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One of the things that is so noticeable in the lives of those who followed God, is that they just don’t “get it”… they fail in faith, from Noah to Moses, from Abraham to David  each of them had  failures of faith, times when the crisis of just living overwhelmed the faith that was stirring in their hearts.

So what then does it take to walk in faith?  Surely there must be something that makes faithful living possible… maybe if Jesus was there every day to teach and model and encourage, people would be more able to walk in triumphant faith….. 

If that were so, then the disciples would be shining examples of what faith can be, and yet they too floundered time after time.  Jesus referred to them as people without  hearts or ears to hear.  He chastised them because they didn’t pray with a depth and a passion that would allow them to perform the same miracles that seemed to come so easily for him.  If Jesus was the measuring stick, they came up short every time.

Today in the Lenten Project we were asked to read Matthew 17: 14-21….  a father had brought his son for healing and had asked the disciples for help, but they had been unable to do anything for the boy.  The fact that Jesus was frustrated with them was so evident in his words to the father, spoken so that all around could hear, before he himself healed the boy….

Jesus said, “What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here.” He ordered the afflicting demon out—and it was out, gone. From that moment on the boy was well. (The Message)

You know there are times I want to say those same words in the congregation where I work, and I know I can’t.  As frustrated as I sometimes am by the lack of faith and vision that I see, as much as I wish they would get serous about prayer and find the power of God flowing in their lives, all I can do is encourage them…. because I am just like them.  I don’t always have a glimpse of God’s call.  I don’t always have a vision.  I am often weak in prayer and am missing on the power of God.  I doubt.  I fear.  I fall down in the faith department.

Those words of Jesus, are meant for me as well as for the disciples:

What a generation! No sense of God!

How true that is, even today, even for me.  I don’t sense God fully.  Oh I sometimes get glimpses and when I do I vow to get closer to God and learn to live in that fullness.  But in truth, I am no different that Peter who could boldly proclaim “you are the Messiah, the son of the living God” one day and be told the next “get thee behind me Satan”….No sense of God, how big he is, how powerful he is, how great, grand, generous.  

No focus to your lives!

No focus.  Oh how true that is.  I am famous for half-finished projects.  I get bored with things fairly easily.  Even in mid-prayer I get distracted by the images in my head.  There is a prayer that so aptly describes me…. Dear God, help me to focus on one thing….oh look a bird…. at a time.  How can I expect to grow in faith if even when I am in conversation with God I drift away?  I don’t mean to sound harsh with myself, I realize that I am human with human limitations, but some days I wonder if I’ve shown any spiritual growth at all….

How many times do I have to go over these things?

Have you heard the joke about the minister who preached the same sermon week after week until finally someone complained.  The minister’s response, “When you learn the lesson of this sermon, then I’ll write another one.”  We see that in the life of Jesus.  Over and over again he teaches about faith.  Over and over again he models the importance of retreating and spending prayer time with God.  Over and over again he shows the disciples that faith is a matter of trust.  He is frustrated.  But what I am learning, is that faith and trust and understanding are not intellectual exercises.  Otherwise we would simply learn them.  They are spiritual states of being, and there is so much out there that affects us spiritually.  Our own health.  Our financial pressures.  Our family concerns.  Maintaining a strong state of spiritual being is not an easy matter.  Even Jesus demonstrated a time of weakness, when in the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed for the cup to be taken away from him…. but he did much more than that.  He demonstrated that it is possible to have doubt and to wrestle with disobedience in a faithful manner.  The place to bring those spiritual struggles is to Heaven’s throne.  It makes me feel so much better about the prayers I offered just the other day, when I learned some more bad news….”I can’t do this any longer.  Get me out of this now.”  …. and yet we forget so soon.  I loved what one of the elders said to me yesterday, “I’ll try to remember, but my forgetter is working perfectly these days.”  We are a forgetful generation.  Every generation has been a forgetful generation.  Jesus was frustrated with that forgetfulness.  God was and is frustrated with that forgetfulness, but more importantly, God has great patience with that forgetfulness.  How many times do we need to be taught?  As many times as it takes.  Thank God.

How much longer do I have to put up with this?

Jesus knew, even then that putting up with the feeble stumbling faith of the people, and putting up with the forgetfulness that comes with it, would be something that would last as long as this earth remains.  It is part of the fallen human condition.  But Jesus also knows, that after that final triumphant return that all of this would change.  If he can keep his eye on the prize, maybe we can too…. maybe we can look forward to the day when all things are redeemed and this faithless generation has passed away and all things are new.

For now, all we have is the feeble faith that we put in God.  But we are reminded that this feeble faith is enough….more than enough.  When the boy had been healed and Jesus was alone with his disciples, the lesson continued….

When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, “Why couldn’t we throw it out?”

“Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”  (The Message)

In the Lenten Project we are asked to think of something that we would change if only we had the faith….

There is so much to tackle isn’t there?  But I believe that it has to start small.  It has to start with me.  And I do believe that I have the faith to walk with God, to grow in love, to gain steadfastness through prayer and to learn how to share God’s grace with those around me.  And if I start there, maybe the rest will follow.