Faith That Comes and Goes

You know what God is showing me? Walking by faith is not a skill that you ever completely master. Life will consist of tests that push your faith to continue to mold you in what He has purposed you to be. Though you may pass Test #1 with an A, it's quite possible to flunk "faith walking" in Test #2. Walking by faith WILL require studying (reading the Word of God and spending time with God). I don't care who you are, unlike high school, this isn't an area where some are just blessed enough to ace the test without studying.

And so, as seems to be a continuous theme on my blog, I've written many a posts on walking through "the fire" like a boss and each one mentions my discouragement and struggles to hold it all together. *raises hand* That's me today not to mention that some times each month are just more of a struggle than others, right?. Is my faith nonexistent? Absolutely not. Walking by faith is a spiritual thing, and unfortunately, though we have the Spirit as Christians, we still have our weak flesh. As a result, we have this tug-o-war where the Spirit says "walk by faith!", "trust God!", and our flesh is like, "Oh nahhhh. Only trust what you see!" And so, God is showing me that though rooted in good intentions, I kind of have a "Snap Chat Faith"
  • If you're like me and have never snap-chatted before, the whole premise is that it's a social media network where you can post and share different things but the caveat is that within 24 hours, and sometimes even shorter, whatever you posted is gone. That's my faith. When it's existent, it's big and bold, but shortly after, it dissipates with the next test that comes my way.

So, specifically, in these last 4 months of highs and lows, I've been faced with different tests that have required faith in God. Looking back, (thought at the time, it seemed like a mountain) what I faced in early January was a baby hurdle like this:
And so, at that time, that's where my spiritual stamina was, so I easily hopped over that thing with faith. However, within a short period of time, God would bring a bigger hurdle,
and the faith I had from the jumping over the small hurdle had somehow disappeared because there was fear and discouragement greeting me at the door because this new hurdle had grown, exponentially, in size. So I cried out to God, He whipped me into shape, and I was back metaphorically snap-chatting to all my "friends" about faith and celebrating getting over this 2nd hurdle. But then, similarly, in a short period, I found myself moving from seeing a hurdle to jumping over a fence twice my size because I have the height of a 10 year old kid.
You get the point, right? Just as before, seeing what lied in front of me, my faith disappeared just like a Snap Chat post and was nowhere to be found. Did God get me together and I jump the fence? Absolutely. So now, here I am. 

With a mountain in my way, completely perplexed, trying to figure out how the faith that got me over that baby hurdle can be applied here... and to be honest, the magnitude of the obstacle has me forgetting about all of the other obstacles God already helped me get over. But you know- that's the point of tests and trials. They grow us. Had God immediately had me try to climb jump over this mountain without having ever started with the hurdles and fence, it would be nearly impossible to convince me to do it. Though I'm fearful, jumping over a mountain (which is impossible) is much more fathomable knowing how God has intentionally prepared me by helping me jump over prior hurdles and fences.

SO I came home today, determined to cry out to God and get myself together once and for all for some faith that won't disappear 24 hours later, and God led me to Matthew 14 : 13-33 and Mark 6: 45-52 (Read it first to fully understand the rest of this post). Here are the things that the Holy Spirit pointed out to me and convicted me about in my devotional time.
  • The (Desired) Isolation of Jesus
    • The text starts with Jesus finding out that his beloved John the Baptist has been pettily beheaded, and so, as any of us would do, Jesus wants a moment to himself to grieve. Unfortunately, ministry calls, and crowds followed him to see about this man that was gaining popularity in their region.
      • Understand that you can minister through your pain. So often we want to retreat in times of struggle or pout when things aren't going our way, but you have to know that if you choose to see the greater picture (That someone can have the chains that bound them broken by your transparency), God can use you and be glorified through any situation.
    • I'm just speculating, but could it be that the persecution and murder of John was the perfect setup for Jesus to test his disciples on faith? After all, they would be the ones to spread the message of Christianity, and knowing they'd face persecution, Jesus used this opportunity to grow them in their faith.
      • Resist your desire to retreat to isolation. God can shift your inward preoccupation to being able to do an outward phenomenon that will change your life and the lives of others.
  • The Inability to Comprehend Jesus

