In a familiar, beloved passage, Jesus gets into a boat, and “a furious storm came up, so that the waves swept over the boat.” But Jesus continued sleeping.
The disciples in panic wake him up, “We are going to drown.”
And he replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves and it was completely calm.” (Matt 8:23-27).
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In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard comments that Jesus probably invented the term oligopistoi, “little-faiths,” which would have had a little comic tinge to the ears of his hearers. “Oligopistoi, “little-faiths,” seems to have been a nickname that he invented as a way of gently chiding his apprentices for their lack of confidence in God and in himself.”
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I want to live in such a way that Jesus will never have to say to me
“You of little faith, why are you afraid?” Whatever I am, I do not want to be an oligopistos, a little faith! And it lies in my hands.
I want to be aware of the flow of my thoughts, any anxiety and fear which bubbles up. I want to capture my fears, surrendering them to Jesus.
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I had a serious shock recently in which something big I wanted, and prayed for, and totally believed would happen did not happen.
Ah, I realised again, “Do not put faith in your prayers. Put your faith in God. Put your faith in the goodness of God.”
Your heart’s desire is a million times more likely to materialise if you pray steadfastly for it, (Mark Batterson says it’s partly because prayer activates the reticular activating system) but focusing on the objects of your prayer can, ironically, be a distraction from focusing on God, the tremendous lover.
And because of his goodness, we will not be afraid, whether all our prayers are affirmatively answered, or not.
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What does living with much faith and little fear involve?
Well, here’s a practical recent example: At the moment, we are earning enough to live on, and I can plough ahead with my writing which is what I have always wanted to do.
However, I sometimes toy with the idea of a specific (and I think) brilliant business venture which would bless many people (but would take time and energy aware from my writing, could be a distraction and source of annoyance and hassle, and potentially “pierce me with many griefs” in Paul’s phrase).
So though I could rationalise this distraction (Stephen Pressfield of The War of Art calls it the resistance) saying, “Well, interest rates may not always be so low; we should bulk up our savings,” I will instead say: “I will not be of little faith. The God who helps me now will help me if interest rates go up.”
Do you see how faith is a blessing, an immense time-saver, and frees you to live your life aligned with God’s calling on it?
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When I realise I am afraid, or doubt that God will come through for me, I will not look at my fear; I will look at Christ. I will not doubt his goodness.
And as fear rises, I will ignore it, focusing instead on the face of him who can rebuke the wind and the waves so that all is completely calm.
He will calm every storm he chooses, and will sleep in my boat, peaceful and content, though the others.
And I will train myself to remain tranquil through my storms, for my Saviour is in the same boat as I am.