The disciples responded to Jesus’ instructions on temptation and forgiveness by crying out “Increase our faith!”1 and a little later, Jesus healed the ten lepers and told them, “your faith has made you well!”2 So, my question is this: Did the lepers have more faith than the disciples? 🤔 Perhaps. Because after the leper incident, Jesus told the disciples “a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart”3—which you can read about on the August 10th blog!)
Jesus questioned his disciples’ faith on several occasions. One time, the disciples were on a boat and a great storm arose and they woke Jesus up out of a peaceful nap and cried, “‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing. And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’”4
And remember when Jesus beckoned Peter to walk on the water?—which he did! But then he saw those big waves and began to sink. Jesus grabbed his hand and asked, “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”5 Another time, the disciples could not heal a man’s son and the father complained to Jesus. Jesus slowly shook his head and rolled his eyes 🙄 (at least I think he did) and said, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you?”6
One more story. One day Jesus yelled at a fruitless fig tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”7 A few days later, the disciples saw the same tree and Peter said, “‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered!’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God.’”8 and told them that “whoever does not have doubt in his heart”9 could cause a mountain to be thrown into the sea! 😲
And this is where I must pause 🤨 . . . and say what’s on my heart 🧐 . . . which is . . . really? I mean, really? I seriously doubt I could ever have that kind of faith! Which, ironically, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. 🤪 So, what am I doing wrong? How do I get to the point where I do “not have doubt in [my] heart”9? Which, by the way, is the point today. And my pondering about it all makes me conclude that our hearts need guarding. And wouldn’t you know it? God has given us this protection! So, here it is: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”10 It makes sense, doesn’t it? That peace would stave off doubt. This peace is a result of prayer, by the way, which also staves off anxiety, doubt’s cousin.
But there’s more to obtaining “the peace of God” than praying. 🙄 (I knew it.) In order to not be anxious and not have doubt—direct orders from Jesus—we must practice being at peace. Paul says we must meditate on things that are true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and commendable and excellent and praiseworthy, AND we must “practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.”11 And practice is a discipline. Practice is something we do despite how we feel, or what we think, or what the circumstances are. But please don’t believe that practice makes perfect. 😠 No! No! No! 😫 Practice makes permanent! If we practice it wrong, it will not be perfect—it will be permanently wrong! Instead, we must not practice until we get it right, but we must practice until we cannot get it wrong! Then, and only then, have we mastered whatever it is we were working on!
Sorry. 😕 I obviously have strong feelings about practicing things. After all, I am a musician and a writer and a former athlete and know a thing or two about practice! Let me just conclude by saying that to “practice these things” is an absolute prerequisite to receiving “the peace of God.” And now we see that “the peace of God” carries with it the all-important task of guarding our hearts and minds from becoming doubtful and anxious.
Paul’s practice list is quite lengthy and challenging. It might be best to take one idea at a time. For example, spend one day concentrating on being “true,” which includes being steadfast, loyal, honest, just, truthful, legitimate, rightful, accurate, and fitting. 😯 Okay, maybe spend a week practicing this one. 😬 The result of practicing being “true” will be to receive “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding!”10 Then, of course, we would look to the next thing Paul tells us to practice: being honorable. And then after that: being just. And then the next thing and then the next . . . 😟 As you can see, it’s a process! The end goal is for that same “peace of God” to protect our hearts from becoming doubtful and anxious. Which it does!
Ultimately, when we “Let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts,”12 we will “not have doubt in [our] hearts”9 and our faith will be unwavering. And there’s no telling what we can accomplish when that happens! I’m hoping that one day Christ will look on me and say, “Your faith has made you well!”2
Just like he did with the lepers! 🙂
1Luke 17:5 2Luke 17:19 3Luke 18:1 4Matthew 8:26 5Matthew 14:31 6Matthew 17:17 7Mark 11:14 8Mark 11:21-22 9Mark 11:23 10Philippians 4:7 11Philippians 4:9 12Colossians 3:15