    • So Jesus has compassion on the crowd. He walks with them and heals the sick among them. As he finishes, the disciples (missing the point of Jesus' continual selflessness) kind of rush him by telling him the people can just go into nearby villages and get something to eat, despite it being dinner time. Rude! Jesus refuses to send them away and insists that the multitude be fed! The disciples were baffled. It made no sense for these crowds to show up, unannounced, and then Jesus expect the disciples to feed them! They had just enough to feed themselves, let alone 5,000+.
      • That's Jesus for you. When you walk by sight, faith doesn't make sense. The idea that 5 loaves and 2 fish would be able to feed 5,000+ was incomprehensible to the disciples because they weren't focused on the limitless power of Jesus. That's us, oftentimes; as children of a sovereign God, we get caught up in what we see and forget He is not bound by sight.
      • Notice that the disciples walked with Jesus Christ himself, yet they struggled with faith. They'd seen him do miracles in previous tests, yet when faced with having faith for this test, they too had "Snap Chat Faith" that had dissipated from one situation to the next. That means NO ONE is immune from faith struggles. You have to be proactive in growing your faith.
    • Jesus used their lack of faith and the odds in their way to increase their faith. Know why? When we can see a way out of a situation, no faith is required. Jesus could've led the multitude into an area that was plenteous with food, and how much faith would've been necessary to believe that the crowd could be food? None. So instead, Jesus, by no coincident, meets with the crowd in a "desolate place"; dry, barren. To be in an empty, unfruitful area and see thousands be fed with minimal resources? Now that required faith.
      • Sometimes the odds HAVE to be monumental for God to stretch your faith and draw you closer to Him. If you are able to see your way out of a situation, you won't look to Him for deliverance nor direction. Notice that Jesus quickly let the disciples know that they weren't in charge. He shut them down. Whatever God is trying to show you by putting you in a desolate area, you aren't in charge of. Stop trying to fix it and just wait for His direction. Jesus told the disciples to bring what little resources were available and he told the crowd to sit down. He was in control the entire time because he was enlarging the faith of the disciples, but it wasn't meant for the disciples to understand the intricacies of how he was doing it.

