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Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

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Faith and Ambiguity

  They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”

Mark 11:4-5 (NIV)

 

Famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud said that neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity. I suspect Freud is hinting at the stress and panic and pressure and pain that we often invite into our lives. It is the result of living closed to additional meanings in life's circumstances—closed to additional lenses with which to view our human encounters.

Often, when we live closed to our circumstances and encounters, that’s when the stress and the discomfort arise in our lives. We must learn to live with ambiguity. I think we might expand that idea to say that, from Jesus’ perspective, ambiguity is necessary to cultivate a growing faith.

To love Him and to walk “open” is the way faith matures. Faith obeys on the strength of trust rather than proof. Faith follows because of trust rather than facts. Faith only needs to know that the Lord is asking or that the Lord is allowing or that the Lord is present, and then ambiguity is to be nurtured and not feared.

In Mark 11, Jesus calls two of His disciples and tells them to go into a village, and upon entering it they would see a colt. He tells them to untie the colt, and should anyone ask them why they are taking it, their response is to essentially be, “The Master has need of it.”

For these two disciples, the mission is clear, but the way it might unfold leaves a lot of room for ambiguity. How exactly would this scenario play out? What will be the reaction of those who confront the disciples about the colt?

Yet the disciples obeyed, regardless of the ambiguities.

Theres a lesson there for you and me. Despite our ambiguities, despite the inexactness that we are living with, despite the vagueness of it all, let’s just obey. Let trust Jesus’ authority.

What the disciples believed about Jesus’ identity and the faith they'd put in His eternality was sufficient enough to answer all of their plaguing ambiguities. The question that I think is being asked of us in this story is this: Is Jesus a big enough answer for the ambiguities that surround your decisions, your movements, and your interactions?

Wholehearted Worship

  “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

Luke 7:47 (NKJV)

Jesus is invited to have lunch at the house of a Pharisee named Simon. While He is there, an immoral woman comes and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, and anoints them with perfumed oil. When Simon the Pharisee saw this, he essentially said, “Jesus, if You really were a prophet, You would know what kind of woman that is, and You would not allow her to touch You.”

Jesus then tells the story of two men, one of whom owed 500 silver coins, the other 50. Both of them lacked the resources to pay their creditor on time. And when collection time came, the creditor forgave both of the debts. The one who owed 500 silver coins didn't have to pay anything, and neither did the one who owed 50.

Jesus raises the question, “Which of the two men loved the creditor more?” Simon says, as we all would logically conclude, “Well, I suppose it's the one who was forgiven the greater debt.” And Jesus says, “There you go; you’ve got it.”

Jesus then points His finger at the woman, but he looks Simon square in the eyes and reminds Simon, “When I came to your house, nobody washed my feet, but this woman washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. When I came to your house, not one person greeted me with a kiss. However, this woman could not stop kissing my feet. Simon, you put no oil on my head as a sign of respect, but this woman anointed my feet with perfume. Her sins have accumulated such a spiritual debt that for God to forgive her of all of it makes her love on Me attentively, purposefully, and unashamedly. It seems, Simon, that you are living life like you assume you don't need to be forgiven of much.”

And Jesus’ lesson is that he or she who is forgiven little loves little, and he or she who is forgiven a lot, loves a lot. Jesus teaches that the depth of our faith includes the depth of our understanding of just how forgiven we really are.

The woman unashamedly worshipped Jesus with her whole heart and without regard for the opinions of those around her. I’m telling you that faith lives and acts and breathes and responds differently when it's driven by a deep understanding of forgiveness.

How deep is your understanding of forgiveness? How bold is your worship of the One who has forgiven you?

 

The Danger of Unbelief

 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief…”

Matthew 17:18-20 (NKJV)

 

The enemy of your pursuits is your unbelief.

Jesus’s disciples tried to cast out a demon from a boy unsuccessfully, and later they asked Jesus why they could not do it. But the boy’s condition remaining the same was not the result of the disciples’ inability. They had the ability. They had the opportunity. They had the desire.

According to Jesus, they lacked belief.

