How do you describe it, slice-and-dice it, when somebody’s faith “makes the news?” The Thessalonians in the Bible were such a bunch. Look how Paul describes them:
“Wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God” (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
That gets my attention.
In the lives of these believers, as well as in the lives of people who turned Jesus’ head in the gospels, there seems to be a difference between simple faith and mountain-moving, remarkable faith.
One thing is sure. Nobody demonstrated remarkable faith by seeking to be remarkable. Here’s what A. W. Tozer said:
Faith is the least self-regarding of the virtues. It is by its very nature scarcely conscious of its own existence. Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves–blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.
Wouldn’t you love to “stop tinkering with your soul?” Wouldn’t you love to have a reputation for the way you hold onto the faithfulness of God? So what does faith that “pushes the envelope” look like?
This is a confidence in God that sees – that perceives what human eyes can’t. People who push the faith envelope have a different way of seeing things. Like the Roman centurion, of whom Jesus said he hadn’t found such a great faith in all of Israel (Matthew 8:10), people with faith-on-the-edge can see God’s economy, God’s kingdom, God’s activity when others can’t – or don’t.
When the man with the demon-possessed boy said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24), he offered desperation when he couldn’t offer faith. His desperation became greater than his unbelief, and Jesus met him there. Desperation becomes unbelief when it turns away from Christ. But it is accounted for faith when it clings to Him.
Get this: You don’t have to have perfect faith when you have crazy desperation that doggedly clings to Jesus alone as your hope and help. To be honest, few people ever get that desperate.
Even in the face of a hostile environment, the word of the Lord rang out from the believers in Thessalonica. They were willing to risk persecution, rejection, and hatred in order to testify of the life-changing power and truth of the gospel. In a like manner, Jesus saw the faith of four friends who dug a hole in the roof of a house to get their paralyzed friend to Him (Matthew 9:2).
Crazy? Risky? Ridiculous? Scandalous?
But crazy, risky, ridiculously scandalous toward Jesus.
These Macedonians “turned away from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). They were willing, not just to accept the truth as an abstract concept, but to bring their lives into alignment with what that truth meant.
In the ministry of Jesus, one group of people turned his head for the opposite reason – because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58). Of all people, it was those in his home town. Why? No doubt, it was their familiarity with Jesus. They knew enough about Him to accept His occupation (carpenter), just not His office.
They were willing to observe Him, but not to be changed by Him.
The world, even church world, is filled with people who observe Jesus as some word of cardboard cutout to be observed, even talked about or sung to. Woo hoo.
But somewhere there is a remnant of people who so believe in who He is that they would actually change their lifestyle in response to what they knew about Him. They have a faith that’s famous – even if sometimes it starts as somewhat infamous.
How about you? Has what you believe about Jesus actually produced a significant change in your life?
These people actually assumed that faith meant girding up and doing something. They became imitators of Christ and of their spiritual mentors (1 Thessalonians 1:6). Like the woman who stopped an entire procession by reaching out and touching the hem of Jesus’ garment (Matthew 9:21), cutting edge faith reaches, touches, receives, acts!
Whoa, says the mediocre majority. Let’s not get too carried away here.
Please. Let’s do.
Mustard seed. That’s all Jesus said it would take. Something the size of the head of a pin.
But a mustard seed faith that is actually executed turns heads.
Changes hearts, too.
Don’t try this for the sake of other people noticing – you’ll have your reward.
But if you lay hold of this kind of faith – the faith that pushes the envelope – you’d better be prepared… they’ll be talking about you, too. People will notice.
But what’s even more significant… Heaven will notice, too.