  • The Intentionality of Jesus
    • Jesus miraculously feeds the multitude right in front of the little-faithed disciples! You better believe he was intentional in doing so, but you see, the feeding of the 5,000+ was Test #1 that day. That was a fence (see picture from beginning of the post), but the stretching of faith is a perpetual process, and so Test #2 was right around the corner.
    • Notice that while Jesus brings things to a close with the crowds, he sends the disciples away. I found this interesting, you know? Like, Jesus, you didn't want the disciples as part of the cleanup crew? It's the least they could do for having no faith! But Jesus is intentional. He sends them on their next journey that would require faith.
      • Hypothetically speaking, can you imagine what may have happened if the disciples stuck around after the miracle? What would they have said? Maybe someone in the crowd may have run up to Peter and said, "WOW! Look at what Jesus did! It must be so cool to be around him all the time huh?" And since Peter was so good at denying Jesus, maybe he would've downplayed it by scoffing and saying, "Yeah.. I guess. I mean, it wasn't THAT big of a deal." I mean, I don't know, but that's how we are sometimes... We see a miracle in our lives and at first we are astonished, and as the dust settles and we start talking to others, it looses its coolness and after awhile, we downplay exactly what happened.
      • Sometimes God does a miracle, and instantly moves you on because there's greater for you to learn. The first miracle was a pre-requisite to access the next test! Trust Him when your trials are back to back! He has an intentional plan and whatever He has for you in the next season will require someone who has faith to not just jump a baby hurdle, but to jump over a mountain.
  • The"Intangible" Jesus
    • I think it's interesting that Jesus sends the disciples to the next location on their own without him. In fact, he gives them a head start. They end up being separated from Jesus and far from the familiar i.e. their comfort zone. The head start without Jesus was testing their faith, so there they are and a storm starts. Fresh off the hills of seeing God do the impossible by feeding the multitude, their faith didn't transfer over to this situation. This is me; often.
      • You see, sometimes, even though we see God work firsthand, for a crowd, we don't know how to apply it to our own situations. We see God do a miracle for Sister So-and-So, so we know He's able, but at the same time, seeing Him work in her life, doesn't make it any easier to go through our struggle. Understand that He's all-powerful, so what He does for 1, He's able to do again and again for another. Don't limit Him by your fear of walking by faith.
    • So there they are. In a boat. Away from land, and suddenly a storm comes; winds and waves to frighten them. On the heels of seeing Jesus do a miracle, they forget that the "Miracle Man" would be with them even in the midst of being out to sea. Frightened, they start to panic. All of a sudden, Jesus comes to them. The text in Mark says that Jesus actually had intentions to pass them/go ahead of them in the midst of the storm, but came to them.
      • Isn't that just like God? He can put us in a storm and we lose faith (even though we know better), yet still run to our rescue immediately. He puts us directly in tests and trials and while He goes before us to cover us, He's just as willing to run to our side. The text in Mark says that Jesus watched them in pain and discomfort; he sent them into a storm but they were never out of his sight! And he does the same for you even today in your situations!
      • Understand that walking by faith is a continual growing process. Seeing God take you through 1 storm doesn't automatically guarantee that you handle the next one just as gracefully. Walking by faith is a choice. You have to choose it in the midst of each and every storm. The disciples had just seen Jesus do a miracle yet when they faced a hurdle right after, they couldn't even trust that Jesus would help them; they saw him and thought he was a ghost! They just couldn't wrap their minds around what was even going on. They knew Jesus would meet them but their faith in how he would do it was limited, so when he came to hold their hand by walking on water, they couldn't comprehend it because Jesus being able to walk on water was unimaginable. How often do we limit ourselves in seeing miracles because we box in God's capabilities? If you can comprehend an outcome, it's not big enough because what God is capable, our minds can't even conceive. Just because He doesn't move the mountain in the way you think He should doesn't mean that moving mountains can't happen. That's why He's God and we aren't. 
  • Intimacy with Jesus 
    • Still grappling with how to react, Peter (He's my favorite lol! Why? Because I can sympathize with him and his struggles with his faith) takes it one step further and asks Jesus for a sign to really prove that it was him instead of a ghost. Isn't that us? All along, Jesus is right there in our storm, but we have to keep asking for a sign to convince us. We're like, "God? I know you're there, but just to be sure, prove it to me? Okay, good. You're here. One more time though? Just give me a sign that I'm okay?"

