This week was Founders Week at Moody Bible Institute, and the theme of the conference was the riches of God’s grace. The week was filled with solid, Biblical teaching, and one of the sermons that I remember most vividly focused around the idea of trusting God. James MacDonald preached one morning from the passage in Acts 12 when God freed Peter from prison mere hours before his slated execution. The sermon was all about how God is in control, even when things look grim and evil seems to have the upper hand, all the things that we know in the back of our minds yet all too often forget when we need them the most. Then, suddenly, James took a turn toward the unexpected and said something that utterly shattered my “Good stuff, but I’ve heard it before” mindset and left me amazed. He said,
“God is in control, even when your faith is weak.”
That simple statement opened my eyes to an attitude that I’ve noticed but never truly identified in Christian culture today. Faith and works has been a hot topic from the foundation of the church, and many Christians today are struggling with the issue and reaching the conclusion that faith is what matters the most, and that a true faith will lead inevitably to works of obedience. All of this is true, but as we turn from a legalistic mentality to embrace faith, I fear that we are dragging many of our works-based values along with us. Today, instead of hearing about what we must do to earn God’s favor, teachers tell us that the vital element to living a vibrant spiritual life is having enough faith. If God doesn’t answer your prayers, it’s because your faith wasn’t strong enough. If things don’t turn out the way you wanted, it’s because you didn’t believe God with all of your heart. To us, faith is becoming a work, something at which we must perform well enough in order to please God. It’s true, Jesus scolds the disciples a few times for their little faith, but it’s always after he saves them with a just-in-time miracle. He never stood beside them in the boat as they wailed for their mothers and said their final prayers and said, “Sorry, guys, but your faith is at an all time low. I can’t stop this storm until you get the believe-o-meter up to at least a 45. Rules are rules, you know.”
What kind of Savior expects the perishing to believe hard enough before He’ll make His move? What kind of hero depends on the helpless, dying victims to suck it up and pretend they’re not scared before he will swoop in to save the day? Fortunately, not ours. Jesus expects us to have faith, but it only needs to be as big as a mustard seed, smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. He only requires that we trust Him enough to call out for His grace. He doesn’t want a calm, collected, well-worded exposition of our unshakable confidence in His power. He just wants us to cry out to Him and He will split the skies to save us. That’s what faith is about, and that’s the kind of God we serve. Come to Him today with your trials, your temptations, your burdens, your uncertainties, and your fears. Come with what you have, whether your faith is bolstered by years of practice or shattered by tragedy you could never have expected, and lay it at His feet. All the trust in the world could never earn His grace, yet the humbled, empty cry of “Lord, I believe, only help my unbelief” is enough to move Him to compassion. Hold on, cry out, and see Him answer in ways you could never have imagined.