.
Too easily I lord it over Little Faiths as Hopeful did at one point in this exchange ("Why didn't Little-Faith respond with a greater heart?") and neglect the fact that for God's reasons, as Christian says, He chooses to gift some with great faith, and some with little. It is not mine to compare. It is mine to accept that the strength or weakness of another's faith is not my business, that I am not the Holy Spirit for anyone else.
It is also mine to muster for the attacks with the same, equally effective armaments given to all -- the sword and the presence of the Lord. And so I am praying about a blog space that will encourage sincerely, exposit faithfully and support empathetically.
Laura Miller aka mrsdkmiller
Looking for a list of articles published around the web?
Looking for posts written in response to 5-Minute Friday prompts? Click here:
Her March Isn't Over
Across the River
When God Pries My Fingers Off My Children
Life's Defining Moments
To the Christian Wife Who Berated Her Husband in Front of My Daughter
Zeal and Grace in France
An Unconventional Love Story
Seeing What's in Front of Our Eyes
Remembering Why I Called You Hannah
Love Your Sister.
Because He Came Home
Go Valiantly! A Prayer for New Homeschooling Moms
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