In Search of True Faith - June 2015 Yavoh Article
Whenever I have spoken about FAITH to an assembly, most of the enthusiasm to hear the message dropped off after the introduction of the topic. Many believers have heard faith teachers enough times that they can almost preach the sermon themselves. We have all heard about the father of faith—Abraham. We have preachers telling us that we just need more faith and we will get the blessings of health and prosperity. “Send me a little seed faith money and see how God will bless you with next month’s car payment, or a new house, or the lottery, etc.” We almost get nauseated hearing it again and again.
It is essential that your faith be true and correct. Having faith alone is not sufficient; you could have faith in the wrong thing. The true measure of faith is not in blessings; blessings come from obeying the Lord. That is why people with no faith in God at all seem to have a lot of blessings. They accidentally obeyed God. True faith is something that prevails in the face of trouble or disaster. An excellent example is given to us in the story of Lazarus’ death and being raised by Yeshua. It is a story about the faith of Yeshua’s disciples, Mary and Martha, close friends of Yeshua. In the Book of John, Chapter 11, is where we find this story and teaching about faith.
Yeshua and His disciples were a good day’s journey from Lazarus’s home in Bethany. The message didn’t come by telephone or letter. Someone personally offered to help since they were going that way, or perhaps someone made a special trip.
The news was not good. It was really a request for immediate attention. It was about Lazarus, Yeshua’s friend. Lazarus had two sisters whom Yeshua knew as well. They had all become close friends, probably out of the hospitality shown to Yeshua and their agreement with His message.
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." John 11:1-3
When most of us get bad news—that harm has come to a friend or someone we love—we immediately want the details. How sick is he? How long has he been sick? Do I need to come right away? Apparently, the message gave a disturbing report—that Lazarus was near to death and may not make it. It was given in the most emphatic terms to motivate Yeshua to come. Besides Lazarus, there were his sisters, who would need to be encouraged and comforted. But Yeshua didn’t react as we would have expected.
But when Yeshua heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." Now Yeshua loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. John 11:4-6
First, Yeshua took the serious report in stride, saying that instead of death, a wonderful thing would happen. He may have dismissed the messenger and said, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.” The plan was for Him to remain another two days. There certainly was no urgency on His part to jump up and head back to the Jerusalem area.
Then after this He said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to Him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?" Yeshua answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." This He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep." John 11:7-11
Yeshua’s announcement to go to Judea (the Jerusalem area) came as a bit of a surprise. He had gotten the report of Lazarus’ illness and not reacted immediately. He had assured others that it would be okay. So, when He said, “Let’s go to Judea,” and the reason is Lazarus needs to be awakened, it must have sounded out of sequence logically. If you notice, John’s Gospel also places the logic of the response out of sequence. Yeshua said, "Let’s go to Judea." Then He said, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep…" Then the disciples questioned the need to go because of the danger to Yeshua. How could waking someone up from sleep be more important than avoiding the risk of immediate arrest and worse? Yeshua’s answer to the threat of being stoned by the Jews is very intriguing and requires a bit more understanding.
Yes, there are twelve hours in a day. Yes, it is much better to walk in the daylight and see the way you are going. The possibility of going the wrong way or stumbling is greater in the darkness. Yeshua concluded that walking in the darkness was a sure way not to be in the light. Okay, so we’re thinking… we’re thinking… we are sitting there with Yeshua and the disciples trying to understand. What does that mean? And, what does that have to do with a journey to Judea and wake up Lazarus? Part of the disciples’ problem here was that they did not understand what being “asleep” for Lazarus meant. Part of our problem is that we don’t understand what Yeshua really means to us as "the light of the world."
The disciples then said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." Now Yeshua had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. So Yeshua then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him." John 11:12-15
Now we are coming to the reason for this entire article. It’s not about Lazarus or his sisters. It is not about understanding deep things. It is about believing in Yeshua. It is about faith and whether our faith can carry us through difficult times.
Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." John 11:16
I love Thomas, doubting Thomas. This probably wasn’t the first time he had expressed concern or questioned the wisdom of what they were doing. But, this time, it was clear that he was frustrated with the decision making and timing of this trip. Not only were they going to trek back to Judea, they would probably all get arrested and get stoned together. Thomas expressed his cynicism and unbelief to make a statement. He wasn’t trying to be a prophet; he just expected worst and voiced that assessment. The trip back to Judea must have been an bewildering experience for the disciples. What Thomas spoke aloud may have been what most of them were thinking: Yeshua didn’t seem to be making much sense. If Lazarus is dead, then we must really be going to a funeral. And, there is a good chance that they will all be arrested and stoned by the religious authorities. Most likely, they were walking in silence, struggling with their own feelings and trying to answer Yeshua’s statement to them, "I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe." Just how strongly did they believe that Yeshua was the Messiah? Was this man more of a hope and their hopes would soon be dashed?
