“When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’” Luke 7:9
This past Sunday my pastor preached an encouraging message on faith. The Lord pierced my heart with the words “O, you of little faith”. I didn’t even realize my faith was small. There are recurring doubts that slip in unnoticed that tell me “God is not able to provide for me like I see Him do for others. My situation is much too difficult. It’s impossible.” So I sulk and the sadness sets in. My lack of faith in His ability to answer my prayers sends me into a nose dive. But my faith (and yours) should be firmly anchored in the fact that He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20). Not just for others but for me (and you).
There is a big difference between denying the existence of unmet desires (and thereby trying to create some sort of contentment feeling, which is actually more like numbness) and trusting God with unmet desires. Often what results from bottling up those feelings is that we grow bitter. We forget the goodness of God. It’s so easy to begin to think that He is withholding good things, that He really doesn’t love us that much and He just doesn’t want to give us good things. But the Scriptures, which are more reliable than our feelings or thoughts, tell us that He is good. He gives good gifts (Jas 1:17) and He longs to see us full of life (Jn 10:10), peace (Jn 14:27) and joy (Jn 15:11). He rejoices over us with singing (Zeph. 3.17) and delights in us “as a Bridegroom rejoices over his Bride” (Isa. 62.5).
When the Lord convicted me on Sunday about my doubts and discouragement, I repented by asking for His forgiveness and then I crawled up in the lap of my Abba-Father (Ps 103:13; Rom 8:15), ready to be reconciled to the One who saved me and gave me new life. I had to remind myself Who I was praying to and worshiping. I had to fill my burdened heart with the balm of His Word and approach the Throne of Grace again. Now I’m ready to pester Him for what I want like a child who wants a new puppy…until I get discouraged again and have to re-learn this very same lesson…I’m very hard-headed but He is so very patient with me.
Too often I hear myself and my dear friends say “Well, the Lord hasn’t promised that He will give me _______ (fill in the blank)…” Yet what is frequently hidden just beneath the surface of that statement is despair and broken-heartedness. I (we) use it as an excuse not to pray. I give up. So instead I ball up all my desires into a writhing knot that screams in protest in the back of my mind and I try to ignore it… unsuccessfully, as you can imagine. But here is what I realized on Sunday. The people that came to Jesus for healing or cleansing or help of some kind didn’t have a specific promise that He would help them with their particular issue but that didn’t stop them from asking. One leper humbly said “‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” (Luke 5:12a-13) The leper believed that Jesus could heal him if He was willing. His prayer was based on Christ’s ability so he humbly asked if He would. While we don’t have a specific promise that He will give us what we want, we know His character from the promises that He has made and that includes His goodness, love, and ability.
But is He willing to answer our prayers? Is an earthly father willing to give his children whatever they want if it will not be harmful to them? Does that father enjoy seeing the joy of his children as they open their gifts? “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11) We can come to Jesus with our requests knowing that He is able and willing to do us good but we have to trust His timing and His all-knowing wisdom in the requests that we bring to Him. But the point is to ask! Have we stopped asking because we don’t believe he is able or willing? Where is the kind of faith that caused Jesus to marvel? I hope it’s growing in me and you. O Lord, we believe, help our unbelief!
The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
14 The LORD upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.