Face the Sunshine

The last few international women’s Bible studies that I led were about understanding what Christians mean by faith or belief. The last two stories we studied were about the healing of a demon possessed boy and the resurrection of Lazarus. Both stories illustrate not only the amazing power of Jesus, but also the two-sided coin of Christian belief.

In the account of the demon possessed boy (Mark 9:14-29), Jesus had just been away on a mountain. While waiting for his return, a man had approached Jesus’ disciples for help in healing his boy who was possessed by an evil spirit.  The disciples were unable to heal the small boy and because of it, they and the Jewish scribes had gotten into a heated argument.

It is at that point, Jesus returns and asks what they are arguing about. The father explains his son’s dire situation and then asks Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus responds, “If I can! All things are possible for one who believes.” To which the father immediately cries, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Likewise, in the story of Lazarus (John 11:17-45), Mary and Martha (Lazarus’ sisters) call for Jesus to help their dying brother. Jesus tarries and when he finally arrives, Lazarus is already dead and buried, and the funeral procedures are well underway. Both women come to Jesus privately and express their confidence in Jesus’ ability mixed with their disappointment in his delay. Martha says, “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.” Later a distraught Mary also says, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Jesus promises Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” Yet when Jesus asks them to move the stone of Lazarus’ tomb away, Martha questions him saying, “Lord, by now there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” In other words, “You are too late to do anything.”

In Matthew 28:17, the disciples are watching Jesus prepare to ascend into heaven and it says, “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some of them doubted.” The Greek word for “doubted” in this verse is distazo which means to waver between two points of view, to be uncertain at a crossroads, to vacillate.

To be uncertain at the crossroads. To waver between two points of view. Belief and unbelief occupying the same space. British writer, Adrian Plass wrote in his book Why I Follow Jesus, “Perhaps belief and unbelief are two sides of the same coin. You can turn the coin over, but you can’t make the side you’re not looking at go away” (2000, p. 7).

But that’s where Jesus comes in. Our worthiness for the gift of faith, or healing, or a miracle is not dependent on the excellence of our belief or the absence of our unbelief. No, our worthiness is completely dependent on Jesus’ merit.

To the father of the demon possessed boy, Jesus did not walk away affronted by the man’s lack of confidence. Instead, he turned to the boy, cast out the evil spirit, “took him by the hand and lifted him up.” To Mary and Martha, Jesus did not take offense to their limited and shifting belief in his power. Instead he wept with them and then performed one of his greatest miracles – he brought Lazarus back to life. To the doubting disciples standing on the mountain, Jesus did not withhold his blessing from them. Instead he gave them the ultimate job of making disciples of all nations, promising them, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So what do we do about the other side of the coin? What do we do about our uncertainty at the crossroads? How do we manage distazo?

We look to Christ. We cry out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” as the father did. We fall at his feet and pour out our hearts, as Mary did. We allow the stone to be rolled back, as Martha did. We accept Christ’s authority and his promises, as the disciples did. We persistently face the Son so that we cannot see the shadows.  It is in “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2a) that we see where our strength of faith truly comes.

 “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” ~ Helen Keller

2 Comments

Filed under Spiritual thoughts

2 responses to “Face the Sunshine

  1. Ginny Hyland

    Once again you spoke just what I needed to hear. I am so thankful for His grace in time of need.

  2. Pingback: Making it through each day… « Cup Overflowing

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