What is Faith?
Last night we looked at the first of the many questions asked by the students. We figured the question "what is faith?" was a good one to start off on with a series called "Faith?". We first looked at the story of Bartimaeus:
Bartimaeus shows us what faith looks like in three ways. First, he calls out to Jesus. Even when people tell him to be quiet he keeps calling out to Jesus believing that Jesus will respond to him. Second, he presents his request to Jesus. He believes that Jesus wants to hear his request and that Jesus can do something about it. Third, he believes Jesus would heal him. It says he tossed aside his coat and came to Jesus. If you are a blind beggar you would not leave aside your possessions because you would be unable to find them afterwards. Bartimaeus believed that Jesus was going to heal him and so tossed aside his coat knowing that he would be able to see it afterwards. Bartimaeus shows what faith looks like. As a contrast we looked at another story:Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" "Be quiet!" many of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, "Tell him to come here." So they called the blind man. "Cheer up," they said. "Come on, he's calling you!" Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked. "My Rabbi," the blind man said, "I want to see!" And Jesus said to him, "Go, for your faith has healed you." Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road. (Mark 10:46-52 NLT)
When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with aw, and they ran to greet him. "What is all this arguing about?" Jesus asked. One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, "Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won't let him talk. And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn't do it." Jesus said to them, "You faithless people! How long must I be with you? Haw long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me." So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. "How long has this been happening?" Jesus asked the boy's father. He replied, "Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.""What do you mean, 'if i can'?" Jesus asked. "Anything is possible if a person believes." The father instantly cried out, "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!" When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. "Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak," he said. "I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!" Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, "He's dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up. (Mark 9:14-27)The disciples were unable to remove the spirit from the boy. Prior to this Jesus had sent out the 12 disciples to go from town to town preaching the gospel, healing the sick, and casting out demons which they had done with great success but with this boy they were unable to do so. When they first when out the put their faith in the authority that Jesus was giving them to do these miracles. Now they likely fell into the temptation that all those times they healed people and cast out demons before was because of their own skills and power and so with the boy instead of trusting in Jesus' power they trusted in their own. Jesus tells them in verse 29 that this demon could only be cast out by prayer, showing that they had not prayed and thus likely were trying to do it on their own.
So we return to the question of what is faith? Simply put: faith = trust. Bartimaeus trusted that Jesus would hear him, that Jesus would listen to his request, and that Jesus would heal him. His faith was not just a belief in his mind but followed through in his actions. If I stood on a table and asked everyone to gather below me to catch me when I fell back and kept saying "I trust you are going to catch me" and then never actually fall back then do I really have trust that you are going to catch me? No, our faith is both our belief and our action because of that belief.
Can you have faith in Jesus, can you trust Jesus, and still have doubt? Let’s look at what the father says, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘if I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” See the opposite of faith is not doubt. We can doubt and still have faith. As longs as we keep pursuing answers and we keep praying the prayer of this father: “I do believe, but help me overcome my belief”
Faith is a choice and it’s an everyday choice. We choose everyday with every situation whether or not to believe in Jesus. When we have doubt we can either give it all up and walk away, which means not having faith, or we can keep pursuing answers and trust that Jesus has it all under control, having faith. When we have something going on in life we have a choice: be like Bartimaeus and call out to Jesus, bring before him our situation, and trust that he will work according to his will or be like the disciples with the boy and try to do it on our own. Doing it on our own leads to a bad time while putting our trust in Jesus leads to abundant life.