The Personal Tension Faith Produces
Having faith in God through His son Jesus Christ solves many
tensions in a typical life. It solves those tensions in numerous ways. It gives
a person's life both an immediate focus and an eternal focus--the whole of life
is not focused on the here and the now. It gives meaning and significance to a
thought, or a motive, or an act that goes far beyond the moment. It magnifies
the significance of purpose and intent. It measures the significance of life in
factors that far surpass physical achievements. It provides purpose when
physical existence is totally inadequate in insufficient.
At the same time, faith in God creates a personal crisis. Pure faith in God
is totally unselfish. The goal of having faith in God is to aspire to that
unselfishness. Yet, seeking that unselfishness is totally contrary to our
physical existence as we understand physical existence. We had rather mask
selfishness with "correct appearances" than to destroy selfishness. It is very
difficult to realize that faithfulness to God is 100% about devotion to God and
0% about devotion to self.
While faith in God solves many personal crises, faith in God also creates at
least one primary crisis in the believer's life. Faith creates a genuine crisis
by producing tension. The tension becomes increasingly obvious as the Christian
grows in his or her awareness that serving God is all about God and not at all
This evening, first I wish to fix your attention on the personal tension
faith produces. Secondly, I want you to see from Jesus what the solution to that
tension or crisis is. As we consider this aspect of faith, I want to remind you
again that faith in God is a lifetime journey, not a momentary destination.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called
Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while
I go over there and pray." And He took with Him Peter and the two
sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to
them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of
death; remain here and keep watch with Me." And He went a little
beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying,
"My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will,
but as You will." And He came to the disciples and found them
sleeping, and said to Peter, "So, you men could not
keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not
enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
He went away again a second time and prayed, saying,
"My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done."
Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He
left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same
thing once more.
- I want to begin with what I regard to be the first leg of this faith
tension in a Christian's existence: the temptation to put God on trial.
- I wish to call your attention to what the gospel of Matthew presents as
Jesus' second temptation when Jesus meets Satan in the wilderness as Jesus
prepares to begin his ministry.
- This temptation is seen in Matthew 4:5-7.
Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had
Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the
Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command His
angels concerning You'; and 'On their hands they will bear You up, So that
You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him,
"On the other hand, it is written, 'You shall not
put the Lord your God to the test.'"
- The setting was geographically the holiest place on earth for an
- The request seemed to carry the full weight of God's authority.
- Satan quoted scripture.
- He seemingly invoked a divine promise.
- He told Jesus that if he had full confidence in his identity as
God's son, he should place unquestioning confidence in God's promise.
- On the surface of the request, it seemed Satan was challenging Jesus
to demonstrate his faith in God's promise to the Messiah.
- Jesus quickly saw through Satan's temptation, perhaps much more
quickly than most of us do.
- Jesus saw something so obvious that in its prominence it was almost
- (Satan never, never challenges us to get closer to God! With Satan,
appearances always will be deceitful!)
- Jesus saw the temptation for what it was--a temptation to bolster
his feeling of insecurity about his identity by demanding that God
perform because he felt insecure.
- Thus Jesus responded that the true issue involved was not trusting
God, but making God perform like a puppet.
- To submit to Satan's directive would not be a declaration of faith
in God, but a demand for God to perform to eliminate Jesus' feeling of
insecurity about his identity and purpose.
- The source of Jesus' rebuttal is more than interesting.
- Jesus did not just quote any old scripture regardless of the
- He did not take a verse and make it mean what he wanted it to
- The context of the verse is as significant to me as the verse
- There is an enormous difference between showing confidence in God
and putting God on trial.
- Jesus seems to be referring to Moses' statement in Deuteronomy
6:16 which is a reference to Exodus 17:1-7.
- Israel was at Rephidim and was thirsty, because there was no water
where they camped.
- They quarreled with Moses to the point that it was getting
dangerous for Moses.
- They asked, "Why did you bring us out here to die of thirst?"
- God through Moses provided the people water from a rock.
- The place was named Massah (which means test) or Meribah (which
- They did not express confidence; they expressed doubt.
- Jesus said, "If I jump, I do not show confidence in God; I show
doubt. I am asking God to perform for my benefit."