So when Yeshua came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. John 11:17-19
They finally arrived. They were two miles from Jerusalem and luckily the religious authorities had not heard of their arrival and no officers were posted to immediately arrest them. Maybe they could make a short visit and still get away before the religious authorities found out they had returned. One thing was for sure. Their friend was dead. The Jews of that day held a certain belief about death; it is noteworthy here.
Death was something accepted but not really understood as we do today. The belief was that until a person is "dead" more than three days, then the spirit of that person might still be present; but after three days, for sure by four days, even the spirit of the person had left. There was no chance that he was ever going to be seen or even his presence sensed again. He had crossed over to eternity. There was simply no reason for anyone to believe that Yeshua could do anything now.
Martha therefore, when she heard that Yeshua was coming, went to meet Him; but Mary stayed at the house. Martha then said to Yeshua, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." John 11:20-22
Martha came first to Yeshua, while Mary sat in the house. This behavior matched their lives perfectly. Martha was the type to always be taking care of things. Mary, on the other hand, was very sensitive and expressive in her emotions and feelings. Mary was devastated by the loss of her brother. Maybe she was concerned about how they would live and make ends meet. Maybe her brother was closer to her than with Martha and the loss was greater for her. One thing was sure, her friend Yeshua was late, and there was no need or reason to rush out to Him on His arrival. But, before we move on with the story, let’s examine Martha a bit more and her expressions of faith toward Yeshua.
Martha said, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." What was Martha really saying? I have a very specific idea about that I would like you to consider.
I think Martha’s faith in Yeshua was in the past. Martha’s faith is like a lot of believers. Sure, Martha believes in the Bible and she believes in what God has done before, but it is all in the past. Martha does not believe that God is going to take any time out from running the Universe and all that is going on to make any significant changes in her life. What has happened has happened. "I don’t think I’m of any particular value to request or counsel God to change anything," Martha probably concluded after deep thought, "Whatever happens now or in the future is up to God, regardless of my life." Martha probably thought that others could ask God for something and that He would more likely do it than if she asked. Many believers today are just like Martha. They believe in the Bible, because it is stories about the past. They believe that Yeshua came and that He did a lot of wonderful things just like God has done in the past. But, they don’t believe it will change anything for them right now. Martha would have loved to have her brother back, but she had resigned herself to this loss.
Martha’s request of the Lord: "Whatever You ask of God, God will hear You" probably had more to do with having been taught by Yeshua but not able to think or believe beyond the physical facts of her brother’s death. She dared not believe Yeshua could change the present circumstances. Martha’s faith is stuck in the past, and there isn’t much faith in that. Doesn’t that pretty well describe a lot of people’s faith we know? But, Yeshua was not going to let her stay there. He wanted her faith to come alive and be a vibrant thing that would work for her today.
Yeshua said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." John 11:23-34
Yeshua tried to draw her into the present, but Martha fast-forwards to the future. Yes, in the last day (way into the future), I’m sure my brother will be resurrected. These are the very words that we comfort one another at any funeral. We say a temporary "goodbye" hoping for the resurrection at the end of the ages. But that is not what Yeshua meant.
Yeshua said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26
Now, Yeshua has challenged Martha’s faith to get into the NOW and present mode. He is not going let her sit in the past with what God could have done, or escape to the future and substitute hope for faith. He wants Martha’s faith to sustain and help her today. Yeshua was forcing her to deal with her faith by asking, "Do you believe this?" In other words, “Do you believe that I can help you right now today by raising your brother to live today?”
There is no way for Martha to escape. The question has been put to her directly and she must answer. It is the same question that all of us face when we realize that we are sinners and Yeshua is offering us redemption. "Today is the day of salvation." We have to believe at that moment that God CAN and WILL do something for us, namely, forgive us and give us the gift of eternal life.
Consider this. Which is more difficult? To believe Yeshua the Messiah and ask Him directly to raise His friend Lazarus from the grave or, to believe in Yeshua the Messiah and ask Him to forgive us and raise us from a future grave to live eternally with Him? Aren’t they really the same? If you believe one, shouldn’t you believe the other?
Martha’s answer is the same one we give when we are confronted. We make a declaration of faith. But if you will notice, she continues to say, "I have believed…" It is still in the past.
