“You love Him, though you have not yet seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9
When I first came to Christ and truly began to follow Him, it was kinda easy. It was kinda easy to trust Him and to have faith in Him. As I read more and more of His sacred Scripture – which I’d never ventured to do before – chills would spread throughout every limb, producing goose bumps. Tears of joy would well up in my formerly unknowing eyes as my first Bible teacher ever unveiled the overwhelming truth of what Jesus has done on the Cross and what that means for me now. Butterflies inhabited my stomach, fluttering at each new piece of God that I learned. Eventually, the Lord graciously granted me with the gift of visions, and I was positively bewildered by them. I was even more fascinated with my Creator and Savior, and I could feel Him in such a wonderful, unworldly way. His presence became more real to me as He reveled Himself to me in this special way on many different occasions. I could feel the Lord, alright.
As I continued my pursuit of Christ, something scary happened. Something I didn’t like.
I didn’t have a vision for awhile.
I was disheartened. I was confused. And I felt very distant from God. I even doubted my faith, and I doubted His nearness, too. Why did I feel that way?
Because faith wasn’t easy anymore.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus says something incredibly interesting on two accounts. The first time is when some of the scribes and Pharisees asked Him to perform a sign. His response to their request is:
“But He answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Matthew 12:39
The second account in Matthew takes place after the feeding of the 4,000 with His disciples, and the Pharisees and Sadducees again try to test Him, asking for Him to show them a sign from heaven. His response is almost exactly the same as what He said the first time they tried Him in this way:
“’An evil and adulterous generation wants a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ Then He left them and went away.” Matthew 16:4
Why did Jesus respond this way? Why didn’t He display His incredible power at their request? He could have, couldn’t He? Yes, of course! And I believe that there are many reasons why He didn’t give in to their beckoning. However, the one I’m most focused on for now is this:
FAITH IS DANGEROUS AND HARD.
He wanted them to believe that He was who He said He was without Him having to convince them with His heavenly signs and wonders.
And He wants that from us, too. Today.
How ridiculously easy would it be to be faithful to God if we could “feel” Him the way we want to all the time? If I could receive at least one vision from His Holy Spirit each day, I would have no problemtrusting in Him all of the time. If only I could shiver on every occasion of opening His Holy Book, I would have an unwavering faith. If only I could sense His presence through the constant awareness of the gift of wisdom and knowledge that He’s given me, the times when I doubt would be sparse. But that wouldn’t be real faith, because faith is not easy. Real, strong faith has been tried and tested.
Think of Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah, who all died before even seeing the Messiah, but trust in the Lord even still:
“These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13
Remember Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Rahab, and all of the other prophets who also trusted the promises of God, though they did not live to see the Christ whom they hoped for? Along with the devout Christians who experienced torture and horrid death for the Lord, enduring it for the Savior Who had not yet come?
“Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection, and others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated…All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us?” Hebrews 11:35-37,39
And even after Jesus’ death, consider the innumerable Christ followers who have been killed and endured unfathomable pain for their faith.
I bet these fellow brothers and sisters of ours didn’t “feel” God exactly the way they wanted to in those moments. I can’t imagine the trust in God that must have required. Their faith must have been astonishingly strong.
Throughout history up until the present day, we’ve seen a reoccurring theme:
FAITH IS DANGEROUS AND HARD.
It’s not supposed to be easy, and it’s not even supposed to be safe.
Jesus Himself told us that we would have suffering in this world (John 16:33), so we can be sure that along with experiencing trials, we’re definitely not going to be able to feel His presence at all times.
This week, I challenge you (and myself) to petition to the Lord for faith in you, whether you are experiencing Him the way you want to or not. Cling to Him even when He seems far, and allow Him to build in you a real, strong faith.