The Opposite of Faith is Quit

At first glance, it seems apparent that the opposite of “faith” is “doubt”. This is true but it does seem to require some further explanation. In the new testament, there are two different Greek words translated doubt and they are different enough to need further explanation. One is in fact the opposite of faith while the other is indicative of a faith that is still in need of strengthening.

The first of these two words can be illustrated by the story of Peter walking on the water and the second in Jesus’ teaching on faith that moves mountains. In order to get to the distinction between the two types of doubt, let’s start in Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen. (NASB)

In several places the idea of faith is related to standing or taking a stand in the new testament. When we read “certainty” (sometimes translated “substance”) we are seeing a Greek word that has the connotation of an underlying thing upon which one stands. You could say that faith gives you a solid platform or substance on which to stand with certainty.

In the story of Peter walking on the water found in Matthew 14, we know that the disciples left to cross the sea on their boat without Jesus. A storm came up battering the boat and Jesus approached them walking on the water. Peter cried out to Jesus and ultimately left the boat walking to Jesus on the water. The next two verses show us what happened when Peter was distracted from his focus on Jesus by the wind and waves, Matthew 14:30-31

But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and when he began to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out with His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (NASB)

The word recorded here for doubt is related to the word “certainty” in Hebrews 11:1. Where certainty describes a solid foundation upon which to stand (or a single place to stand), doubt literally means “two-stand” or “double-stand”. In other words Jesus commented on Peter’s “little faith” by asking why he allowed himself to be distracted by an alternative truth or something else upon which to stand. Jesus did not chide Peter for a complete lack of faith, He simply pointed out that Peter’s small, or not fully developed, faith allowed him to become distracted and contemplate the impossibility of what he was currently doing. In other words Peter’s doubt can be defined as a momentary distraction away from Jesus, a temporary loss of focus on what Jesus had plainly instructed him that he could and should do. Fortunately Jesus was quick to grab Peter and rescue him from the distraction of wind and wave.

In contrast to this type of doubt is complete different Greek word found in Mark 11:23.

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted to him. (NASB)

Here, the doubt that can be found in the the heard is a compound word that describes the means or process by which a judgement or decision is made. This word for doubt is not a temporary lack of focus or distraction. The doubt that causes a mountain to remain unmoved is a conscious decision, a weighing of evidence and rendering a judgement. This type of doubt is a decision to give up or reject what God has said. It is this decision that disqualifies someone from seeing the proverbial mountain thrown into the sea.

In light of these two definitions of doubt, it might be more accurate to say that the opposite of faith is quit.

He Walked the Bloody Path

When Jesus walked the Via Dolorosa on His way to die for us on the cross, he was already bleeding profusely, leaving a trail of His atoning blood in the street. This was not the first time God walked alone along a bloody path for us. Jesus journey was the fulfillment of an event thousands of years earlier that pointed toward Jesus and His ultimate sacrifice.

The Bible is full of types and shadows, earlier events that point to a later event. Saint Augustine described this relationship between the Old and New Testaments when he said, “The New is in the Old contained; the Old is by the New explained”. The first portion of Hebrews 10:1 describes it this way, “the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things”.

You can see a shadow of Jesus’ work on the cross all the way back in Genesis 15. Take a moment and read Genesis 15:9-17. The act of covenant was a common event at the time. Leaders would pledge to each other and seal the pledge, or covenant, in blood by sacrificing animals. They would walk together through the blood, in essence saying, “If I violate this covenant, let what happened to this animal happen to me”. It was a way of pledging one’s life to the agreement.

In verse 17 God caused a deep sleep to fall on Abram and God proceeded to walk the bloody path alone. He was saying “I take the responsibility for your violation of our agreement upon myself”. True to covenant, God was willing to shed His own blood to appease the requirements of covenant, even though He wasn’t the one who violated it.

