When are we acting on faith and when are we being presumptuous with God?
The gospels are full of Jesus’ words about the importance of faith. He says if we have faith as small as mustard seed we can move mountains. To the Canaanite woman, the leper, the paralytic, the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years and blind Bartimaeus, he says, “Your faith has healed you.”
Yet, we cannot presume that God will always protect us from evil and harm. As Jesus challenged the disciples with the question of whether the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices were worse sinners because they suffered in this way, he answered, “I tell you, no!” (Luke 13:3)
There is an interesting story in Acts where the Sadducees who were jealous of the apostles for performing many miraculous signs and wonders in the name of Jesus, have them imprisoned. They are brought before the Sanhedrin who wanted to put them to death. A Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel persuades them not to kill them, but they are still flogged before they are released. The apostles rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering for the name of Jesus. (Acts 5:17-42)
We may remember the words of Job to his wife when she challenged him for holding on to his faith in God after God lets Satan take his property and family, and inflicts him with the physical torment of boils from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Job’s retort, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10)
While Christians in America have generally escaped persecution for most our history, recent trends indicate this may no longer be true. In the last decade we have seen growing efforts to criminalize some of our Christian beliefs about life and principles of natural law. For example, the first amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion in the daily actions of our lives is being eroded by the redefinitions of what constitutes discrimination in the marketplace, and what constitutes hate speech even when reciting God’s word.
A number of years ago I had a work colleague who was Jewish. He shared with me how his family had lost relatives in the holocaust of World War II. He and his family were still bitter against Christians in Germany who did not stand up against the Nazis for the persecution, forced encampment and genocide of Jews.
As Christians, we are called to stand up for our beliefs and the advancement of God’s will and kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Mt. 10:32)
While Jesus calls us to faith, we cannot presume to escape persecution or suffering. In fact he says, “In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)