What does it mean to have true faith?

What does it mean to have true faith and trust in God?

This question came to mind for me when I was reading in the Gospel of Mark. Let’s start with a little background information for context in Mark 11 and we’ll pick up with Jesus’ comments on having true belief:

As Jesus was leaving the town of Bethany to head back into the city of Jerusalem, which was nearby, he was hungry. He saw a fig tree in leaf off in the distance and went to find out if it had any fruit.

When Jesus got there, he found nothing but leaves because it was not in season for figs. He said to the tree, within earshot of the disciples, in Mark 11:14: “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

The very next morning, after Jesus had overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves in the previous day, he and his disciples were walking along and saw that same fig tree withered from the roots.

Peter said to Jesus: “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

That’s where we will pick up in Mark 11:22-25 with Jesus’ response:

“Have faith in God.” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.”

That’s a powerful illustration of what true faith in Jesus can do in your life. Jesus said that if you truly believe that you have received what you’ve asked for in prayer, and do not have doubt in your heart, that it will be yours.

When you really study and analyze that, it should completely change the way that we view prayer. I think most of us view prayer, particularly when we are asking something of God, as something we HOPE that He will do rather than BELIEVING that he will do something.

There’s a major difference in those two thoughts. How many of you have prayed for something and hoped that God would respond? What kind of a difference would it make in our lives if we had the kind of faith to truly believe that God will supply us with what we need and what we ask for?

As followers of Jesus Christ, faith is really the name of the game for us. When you made a decision to follow Jesus, you put your faith in him and believed that he was the son of the living God who lived a perfect life, died for the sins of all, rose from the dead and will return one day.

From the world’s perspective, that probably doesn’t make a ton of sense. But from our perspective, it’s about faith and trusting in the Lord and believing that he is who he says he is.

Sometimes I think we all, myself included, unintentionally put limits on what we think God can do in our lives because our human brains simply can’t wrap our minds around how great his power truly is. But if we truly believe the same God who created the entire universe and everything in it and has performed countless miracles is who he says he is, shouldn’t it stand to reason that we can fully have faith to trust in him and watch him work in our lives?

I think we should all strive to get to the point in our prayer lives where we present our concerns and requests before God and truly believe that he’s going to take care of us and direct our lives to what we truly need.

Putting all of your faith in God means putting all of your trust in him also. The more we can adopt that all-in mindset to God and what he commands us to do, the more fruit we’ll see in our lives.

Love is always the way

Bullying is something that has gone on for ages, but it just seems like it’s more prevalent nowadays.

That may or may not be true, but I do know that social media has certainly made it more visible to the general public. Social media itself can sometimes be a cesspool where bullying is at the most extreme.

It breaks my heart to see some of these videos that are floating around out there of kids, or even adults, being bullied and harassed.

My first thought is always “How could somebody do this to someone?” And not only how can they do it, but how can they do it AND record it while it’s happening?

Here recently, though, I’ve been having a follow-up thought as well:

“Surely I didn’t participate in this kind of behavior when I was growing up……right?”

The fact is that I don’t specifically remember a time where I bullied someone mercilessly and intentionally, but I’m also sure there were times where I was bullying someone, maybe without even knowing what I was doing. Maybe sometimes when I even did know what I was doing.

Lately, when I hear of these instances or see these videos, I just can’t help but try to think about what that must feel like….To wake up and just dread going somewhere or being around a specific group of people because you’re either afraid of what they might do or say to you or that you’re unable to do anything about it. To feel like you’re all alone.

Like I said before, it’s just heartbreaking.

Admittedly, bullying has never really been something I’ve had to deal with or work through. It happened from time to time growing up through school, but for me they were isolated incidents and I usually dealt with them there in the moment. As old as this may make me seem, it was a different time.

I’m not naive enough to think that’s how it is for everyone. Bullying exists and it’s a problem. And it’s not just a problem that kids deal with either. There are adults around us all, maybe even some of you who are reading this, that have to deal with a form of bullying every day.

It’s one thing to recognize what bullying is and that it’s an issue. But what can we do about it?

I’d like to address three groups of people in order to try and answer that question.

If you are the one being a bully or are a part of a group being a bully……why? That’s probably the first thing you need to ask yourself. Why am I doing this? What purpose does it serve? Is it really worth making another human being feel this way?

Particularly if you claim to be a follower of Jesus and you are bullying someone, which does happen……why? In 1 John 2:9 it says: “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.”

Jesus was all about love and kindness. If you profess to be a follower of him, it would stand to reason that you should strive to be the same way.

Secondly, if you witness somebody being bullied, lend a helping hand. That doesn’t necessarily mean go flying in there and physically fight off the bully, but it does mean that you can do what you can to stop them.

More importantly, it means making sure that the victim knows that they aren’t alone. That there are people out there who do care about them and who do value them. Sometimes standing up to a bully on behalf of someone else or befriending someone who is “uncool” isn’t the popular thing to do, but it’s always the right thing to do.

