In Luke 8 Jesus is on the Sea of Galilee in a boat with His disciples. A furious storm arises, and we read the following,
24The disciples went and woke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters, and they subsided, and all was calm. 25“Where is your faith?” He asked. Frightened and amazed, they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him!”
How could the disciples ask, “Who is this?” The disciples knew who Jesus was. They were with Him all the time, but yet they still did not understand fully all that they had in Christ. What caused the disconnect?
That is often true of us as well. Many of us are followers of Christ but continue to walk in defeat or only partial victory because we don’t fully understand who Jesus is.
As we continue in these days of Advent, today we are going to look at a verse in Galatian 4 that leads us into the Christmas story and gives us a peak into the power of God and all that He orchestrated in preparation for the coming of Jesus.
Galatians 4:4-5 “4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Our focus is on the first phrase. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son.”
In Genesis we saw sin enter in the world. Mankind was cut off from God. From that point on, early in Genesis, God began setting a plan in place that would reconcile mankind to Himself. God began to prepare for this “fullness of time” when all would be prepared to send Jesus Christ to be our Savior.
God’s greatness is seen as he gave promises and prophecies talking of a coming Messiah. He worked throughout the Old Testament relating to the Jews in a way that helped them understand what the Messiah would be like and how salvation would be offered to them. He put in place religious rituals like the scapegoat and the Passover meal, sacrifices, the lamb on the day of atonement, the temple with its vail and holy of holies and festivals that pointed them towards the coming Christ.
In the second half of the Old Testament Israel rebelled against God by worshiping idols. God disciplined them by being conquered and taken away to a foreign land. During this exile, Israel was cut off from the temple. Under these circumstances, the exiles turned their religious focus from what they had lost to what they retained-- Judaism became a faith that could be practiced wherever God’s Word could be carried. The emphases was on personal holiness and a relationship with God instead of ritual and their proximity to the temple. This prepared the way for the gospel.
God even worked during the four hundred years between the Old and the New Testament. During this time God added no new revelations to scripture. It was as if it was a testing time to see if God’s people would be obedient to what God had already told them before He would tell them more. God was silent but that did not mean He was not working.
During this time between the Old and the New Testament Alexander the Great came to power. He was a ruler from Macedonia, a northern part of Greece. He and his armies conquered the nations from Greece all the way to India. This included Jerusalem and the Jews (332 B.C.). Alexander was committed to the creation of a world united by the Greek language and culture. By the time he died most of that part of the world spoke Greek. Everyone in that part of the world speaking the same language made it easier for the gospel to spread years later when Christ came. Greek is clearer and more exact than many languages. This made it a great language for the New Testament to be written in so that future translators could be more exact in their understanding of the message that God was communicating to mankind.
In the years after Alexander the Great the Jews were treated brutally but eventually won their freedom for a short time. This was followed by the coming of the Roman Empire. The combination of past freedom and present oppression fueled their longing and their seeking for the promised Messiah.
Even in the midst of these trials God was still preparing the way for His Son’s arrival. The Romans built over 4000 kilometers of highways and established what was known as the Pax Romana. This Roman Peace was a period of unrivaled power that allowed there to be peace across the empire. These roads and this time of peace would allow the gospel to be spread more easily during the years of the early church after Christ had returned to heaven.
God then used Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, to decree a census that would bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the city of David, as foretold in Micah 5:2. It was there that Jesus was born.
Prophecies, promises, religion, ritual, victory, defeat, exile, emperors, governments, politics, languages, oppression, freedom, war, peace, highways, census, God orchestrated it all to prepare the way for His Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
This is the greatness of the God who we serve. The master orchestrator of His will in this world. Great is our God. . .
Now, with that truth in place, we must examine our own hearts. Do we live empowered and emboldened by the greatness of our God, or are we merely trusting in ourselves. This is often evident when there is a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we actually live.
We can read about examples of what it looked like in Bible times to believe in a God that is greater, but how can we recognize now days when a person believes in a God who is greater.
First, when the world says one thing and God’s Word says another, he will believe God. Second, when the world says to do one thing and God says to do another, he will obey God. When life is difficult he will still be at peace. He will serve others selflessly because all of his needs are already met in Jesus Christ. He will turn to God as his first option when faced with challenges or turmoil. He will gladly step out in faith as He follows God’s leading.
How many times have we walked away from or ignored God´s promises or direction because from our limited perspective or because of our personal desires we didn´t think God was enough? God says to forgive and we say, “No. God, you don´t understand how bad they hurt me!” He says to help others in need, and we say, “No. God, how can you expect me to help with all the needs that I have.” God says to wait, and we say “No. God, I know what is best, and if you aren´t going to make it happen then I will take it into my own hands and do it myself.” God says, be thankful and we say, “No. I am a good Christian and so many others still have more than I have, how can I be thankful.” God says, be pure and faithful, and instead we allow our thoughts, our eyes and hearts to go to an impure place. God says, be honest and instead we are deceitful so that we can gain an advantage over another. God says do not judge, but pull the log out of your own eye before pulling the speck out of the eye of another person, but instead we point the finger of guilt and act as if we are the righteous judge.
When we do these types of things, what we are really saying is, “God your ways don´t work in the real world. They don´t make sense. God, I do not believe that you know what is best for me. Your ways are not wise enough, strong enough, logical enough.” But how does one determine if something is logical?
