(Deuteronomy 7:17-23 with John 14:11-13 and Matthew 17:20, 21:21)
1. The Volcano in the Philippines was big news this past week.
2. According to the Associated Press, "Philippine troops went house to house Thursday threatening to use force to move hundreds of residents from the steaming slopes of a lava-spilling volcano. Some farmers begged to stay to guard their livestock while their families spent Christmas Eve in a shelter. Volunteers distributed games and ice cream to children in some 45 evacuation centers and were preparing meals to try to restore some holiday cheer."
3. Some people might reason:
• I have faith, anything is possible. God can protect me during a volcanic eruption.
• God can do it; if faith is something I can muster, why not?
• Yet few of us would take that approach, yet some would justify it on the basis of Jesus’ teachings.
• Faith is not simply something we can coerce, and faith can be falsely founded.
Main Idea: When we understand how Jesus’ teaching on faith is connected to the Old Testament texts from which they originate, we can set aside wrong thinking and embrace fuller, more accurate perspectives.
I. Faith As A Little By Little PROCESS (Deuteronomy 7:17-23, John 14:11-13)
A. The GRADUAL Conquests of Faith
1. God’s work can be SLOW, gradual, and painful…
• Faith is a persistent dependence New Light, pp. 137-140
• Faith helps us address fear; many of us are afraid of fear (fear is a normal part of life to be lessened by faith, not cured)
• Faith helps us believe that God will actively work on our behalf
2. But not without REASON
• God had a reason for this slow and tedious process
• A gradual victory means a more solid victory
B. What ACTUALLY Happened in Joshua and Judges?
"…The Book of Joshua does not describe a total Hebrew conquest and occupation of Canaan, real or imaginary. Read straight, its narratives describe an entry (from over the Jordan), full destruction of two minor centers (Jericho, Ai; burned), then defeat of local kings and raids through south Canaan. Towns are attacked, taken and damaged ("destroyed"), kings and subjects killed and then left behind, not held on to. The same in north Canaan: strategic Hazor is fully destroyed (burned), but no others. The rest are treated like the southern towns, and again left, not held. Israel stayed based in Gilgal, then took over an inland strip from there up to Shechem and Tirzah. These preliminary successes were celebrated with war rhetoric appropriate to the time, which should not be twisted to mean what it does not. Joshua made allocations not taken up while he yet lived…" Kitchen, K.A., On the Reliability of the Old Testament, Eerdmans, 2003, pp. 234-235.
C. It Took Over 400 Years
D. A Possible MIDRASH of This Passage (John 14:11-13)
1. Jesus is like Joshua; He has parceled out the land and broken the clenching hold of the evil one; in our case, we are not conquering a land; but we are, instead, seeking to reach people from every tribe, kindred and nation, going into all the world with the Gospel.
Revelation 7:9-10 reads, "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
2. Jesus, like Joshua, has entered into our lives and given us a stronghold. But we must patiently wage the war within and conquer the allotted land.
II. Faith and the IMPOSSIBLE (Deuteronomy 7:17-23, Matthew 17:20 & 21:21)
A. Not FEARING the Seemingly Impossible (Deut. 7:17-23)
1. God is not limited by STATISTICS
2. God’s TRACK record proves his ability
B. A LITTLE Faith Goes A Long Way (Matt. 17:20 and Matt. 21:21)
1. The distilled principle: FAITH can accomplish the impossible
"R. Eliezer the Great40 declares: Whoever has a piece of bread in his basket and Says. ’What shall I eat tomorrow?’ belongs only to them who are little in faith." Sotah 48b
The mustard seed is the smallest seed that farmers sowed. That may illustrate a little faith, but it also illustrates a discreet faith. That’s why Jesus said not to pray to be seen of men, etc.
In the Talmud, we read an interesting comment:
"’One who says the Tefillah so that it can be heard is of the small of faith; he who raises his voice in praying is of the false prophets; he who belches and yawns is of the arrogant; if he sneezes during his prayer it is a bad sign for him — some say, it shows that he is a low fellow; one who spits during his prayer is like one who spits before a king’."
Faith that makes a big difference is not flamboyant faith. A little real faith goes a long way. Jesus shares via hyperbole to make the point.
2. The illustrations: fig tree and MOUNTAIN
3. Faith is not dangling magic power, but in God’s revealed WILL
4. Jesus is neither denying nor REPLACING the Deuteronomy concept
C. Interpretation: Run with Words or CONTEXT?
When we understand how Jesus’ teaching on faith is connected to the Old Testament texts from which they originate, we can set aside wrong thinking and embrace fuller, more accurate perspectives.
1. Biblical faith is not the tele-evangelist’ kind of faith that takes the hardships out of life.
2. Biblical faith ages you, stresses you, and it is not primarily about you, but God.
3. Faith empowers you to advance God’s kingdom, to make it through life, and to be a spiritual warrior for Him. It is about you, but not primarily you. Instead, Biblical faith is a God-thing; it is not about using God as your servant; it is, rather, God helping you and blessing you because you are his servant doing his work.