Church is ruining faith across the country.
Well, it’s not church as an institution but its leaders that are destroying faith. They teach their sincere adherents that faith is something you’re supposed to have if you want to be legit. Every day, it must be bigger and better. No excuses. Get it, or your life sucks.
1) We’re taught that faith gets you what you want. If you dance around a lot or sing the chorus to the song for the 24th time, because you believe it, and you’re going to speak it out until it happens, that God is going to say, “ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT. I heard you. I’ll get you that raise at work. My goodness,” because man, now you have faith.
But faith requires a loss of self, according to Jesus (v. 3-5). The disciples say, “Increase my faith!” Why do they say this? Because Jesus just got done ripping them a new one about forgiving a guy that is genuinely sorry for sinning, regardless of how many times they blow it.
If your friend punches you in the face, and then apologizes to you for it, forgiveness might come quick. But if he keeps doing it, you’re going to get annoyed. It’s not natural to be okay with it. And that’s why we need faith. So you can forgive someone for punching you in the face several times. We don’t want to forgive someone like that, but that’s what real faith produces — attributes in yourself that aren’t of yourself at all.
2) We’re told that faith makes us special. A rock-solid faith puts you in a position of favor in God’s sight. Now you’re really important, and life is going to get easier for you, finally.
But faith means you become the servant, according to Jesus (v. 9). Even after a period of service to God (and I don’t mean sitting in a folding chair while a pastor reads the Bible), our position should always be submission. “We are unprofitable servants.” We do not get a nod of approval from God because of our faith. He desires a broken heart.
3) We’re made to believe that faith always leads to healing. To start, this is super insulting to the mom praying for her cancer-ridden child for years and watching her son wither away. But to use the Bible example, look at the ten lepers (v. 11-19).
Considered untouchable, these guys call out to Jesus to have mercy on them. They probably think they’re condemned already for being in Jesus’ presence — such a holy dude would want nothing to do with this filthy scum. True to form, Jesus shows compassion and tells them to go see the priests. On the way, they’re healed. Why?
While in a state of shame and condemnation, these guys are cured of their leprosy. Not euphoria. Not utmost trust. They don’t have to believe Jesus can heal them. They just do what He said to do. And this is what faith looks like: doing what the Lord says, even when you know you might not see the results. This is why Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well.” — because the man was uncertain it could actually happen, but followed through nonetheless.
4) We’re taught that faith results in a tangible manifestation. Speaking in tongues. Braying like a donkey or some other beast. Shouting, quivering, epileptic seizures on the ground. Breathing fire. Yes, faith can do this.
But faith means having no idea what’s going to happen, according to Jesus (v. 22-25). And herein lies the Christian’s great burden, the skeptic’s feast, and the atheist’s object of scorn: how can faith be derived of something imperceptible? God isn’t always going to produce the tinglies. He might not make you an excellent singer. You may never even see that raise at work.
Jesus asks the disciples to trust that, one day, He would certainly come back, but they would never see it. He then explains how we’ll be busy, and all of the sudden people will start disappearing. But before he goes on this tirade, Jesus says something alarming:
“And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them.”
People, even in church, will tell you that faith is supposed to look or feel a certain way, and that’s not true. Sometimes it is just recognizing that God is actually Lord. And that’s it.
Faith (a sincere trust in God) is great. But it doesn’t make you a magician, a CEO, a doctor, or a contortionist. I mean, if God wants that from you, great. But that’s not what faith is for. Don’t get it twisted.