Part 1 in the series, It’s About the Encounter
Since all of the professionals have told me that you should always begin a blog post with a brief summary statement of your topic, here ya go: Without faith it is impossible to please God, but without consistent, meaningful encounters with God, it is impossible to keep the faith.
In Mark 10:46-52, we read about Jesus’ encounter with a blind man named Bartimaeus:
Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called.
Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.”
And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus.
So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.
A few years back, as I was working on my book, I began to read all of Scripture through the lens of the Great Commandment (loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength), asking the Holy Spirit to help me grow in love for Jesus in every area of my life. As a result, as I read the passage above, I noticed something in Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus that I had not seen before.
For years I have read this passage and heard it preached as evidence of the importance and power of faith in the life of the believer. Obviously, this is an undeniable reality that is found here. After all, Jesus Himself tells Bartimaeus that his faith is what made him well. In fact, the message seems so simple that it is easy to just move on and pat Bartimaeus on the back for having great faith.
We love stories like this one, especially in our Western culture, don’t we? We are inspired by ordinary people in the Scriptures who have such great faith that God seemingly has little choice but to respond favorably to their request. In fact, we have built doctrines and denominations around stories like this one. If we just have enough faith, God will heal us or our loved ones. Right? Furthermore, if He doesn’t come through, well, we obviously did not have enough faith.
Because faith heals. No healing equals no faith.
Tell that to the parents who have prayed for years for their little girl to be healed of leukemia, taken communion with her countless times, called the elders to lay hands on her and pray, lost endless hours of sleep crying out to the Lord for her healing . . . only to gather around her graveside with incomprehensible grief in their hearts.
What’s that? You wouldn’t dream of saying such a thing to them?
Yeah, me neither.
When I first came to know Jesus, I was immediately submerged deep into what was being referred to by many as the “faith movement.” The teaching I heard was so wonderful! As a new follower of Jesus who had no grounding whatsoever in the Scriptures, I came to believe that I could pretty well just ask God for whatever I wanted, and as long as I “had faith,” He had pretty well obligated Himself to fulfill my every wish.
I came to idolize the “successful” preachers who had the Armani suits and Rolex watches, who flew to their next meetings in private jets, and who seemed to have direct lines to the throne room. I longed to be like them, focusing all of my attention and energy on becoming a man of great faith. If only I could grow my faith to the same level as theirs, then I could do great things for God! I could literally change the world!
Then came the time when what I believed almost caused me to walk away from what I believed.
(Continue to Part 2)