Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and I will take you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; so how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
John 14:1-6 AMP
Thomas’ question to Jesus comes after a long farewell speech. Jesus wanted the disciples to remember everything that had happened over His three years of ministry, but He doesn’t have time to repeat everything that was said. So, Jesus simply said: Keep my commandments and love others.
Jesus was asking the disciples a question: Can they love enough to embrace and to sacrifice or will they hide in the upper room in search of anonymity and obscurity? Jesus didn’t want them to just swap stories and hide from public view after He died. He wanted them to witness and preach to communities so they might come to know Jesus Christ.
Jesus let them know that they were transitioning, but this transition was necessary. He would see them on the other side of the resurrection, and they knew the way there.
When Jesus tells them that He is the way, He is telling them that not only is He a person, but He is also a process. How He lived His life and how He lived it matters. Not only is Jesus the way to life, He is also the process by which it should be lived.
We need a relationship with Jesus, but part of that relationship is learning to live by the process by which He lived. He is the way that we are to walk. He is the divine pattern by which we arrive at life’s purpose. Often, we spend our days searching for our life’s purpose, but Christ says it plainly: He is our life’s purpose.
And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.
Luke 21:13-19 NIV
How long does God think that we can function under unrelenting attack, unbelievable pressure, and unalterable conditions? What do we do when we just want to quit?
These have to be the questions that early Christians are asking themselves as Luke begins to write his Gospel—twenty years after Jesus’ ascension. Thousands of Christians are being persecuted under Nero’s bloodthirsty, Roman dominance. These Christians were, as Paul says, weary in their attempt to do well. At the same time, these Christians are trying to remain faithful to their belief that walking with Jesus is where the deepest meaning of all life resides.
Luke’s announcement to them, and us, is: When we wander or struggle, we must stand on our faith conviction that God always rewards His children with a promise. God promises that He will either gift us with spiritual survival or physical survival.
However, it can be hard for us to manage that in between state. God promises us survival, but the journey to the end can be filled with anxiety as we wait for a better day to come. When we are fatigued and frustrated, God expresses that His expectation is to give us the gift of survival. Against everything that happens to us, God will bless us to survive it.
God’s gift to us, though, requires an offering from us. God wants us to offer endurance to Him. We can shout about the fact that we’re going to survive, but we may not like to endure. We are not as dependable in offering God our endurance as He is to offer us the gift of survival.
As we sit in the middle of everything that we are going through, God asks us to be steadfast in our faith. We will win life if we stand firm.
When we are fixed in position and firm in our faith, we build up our hope in God. This is one of the hardest disciplines to develop. When we are able to look at our reality that makes us shiver down to the bone but continue to smile, we have truly mastered standing firm in our faith. We can smile because every detail of our body and soul, even down to the hairs on our heads, are in God’s care.
The apostles said to the LORD, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you. "Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Won't he rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"
Luke 17:5-10 NIV
The disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Increase our faith!” Jesus’ response to them is refreshing, striking, and remarkable. He tells them that they don’t need more faith—there’s no such thing as more or less faith. Any presence of faith is enough faith.
This may be a stark contrast to what we have been taught over the years, but Christ’s message here is clear. The evidence of faith is enough to make incredible shifts in a person’s life. Any faith at all can create wonders for the one who possesses it.
Jesus says that our faith can be as small as a mustard seed, the smallest known seed to the Israelites. But that seed has the power to grow into one of the strongest trees, with deep, strong root structures that would allow it to weather any storm.
Jesus’ point is clear: We have enough faith living in us to do the impossible. The intimidation that we feel, the weight of our responsibilities, the depth of our hurts, or the negativity in our lives could be because of our lack of confidence in our current-sized faith. Whatever we’re afraid to go after or whatever we’re afraid to let go of is only restricted by one decision: to trust in our current faith.
The confidence that we have in God, at whatever stage of our walk with the Lord, is enough to heal and change our lives. We don’t have to stay in places of pain or fear. We can choose to take our small faith and decide that today is the day that we will no longer walk in darkness. God can take our small faith and make it into the solutions that we need in our lives.
We have enough faith in us to get through the circumstances in our lives. We don’t need to wait for more confidence in Jesus or more faith in God. We need to make the decision to go forward with whatever measure of faith that we have right now.
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites this: 'You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. "'Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.
Exodus 20:22-25 NIV
What God wants for us can make us uneasy. These are the jagged edges of God’s will. These jagged edges make us consider other sides of humanity. They call for sacrifices in our lives. They call for changes in our expectations and understanding. God will put us in front of challenges, and it will almost seem as if He has stepped back and said, “Fight with everything you have. Only after you come up short will I step in.”
These jagged edges of God’s will exist to show us that if we walk by faith, not by sight, that God will always bless us. But to do this we must make sacrifices. We must be uncomfortable. We must look at life from angles that we wouldn’t ordinarily. When our wants don’t match God’s will, our obedience must trump our desires.
We haven’t grown spiritually mature until we can take our sharpened tools, stand in front of God’s uncut altar, and realize that our tools aren’t enough. We must look to God and say, I can’t do this on my own. I need you to do it for me.
Each of us knows what it is like when we have tried to go our own way and do our own thing. Even when we fail, we can be glad that God’s grace has given us another chance to come back to His altar.
Modern religion is trying to shape a spirituality that works God. We can’t put that much faith in our tools. Our maturity and growth and wisdom can prove the strength and durability of our tools, but our tools are never strong enough to work God into doing what we want, simply by our determination or force of will. We cannot lift our tools to shape the stone of God’s will.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will.” It takes courage to worship at the altar of a God that we can’t work. Sometimes we may have to walk away from what we want the most or walk towards what we want the least.
Don’t try to shape God because of how uncomfortable His jagged edges can make us feel. We shouldn’t try to use our determination or our intelligence to try to stop the bleeding because He knows that revelation and transformation come through the blood.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need.
Colossians 1:11 NLT
Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians as an answer to their questions about Christ’s divinity. And his answer was that he was going to pray. Paul’s response was not a weak one. It was the best response to the threats and challenges that the church in Colossae was facing.
Often, when people around us say that they will pray for us, they mean that they will think about us for a few minutes and then go on with their lives. This well-wishing style of prayer has soured our attitudes towards prayer. Even in the case of the Colossian Church, we may think that Paul could have done a lot more.
But Paul understood the power of prayer. He believed that prayer was the only response to the circumstances before him, and prayer is still strong enough to respond to the circumstances that life brings our way.
One of the problems that we have, as modern Christians, is that we don’t understand prayer. For many of us, prayer is a wish-granting service run by God. When we don’t see our wish granted, we begin to look for a word from a prophet or we become angry with God. But are we also ignoring the basics of prayer? Prayer is not a weak response to a threat. Prayer is an active practice of being present with the Lord. It reveals that we believe that Jesus sits at the center of our universe. It affirms that He is an active participant in our daily journey. He walks with us, talks with us, and tells us what we ought to know.
Prayer is a faith building act. It isn’t about getting what we want from God or paying lip-service to the hurting people in our lives. Prayer puts us face to face with God and asks us to examine ourselves. In the humbling presence of God, we can find strength in His glorious power and gain all the endurance and patience that we need.