- To me, the second leg of this faith tension is seen in Mark 9:14-27.
When they came back to the disciples, they saw
a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. Immediately,
when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet
Him. And He asked them, "What are you discussing with
them?" And one of the crowd answered Him, "Teacher, I brought You my
son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him,
it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and
stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it."
And He answered them and said, "O unbelieving
generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?
Bring him to Me!" They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him,
immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground,
he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father,
"How long has this been happening to him?" And he
said, "From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the
water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help
us!" And Jesus said to him, "'If You can?' All things
are possible to him who believes." Immediately the boy's father cried
out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief." When Jesus saw that a crowd
was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it,
"You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of
him and do not enter him again." After crying out and throwing him into
terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse
that most of them said, "He is dead!" But Jesus took him by the hand and
raised him; and he got up.
- Both Mark and Matthew indicate this incident occurred when Jesus
returned with Peter, James, and John following the incident on the Mount of
- These four men returned to a crowd and an argument.
- Jesus asked, "What is going on?"
- The man who was at the center of the incident spoke up: "I brought
my child who is possessed and self destructive, and your disciples could
not correct the situation."
- After Jesus expressed personal grief, he asked for the boy to be
brought to him.
- The father, after already experiencing great faith in coming and
perplexing disappointment in the disciples' inability to help, begged
Jesus to do something if he could.
- Jesus responded, "If I can? The issue is not my ability but your
- The man's response always has touched my heart--in every way I
identify with his crisis: "I believe; help my unbelief!"
- Jesus cast out the spirit, demanded the spirit never return, and proved
the child was alive.
- The crises involved the father's faith or confidence, not Jesus'
- It was a matter of confidence, not a matter of trial.
- The man knew he had confidence in Jesus, but he also knew he struggled
- He plainly asked Jesus to work with his doubt to increase his
- Do we not all understand the problem?
- To me, it is in those two incidents we can understand the tension and
crisis faith in God produces in each of us.
- The tension: when am I expressing trust in God and when am I demanding
that God destroy my doubt by performing in a manner I declare acceptable?
- With all of us, there commonly is at least an element of doubt--we all
should be able to identify with the father who cried for help with his
- The question: when is my doubt a stepping stool to greater confidence
in God, and when is my doubt a demand that God perform in ways I demand?
- The heart of the issue is personal motive.
- Is my motive a desire to increase my trust in God, or is my motive a
desire to use God to meet my needs?
- Do I serve God, or does God serve me?
- Are God's purposes more important than my desires?
- Can God achieve His objectives in things that I regard objectionable?
- Does God have anything to prove to me?
- That is quite a dilemma! At times what I call faith may in fact be doubt!
- To me, the perfect guideline and perfect distinction between faith in
God and the demand that God perform for my benefit is seen in the physical
Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane the last night of his physical life.
Quite often as humans we will find our desires in conflict with God's
purposes, and that is okay.
- In this very familiar incident, we see several things.
- We see that Jesus did not wish to die by crucifixion.
- We see Jesus' desire and God's will in conflict.
- We see God's purpose in conflict with Jesus' desire.
- Also in this we see an astounding solution to an astounding tension.
- Jesus begged his Father not to let him die, and that was okay.
- Jesus begged, if possible, for God to achieve His purpose in some
other manner, and that was okay.
- Jesus preferred something different to that which God preferred, and
that was alright.
- Jesus' personal desire and God's purpose were in conflict, and that
- The solution: Jesus surrendered his desire to God's will.
- Did that mean that suddenly Jesus wanted to die by crucifixion? No!
- Did that mean that suddenly Jesus preferred identically the same
thing God preferred? No!
- It simply meant that Jesus understood that God's purpose was
superior to his desire, even if God's purpose meant a painful,
disgraceful death by execution.
- There was no question in Jesus mind that God's purpose was superior to
- The issue always is which is superior--my desires or God's purpose.
- The fact that I experience conflict and tension at that moment proves
- The issue always is human surrender.
- The issue always is my understanding that God's purpose is superior in
every way to my desire.
God's purposes are often achieved by things which happen contrary to my
desires. The tension of faith is resolved when I say in genuine surrender, "God,
your will be done!"
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 17 July 2005
Link to other