Jesus, when He cast the demon out, paid no attention to the strength of the demon. He paid no attention to the destruction the demon caused, nor the damage the demon created. Jesus didn’t focus on the demon. He focused on the unbelief of the disciples. That’s where the real danger lay.

I don't care the strength of what is attacking you. I don't care the magnitude of what is trying to keep you down. I don't care the size of your obstacle nor the severity of the mistakes you have made. I don't care how far behind you are or how late it appears for you. I don't care how many times life has thrown you hurt and pain and sacrifice and inconvenience. I don't care how taken advantage of you are. I don't care the slope of the incline in front of you nor the distance you need to travel. I don't care the venom that is spewed out in your life by others. I don't care how heavy the load is that you are made to carry or the pressure that's being put on your life.

None of that is the true threat against you. The only thing that is the real threat in your life is if you are living with too small of a belief in Jesus. The enemy is not after your strength, your stuff, or your station. He's after your belief.

What should take top priority in your life is the depth and the height and the length and the width of your belief. It's your belief that drives your power. It releases your faith. It puts power behind your words and strength behind your actions. Your belief is what you stand with in front of spiritual opposition. It's your belief that helps to release what you command and demand and declare and release.

So what are you going to do about the level of your belief?

Healing Over Time

Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth.

Jeremiah 33:6 (NKJV)

 

Don't live frustrated because your areas of spiritual growth haven't encompassed all that you need to be liberated from.

Don't lose the determination to keep believing and trying and studying and praying simply because there are still areas in your life that are frustrating and limiting, restricting and deflating.

Accept where you are. Own where you are. Confess that while there may be many areas in your life where knowing Jesus has helped to sort and straighten things out, there are other areas that have not yet been healed. There are things you are still dealing with.

Even while you may have deep belief and faith in Christ, accept where you are in your journey to wholeness and wellness and spiritual health.

At times, the celebration in life is not in having reached completion, but simply having made significant progress. You may not be completely where you ought to be, but you’re further along than you’ve been. You may not be feeling like you had hoped you would feel, but you’re feeling better than you previously felt. Everything may not be working in perfect harmony and symmetry, but there's not as much chaos as there used to be. You may not be over the struggle and strangeness of a particular season, but you’re not as fearful as you used to be while walking through it.

Everything is not always healed at the same time. Healing is being dispensed at various intervals. Some of it you get in the beginning. Some of it you get as you take subsequent steps. Some of it will come at the end.

Accept where you are, and ask God to continue to move you forward.

 

Dependence on God

  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.

Matthew 17:21 (NKJV)

 

The kind of power that is released from your faith only comes from disciplines that make you dependent on God. I’m talking about prayer and fasting. These are surrendering disciplines. They reveal how dependent you are on Christ. You must come to a firm and fixed understanding that overcoming the difficulties in life doesn’t just happen because you are close to Jesus or because you love Him.

The overcoming is only going to happen when you depend on Him to give you power to make changes in your life. In order for you to embrace wholeness, you are going to need Him to release power.

Don't confuse closeness with dependence. Dependence on God is where the transfer of spiritual power comes from. Closeness can give us reminders of God’s power, but dependence gives us access to it. Closeness to God gives us proximity, and allows us to see the examples and to learn the disciplines, but only dependence on God gives access to the release of spiritual power. Only dependence on God releases His strength in our human weakness. Only dependence on God keeps us from becoming conceited. Only dependence on God keeps us living convicted that His grace is sufficient.

Don't become excessively comfortable because you wake up close to God or because you love to read about His character or because you enjoy talking about His goodness and His grace. Don't become comfortable just because you have some trinkets and treasures that point to His bounty in your life.

All of that is great. But when realities are trying to toss you into peril and throw you into danger and force pain upon your life, then you need dependence on God that makes you run to where the real power is.

The portals that God has opened up for you to access that power are prayer and fasting, in which you have surrendered to the might and majesty of God.

It's through prayer and fasting that you can suppress your strength and your drives and your passions and your intentions, making them obedient to God’s will. That’s where the power is.