I find it amazing just how inconsistent we can be in the practice of our faith. It seems it comes and goes as the tides of our life rise and fall. Some people do not give Jesus any consideration at all unless they are in trouble. I usually find that these are the people who stay on the fringes of faith and only call on it in crisis. Then there are the core Christians who seem to abandon their faith in the hard times, when they need Jesus to lean on the most. I can understand the first group but the second group puzzles me. What use is faith if it does not produce hope in the dark times?
It is in such dark times that we find great statements of faith:
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
Such trust requires relationship and it is part of the reason Jesus came, to establish a real, tangible relationship between us and God. If you want to find words to describe it consider this: Jesus came to give a face to God. He said to his disciples:
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."
Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (John 14:6-11)
It is all about relationship and our relationship with Jesus is vital. In fact it is so vital that there is no other way to enter and maintain relationship with the Father. Consider the imagery Jesus used to describe this relationship we have with him:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:5-6)
Apart from Jesus we have no life. Our relationship with him is such that we do not need to run to Jesus when we are in trouble, we just need to lean back and rest against him. We are always with him and that is what we have to remember. We are in him and he is in us and he is all that we need. This is the reason the writer of Hebrews kept going back to the importance of Jesus to us:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
The beauty of Jesus, that he was tempted in every way that we are, faced those temptations in the knowledge of the Father's love and overcame them, even though he had all our weakness of flesh. He understands our weaknesses and sympathizes. If we lean back on him in our weakness he will give us the same strength to overcome our flesh. We can turn to him with all of our needs, big, small, physical and spiritual. We only need to hold firmly to the faith that we always talk about, even if it leads us to death. Let's go back and look at the previous passages for the ending parts I left off and understand the great benefit to holding firmly to Jesus:
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-14)
The benefit of this strong relationship we have with Jesus is that we can ask with confidence for those things we need for the work and the mission we are involved in. I like to clarify this because I dislike it when people treat Jesus as some kind of Santa Claus. Jesus told us not to worry about ourselves because Dad was occupied with our needs. He told us to focus our attention on the Kingdom which means the things on my heart should be Kingdom things.
Currently I am asking him for the resources to continue his ministry of our school. This means the staff need to be paid and text books need to be bought. When it comes right down to the practicality of it, bills have to be paid. That is my heart cry so we may continue to minister to these children. These are the needs I present, not worry about my daily bread because that has already been promised to me. For the Kingdom work I lean heavily upon these promises:
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:7-8)
A few verses later, as Jesus talks about his love for his disciples he says:
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:15-16)
I do not need to run into "a strong tower", that is Old Testament thinking. I am in the strong tower and the strong tower is in me. His name is Jesus and he has called me to do a good work, to bear the fruit the Spirit is producing in me. He has promised to equip me for this mission and I trust him in the sunny days and in the storms. It is just in the storms I need to lean back on him a little more than in the sunny days. This requires relationship; a good, healthy relationship where I am growing in him every day and know that I can trust him with everything big and small. It is the only way we are going to find consistency in the Body and avoid the highs and lows of the tides of our lives. We need to be producing maturity in the Body of Christ and it has to start with us, today. It only exists in a relationship of trust in Jesus.