When it comes to faith, we are all on a journey. Everyone struggles with faith in one aspect or another at some point in their lives. And we all constantly strive to have a deeper faith in God. Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to focus our faith when we have reached a rough spot. Whether it is an answer to prayers for a loved one to be well, for work, for food, for relief from financial troubles, in times of hardship we seem to be desperate for answers from God. Jesus tells us that if we have faith even the size of a mustard seed we can move mountains (Luke 17:6). We are also told by Our Lord that if we ask, we shall receive (Luke 11:9). When we look at these verses, it can be easy to fall into thinking that is we do not get what we want, maybe our faith isn’t strong enough. Or worse, it can sometimes cause people to doubt the very existence of God.
When we begin to see this pattern of doubt in our faith, we need to remember what Jesus taught us to do when we are faced with temptation. Jesus, too, was tempted. Sometimes it is easy to think of temptation as something that is more concrete or physical. It is easy to identify temptation when it is something like the temptation to steal, to lie, to gossip. But the devil can tempt us to doubt. This is what we see when Jesus was tempted in the desert. Jesus is tempted by the devil to throw Himself down and trust that angels will save Him. Jesus answers this temptation by saying, “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” (Matthew 4:7). When we are praying for a specific answer, do we put God to the test?
There was a story in the news this past week about a pastor who handled snakes. (read the article here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/06/01/3637443/veteran-snake-handling-pastor.html) In Matthew 16: 17-18, Jesus tells us that those who truly believe will drive out demons, speak in tongues, pick up snakes with their hands, and drink poison but not be harmed. With these verses as his motivation, this pastor took his congregation to a park area and began to handle a poisonous snake. The snake bit him and the man died. This man had faith in God. But he was also testing Him.
When we are facing tough times, it is important to pray for a strengthening of true faith. Faith not only in what we want, but faith in God’s perfect timing. We may believe that our prayers need to be answered in a certain way and at a certain time. And God has told us that we can ask and we will receive an answer. Our faith needs to be strong. Not so we can test God and guarantee we get the response we want. Our faith needs to be strong enough so that when we ask God for something, when we knock on His door, we are willing and open to what may be on the other side. We need to pray for the faith to ask God, and then receive His answer with the knowledge that God’s plan is far greater than our own.
1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us that “These three remain: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.” Why is the greatest love? Because love is what makes faith and hope even possible. God is love. Only by loving the Lord, Our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind (Matthew 22:37) can we experience the fullness of the faith and hope that comes from Christ alone. When we open up our hearts to God, when we empty out our souls to be filled by Him alone, when we focus our minds on prayer and praise to our Loving Father, we allow the Holy Spirit to move within us and to fill us with a deeper faith. A true and living faith to believe and trust in God in all circumstances and to trust that His plan for us is greater than anything we could ever imagine.