When we talk about faith we often used language like, “We need to place our faith in Jesus”. But what does that mean? As a starting point, it means that we accept that Jesus is who he says he is. As the apostle Peter declared in 16:16, we have to accept that he is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. But this phrase can be misleading at times, because it sounds like a one-time event, while in actuality God seeks persistent faith.
When Jesus encountered the Canaanite woman with the demon-possessed child (15:21-28) he really tested her faith. Three times Jesus ignored her cries, but four times she kept asking him for rescue. She had faith the first time she asked, but after four pleas Jesus was able to say, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” Sometimes we get to thinking that because we have faith in Jesus that he’ll solve our problems quickly. But do we still have faith if his response isn’t instant?
We see this same message in the example of Peter walking on the water (14:25-33). Peter had tremendous faith to jump out of the boat in the middle of a storm expecting to walk on the water… but his problem was he didn’t have persistent faith. It’s the absence of that consistency Jesus criticizes when he says to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Let me suggest that we often get our priorities confused. God’s not just looking for us to step out in faith and do GREAT things for him. He’s looking for us to do MANY faithful things for him over a long period of time. Although Peter got off to a great start, he took his eyes of Christ, the solution and started focusing on the waves, the problems. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that our faith often has an “use by date” also. We often arrive at a point where we say, “God, if you’re not going to act on this request, I guess I’ll just have to do it myself.” It’s hard to be patient and persistent.
Romans 5 describes suffering and perseverance as elements in Christian maturity. But persistent faith doesn’t come from our own inner strength and resilience. Perseverance results from us tapping into the hope Christ gave us in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 5:3-5 … but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
The Canaanite woman knew she was in the presence of the Messiah and so persisted with her request. Peter forgot that God was with him, and started to sink. Remembering that we are always in the presence of God adds to our faith, perseverance.
- Do you think Christians make a “profession of faith” too big of a deal?
- Have you found persistent faith to come naturally, or do we have to work at it?
- Considering the text above from Romans 5, have you experienced suffering that produced hope?