Thursday, February 06, 2003

The Choosing and Training of the Twelve -- Advanced Faith

This is part 8 of a series covering the choosing and training of the twelve disciples. To start at the beginning, click here.

Perhaps you have heard, as I have, teachings that poke fun at the twelve disciples of Jesus. They are always bickering among themselves and Peter is always sticking his foot in his mouth. What such teachings really say is that these twelve men came from simple and common backgrounds. The time has come, however, to set the record straight that these were great men of faith before Jesus took them to a new level. Consider these facts:

  • They all left everything to follow Jesus. How many people have you known who have done this?
  • They all received, by faith, the authority to heal the sick and to cast out demons.
  • They stuck with Jesus even after many left. They were there until the arrest, which many anticipated

As you can see, these twelve men demonstrated a remarkable faith. A faith beyond what we commonly see. As part of the inner team, Jesus was not satisfied with this level. Here is the level He wanted from them:

When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, because he is epileptic and suffers terribly, for he often falls into the fire and into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they were not able to heal him.” Jesus answered, “You unbelieving and perverse generation! How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I endure you? Bring him here to me.” Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him, and the boy was healed from that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” He told them, “It was because of your little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:14-20, The Net Bible)

Note Jesus' words "the littleness of your faith." He is saying this to men who left everything to be there and who have already seen and done powerful things. Jesus was holding them to a higher standard. Look at this story:

On that day, when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So after leaving the crowd, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat, and other boats were with him. Now a great windstorm developed and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was nearly swamped. But he was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” So he got up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Be quiet! Calm down!” Then the wind stopped, and it was dead calm. And he said to them, “Why are you cowardly? Do you still not have faith?” They were overwhelmed by fear and said to one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and sea obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41)

Again note Jesus' words, "Do you still not have faith?"

Jesus was never satisfied with the faith the disciples showed. This was not because He was being overly critical, but it was because He wanted them to do great things. This was Jesus' goal:

Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves. I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:11-14)

The disciples demonstrated great faith in leaving everything and sticking beside Jesus in good times and bad. If Jesus had praised that, it would have ended there. Instead He counted it almost as nothing, the beginning point. Instead, he challenged them to believe truly great things.

The message for us is obvious. Let us consider the faith we have today as nothing, and ask Him to create in our inner selves, a faith that can do anything in His name.

Friday: Graduation

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