    • Sometimes, even the sign requires faith. I can imagine God saying, "It doesn't matter how many signs, the answer is still the same- WALK BY FAITH." And so, for Peter, even the sign that he asked of Jesus would take faith and trust- walking on water. Notice, though, the call AWAY from the others. For Peter to truly understand walking by faith, he had to leave the familiarity of his crew, the disciples. Understand that walking by faith is going to require 1) an intimacy with Christ and 2) drawing away from others. If you’re truly going to cling to God, particularly in the midst of a storm, you’re going to have to pull away from others as a means of gaining focus. Be unashamed in your need for space. I mean, Peter stepped out of that boat towards Jesus and has no conversation with the disciples. He could've turned around and said, "Hey guys! Look! I'm walking on water!" but he didn't. When you're trying to walk by faith with God, you gotta keep your focus on Him. Plus, imagine how hard it would’ve been to even attempt to walk on water in a group. Like, picture all of the disciples trying to walk on water at the same time. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to facing a new challenge, if I’m scared but with friends, I’m more likely to be content in giving up than if it’s just me and the instructor of the challenge.
    • So there’s Peter, attempting to do what he has once deemed impossible, by walking on water. He’s doing it, so we’re cheering him on, but then he’s distracted by the storm and sinks and we sigh. Notice the 2 Peters (*insert Trump joke here*); Fearless Peter vs. Fearful Peter. Because of it, Peter does something that no other human being can say they’ve done! Fearful Peter is sinking in water, not trusting God, has inconsistent faith, and cries out to Jesus. What a contrast! Same person- the difference is one was focused on Jesus and the other was focused on a storm. Your focus changes everything!
      • How many times does God have to save us for us to get it!?! Whether fearless or fearful, Peter had to be dependent on Jesus, but notice- either way, Jesus helped him! What a Savior! Ultimately, God wants for us to have a dependency on Him. To trust Him so much that even when faced with a daunting task that doesn’t make sense to our human minds, like walking on water, we surrender our all to Him, expecting the impossible.
  • The Immediacy of Jesus
    • The text mentions, several times, that Jesus always came to them immediately. That's so comforting to me. God is not slack concerning us. We never get a busy tone when we call Him for help. No matter the situation, even when our faith is limited and we're blinded by our sight (well that's an oxymoron lol), He's still running to us. WOW! What a God!
      • Just know that He may not appear in the way that you expected (Jesus didn't come to the disciples by boat, which would've made sense. He walked on water out to them.), but He's still going to rush to your rescue. 
      • God's promises are true! If He says He's there, know that He's there. Take Him at His word! Even if the provisions aren't what you expect, He's there! God may not be working in your life like YOU expected, but you can rest in the fact that He's still working; His ways are better than our ways.
  • The Impassioned Jesus
    • I just love Jesus! I love how he knew the disciples were going to struggle at first sight of a storm, yet he didn’t get mad when they struggled. He used it as an opportunity to grow them. He knows his sheep! Even in God’s disappointment at our lack of faith, there’s still compassion!
    • Even though it seemed they were in danger because of the winds and waves, Jesus was watching. In all actuality, they never were in trouble because Jesus was not going to allow them to perish. It’s the same thing in our lives. We find ourselves in a storm, not realizing that it was orchestrated by God for a purpose, and so we panic. We completely forgot that God is always there, walking alongside us in the storm. We just have to stop and realize it. Refocus, like Peter! The storm stopped as soon as Peter’s faith had grown to being able to trust and cling to Jesus to do the impossible.
What mountain in your life does God want you to jump over? What are you facing? What storm are you in? Are you scared? Fear is natural, but it's not of God. He didn't give us the spirit of fear. Why not? Because He's always with us. In the midst of your storm, He's there. As you're looking at the mountain in front of you, He's there. You can handle this. God wants YOU. There's nothing too hard for Him; He just wants YOU. Your focus. Your faith. Your love. Your dependency- YOU. He will use tests and trials, oftentimes back to back, to grow you and stretch you. It may be painful, but He's orchestrating it for your good. Notice how the first test of believing Jesus could feed 5,000+  required faith their appetite to be filled, whereas the second test would require faith for their very livelihood. When we pass 1 test or see God work 1 miracle, be prepared for Him to take you higher. If you jumped the baby hurdle and the fence, surely the mountain can't seem as impossible. Hold His hand. He will lead you. Choose faith over and over again. Each day you wake up, choose faith. Don't let it dissipate 24 hours later. Resist a "snap chat faith"

Walking On Water,

 Dear God, You are a great God! There's no one like you! God, if I'm honest, I'm struggling. This walking by faith stuff is trickier than it seemed. In spite of your mightiness and power, I still find myself like Peter, trusting you to help me walk on water, yet looking at the storm, I sink. Strengthen me, God. Hold my hand, and help me be aware that You're there. Help me to refocus to a place of intimacy with you. Help me choose faith day after day after day. If you helped me over the baby hurdle, You'll help me over the mountain, God. I believe that. There is NOTHING too hard for you. Let my faith and actions support this, God. Grow me. Strengthen me. Guide me. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Kurt Carr & The Kurt Carr Singers feat. Timiney Figueroa- Why Not Trust God Again
Hillsong- Oceans
Avalon- You Were There
Kurt Carr- Something Happens