Friday, May 25, 2007

# 202: Luke 17:5. “Increase Our Faith!”

Regardless of how close or dedicated anyone is to Jesus Christ, there is room to get closer. I believe the primary way is to disrupt one of Satan’s best-held secrets. He somehow gets a few of God’s people involved in seemingly important and legitimate activities; not sinful stuff, but decent and noteworthy undertakings. These projects or even menial ventures may be rewarding or just plain humdrum, but still necessary. They may even appear to be the works of God. As it is, the more Godly they appear, while still fulfilling some type of personal gratification, the more difficult they will be to identify. One thing they all have in common is that they take our mind off of the wonderful attributes of God, which He desires us to meditate on continually, if that were possible.

One of the devil’s favorite nicknames is a pseudonym he attempts to keep secret: “The great distracter.” Most people think of him as a doer of blatant evil acts. And that he does. But he gets more favorable action when he tricks disciples of Christ by distracting them from thinking/believing how fortunate they are to be aligned with God through Christ (the greatest PRIVILEGE in the world). In other words, the main thing he desires is to keep our minds off the wonders of Christ and put them on lovely worldly things. When he accomplishes that, he has his foot in one’s door, as it were.

There is one big problem. To identify and then remove those distractions is easier said than done. After many years of putting much emphasis on bettering our physical lives in every way possible, to break from that type of lifestyle sounds like shooting oneself in the foot. The thinking goes something like this: I am a Christian; I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior; I do no one any harm; I lead a decent life because I am a Christian. All of that is well and good, but Christianity is much more than that. It is a CLOSE relationship with Jesus Christ, because we have a reciprocating love affair with His Father.

Lovers cherish spending time with each other. Therefore, let us make a written list of all the possible activities, be what they may, that have little or nothing to do with filling our lives with thoughts of Jesus Christ; that list should include sleeping, eating, working on the job, etc., some of which are activities we can’t eliminate completely. I am certain that list will be extremely long, but take it slow; we should implement the easier ones first, not to think we are denying ourselves; actually, we will be enriching our lives in Christ as long we are replacing those time slots with Godly doings.

Here is another thought: Buy a set of New Testament CDs and listen to them over and over again when doing chores which don’t need concentration, like driving, gardening, walking, cooking, cleaning house, bathing/showering, etc. You will be surprised how many truths there are in them you never heard before. I personally do that, continually going through the New Testament. Depending on how many hours per day one listens to the CDs, most can listen to the complete New Testament in a week or two. When I have a chance, I follow along with the printed Bible. The potential effects could be astounding. Example: A rock music composer in the late 1960s made this dogmatic statement: “Let me control a person’s music and I will control her/his life.” I believe the same is true of listening to God’s Word. Our lives WILL change (increase our faith) in Godly ways according to what we listen to the most.

Those who continually do that will have the complete New Testament, just about memorized in a year or two, even though that is not the goal. I am sure there will be many verses you won’t understand, some that can’t be understood, some contradictions and mistakes, boring sections, along with portions that are just events of that time, which have little or nothing to do with us. When you come across a section that sounds important, highlight it and try to remember where it is by writing it down on a flash card or elsewhere; keep notes on how you are being affected by this continual bombardment of Scripture. Worthy of repeating: You will be surprised how that grows on a person who desires to increase their faith in our blessed Lord. I guarantee you will be blessed beyond ways you never dreamed of. When it comes to the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, it is mostly symbolic except for the first three chapters. It is frightening. In short, it tells of the wrath of an irate God against a planet in rebellion. I suggest reading it a time to two just to know what it is about; otherwise, don’t dwell on it.

Faith in God is not stagnant; it is likened to a hybrid fruit tree, every year bearing its delicious fruit in season. If that tree stopped growing or bearing fruit, it is either dormant or dead. If it cannot be revived, it then will be cut down and used as firewood. Yesterday’s faith is of little value today except for, hopefully, great spiritual memories. We cannot rest on yesterday’s laurels. We need a fresh supply of faith in God each and every day. That continually-growing faith is what gives us the desire and strength to live in a way that pleases God. Faith, like our muscles, gets stronger as it is exercised. The harder the exercise, the stronger the muscles or faith grow. When faith and muscles—or even our brains—are not continually used, they slowly and insidiously atrophy. When we realize what happened, we may end up in a wheelchair, stricken with Alzheimer’s, or in the “loving” arms of Satan; then it may be too late to do anything about it.

