With the help of some new friends here in Gracias, I’ve been learning more about the personalities of the apostles of Jesus. The apostles were people, too, and they struggled with a lot of the same things you and I struggle with. We’ll get back to one of them.
First, our new friends here run 61 Isaiah Ministries. They are Shannon and Kristi Hopkins, and they also teach at the school. Shannon is the chaplain, and Kristi is Evie’s teacher. This is an unsolicited and unapologetic plug, so don’t be afraid to check them out at 61isaiah.com and donate and pray. Most Sunday mornings, we have been going with them to a house-church in a little village about half an hour outside of town, down a “nice” dirt road that crosses four rivers. You might call them “streams” if you’ve lived here longer than I have, and you might call them “big puddles” if you’re Evie.
61 Isaiah goes to a lot of other villages we haven’t been to, training pastors, raising up churches, encouraging people to pray, building relationships, and bringing the transformative hope of Christ to people who desperately need it (as we all do). They don’t do it for the recognition or the large turnout. As I watched Shannon give the message a couple Sunday’s ago, there were about 5 or 6 adults listening, while about twice as many kids listened to a separate message nearby. As I compared this to the church experience I had been trained to expect, I wondered about the effectiveness of this little gathering. God made sure I knew that I was missing the point by speaking to me through the message, which was about the apostle Philip.
The message was about the feeding of the five thousand. Before Jesus fed the five thousand, he asked Philip where they were gonna buy bread to feed all these people. Philip said it would cost too much money. He actually said that to Jesus’s face. I’m thinking he felt a little embarrassed after Jesus fed the entire crowd for free and had leftovers. I thought I was embarrassed the other night when I almost accidentally ordered a lemonade with milk in Spanish. The waiter just looked at me and said, “no.” Turns out a limonada con leche sounds just as gross as a lemonade with milk. I could explain to you how my thought process got me there, but it would be just as futile as Philip explaining to Jesus his doubts in his power, surrounded by a crowd of satisfied people and baskets of leftovers. I’m gonna work on my Spanish. Philip would have been wise to just work on his faith.
Philip thinks he’s smart. Philip overthinks things. Philip overanalyzes everything. Philip values planning and certain outcomes over walking in trust with Jesus. Philip tells himself that he knows that Jesus can do anything, but he doesn’t actually believe it until he sees it. Philip lacks faith.
I want to speak specifically to those who have a hard time with faith in Jesus, whether you wrestle with it or even if you don’t buy this whole religion thing at all.
Good news. Jesus isn’t religion.
If you think that you’re not expressing any faith by choosing not to put your faith in some specific spirituality, you’re wrong. What you are actually doing is putting faith in yourself above all else. This is one of the easiest, as well as one of the most misguided things we can do as human beings.
Or, said more sympathetically, if you have a hard time putting your full faith in Jesus every moment, you’re in good company. There are billions of other people living or dead who have and who did and who are struggling with the same thing. Now, they’ve probably put in varying degrees of effort with this faith thing, so I’d like to encourage you to keep trying.
If doubt and skepticism have kept you from putting your full faith in Jesus Christ, I can relate. But man, do I regret it. I learned the hard way this past year (and continue to learn) how difficult things can be when you try to do it all yourself. As a husband and father, I should be the one packing up our home in Michigan, finding a renter for the property, budgeting and fundraising, finding a new house in Honduras, and handling all the details in between. As I look back over how God handled all of that, I realize that my main contribution to all of those processes was worry. I doubted it would all happen. I was skeptical that it was going to work out well.
But doubt and skepticism aren’t at all absent in faithful expression. As a matter of fact, they are a defining and essential part of faith. They just have to be used properly, not the way we tend to use them.
True faith is doubt. Doubt in yourself, doubt in your own abilities, doubt in your own knowledge, doubt in your own planning and future-predicting capacity.
True faith is skepticism. Skepticism about just how much you really know, about just how great you really are, and about just how much you can really accomplish on your own.
But with God, all things are possible. If you took all that worry you have and turned it into faith, your outlook would be unspeakably transformed. If you took all your doubt and skepticism about God and put it on yourself, you would realize just how much you need to rely on him for everything, which isn’t at all a defeating notion, but rather an enormously refreshing and eternally liberating one.
And I take issue with the idea that choosing to express faith in the spiritual realm is somehow a “leap” from things that make sense… something that requires ignoring some scientific evidence… something that doesn’t make sense… something that only weird people do. Indeed, when you put your trust in Jesus, stepping out in faith isn’t some great departure from normality, but rather a return to the very essence of that for which we exist.
So consider yourself free to doubt. You’re free to doubt your own human ability when you put your faith in the certainty of the eternal power and provision of Jesus Christ. And you’re not just free to doubt… it’s actually highly encouraged.