Little faith. Big things.

Read: Exodus 7-8, Matthew 17

Have you ever tried to teach a child something that seems so simple, but they just can’t seem to grasp the concept? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? I think Jesus felt that way sometimes with his disciples. They listened to him teach. Walked with him. Talked with him. Watched him perform miracle after miracle. Yet when it came to simple things, they just couldn’t seem to get it.

“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”

Matthew 17:17 (NIV)

In my mind, Jesus sounds like an exasperated parent. Will I never be able to leave you alone to take care of yourself? Left on their own, the disciples couldn’t even cast out a lowly demon. Jesus calls them out on their little faith. And this isn’t even the first time Jesus has accused the disciples of having little faith. It must have been really small.

Matthew 17:20

I don’t think that Jesus was necessarily speaking to the size of their faith—we have all been given a measure of faith, but rather the potential of it that they failed to realise. If faith the size of a mustard seed has the potential to move a mountain, just how small was their faith?

While Jesus walked with them, the disciples had their issues, but once Jesus had ascended into heaven, suddenly things changed.

Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

Acts 2:43 (NIV)

They couldn’t perform a miracle when Jesus was right there, but once he was gone, no problem! So what changed?

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…

Acts 1:8 (NIV)

I believe that the Holy Spirit within us reveals the potential of our faith. It is the partnership of knowing who we are in Christ and what he has made us capable of along with the help of the Holy Spirit that allows us to use our little faith to do big things.

 

Blameless

Then the other administrators and princes began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling his affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize. He was faithful and honest and always responsible. So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the requirements of his religion.”

Daniel 6:4-5 (NLT)

Here is a man with wisdom and knowledge. This wisdom and knowledge has gained him great influence. Because of his influence, the other leaders become jealous and seek to find a way to destroy the man. Yet they cannot seem to find a way because the man in blameless. With no other options, they manufacture a way to catch him and have him arrested and killed.

Are we still talking about Daniel here?

A very similar story is repeated in the Gospels with the account leading up to Jesus’ arrest. Daniel’s story sounds a lot like the one that would play out centuries later.

So what’s the deal with these leaders who can’t stand to have a blameless person in their midst? The answer is right there—blameless. Daniel was able to accomplish more than all of the other advisors and princes were able to—without cheating or lying. He put them to shame because of his integrity. A worldly way of thinking just can’t handle the way of the blameless.

Read the news. Christians are still experiencing similar persecution. When the world doesn’t understand the way we live, they feel as though they must quash it. I believe it is because of their own shame that they do so. When Christians stand firm in their faith, it sends a message to a world that stands for nothing. And, to those who stand for nothing, it renders their existence meaningless. Can you imagine living a life void of meaning?

As Christians, our lives are full of meaning and purpose and we should do all that we can to live both of those to their fullest potential.

If is for the glory of God, when those who profess religion, conduct themselves so that their most watchful enemies may find no occasion for blaming them, save only in the matters of their God, in which they walk according to their consciences.

Matthew Henry

Paul tells us to find joy in trials of every kind because they make us stronger and build our faith. Daniel, after enduring a night with the lions was given even greater power than he had before. While I cannot guarantee that you’ll end up the third most powerful person in the country, I can guarantee that, when you stand before the Lord having held firm in your faith, you will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 5-6, 1 John 4

Potential power

Many moons ago, I processed cheques for one of the largest banks in Canada. Every work day, I was responsible for balancing the sum total of all cheques deposited to or written on accounts at the the bank I worked for. A half a million cheques could pass through my hands on any given day. Massive machines running at incredible speeds made this work possible. Anyone using these machines had to go through hazardous energy training. (Why this training was introduced after these machines had been used for decades was beyond me.)

What is hazardous energy? According to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), hazardous energy is any electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, chemical, nuclear, thermal, gravitational, or other energy that can harm people. When a machine was down for maintenance, the hazardous energy program required us to turn off, unplug, and lock out the machines so that they could not be used. Were they going to blow up and kill us all? Unlikely. But, because of maintenance issues, they had the potential to become dangerous until repaired. Because the machines were locked down, the power within simply remained a potential.

Many Christians are liked locked down machines waiting for a repair that we don’t even need. We know that there is potential inside of us, but something has caused us to power down, unplug, and lock out anything that might spark that potential. Just because we’re not sure where that potential may lead us, we often view it as hazardous energy—something to be avoided at all costs.

