What are you going to believe?

Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Women at the empty tomb, by Fra Angelico, 1437-1446.

A woman entering her hotel room was shocked to see a naked woman, who appeared to be dead, draped across the bed. Her husband, bending over the corpse, looked up and said, “Dear, before you say anything, I have a question. Are you going to believe what you see, or what I tell you?”

That is exactly the same question God has for each of us. We believe what we see, and that’s the wrong answer.

That faith stuff

  • The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up .  .  . (James 5:15)
  • . . . Who forgives all your iniquities, heals all your diseases. (Psalm 103:3)
  • He was wounded for our transgressions; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
  • He who did not spare his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
  • And my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:19)
Christ heals the Man born blind

Healing of the Blind Man / by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308-11)

“I tried that faith stuff, and it doesn’t work.”

So declared a man in a Sunday school class I taught about 30 years ago. He was wheelchair bound as the result of a congenital illness. He lived on Social Security disability. He frequently shared that he wasn’t sure that Jesus always did someone a favor by supernaturally healing. After all, the person would have no skills to get along in society!

It came as no surprise, then, when he mentioned that someone took him to a healing service of some traveling minister, that he had been prayed for, and had not been healed. He wanted to be able to walk and use the fine motor skills that his condition denied him, but he doubted that the same healing Jesus would then provide for his needs. He was afraid to give up his disability check. He believed what he saw, not what the Bible says.

But it’s not exactly fair for me to mention that man and leave it at that. I have been unemployed or underemployed for more of my life than I like to think about. I was working for a temp agency at the time, wondering what it would take to find full time work in my chosen profession, and developing a powerful spirit of poverty that ruled me for at least the rest of the decade.

  •  “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)
  • Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)
  • But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
  • This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
  • Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

I studied those and other verses. I “claimed” those and other verses. I taught them. I did my best to live by them. But I believed my bank account statements. I believed the rejection I experienced. And I wondered why I saw no reward to my “faith.”

Alas, I must admit that the same struggles have followed me for decades. Someone recently pointed out how another familiar verse has acted as a double-edged sword:

For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (Mark 11:23)

Jesus did not promise that anyone would have whatever he says to the mountain! He promised that when anyone believes those things he says, he will have what he says.

What can I expect if I say to the mountain, “Be removed,” then doubt in my heart and tell everyone, “It’s not moving.” That’s what I believe. That’s what I say. That’s what I get.

Real, active faith

miracle of provision

The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, from Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (ca. 1413)

Just this past weekend, a friend in my current Sunday school class came back from a Beth Moore meeting bubbling over with excitement. It wouldn’t be worth mentioning if she had only returned with an emotional high. She went with two friends, and reported supernatural answers of to pressing difficulties that each of them experienced, one before the meeting actually started.

She wrote a devotional based on the weekend and sent it to the whole class, and with her permission, I am passing it on to my readers. To be perfectly frank, though, I have heard her say similar things before she ever went to that meeting. I don’t suppose for a moment that the three women were blessed by Beth Moore. They were blessed by the Holy Spirit, in part, but only in part, through Beth Moore. Thousands of people attend Beth Moore’s meetings. They return with permanent blessings only to the extent that they truly and actively believe what my friend [who insisted I not use her name] put in her devotional.

God is Truth, and Satan’s only power is lies. God cannot lie — that would betray His “godness.” So, if God says it WILL be, then it WILL be. To do otherwise would be to cease being God, which is simply not possible.
In Matt. 6:33, Jesus said to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, and God will provide your basic needs, specifically food and clothing. If you seek God first, it is NOT POSSIBLE for you not to be provided for. Satan’s lie is that we need to hoard what we have to be provided for, which puts our focus on the provision. God wants our trust in the PROVIDER, not the PROVISION.
We humans water this down, seeing is as “having faith” that God will come through, i.e. “I hope He will. It would be great if He did.” We miss the reality that IT IS A STONE COLD FACT that if you put God first, IT IS NOT POSSIBLE for provision not to come.

I Kings 17:6 – Elijah put God first, and ravens fed him in the desert.
I Kings 19:6 – Angels fed Elijah in the desert.
2 Kings 4:1-7 – Widow’s tiny bit of oil grew to numerous jars.
2 Kings 4:42-44 – 20 loaves fed 100 men
Mark 6:35-44 – Jesus fed 5,000 with few loaves and fish
Mark 8:1-9 – Jesus fed 4,000 with few loaves and fish

We study these stories in church and view them as anomalies, but they are simply manifestations of God’s Word that if you seek Him first, He WILL provide. Period. End of story. Any other result would mean that God was not God. God is who He says He is. God said if you seek Him first, provision WILL come to you (not “might” if you are lucky, follow the rules, catch Him on a good day, etc.). I am more likely to sprout wings and fly around the moon than someone who seeks God first is to go without provision.
There’s more! Reread the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10:17-31. This story is often presented as this rich man being disciplined for being prideful. “I’ve kept all of your laws,” and then Jesus throws him a zinger — “Then sell all your stuff … Yep, gotcha there. It’s nearly impossible for rich folks to go to heaven.” That is NOT what that passage is about.
Verse 21 is clear: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Jesus wanted to BLESS this man by revealing a truth that most of us don’t get — That it is NOT POSSIBLE to give away your stuff fast enough to outrun God’s provision. Jesus said in verses 28-29 that NOBODY who has sacrificed for him (nobody who has sought God first) will fail to receive 100 times as much **IN THIS PRESENT AGE** and in the age to come. We gloss over this and think, “If I make sacrifices, I’ll go to heaven,” which is true, but that wasn’t the point of the story. Jesus said you will receive 100 times as much IN THIS PRESENT AGE. If the rich young ruler had trusted Jesus and sought God first, Jesus was giving him the gift of realizing that it is NOT POSSIBLE for him to go without because those who seek God first ARE ALWAYS PROVIDED FOR. ALWAYS. NO EXCEPTIONS.
THAT is why Jesus said not to worry about what to eat or drink or what clothes to wear. If you seek God first, these provisions WILL come to you. Not “might,” “can,” or “should.” They WILL.

So am I going to believe what I see? Or am I going to believe what God tells me? I choose to believe—more and more radically believe

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