She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world." When she had said this, she went away, and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, "The Teacher is here, and is calling for you." And when she [Mary] heard it, she got up quickly, and was coming to Him. John 11:27-29
What is Martha doing now? Nowhere in the previous discussion did Yeshua say to Martha, "Have your sister Mary come to me." Why is Martha secretly telling Mary to go out to Yeshua?
I think that Martha needed a time-out to deal with the ramifications of Yeshua’s question and her lack of faith at that moment. She needed other people who really believe to be there too. Martha thinks that Mary really believed in what Yeshua taught. Didn’t Mary express her deep belief in Yeshua, sitting at His feet for the teaching? Didn’t she wash His feet and use her hair to dry them clean? Martha is like many believers today. Many believers don’t really believe NOW; they have no confidence in their faith toward God. They believe that others really do believe in Him, like the Pastor, the worship leader, their Sunday School teacher, etc. They think that if they can surround themselves with others who believe, then maybe that will be good enough for them. Their faith is best described in the past. So, they want to hang around with people they think have faith for today. Martha wants Mary right there with her because she thinks that Mary really believes in the Lord today.
Now Yeshua had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews then who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Therefore, when Mary came where Yeshua was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." John 11:30-32
Martha said upon first seeing Yeshua, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." Mary upon first seeing Yeshua said, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." Are they truly saying the same thing? I don’t think so, because Yeshua reacts in a totally different way.
When Yeshua therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." Yeshua wept. John 11:33-35
Yeshua’s reaction to Martha’s statement is to address her faith and the fact that she didn’t really believe that God could do anything for her that day. Yeshua’s reaction to Mary is much more emotional. I think that Mary’s statement was filled with the emotion of anger and great disappointment directed at Yeshua and God. Her faith had been replaced with the passion of anger.
Why did Yeshua weep? It’s not as the Jews concluded.
So the Jews were saying, "Behold how He loved him!" John 11:36
I believe Yeshua wept because no one believed Him. The disciples didn’t believe Him. They thought it was a mistake to even be there. Martha didn’t really believe. She didn’t think God valued her enough to do anything. Now we have Mary—the one who was so expressive in her love of him—who didn’t believe Him either. She was overcome with anger toward Him and God. To add insult to all this disappointment, the professional mourners from Jerusalem asked the question, challenging everyone whether they should ever believe in Yeshua again for anything:
But some of them said, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?" John 11:37
Everyone is still stuck in the past. Couldn’t He have done something if He had been here earlier? Nobody thinks He can do anything NOW. Why did He even come back. He can’t do anything now! Or, so they all thought.
So Yeshua again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Yeshua said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days." John 11:38-39
Yeshua now takes action, ordering the stone of Lazarus’ tomb to be removed. This would have required several of his disciples to physically roll the stone out of the way. The process of burial in those days is different from what we know today. A burial place was a cave, usually hewn out of stone, where a dead body was wrapped in linen, scented with spices to reduce the odor of decay, and left for more than a year to naturally decay. After a year, the bones were gathered and placed in a box and put into a cemetery. The decaying process would be well underway for Lazarus at this point. Therefore, Martha was concerned about the stench. Besides, Torah teaches that anyone coming in contact with a dead body would be unclean. Yeshua answered Martha directly.
Yeshua said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" John 11:40
The disciples responded to Yeshua’s order and everyone focused on Yeshua.
So they removed the stone. Then Yeshua raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me. When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Yeshua said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." John 11:41-44
As soon as Yeshua called for Lazarus, every eye must have moved from Yeshua to the tomb. It was an incredible moment. He who was dead was NOW alive. There were probably gasps; hands probably covered mouths. Mary and Martha didn’t know whether to breathe or cry out. The disciples must have been stunned trying to take it all in. In one moment, Yeshua’s words were suddenly more profound than they had ever considered before. Yeshua had raised a man from the dead and proved that He had the power of life over death. His words were the words of life!
Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. John 11:45
No longer could the witnesses to this moment disbelieve Yeshua. There was no more room for doubt. All that they could do was rejoice and relive the moment by telling others. Even the Jews from Jerusalem couldn’t contain themselves. They had to tell everyone what they had witnessed. They had seen a dead man, dead for four days, come to life in response to Yeshua’s spoken command. Of course, this was the event that tipped the scales for the leaders in Jerusalem. If they didn’t stop Him now, the whole world would believe in Him and they would lose their jobs of being in charge of Jerusalem and the temple. With this event, the decision was made to kill Yeshua.
Yeshua delayed His coming to guarantee these results. He clearly wanted all those present to believe in Him, to have faith in God that He was sent, and that God was concerned about each person.
