Saturday, January 9, 2010

Job 4.7: Full with faith

By believing based on what we can do rather than what we will do, we can see how God is able to have faith in Job or Moses despite sin because his faith is not in expectation, but in supporting them to do the best that he knows they are capable of. This leads into the next question, what made Job’s best better than another’s best? If we are all capable of the same then couldn’t God have chosen anyone knowing they had the potential best as good as Job? If it were so then God’s glowing report of Job could have had anyone in it. In a sense this might be true (perhaps anyone can attain the same level as Job), but in the general sense of comparison “have you considered my servant Job…” it does not. If the comparison concerns only potential, and all potential were the same then anyone would be available for the same example and yet for many the result would be much different. Is God’s faith misplaced? What good is potential unrealized?

All things work to God’s good pleasure says Ephesians 1:11.

Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Eph 1:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

There is therefore no possibility that God has misplaced his faith. And the outcome of the working is good for which he will be praised.

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Good at least for them that love God. Therefore what remains if his faith is not misplaced and will result in good (though not necessarily the good of all those who have faith, more will be explained)? What if we modify our assumption? What if not everyone has the same potential/same trustworthiness?

 The questions that follows are, “Well, why does one have different potential from another? Where do we get our potential from?” Potential, by its very nature is not something that we do, but something that we have. For example, imagine your wallet has $5 in it. You have the potential then to buy a $5 cheeseburger (potential). If you choose to buy a candy bar along the way, you no longer have the original potential. Or if you forgo buying the cheeseburger, and wait until payday then you may then have the potential to buy both the cheeseburger and the candy bar. The change in potential comes from outside, but we might says “it is because of decisions you made.” However, the potential and change depend firstly on the outside. For example, if there is no cheeseburger to buy whether you save or not you will not have that potential, or if your boss does not pay, you will not have that potential. Thusly, potential can be changed and it depends on personal choices however those choices rely on external factors that man does not determine.

So by potential in this case we mean a person’s worthiness of trust, which must lie in the ability to believe/build up another (he cannot be worthy of what he is incapable). In other words to count someone worthy of faith, that person must be capable of acting in faith. Since we had surmised that potential comes from the outside, then if the capacity for faith is our potential then where does faith come from? Believe it or not, the question has already been answered.

Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 

 Why are we to test to find that perfect will? Because we shouldn’t think more highly of ourselves but think soberly since God has given every man a measure of faith. This makes sense because if I thought that I had somehow acted in faith on my own when another had not, I would think less of them because look what I have done. But on the contrary, where did my faith come from? God! God gave me a measure of faith! Maybe there’s so much more that I cannot grasp because I lack faith, maybe there’s someone ‘below’ me that if he had more faith he would surge past me?

 This however, may be a stumbling block to some. God gives faith? To some this will smack of ‘predestination.’ How can we choose to be saved if God gives faith? Well, firstly you assume that God giving faith is the same as man exercising faith. They are not or else how can a man given faith also be a man able to sin? Does he run out of faith, if so then who is responsible for keeping the tank full? We end up blaming God for our sin. But people tend to manage their theology backwards, they figure out the end of the discussion (which they are usually wrong about) decide they don’t like that end and then conclude that what they are presently reading does not mean what it seems to mean because of the end it must lead to. There’s nothing but division down that road; how can you reason with someone when you insist scripture belongs to your private interpretation?

 Instead, let us simply say that we don’t understand the end, but at the present in black and white we have that God gives man faith. How else could it be do you suppose? Do you just magically have the ability to rely on the unseen? Did you create faith out of nothing? I believe Hebrews 12:2 would have issue with us if we claim to be the authors and finishers of our own faiths. 

Bringing us back to the question of potential, did God give each of us the same amount of faith?

Rom 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 

Gifts differ by the share of faith we have been given, since there are different gifts there are different portions of faith. Is it possible to be given no faith at all?

2Th 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. 
3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. 

Not all men have faith? Didn’t Paul say that a portion is to everyman? Yes, but you must recall the context of 12:3 “For I say…to every man that is among you...” The addressed in Romans are “all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints… your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (1:6-8). All who are called to be saints are given a portion of faith, but not all are called.

Mat 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

1Co 1:24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

God has not given everyone faith, and those that he has given do not all have the same amount of faith. Logically then, we must conclude that our potential for trustworthiness is different…or more precisely the amount of trust that we are each worthy of is different. Still, this idea offends people (I have been included in those people in times past). How can God hold people accountable by a glass ceiling?

We assume a static form of things. 

2Co 10:15 Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,
16 To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand. 

 Faith can grow. Much of modern doctrine has been devoted to this idea of static or digital qualities. We imagine that God is a flicker of switches turning unsaved to saved, no faith to faith, unloving to loving, sin to righteousness. And none of those things are necessarily untrue, it is God working in us that causes all those things, but the point is vision. Ours is limited to the next stage. We imagine, if I can just finish the race of faith then I’ll be done. The perfect example is Heaven. Most people when I’ve asked about Heaven conjures images of a place unchanging, where we’ll have complete knowledge, be at peak blissful joy all the time—contradictorily imaging they will be sitting there alternating between endless sermons and endless church worship which can only be explained by their imagination that we will then have no will of our own. God’s goal is to make us all ‘happy’ robots.

 This is not God’s view. To put it perfectly, when we get to Revelation which we call “The End of the Story,” God says “Behold, I make all things new.” We see ends, God sees new beginnings. This is the long way to say, that just because God gives something like faith does not mean that that’s the end. We shouldn’t imagine that “Well God gave me this much faith, so I can only go this far.” We should use all what he’s given us with the expectation that God will give more. Is a child given the freedom of an adult and then held responsible in the same way?

 And it should be no other way. When I was growing up, I remember that my mom would offer me an orange. She would offer me half, and I would say that I wanted the whole thing, but she knew that I would not eat a whole one and that the excess would be wasted. Why would we expect that God would give us more faith than we can use? When Israel had come into the land, God said that he would drive out the enemy before Israel, but that he would not do it too quickly (Exo 23:29) because in the vacuum between the borders and the population, the land would become desolate and overpopulated with beasts.

This principle holds true in the kingdom from Heaven as well. Consider the parables of the talents in Matthew 25 and Luke 19. In each case it was the lord that gave the money to people who were already his servants. The servants did not ‘create’ it. In the Matthew version he says:

Mat 25:15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

The amount of the given is based on ability. The presumed ability is that they can choose to be profitable with what’s given, in other words these servants are worthy of trust because they are ABLE to act according to trust. What happens in the end? He says “I will make thee ruler over many things” (Matt 25:21) to those who have gained. To the one who did nothing with the ability he had?

Mat 25:29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

God gives us as much as we can use, but he will not give us more until we have used it. There is no glass ceiling, if we ask how God can judge us when he gives only so much faith to each person, the answer is because we have not used all the faith he has put in us.

Luk 17:1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 
3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 
4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. 
5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. 
6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

When instructed in the way of forgiveness, the Apostles realize (or imagine) the hugeness of this instruction and ask Yeshua to give them more faith. How does he reply? By saying that even the smallest amount can accomplish the unbelievable. But the Apostles haven’t made any trees to uproot themselves…it seems then that Yeshua is saying “You don’t even use what you have.” Later in verses 9-10, he talks about how a servant is not thanked for doing what he ought to do.

In other words, this forgiveness and avoidance of offence is what we ought to do…the implication? God has already given us for what we ought to do—we don’t need more faith.  

So what is the process? We know our trustworthiness is given because God has “put faith in us” to be used, and that if we use more will be added, if we do not use…then what we have will be taken away.

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