Yes, everything is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.

Philippians 3:8-10a (NLT)

Our trust, or faith, in Christ unlocks power within us. And not just a little bit of power, but the same mighty power that raised him from the dead. Like a locked-out machine, we sit dormant. Useless. Waiting. But we’re not broken. We’re not in need of maintenance. Rather we need to unlock ourselves and our potential to release the mighty power of Christ that’s just waiting to burst out from us. We need to plug ourselves back into the power source and allow Him to flow through us so that we can do the work we were created to do. We were meant to be effective and productive, working together to accomplish seemingly impossible, daunting tasks.

Satan thought he had locked Jesus out for good and thrown away the key, but the power within Christ was so great, that nothing could hold him back. The same power flows through us. We can either lock ourselves out and simply enjoy the potential access we have to the power source or we can get plugged in and affect change in the world around us.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.

James 5:16b (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 37-38, Philippians 3

It worked

Once all the tribes of Israel had received their inheritance, it was Joshua’s turn. Because of his loyalty and leadership, God said he could have any town he wanted. Any town in all of Israel! There were a lot of towns to choose from. And, it seems, with no hesitation, Joshua chose Timnath-serah. In the hill country. Of Ephraim.

After all the land was divided among the tribes, the Israelites gave a special piece of land to Joshua as his inheritance. For the Lord had said he could have any town he wanted. He chose Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. He rebuilt the town and lived there.

Joshua 19:49-50 (NLT)

Oh, that hill country! Joshua chose to take land and make his permanent home in the land that wasn’t enough for the descendants of Joseph. That had too many trees and too many Canaanites with iron chariots.

I’d like to think that Joshua took that particular spot to prove a point. The tribe of Ephraim wasn’t satisfied there. But Joshua and his family would be. What Ephraim saw as a burden, Joshua would prove to be a blessing.

If God has given you a blessing that requires work, but you refuse to do the work, do you think it will stay in your possession forever? Of all the places Joshua could have taken, he took the place that another tribe had made little of. Joshua was able to see the potential in the problem and decided it would be for him and his own for generations to come.

If you don’t work your blessing, someone else will.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 19-20, Luke 5:17-39

Preparation

First off, if you’re an email follower of this blog, please excuse the multiple posts in a day while I play catch up. I have good reason for missing a few days, but now I’m back and we’ll continue on while catching up at the same time.

In some ways, I like to prepare. In other ways, I hate it. When I’m heading out on a long trip across the country or overseas, I have a standard spreadsheet for everything I always bring with me and extra worksheets for each type of trip I go on. My list is very different for a one week cross-Canada road trip than it is for a two week trip down the Amazon. I prepare for my expected journey.

But there are some journeys that are more difficult to prepare for. And some yet that are nearly impossible to prepare for.

In Exodus, God is preparing Israel for a big trip. A really big trip. They’d been occupying and enslaved in a foreign country for 430 years and now it was time to go home. Their numbers had increased greatly along with their belongings and livestock. An open invitation and blessing had become oppression.

Every time Moses approached Pharaoh and said, “Let my people go” while Pharaoh responded, “no” was preparation.

For every negative response, God was preparing Israel for a greater miracle.

Every time they were turned away, God was working in the heart of the king toward a greater show of His might.

The darker the situation became for Israel, the greater the potential for a miracle became—and that’s exactly what happened.

Not only was Egypt destroyed and Israel allowed to leave, but they were encouraged to leave and blessed in their going out. They were blessed in and they were blessed going out.

In what may seem to be a great time of anger and frustration, God may be preparing for an even greater miracle.

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 11-12, Matthew 18:21-35

Encourage

But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to take the land for their own.

Deuteronomy 1:38 (NCV)

Who do you encourage? Are you the one standing up for the minority who takes God at His word? Or are you one to follow the crowd and join in the mob saying, “we can’t do it!”

A majority isn’t always right. Across North America, we’re seeing the results of the majority’s choices in government and leadership.

What would happen if Christians across the world would stand up with and encourage the faithful few? We saw with Israel that those who refused to believe in the promise never stepped into it. Only those who saw potential made it through.

Do you see the problem or the potential? Can you see the promise beyond the propaganda?

You will reap the reward of those you choose to support and encourage. Who do you stand with?

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 1-2, Mark 11:1-19