Draw Water From a Well

When it comes to drawing water from underground there are two different sources to draw from, a cistern or a well. Cisterns are typically found in arid parts of the world and are typically man-made pits lined with cement to make them waterproof. They are built to capture runoff rainwater to create a reserve for times when there is no rain. Cisterns are typically shallow since they collect rain water from the surface. Wells on the other hand are dug to tap into subterranean water sources. Wells are typically deep since they need to get down far enough to reach the underground water.

In our lives with God, we must continually be able to draw wisdom, strength, encouragement, etc. from Him. Our picture of who He is and our relationship with Him determines whether we see His sustaining supply as a cistern or a well. A cistern is built out of the presupposition of lack. It assumes that the rain won’t be there when needed and therefore rain that does fall must be captured and saved to be drawn from later. A well is built on the assumption of supply. A well assumes that the deep source of water will remain whether or not there is drought on the surface.

Well water is fresh, it flows in from its source deep underground. Water from a cistern is stale. It has sat in the cistern, stationary since a past rain. The problem with cisterns is they leak. The prophet Jeremiah was very familiar with cisterns. When Jeremiah delivered a word from the Lord that was not popular with the rulers, his punishment was imprisonment in a cistern. Jeremiah 38:6 tells the story.

Then they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchijah the king’s son, which was in the court of the guardhouse; and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. Now in the cistern there was no water but only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.

Notice that the cistern went dry, it contained no water. Given the choice between a relationship with God based on an image of Him that says He will not provide that tries to store up what He did before or a vibrant, alive relationship based on the knowledge that He is active and will come through when we need Him, choose the latter. Choose to draw from a well rather than a cistern. The final thought on this comes from Jeremiah 2:13.

For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns
That can hold no water.

You can Answer God’s Prayer

When someone refers to “the Lord’s prayer”, we all tend to think of “Our Father Who is in heaven…” but I have another prayer of the Lord in mind. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray in this manner and then gave them the pattern within the Lord’s prayer, that was Him teaching us how to pray. When He prayed to the Father before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion He revealed His heart. Read John 17 and pay attention to what our Lord prayed for.

We tend to become focused on God answering our prayer. How often do we think about wanting to see His prayer answered? Focus on John 17:22-23.

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

It is apparent from this portion of our Lord’s prayer that He wants to see unity within His church, among His disciples. Of course He wants this because it is good for us, but the bigger issue is that He wants our unity because it results in the world around us knowing that He was sent by the Father.

Take steps today toward unity within the body. Of course we stand on truth and don’t sacrifice truth just to get along, but within the confines of Biblical truth, work to stand in unity with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

United in Him

None of us can succeed in what Christ has for us to do without the help of others. We need each other. We should be interested in bringing to pass what God wants to do in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, to see them the way God sees them, and to speak that encouragement. In turn, we must each be willing to receive input and encouragement. God will always intertwine our mission with the missions of others around us.

When Paul wrote to the Galatians he had some interesting things to say about unity and interdependence within the body of Christ. Take a look at Galatians 3:28-29.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

According to Paul, the identification of “Jew” or “Greek” is completely eradicated by the identity “Christian.” Nationality, social status, and gender are meaningless compared to the significance of being in Christ. The phrase “in Christ Jesus” jumps out at me as something that needs further investigation. Being one in Him is more significant than simply all Christians having something in common, like all hobbyists can be unified by a common interest.

There must be something more Paul is talking about in Galatians when he said “you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This is not generic “in Him we live” that Paul declared in Athens or “in Him all things consist” that he wrote to the Colossian church. The unity Paul describes does not come from an understanding that we universally rely on God for existence. In Galatians our position in Him is not only descriptive of our relationship with Him, but also of our relationship to each other.

Together, united by our faith in Him, we are one. Identity is not primarily defined by family, occupation, hobbies or home town. If we are in Him, that is our primary source of identity. We should each think of ourselves first as “in Him” before we define ourselves by these other attributes. Take a moment to consider the implications of that statement. How many times do we introduce ourselves to others? Do we begin with occupation or family status, or do we think of ourselves first and foremost as in Him?

