By Joe Chesser
In Mark 9 there is a story about a man’s son who was brutally afflicted by an evil spirit. The man had taken his son to Jesus’ disciples, but they couldn’t do anything to help the boy. So the father pleaded with Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” It seems as if Jesus was somewhat shocked by this statement when he responded, “If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.” The man’s reaction is what I want us to consider for a few minutes. He said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”
Not all faith is the same. Not everyone who believes has the same degree of faith. Some have strong faith (like Abraham); some have weak faith (like this man). Some have faith that never grows; some have faith that ever grows. Some have active faith; some have dead faith. The man in the story above realized that, though he did believe, his faith wasn’t perfected. There was still some unbelief that had to be overcome. We all know that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). This verse goes on to say that more than just belief in the existence of God is necessary to please him; the faith that pleases God must also develop to the point of believing that God rewards those who earnestly seek him. Abraham, the father of the faithful, serves as an illustration of this.
In Hebrews 11:8 we are told that Abraham had sufficient faith to begin his journey with God. When God called him to pack up and move to some unknown place, he “obeyed and went.” We say, “Wow! What great faith!” And we are right. To just pack up and go wherever God led him was an awesome demonstration of the kind of faith we need to have. Like Abraham, it takes great faith just to begin our journey with Jesus, to take up our cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). But obedient faith is just the beginning of our walk with God.
In Hebrews 11:9-10 we learn that Abraham also developed a long-term faith in God based on promises, not commands. It’s one thing to have faith to obey a command; it’s another thing to have faith that waits patiently on God to fulfill his promises, never knowing when (or even if they will be fulfilled in your lifetime. If “obeying” faith doesn’t develop into “staying” faith, our walk with God will be a constant struggle.
And then in Hebrews 11:17-19 we see evidence of an even deeper faith, a faith willing to sacrifice everything for God, a faith that will hold nothing back, even his one and only son. Now we can truly say, “WOW!!” Right before our eyes we witness faith developing from obeying a command to patiently waiting on the promise to a willingness to sacrifice the most important thing in life.
It’s great to have enough faith to obey God’s commands. It’s greater to develop a faith that trusts God to fulfill his future promises when he chooses. But it’s the greatest faith of all to be willing to sacrifice everything you have because you trust God so much.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org