Jesus wasn’t about popularity. He did what was right. He healed the sick, ministered to the lost and hung around tax collectors, included women (which was abnormal at the time), gave his time to the poor and unclean. The least we can do is to be a friend, which is easy. And it could end up being one of the most rewarding things you ever do.

Finally, I want to speak to those who are being bullied. The simplest comfort I can give is that no matter how much it may seem like it, you are not alone.

There are people who care. There are people who you can reach out to. But most importantly, there is a Heavenly Father who knows you, loves you and created you.

There’s a passage in the New Testament that we call “The Great Commission” where Jesus said his final words before ascending into heaven after his resurrection.

It can be found in Matthew 28:18-20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Those final words are just so encouraging to me. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus is always with you and will not leave you.

Bottom line…..respect those around you and treat them according to that respect. It’s easy to be a follower and give in to peer pressure and be a bully. Sometimes it’s hard to be a leader and stand up for and stand with somebody else.

Do the hard thing.

Quick hits: Enter into the peace of God

Just some food for thought heading into this weekend….maybe you’ve got some stressful issues going on in your life right now and you need some encouragement.

Take a look at this passage written by Paul from Philippians 4:4-9:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Jesus is counter-cultural….and we should be too

Our world today teaches us to be spiteful, negative and many times just downright hateful. That’s why being a follower of Christ is so counter-cultural.

Jesus teaches us to be loving and accepting of all people. That can oftentimes be the hardest thing to do, particularly when those people are not being kind to us in return.

I’ve been going through the gospel of Luke lately, and it’s always interesting to me how different passages that you’ve read before seem to connect with you in ways they previously never had when you read them again.

One passage of particular interest to me of late has been Luke 6:27-38 where Jesus is speaking to a large crowd who had come to hear him speak and to be healed. During that teaching, Jesus spelled out to us how to love our enemies and how that makes us more like God.

“But I say to you who listen: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks from you, and from one who takes away your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Pretty much everything about what Jesus said in this passage goes against what our everyday norm in today’s world has turned into.

How often do you see cordial conversation, much less compassion, being shown between two people who disagree with each other politically? Have you read a comment section of pretty much any news article on Facebook lately? It’s a horrifying place to be. Imagine how difficult it would be to show love toward someone who is bullying you or mistreating you on a daily basis?

Yet, that is one of the many things that makes Jesus so incredible. Following him and putting his ways into practice is rarely the easy thing to do. But it’s always the right thing to do.

It’s not difficult to love the people who love you. As Jesus said, anybody can do that. But it is difficult to show love and compassion for people who treat you poorly.

At the end of the day, if you have accepted Jesus as your savior and walk with the Holy Spirit, we all have the ability to learn from what Jesus has taught us in this passage and watch how it will transform our lives.

Do not judge. Do not condemn. Just love. That’s what we’re taught to do, and that’s how we can change the world around us on a daily basis.

Don’t be afraid; just believe

Jesus was approached by a synagogue leader named Jairus in Mark 5, who fell at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with him to come with him to heal his 12-year-old daughter, who was dying. While Jesus was speaking while on his way to the home of Jairus, people came from the house and said to Jairus “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?”

When Jesus heard what they said, he told Jairus in Mark 5:36:

“Don’t be afraid; just believe.” 

Jesus went into the house and took the dead girl by the hand and said “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Scripture says the girl immediately got up and began to walk around.

Just imagine how distraught and troubled Jairus must have been at what his daughter was facing. She was near death when he went to find Jesus, and he had just been told that his daughter had died once they returned.

But then Jesus said five words to him that changed everything. And those five words can be applied to our lives on a daily basis.

“Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Jairus had every reason in the world to be fearful of losing his daughter. But he also knew that Jesus could heal her, and ultimately, that Jesus was in complete control. All Jesus asked of him was to just have faith.

There are so many different situations in our lives that we ultimately realize that we have no control over. People show up to work only to be laid off of a job they’ve been working for decades. People go into a doctor’s office for a routine checkup only to leave with a scary, life-changing diagnosis.

But as Christians, we live with a constant reassurance that we have a guide. We have a friend looking out for our best interests. The Lord wants us to trust in him and follow the path that he has set out for every one of us.

There is so much power and freedom in being able to put your faith in Jesus and watch him work in your life. It’s a peace that fills your soul that is so calming and so abundant.

If you’re reading this today and you don’t know that peace that is found in Jesus, reach out to someone today who can help you find it. Whether that’s me or a trusted friend or family member…..whoever. There’s nothing Jesus wants more than to have a relationship with you, and there’s nothing you’ll ever do that’s more fulfilling.

For my fellow believers, never forget that you’re not alone in whatever you go through in life. Jesus has always been there and will always be there. When things get hard or uncertain, don’t be afraid. Just believe.