Prepare for Fullness

There are plenty of Bible verses that speak of “fullness”. One of them is Ephesians 3:19.

and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

This verse immediately precedes one of my favorite passages of scripture, Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

God is able to do amazing things according to His power which is working within us. This power is a result of being filled with the fullness of God. God wants to fill us and He wants to do amazing things through us but we have a part to play as well. We must be willing to go through the process of preparation. In His mercy, God always prepares us for what He wants to do through us lest we be damaged by His power.

To describe what I mean, take a look at Matthew chapter 9. Here Jesus invited Matthew to leave his tax collecting booth with the two word invitation, “Follow Me”. Matthew followed Jesus to His house where He sat down to eat with “many tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 9:10). During this meal, Jesus faced two challenges, first from the Pharisees who disagreed with His choice to eat with tax collectors and sinners. He answered this challenge by explaining that it is not the healthy that need a physician but the sick and instructed the Pharisees to learn compassion.

He was then challenged by the disciples of John who wondered why they fasted, as did the Pharisees, but Jesus did not expect His disciples to fast. Jesus answered them saying He could not expect the attendants of the groom to fast while He is with them and that the day would come when His disciples too would fast.

He concluded this challenge to the religious norms of the day with the well known verses in Matthew 9:16-17.

But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

I want to relay verse 16 in a different translation that better captures the connection between the two verses. Verse 16 reads this way in Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible. “And no one doth put a patch of undressed cloth on an old garment, for its filling up doth take from the garment, and a worse rent is made.” Notice that in the original Greek the cause of ruin to both the garment and the wineskin is its filling.

Before God can fill you, He must prepare you. You have to be seasoned, stretched, prepared, made flexible. If you’re not what He wants to do is likely to be so far outside “what you can ask or think” that you won’t be able to handle it. God does not want what He pours out to cause any harm to you or to be wasted.

He is going to take you through some preparation and testing. Take heart, if the preparation is stretching you farther than you think you can go, that likely means the outpouring will be greater than you can image.

The Lord’s Prayer

When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He gave them a template for how prayer should be structured. He did not tell them to “say these words” but rather to pray “in this manner.” He then went on to show them the components of a good prayer. Take some time and break them down for yourself. There are several forms of the Lord’s Prayer in English depending on different denominations of the Church and different time periods of history.

I don’t know that any one is better than the others, all versions are essentially the same, but I will use one here as an example.

Our Father who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us,

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory, forever and ever

Amen.

In general, the prayer can be broken down into eight segments. The introduction or address (Our Father who art in heaven), followed by six requests or petitions, and closed with the doxology. The address is more than just a simple sentence that addresses the prayer to God like the salutation of a letter. Instead, by showing that we are to pray to God as Father, or “Abba” in Aramaic, we are praying to a near-by loving parent, not a mysterious far-off deity. Jesus always referred to God as Father and invites us to do the same. 

I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ John 20:17

After the address, the first three requests can be lumped together. Jesus shows us to first pray for God’s concerns before we pray for our own. The priority is first seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness and then seeking our own needs, a pattern that Jesus teaches will result in our own needs being met. Matthew 6:33 tells us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” The phrase, “Hallowed be thy name” asks for God’s name, character, and reputation to be set apart and treated as something special. ”Thy kingdom come” asks for God to rule. ”Thy will be done” asks for God’s way of doing things, His righteousness, to come about. All three of these petitions are requested to be made manifest in the earth as they are already manifest in heaven.

After focusing on God’s name, God’s rule, and God’s will, the last three requests now focus on us. Jesus shows that He expects us to pray for our own needs after we have sought His. He teaches us to ask for whatever physical needs we have for today. Keeping with Jesus’ theme of not worrying about tomorrow, praying for “daily bread” simply focuses on what we need for the coming day. Jesus verbalizes a truth Paul expresses in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Fortunately, Jesus also assures us that we can find forgiveness with the Father each day, provided we are willing to forgive others who have wronged us (“those who trespass against us”). Finally, Jesus shows us to pray for God’s deliverance from the tests and trials of this life and ask that He provide protection from the attacks of Satan. The nature of the three “us” requests imply that we need to ask for these things every day.

