(Started on Sunday) By grace, I am learning something about faith. Yesterday I started coming down with a virus. I felt cold, hot, spacy, sore throaty, tired. But we had extensive evening plans. A couple of the campus guys were invited to dinner. And then some of the singles were supposed to come over and hang out, and bring someone they are reaching out to.
I hit one of those turning points. I had to decide whether to cancel or move forward. It would have been easy to give up, and just say, “I’m sick, and I don’t want to get anyone else sick, so I’ll have to cancel tonight’s plans.” But I thought instead, “No, I WANT to do this. I want to be productive.”
So I prayed, really meaning it, “God, help me be better tonight.”
And then I started moving forward like I was going to feel better. I finished my grocery shopping. I straightened the house. I started cooking. (I did check to make sure I wasn’t running a temperature, and it was normal.)
And when the evening came, miracle of miracles, I got a burst of energy and I didn’t feel as bad! The campus guys came over and ate several helpings of tacos made with home fried tortillas, and then multiple dark chocolate brownies for dessert. We learned all kinds of interesting things about one another — that one had been raised by a guardian while his mother was deployed, that the other had
While we were eating, a friend texted and said she’d like to drop by with her three children. I told her to come on over. She showed up an hour later.
Then the singles showed up, and we played liar’s dice, and then played guitar and sang all kinds of songs off the computer that I connected to our TV screen.
What a full evening! I was amazed and thankful for answered prayer.
As I was reading my quiet time this morning, I came across this passage in Jonah:
You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas and the currents swirled about me. . . . When my life was ebbing away I remembered you, Lord and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thankgiving, will sacrifice to you. . . And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah, even while he was still trapped in the belly of the big fish, offered God thanksgiving. He acknowledged the COMPLETE loving-kindness he had in the Lord, the gift that was so much better than anything had by those who worshiped idols. He ANTICIPATED his deliverance.
And THAT is when God set him free.
It’s like one of my favorite stories — Jehoshaphat.
After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.” As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” II Chron 20:20-21
God blesses us when we march forward in confidence that He hears us, cares, and is going to answer our prayers.
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil 4:6
Now I know that there will be times when, in spite of my prayers, I will get sick, or things won’t turn out the way I want them to.
But faith is such a magical ingredient in life.
Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19
Faith makes things multiply. When we are excited about God, we MOVE FORWARD with holy anticipation, and things happen! Day after day,fueled by faith, the kingdom grows, in visible and invisible ways.
Without it, we go around doing nice religious things, but not experiencing the POWER. We’re like the tree in this parable earlier in Luke 13 —
“A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any.'” Matt 13:6-7
I get so worn down. I am easily discouraged.
But I have to start believing again that I can pray BIG prayers. I have to live my life by MOVING FORWARD in confident excitement.
It’s dynamic. It’s productive.
This weekend I saw MIRACLES. Feeling better Friday night was a small miracle. Saturday morning, I had been thinking about Jehoshaphat’s faithful march, and then I ran smack dab into a reference to it when I read Jonah. And then we got with a campus girl we’ve been studying with on and off for a year and a half. She had a breakthrough! She was changed. She got baptized Sunday after church.
My work is to believe. And belief is not passive. It spurs action.