However, the question remains for us about our faith. Do we really believe in Yeshua as Messiah, as Redeemer, and as the One who will raise us in the last day and give us eternal life?
Yeshua asked, "Will the Son of Man find faith when He returns?" This is a question for the last generation—us. Do we have the kind of faith that Yeshua expected of Martha and his disciples. Or, do we have faith that is limited to the past, hoped for in the future, but missing from the present?
The writer of Hebrews wrote an entire chapter on the issue of faith. He defined faith not as something sitting at the foot of a rainbow, nor did he express it as something that oozes out of a tube like ointment. He didn’t say it was absorbed by standing around others with it. Nor, did He say it was illusive and purchased with a high price.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:1-3
First, you should take note that the writer is not explaining "past tense" faith or "future tense" faith. He is defining NOW faith. He is defining something that exists each day that a believer has. Secondly, he says that NOW faith is an assurance. It is much more than hope. He says that it is a conviction; it is a decision based upon evidence that leads to truth. When a man is convicted of something, evidence has to be brought forward, weighed, and a decision and judgment has to be rendered beyond all reasonable doubt. You are convinced that certain things are true. Now faith is true faith; it is based on truth backed up by evidence.
Many believers today say that they have faith in God. But too often, their faith is a presumption of facts not proven with evidence nor defined as truth. Presumption leads to false prophets and false teachers. Presumption of faith leads to false brethren and believers.
The Bible is filled with stories of men who had faith in God. Abraham’s faith is the Biblical definition for righteousness. The rest of Hebrews Chapter Eleven expresses how many people from the past had faith in their day that caused them to act, be delivered, and to make the choices they made. Their faith worked and accomplished things, like Yeshua showed us in the raising of Lazarus.
But faith is also able to do something else that few people talk about. Faith can enable you to see the unseen Creator. This ability to see the Creator includes seeing His purposes and plans. This kind of faith can hear the voice of God speaking from Mount Sinai regardless of speaking 3500 years earlier. True faith comes by hearing, not by seeing things that can be seen. This kind of faith stirs a person to live beyond the present dimensions and to see themselves as an eternal creature on a fascinating journey. This kind of faith knows that God really is God and that He truly is interested and involved in their lives.
Quite honestly, if God will not deliver you in the day of your trouble, then what good is your faith? If God does not answer you when you call out, then why do you say you believe in Him? If He can’t be trusted to answer you and respond to your petitions, then what makes you think you actually know Him, or that He knows you? Just as the writer of Hebrews said:
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
Most believers, at this point, are all nodding their heads in agreement that we need NOW faith, but they still have a very serious question: How do you get true faith that works NOW?
Our father Abraham was able to call upon God and God would answer, "Here I am, Abraham." To have that kind of faith, you have to answer God when He calls, "Here I am, Lord." Do you remember when the Lord came looking for and calling out to Adam. Adam hid himself. He was afraid. He was naked. To have faith in God, we must listen and respond to the Lord. We can no longer hide ourselves in a host of activities. We can no longer be afraid and hide the talents given to us. Remember the parable of the talents and what the third servant said?
But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground and hid his master's money… And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours." Matthew 25:18, 24-25
The third servant failed because he had no faith. With no faith, he can do no work; he accomplishes nothing in the kingdom.
To have NOW faith, we must have faith like our father Abraham to believe the promises of God. Abraham believed God’s promise of a son. That promise was realized in the birth of Isaac, by Sarah. We believe the promise of God for another son. That promise was realized in the life of Yeshua, the Son of God. However, we cannot presume that He was the Son of God, the Messiah. Each of us must base our faith on truth with the convincing evidence backing it up.
Do you know what a miracle really is? A miracle is something that happens to someone who said they had faith, but really didn’t, and then watched it happen. The surprise is called a miracle. A miracle to a person of faith is an event that didn’t surprise them. He is happy that it happened; he calls it a miracle only to give God full attribution for it happening. The person of faith is expressing their thanks to God.
The real measure of faith is not in signs and wonders or miracles. It is believing when no one around you believes. It is being empowered to do the will of God when others are opposed to you. It is more real than our temporal existence as mortals in this world.
Yeshua taught us that if we have faith like a mustard seed, we could say to a mountain to be moved, and it would be moved. A mustard seed is a very small thing. However, it is not faith alone that moves a mountain. God moves mountains. Faith is not about how to move mountains; it’s about knowing who can move mountains.
NOW, take a deep breath. Ask God to increase your faith to believe Him today. Ask Him to move the mountains that are before you, that you might walk on straight and smooth paths of His will. Don’t walk by sight; walk by faith.