Apply this pattern to your prayer conversation today and recognize the daily need for prayer.

Follow His Lead Wherever it Takes You

Noted leadership expert John C. Maxwell has said, “If we are growing we are always going to be outside of our comfort zone.” We should get used to the idea that God wants to grow us and leads us where we are uncomfortable in order to accomplish this.

To love Him and wait for Him is to follow where He leads. If we really want to get to where God is taking us, we can’t rely on past experiences and must be ready to move outside our comfort zones. The prophet Isaiah experienced wonders of God and understood well that God’s thoughts are infinitely beyond our own. His ways are as much higher than our ways as heaven is higher than earth.

Prepare to be stretched. Have an open mind toward the things of God. Our minds must be open to avoid the trap of preconception, but not so open that our thoughts veer outside the boundaries presented by His word. Proverbs 16:25 tells us why it is so important to stay within His scriptural boundaries.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

 God plainly warns us about the result of leaving His way for our own. It is dangerous to “lean on your own understanding.” As Jesus tells us in John 8:31-32:

If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Abiding in His word is to live, continue and remain in the Bible. That is how we know His truth and it is that truth that makes us free to live according to His plan. Decide to increase the time you spend in His word, it will be worth it.

Out of your comfort zone

God has a plan and it involves things we have not thought of and are not naturally prepared for. Embracing this plan can be scary. Read 1 Corinthians 1:27 through 2:9. Paul tells us that only mature Christians are able to hear about God’s wisdom. The word used for mature implies a maturity that results from going through stages or challenges to reach an end goal. In other words, maturity is not reached through time but through steps. Maturity in this context is related to completion, not age. How long a person has been in Christ is not the issue, how many times they have allowed God to change them is what brings maturity.

1 Corinthians 2:6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.

The more times we submit to God’s plan, the more we learn to trust Him. Trusting Him becomes more important as He moves us out of our comfort zones. It becomes especially important that we trust Him and not lean on our own understanding when He starts nudging us past our boundaries. Paul warns that natural man will not welcome some of God’s plans. In fact, these plans will seem absurd or foolish. Do you have the faith and maturity to accept a foolish assignment? Are you open minded enough to search scriptures for God’s truth, not search scriptures intending to prove what you want to be true?

What Kind of Ground are You?

When Jesus walked on the earth He used parables to explain truth. Specific to the topic of His Word, He gave us the parable of the sower found in Mark 4. Take a moment to read that chapter. Here He likens God’s Word to seeds spread across a field. The types of soil found across the field represent us as we hear what the Bible has to say. Fortunately, each one of us gets to choose which type of soil we will be. According to Jesus, we have four choices. First, some seed falls along the wayside, not technically even part of the field. God’s Word is available to everyone whether one of His followers or not. Unfortunately for those with wayside hearts, there is no effect from God’s Word because the thief steals it before it can begin to germinate.

Among those who do receive the Word and let it sink in, the next group has stony-ground hearts. Jesus is clear that this group gladly hears God’s Word at first, but because they have no depth it affects them only temporarily. As soon as following the Word becomes unpopular or inconvenient, those with stony-ground hearts stumble. 

Those in group number three have thorny-ground hearts too full of the distractions around them to let the Word take root. Desire for wealth and concern for temporal things take precedence over the eternal in these hearts. These things choke out the harvest, or the effect the Word could have, from the thorny-ground hearts.

So far this seems like a rather sobering parable. Three of the four groups available to us ultimately see no effect from the Word of God. We can choose to join the fourth group, the good-ground hearts. This is the sole group to see a harvest from the Word because they listen, receive, stick to the absolute truth even when unpopular or inconvenient, and seek first God’s kingdom rather than all the other things that can choke out God’s Word. Free will is a wonderful gift. You alone get to choose to which group you will belong. All of these heart conditions are changeable. No matter which group your heart is in today, it can be changed with repentance and God’s grace.