The more we do something or nothing, either good or bad, the easier and more normal/natural it becomes. We want to make sure our devotion to Christ does not become a burden; love destroys that burden, and then what will be the result of that sincere dedication? Our indefatigable love for God and mankind: like the song goes, “He’s not heavy, he’s my brother.” Faith in God, which is not motivated by divine love, is the kind of faith in word only. Let us make sure we don’t end up with worthless faith. Faith is the best friend and necessary companion of love, God’s love. If separated, they become impotent.

Getting back to distractions, as hard as it may be to forsake these distractions we’ve had for years, it may not be too late. If need be, let this thought motivate you to give you a jump-start: The MOST valuable entity in existence, bar none, is the one who started it all, and He is here for a very specific reason: to give of Himself to you and me. Though God is intangible, there is voluminous evidence in the Holy Bible of His existence via His beloved Son Jesus Christ.

An important note: Faith cannot grow on its own. It needs to be continually and lovingly coaxed. And I can personally guarantee that no one will ever have the right amount of—or too much—faith; in fact, one will feel deficient. To put it another way, a person will always feel poor in Spirit. The richer one becomes in faith, the poorer he/she will feel. The reason: As our faith grows, we will see the purity of Jesus more and more clearly (as He really is) and continually see ourselves as we really are. That form of vision will give us a truly humble awareness of the privilege of being chosen to do the works of God. WOW.

There is a condition in this world at this time which gives faith a run for its money, which is something we all enjoy: electricity, which was first seriously experimented with in 1840 by British chemist Sir Humphry Davy. Those experiments and many others paved the way for the modern living we now enjoy. Our modern culture makes spiritual values less desirable and needed. How so? The better our lives, the less necessary God and company becomes, which is to say our easy modern life makes God not as pertinent as if we were in dire straits.

The start of our modern culture has made life easy, and at the same time produced many conditions that distract us from our need for faith and spiritual security. So what can we do to eliminate or reduce these distractions brought on mostly by electricity? Who really would want to eliminate some of the devices we’ve enjoyed since we can remember? Not many. One would think that since electricity made life easier, it would reduce the distractions of having to do without electricity. Not so. Life, since electricity came on the scene, has produced many forms of entertainment such as motion pictures, radio, television, and so forth. For the first time in history, entertainment has become a major part of our lives. Entertainment may be our biggest distraction. And who doesn’t like to be entertained?

Above and beyond electronic entertainment, the associated activities springing from electricity have produced many more distractions. Of course, we wouldn’t call them distractions; instead, we call them time- saving conveniences, etc. We think, how did anyone ever do without them before? There is a countless number, but let me give just one: Enjoying all these making-life-easy gadgets has made it easier for us to desire more and bigger of many things, which all cost money. With the availability of these commodities, now the family needs more money to pay for all these nice things. So now mom also has to go to work to help pay the bills. Things of that sort have made our lives so cluttered that many times we don’t have time for the bare essentials. That is one reason restaurants have been booming for the last sixty years. Mom/Dad doesn’t have time to cook a meal from scratch every night after coming home from a hard day’s work.

The ramification of our modern culture—because of all the niceties electricity has given us—no doubt has increased our distractions from Godly matters 100-fold compared to 160 years ago. In fact, with all the essential physical benefits humankind has received from electricity, still it just could be that the devil was behind it or just took advantage of the situation by enticing us, saying, “Now you can just take it easy and enjoy life; you only live once." And we believe him.

The gist of removing as many distractions as possible is so we can make more time, which is of the essence, for activities that have to do with God, so that He becomes as vivid to us as the physical world. As that starts to take shape, our faith will reach new heights. Let the truth be told; time is needed to increase our faith, whether it is through family prayer and study, Bible-reading or listening, family discussions, helping those in need, propagating the Word wherever God leads, etc. There are no free rides when it comes to increasing our faith. Even though it may take blood, sweat and tears, the end result will be real life.

Some may believe their faith is sufficient as is. And it may be. They say, “We have eternal life; what more can we do to receive anything better than that?” That is not the point. When a person is truly enjoying the life of Jesus Christ here on earth, which is eternal, they can’t help but desire all peoples to share in the wonders of their Godly life. That is the true motive for all evangelism and Godly living. Of course, if a person is not experiencing this divine life, then there is good reason to keep one’s religion to oneself. There is no need for a change. Their “faith” is sufficient.

In ending, just remember this: Satan, the father of all lies, knows his business. There are no rules he can’t and doesn’t entice us to break. He knows every trick in the book, since He wrote it—not the Bible—and he knows that desirable distractions—though we don’t call them by that name one of the best ways to keep his people, and even a few of God’s people, away from becoming aware of a continual need for God’s faith-based Salvation.

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