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.

 

Spirit and fire

Read: Genesis 6-8, Matthew 3

Matthew 3:11

There are many in the Church that stay away from any discussion involving the Holy Spirit. For some people, it can be a sticky point of discussion. I’m not one of those people. If we have believed Jesus for salvation, why would we not believe him for the power of the Spirit that he promised to us?

Even John the Baptist knew that the water baptism he offered paled in comparison to what Jesus would bring.

Cleansing with water—water baptism—is an outward symbol of an inward change. But water can only do so much. It can wash the dirt from the outside, but can do very little to cleanse what’s on the inside. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in.

The Bible speaks often of the refiner’s fire. Refining is a process in which raw ore dug from the earth is heated to a melting point. The heavy precious metal stays at the bottom while the impurities rise to the top. Once cooled, those impurities can be wiped or knocked off leaving pure precious metal behind.

This is the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

The baptism “with fire” would convey, in its turn, the thought of a power at once destroying evil and purifying good…

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

The Holy Spirit burns away what is evil and purifies what is good. In Acts 2, where we read the account of the 120 in the upper room experiencing tongues of fire, we see Joel’s prophecy fulfilled.

And afterward
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see vision.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Joel 2:28-29 (NIV)

These are those days. God poured out His Spirit on His people in the book of Acts and He never took His Spirit back. So why should we shy away from that which God sent to us to give us power? It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can accomplish what Jesus said we would.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

John 14:12 (NIV)

As members of the Church, we should all seek and strive to see and do even greater things than Jesus did while he walked the earth. We need the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches if we’re going to see the miraculous like the disciples did. If we want Jesus to come back to earth to take us to heaven, we must first call down heaven to earth. The only way that is possible is with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Ready and willing

Ready and willing. If you haven’t said that you are, you’d probably like to think you are when it comes to obeying God. Here am I, Lord, send me! We think we really mean it. But most of us probably haven’t taken the time to think through all of the consequences of what it means to be ready and willing.

But as for me, I am filled with power and the Spirit of the Lord. I am filled with justice and might…

Micah 3:8a (NLT)

Filled with power, justice and might! Yes! I want all of those things!

…fearlessly pointing out Israel’s sin and rebellion.

Micah 3:8b (NLT)

Now, wait a minute, I’m not so sure I want to be the one to have to make that point.

The point is this: being ready and willing includes far more than just the good news and the blessings. Micah stood alone in his time. He was just a peasant from a town on the outskirts of the territory. He was a nobody telling the priests and prophets that they were a bunch of lying scoundrels. That’s not a very comfortable conversation to have with anyone. To be ready and willing means to be ready to have the uncomfortable conversations.

And on the other side of the same coin, as ready as we must be to initiate those difficult encounters, we must also be ready and willing to be on the receiving end.

Ready and willing is not a physical place, but a spiritual posture. If we want to proclaim the Good News, we may also have to give a hard word. If we want to be blessed, we must also be able to be a blessing. To be ready and willing means to be prepared for whatever God has for us—the good, the hard, and the uncomfortable.

Those who act honestly, may act boldly. And those who come to hear the word of God, must be willing to be told of their faults, must take it kindly, and be thankful.

Matthew Henry

Like Micah, when our true strength comes from the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can willingly give and receive the truth no matter what package it comes in.

Daily Bible reading: Micah 1-3, Revelation 10

The beginning and the end

They said,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength
belong to our God forever and forever,
Amen!

Revelation 7:12 (NLT)

This chorus of saints and angels will sing in perpetual praise around the throne of God. Notice the beginning and the end. Amen!

This is the message from the one who is Amen—the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

Revelation 3:14b (NLT)

The source of all creation, Jesus, is the Amen. He should now and forever be both the beginning and ending of our praise, our worship, our adoration. Through him all things began and he will be there until the end and through eternity. How fitting that the choir of all creation would recognise his place—to confirm, establish, and verify the Truth.

Daily Bible reading: Amos 7-9, Revelation 7

The wait

Do you ever wonder what this world would be like if Adam had never sinned? If no one had ever fallen prey to the enemy’s lies? Would we even have four seasons? Would leaves ever fall off trees? Would fruit ever spoil? And what about us? Would we still be wandering in paradise blissfully unaware of our nakedness? Taking strolls through the forest with God?

I wonder, like humanity, how much the rest of creation is aware of its fallen state. Romans 8:19 says that all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. It’s not only humans who wait for Jesus’ glorious return, but all of creation. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay (Romans 8:20-21).

