Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Real Faith in Tough Times

I just got back from vacation and heard the news that the unemployment rate in America has climbed to 9.8%.  Many, many people are hurting during these days and my heart goes out to them in their struggles. I know the struggle having experienced many times where $20.00 would be enough to get me through till a payday.  But I am still here and the Lord has never forsaken me nor my family. 

It' a funny thing however, when you speak about trusting the Lord during times of struggle.  Many have a differing view of just who God is and it is that view that drives their actions.  For instance, if we view the Lord as the "genie in the bottle" that can be ignored daily, weekly, or monthly-then called upon when trouble strikes we will be sorely disappointed.  Our God is not a tool in a bag of magic tricks that can be solicited to provide an answer to our dilemmas only when we choose to use Him.  But on the other hand, He does desire for us to call out to Him in our times of need.  You see it is the motive behind the action that really matters.  The following passages illustrate the point:

In Matthew 11 Jesus was deriding the generation of people to whom He witnessed in the 1st Century Israel.  Phariseeism was strong and held a firm grip upon the lives of the people.  The Pharisees were the class of religious leaders who had re-defined the Law of Moses into many other laws of their own devising that were meant to be kept in order to avoid breaking the true law as written in Scripture.  That said, the things they imposed upon the populace were so burdensome that it was nearly impossible to keep.  That alone was a type of religious oppression that was never meant to be.  Take this passage for instance:

“But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions,
and saying:

      ‘ We played the flute for you,
         And you did not dance;
         We mourned to you,
         And you did not lament.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”
The picture Jesus meant to convey was that this generation of people have settled in their own minds how they would worship God--according to their own laws and rules and not those as revealed in Scripture.  But can we really walk according to our own light or wisdom and expect God to dance to our piping? He likened their actions to that of children who get upset if other children do not follow the rules of the game as set up.  John the Baptist came preaching true repentance toward God, and that from the heart, and they said he had a demon, because he did not dance to their tune.  Jesus came and brought for us the eternal truths of God as He continuously expounded the Scripture and worked miracles (The works of God) as was foretold by the prophets (cp. Isaiah 61:1).  He Himself stated earlier in the chapter the following:

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:
The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Mt. 11-4-6)

His actions were those of the Lord and neither would He lament at their mourning.  In other words, the rules and teachings they laid out for the people to follow to incur the favor of God were not true Scripture--they were not the words of life.  Therefore, they did not deserve an audience.

Jesus stated that John the Baptist was just like those whom God had sent since the days of Moses.  In Jesus' eyes He was the greatest of Gods prophets because He heralded the coming of the Messiah.  Instead of welcoming him in with open arms, these leaders and a multitude of their followers simply said he (John) has a demon and he was rejected. Jesus came proclaming the awesome depth of the love of God to all who would hear and instead of embracing His Words they called him a glutton and a winebibber, again rejection. All this because he reached out to those that this generation had shunned.  They, therefore, rejected for the most part both John and Jesus as lunatics. 

Amazing isn't it?  When you come face to face with God you either bow to Him or try to get Him to bow to you.  If your attitude toward God is like that of the Pharisees, i.e. you have your own way of living complete with rules and preconceived ideas about God and when He is to be invoked, then your struggles will continue.  God sees right through this superficiality and He looks at the heart.  Real faith He will respond to, but invocations because of discomfort that are not rooted in true faith and submission to Him he will reject.

Jesus undescores His desire for us to come to Him on His terms later in the chapter.  In Mt. 11:25-30:

25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.
26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.
27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus simply stated that He was thankful that those who truly wanted a relationship with Him would see the oppression that pseudo-laws placed upon the heart, and would see that the true heart of God was not in placing burdens on the people but rather, having faith in Him on a daily basis knowing He would always see us through our hard times.  He today, still asks us to reject the yoke of the world and take His upon ourselves, because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

In these days of trouble we must realize our light, our wisdom, our ideas about God that are not based in Scripture are futile.  Instead we must turn to Him as He is revealed in Scripture, a Savior who is willing to be our refuge as long as we are willing to fall weak at His feet and humbly turn our hearts in submission to Him.  He knows the true believer, we cannot fool Him into playing our little games.  But if you are sincere He will bend over backwards to see you through.

May God bless you richly in faith,

(Mt. 11:16-19)