Let’s turn now to a brief look at faith in the life of Jesus. The picture of Jesus that emerges in the Gospels is of a man who lived his daily life in conscious, trusting dependence on his Father in heaven. Consider, for example, how his resistance to the Devil’s temptations in the wilderness reveals an unshakable faith in God and his Word (Matt. 4:1–11). Or his dependence on the Father in the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:40–43). Or his confidence that his Father would raise him from the grave (Mark 8:31). In each instance, Jesus has absolute trust in his Father. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than when he agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, wanting to be spared but submitting to his Father’s will on the cross.
Jesus not only lived a life of faith before his disciples, he called them to live a life of faith as well. First and foremost he called them to put their trust in him as Messiah and Son of God. But he didn’t stop there. He called them to an active, living faith in their heavenly Father in the affairs of everyday life. Whether for daily bread or power to heal the sick and cast out demons or to overcome the perils of nature, they were to live by faith and to grow in faith. Each challenge they encountered was an opportunity for growth. They were slow to learn the lessons of faith, and most of us probably identify with them and give them a pass. But Jesus never did. When the disciples were in danger of drowning in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus upbraided them for their fear and lack of faith (Mark4:35–41). When they were unable to cast out a demon, he told them it was due to their lack of faith (Matt. 17:14–21). Growing in faith was a very important part of maturing as a disciple. He expected them to grow in faith as they saw his mighty deeds, and he expected them to trust God to answer their prayers—even to “move mountains” to advance his kingdom.
One of the saddest commentaries on the church in the West today is the weakness of our faith. Secularism has seriously eroded our belief in the almighty, miracle-working God of the Bible, who answers the prayers of his people and intervenes in the affairs of the world. We have embraced a reductionism that acknowledges faith in Christ as essential for salvation but largely ignores the necessity of living by faith thereafter. How many of us really live each day with a confident trust in God to do what he says he will do? How many of us take him at his word and act with the expectation that he will be faithful? This is the kind of faith that Jesus calls us to exercise as we seek to follow him. It is the kind of faith we see in William Carey, the father of modern missions, who said, “Attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.” Or Hudson Taylor, the famed missionary who opened up China to the gospel. Or George Müller of Bristol, who over many decades, by simple faith in God and his word, prayed in the finances to feed, clothe, shelter, and educate thousands of orphans daily without telling anyone but God of his need. (If you want to be strengthened in your faith, read The Spiritual Autobiography of George Müller.)
Of course, such faith does not suddenly appear in our lives. It is something that grows over time as we read, mark, and inwardly digest God’s Word with the help of the Holy Spirit and prayerfully act on it in the obedience of faith. When we do this, God uses the needs, opportunities, and circumstances of our lives as a training ground to help us grow in faith, fulfill his purposes, and bring him glory. At the heart of following Jesus, then, is walking by faith in God, just as he did, and not living by reliance on our own limited wit, wisdom, and resources.
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