In Revelation 5, we see a progression of praise. First it’s just the elders around the throne. Then they are joined by thousands and millions of angels. And, finally, the rest of the chorus joins in a culmination of the entirety of God’s creation.

And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They also sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
belong to the one sitting on the throne
and to the Lamb forever and ever”

Revelation 5:13 (NLT)

I love the sound of a large choir, but can you imaging the entire universe singing God’s praise? For millennia, creation has been waiting, anticipating the time when we can all sing out. Like a bubble waiting to burst or a bud waiting to bloom, but only infinitely more powerful, beautiful, and wonderful. All of creation—animate and inanimate—longs for the day when we can all bow before the throne and join with the elders and the angels to sing:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty—
the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.

Revelation 4:8b (NLT)

Just the thought of that kind of praise and worship stirs my heart. An eternal, universally worship service will surely be worth the wait.

Daily Bible reading: Amos 1-3, Revelation 5

Wonderful results

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have wonderful results in all of our endeavors? It would be fantastic if we could expect great success in everything that we do. Now, there’s nothing wrong with optimism, but let’s face it, in this life, wonderful results are hardly going to be the outcome of every situation. But James speaks of having wonderful results in one particular area—prayer.

If you’ve had every prayer answered in the way you wanted it answered when you wanted it answered, congratulations. You are a far better person than I. I don’t know of a single person who hasn’t had to deal with the disappointment of unanswered prayer. I’d love to be able to give you the key to having all of your desires fulfilled, but I can’t. What I can do, though, is try to shed some light and help us all be a little more effective when it comes to prayer.

The ladies Bible study in my church has spent the better part of a year going through the book The Master is Calling by Lynne Hammond. Her main scripture in the book is a part of our reading today.

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

James 5:16b (NLT)

Earnest is often translated as fervent, but even that doesn’t give us the full grasp of the idea that James presents. According to Hort and Mayor, earnest can best be translated to inwrought prayer. In other words, prompted by the Holy Spirit.

Longer, louder prayers aren’t what get us answers. Praying through the guidance of the Holy Spirit does.

But let’s not forget the first part of that verse.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

James 5:16a (NLT)

We all like the idea of earnest prayer being full of great power and having wonderful results, but I can pretty much guarantee that we’re not as keen to be confessing our sins to each other. This isn’t even the first time answered prayer and forgiveness have been mentioned together.

Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.

Mark 11:24-25 (NLT)

Sin is the barrier between our prayer and the answer to it—whether it’s our own sin or the sin of another that needs to be forgiven. We might see a lot more of those wonderful results if we’d first take the time to humble ourselves, ask forgiveness, and offer forgiveness rather than praying longer and louder in the hope that God will hear us over the cacophony of our disobedience.

There is great powerful available to us and wonderful results waiting on the other sie. But we need to get over ourselves first. Admit when we’ve been wrong. Accept others when they’ve been wrong. When we open ourselves up to each other we can then open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit. And only then will we see those wonderful results.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 29-31, James 5

Living power

For those of us blessed with literacy, our daily lives are filled with words. Emails, books, signs, letters, newspapers. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to read and comprehend words. But, because we see so many of them, they can start to lose meaning. They’re just words.

Because words are just words, we can also have a tendency to apply that attitude toward the Word of God. They’re just words. Numbers. Letters. Stories. Like the words we are surrounded by, the Word of God can become meaningless if we fail to see it for what it really is—full of living power.

For the Word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires It exposes us for what we really are.

Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)

Full of living power. Let’s look at a few more words to explain these three big ones.

FULL: Replete, having within its limits all that it can contain; abounding with, having a large quantity or abundance; supplied, not vacant; large, entire, not partial; strong, not faint; abundant, plenteous, sufficient.

LIVING: Dwelling, residing, existing, subsisting; issuing continually, running, flowing; producing action, animation and vigor, quickening.

POWER: The faculty of doing or performing any thing, moving or producing a change in something, ability or strength; force, energy.

We should never allow ourselves to look at God’s Word as just words. The text contained in the Bible isn’t just anything. Those words contain the power to heal and bring life. They also have the power to cut—not to harm, but to remove all of the things that would hinder us from growing into the people that God has called us to be.

There are no limits to God’s Word. The strength and force within His Word flows continually, without end. And that flow isn’t just a trickle. It’s abundant. Large. Not faint. And He’s given that Word, full of living power, to us.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 46-48, Hebrews 4