A simple definition of logical is, “An expected outcome based on what has gone before.”
If one is new in the faith, then most of what has gone before is based on their life experience without God. Because of this their logic is usually still greatly affected by their godless past. They think like the world thinks because that is all they have known. For a new believer that is understandable that is why we are to disciple them. But for a person who has been a follower of Christ for a while, or maybe even for years, this should not be so.
As we walk forward in our faith we begin to build a legacy of faith. A history of faith. Times where we followed God´s promises and they showed themselves to be true. Times we believed God´s Word and lived accordingly and found that God was right. The longer we walk with God the more we gain a new way of thinking, a new logic, that we call faith.
That is what Mary had when the angel Gabriel came to her telling her that even as a virgin she was going to have a child. She trusted God enough to believe it, receive it and do it. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” God had worked in her a new logic. . . of faith.
When the young shepherd boy, David, faced the giant warrior, Goliath, what was logical? Based on David´s past experience with God it was more logical to trust God than to fear Goliath. God had already delivered David from a bear and a lion as he had protected his sheep. Would God not do the same with the giant? It was the logic of faith.
We see it in Moses´ life as well. In Exodus 14 the Israelites are cornered by mountains, the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. It seemed to be a hopeless situation. In response God told Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.” (Exodus 14:15-16).
Most people would have collapsed under all the pressure, but not Moses. Why? Because his legacy of faith with God was long. Moses had seen the burning bush and all of the awe-inspiring works that God had done in Egypt. To Moses it was more logical to believe that God could divide the sea than it was to believe that Pharaoh would destroy them. So, in obedience Moses, “stretched out his hand over the sea. . . and the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground.”(Exodus 14:21-22)
You see it in the lives of Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus had died. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” (John 11:21-22) Martha had seen Jesus´ miracles, felt His love, watched His teaching, and heard His prayers. Based on what she had experienced with Jesus, it was more logical to believe that Lazarus would live, than that Lazarus would stay in the tomb.
In Mark 9:24 we see a picture of a Father pleading with Jesus to heal his son who is possessed by an evil spirit. Jesus asks the man if he believes and the father responds, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” This is our story as well. We believe, but there is still so much room for more faith in our lives.
Is your logic based more on the Word, character and promises of God, or the logic of man? Some of you have a long legacy of faith that God has brought you through. Others of you have a very short legacy of faith. So, how do we get from where we are to where God wants us to be in regards to this logic of faith? How do we begin to walk in confidence with our great God?
First of all, we must realize that faith is not something that we can conjure up ourselves. Faith is from God. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of faith. Rom 12:3 says " ... God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” Rom 10:17 says " ... faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ." Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that faith is a gift of God for which we cannot boast.” With this in mind pray for faith like the disciples did in Luke 17:5.
At the same time we are called to live out our faith. So, is growing in faith God´s responsibility or ours?
We can think of faith like a dance. God leads and we follow. He grants faith and we step out in obedience and experience His faithfulness. As we continue to submit to Him He then grants more faith and once again we step out in obedience. As we continue we build a legacy of faith, a greater history of faith and a greater logic of faith. In time our understanding of how the world works becomes more dominated by the ways of God and less and less by the ways of the world.
God´s ways become more and more logical to us, because of the way that He continues to work in our lives.
In your life today what doubts remain? In what areas are you still trusting more in the logic of man than the logic of God? What parts of your life are not yet surrendered to the Lordship of Christ? What steps of obedience do you still refuse to take?
Is it about your future, your finances, your health, your children, or your mate? There will be many doubts and many fears in this life. They can be used for good if we allow them to usher us into a deeper dependence on Jesus Christ. Will we surrender our struggles and doubts to our great God and begin to move towards Him one step at a time? As we obey, God will open new doors of faith to us that were never accessible before. In this we will gain a fuller understanding of who He is and His perspective of the situations around us.
We are each at different places in our spiritual journey. This is often seen in marriage. One claims faith, the other begs for logic. At times that is a source of disagreement. Sometimes it is a difference in personality or background at other times it is that you are speaking out of different spiritual experiences. Be patient with each other. Usher each other into new experiences of faith and watch God change your faith into a new logical way to live.
With this in mind consider the following steps to take towards faith,
Familiarize yourself with Christ’s character and His ways as you read the Bible. Especially the Gospels.
Make right anything in your life that may be hindering you from intimacy with Christ in this moment.
Remember the past ways God has worked in your life and the life of others. (journal, biographies, share God stories.)
In those moments when the logic of the world conflicts with the logic of God and His Word take small steps of faith trusting that God will honor your belief as He gradually helps your unbelief.
For those who find themselves in a desperate situation where they have no faith. I recommend that you borrow some. In Mark 2 we find this story.
1And when he (Jesus) returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 2:1-5)
Look again at verse 5. “When Jesus saw their faith. . .” the man was forgiven and eventually healed. As a church we should be a community that is used to borrowing and lending faith. There are going to be days when you find yourself spiritually paralyzed and you don’t have enough faith. You will need the humility to allow others to carry you to take that next step of faith. There will be other days that you will be the one who needs to lend the faith as someone else is spiritually in need. May we be a gracious people. A compassionate people, a willing people, a humble people who share readily all the faith that we can so as a congregation we will build each other up as we grow a legacy of faith that will give us all we need to walk faithfully with our great God.