Faith is a strange phenomenon, hard to define and harder to describe. Hebrews describes faith as being “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” My faith is in Jesus. I am sure that my hope in Him is well placed. Certain that He has saved me from sin and despair and one day He is coming back to take all those who believe to be with Him in heaven. But what about faith in our ordinary day to day? In the 9 to 5? In the sacrifices involved in caring for family? In endless ministry commitments? In the midst of heartache and disappointment in a broken relationship? In a dream slipping slowly through our fingers? My faith is aptly described as being as small as a mustard seed. Barely visible, fragile.
I have recently graduated from a theological college in Brisbane after more than three years of blood, sweat and plenty of tears. Of waiting and seeking and praying for God to lead me forward as I knuckled down in obedience. The hype of graduation is now over and as I try to move forward I am left with more questions and what feels like even less clarity over God’s calling and direction for my future. My mustard seed indeed feels small.
Jesus friends Martha and Mary possessed small faith following the death of their brother Lazarus. Both Martha and Mary express to Jesus on his arrival the same message. “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” (John 11:21, 32 MSG)
Blame is as familiar to me as it was to Martha and Mary. “If you’d been here Jesus, this wouldn’t have happened to me. I wouldn’t be stuck in this situation in my work. I wouldn’t be experiencing so much grief and pain.“ If Jesus is as all powerful as we know Him to be, if He can feed 5000, heal a woman who has bled for 12 years, calm storms and rise from the dead it is not too much of a challenge for Him to step into our situation. His power is not the problem.
What about His presence? His availability? Jesus hadn’t arrived to Martha and Mary’s house until Lazarus was four days dead. Was he held up doing something else? Somehow unable to get there in time? The camel broke down? No, we read “When He [Jesus] heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days.” (John 11:6 MSG) Jesus’ availability wasn’t the problem. He was free to intervene and instead He intentionally allowed Lazarus to die! Jesus’ availability isn’t the problem for us either. We have the person of the Holy Spirit with us always in every circumstance of life. So why does it seem that Jesus is not intervening for us?
Maybe the problem is with His love? If Jesus is capable and able to intervene in our circumstances but he intentionally chooses not to do so what does that say about His love for us? Possibly he could not be bothered. Our circumstances our pain and suffering aren’t even a blip on His radar. Jesus is disinterested and far from compassionate. Yet “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5 MSG) “He wept” (John 11:35 MSG) because He was grieved and moved with compassion for Martha and Mary. Clearly Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. We too know the depths of His love for us through His act of sending His one and only son to the cross on our behalf.
So why did Jesus not bring change? Why has he allowed Lazarus to die? Why has he allowed difficulty and pain to affect our lives? For His glory.
“Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40 MSG) Jesus raises Lazarus to life on that very day for the glory of God. And finally we have a glimpse of His purposes coming together. Jesus is revealed as one who has power even over death itself that others might see and recognise Him as the living God.
And it’s the same for us. We know the “Why?” of our challenges and trials. Jesus enacts His purposes that He might be glorified! We don’t know if we will experience change in our circumstances as Martha and Mary did or we if we will continue to experience this challenge this side of heaven. But I am certain despite my inability to understand thoroughly the ins and outs of God’s specific purposes in my life that in the end it is for the glory of God and the sake of His Kingdom I am experiencing lack of direction and employment. For the glory of God and the sake of His Kingdom He has allowed you to experience challenging circumstances. And though our mustard seeds of faith can still feel very very small we have peace and understanding as faith shifts our focus to the coming Kingdom of God