“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2:16)
Jesus wants His church to be built through works of “faith expressed through love.” (Gal 5:6) James tells us that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” And since Hebrews 11:16 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God,” we are left with the inescapable conclusion that there is a call on the life of every Christian to demonstrate the love of God through acts of faith. But when storms rock our boat, faith and love can be the last things on our minds: all we want to do is cling, shivering, to the gunwales, like the disciples in the tempest on the Sea of Galilee when they saw Jesus walking towards them on the water. So while the storm is crashing all around we have a choice, as they did: we can either grip the side of the boat in desperation and wonder if Jesus is going to get to us before it sinks, or we can step out of it at His word and walk the impossible in His direction.
Paul writes “the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph 4:16). To put this a bit more simply, the whole of the body of Christ grows when we all build each other up in love by playing our different parts effectively. The problem, as I have already said, is that we don’t usually feel very effective when it seems like our ship is about to sink. But we can easily miss an important detail of this verse. The word translated as “effective” is energeia. Energia is a “power word”: it is only used in the New Testament for supernatural power. In other words, the “effective working by which every part does its share”- the acts of faith expressed through love by which we build each other up and cause the Body of Christ to grow – have to be supernatural.
Faith is only a theory unless we stand on it. And standing on our faith is like walking on the water: it involves trusting in the supernatural. We don’t actually live out our Christian lives on the boat; we are only “effective” on the water; either walking on it towards Jesus, or, like Peter, being pulled out of the waves and into His presence. And as Peter found out, even if we do momentarily sink it’s better to be on the water than in the boat.
Faith isn’t just about trusting in the supernatural; it’s about expecting it. I did a lot of hitch-hiking in the 1970’s, both in the UK where I live, and further afield including parts of Africa where the roads were very different to what they are today. I would set out with a destination in mind, and I knew I would get there eventually. I expected nothing else. Faith is a bit like that: we know where we are going, it’s too far for us to walk, we don’t have any other means to make the trip, so we wait until God shows up and takes us there by a power that is not our own. We expect nothing else.
What expectations do we bring to our journey? The 1949 revival in the Hebrides came about when God answered the persistent prayers of two elderly sisters who drew a circle on the floor and said to the Lord that they were going to kneel there until He poured out His Spirit on their thirsty land. They waited by the road until they got their lift. We have a church intern living with us at the moment. If I say we are going to have some time together at 9.00 pm, there is a knock on my study door at 9.00 pm and a voice saying “Bob, are you ready? It’s nine o’clock!” And if I’m not quite ready I stop what I am doing because I said I would be. Jesus said “knock, and the door will be opened to you.” What has God said He would do, for us and through us? Do we knock on His door and wait until He comes out because He said He would? Because as Smith Wigglesworth famously said: “God is more eager to answer than we are to ask.”
The Heart of the Matter
We talk sometimes about doing something because it is “in our heart,” or conversely not carrying something out because it “isn’t in our heart to do it.” There are many obstacles on the path of faith, but one of them is surely that we have certain promises from God in our heads, but we don’t have them in our hearts. Romans 10: 9 says “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Faith, whether for salvation or for seeing the miracle working power of God, is a matter of the heart, not the head. Mark 11:23 and Matthew 21:21 make this clear: Jesus tells us that we will see the mountains moved if we believe “and do not doubt in our hearts” that God will do what only He can do.
For those of us who sometimes find it difficult to make that shift from head theory to heart faith, help is at hand. Paul wrote: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2:16). The Greek word nous, translated as mind, means all the faculties of perceiving and understanding as well as those of feeling, judging and determining. When we were born again, God didn’t just give us a new heart, but He also gave us His nous. Jesus didn’t doubt in His heart that He had authority over the waves: for a start, they belonged to Him. Our human minds will never grasp the dominion that we have in the Spirit, in Christ; but we don’t need them to because our Father has given His children the mind of His son. It is a gift to all of us, if we will receive it. It is only by the mind of Christ that we can receive the mustard seed “faith of God” (Mark 11:23) that moves the mountain. If we can take hold of this gift we will really get it into our hearts that nothing is impossible with God. Even walking on water.
How do we do that? We go and knock on His door, ask Him for it, and wait. But I’ve got to stop writing now: it’s nearly nine o’clock.