Sunday, June 22, 2008

Theology and "...according to your Faith..."

"According to your faith be it unto you." - Matthew 9:29

Matthew 9:27-29 (NIV) is a lesson packed story on the application of faith in a believer's life.

" 27As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!"
28When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"
"Yes, Lord," they replied.
29 Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, "See that no one knows about this." 31But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region."
Note that we have been very passionate about teaching the rudiments, essentials and tenets of Relational Theology. We have gone through great lengths to refute and "almost" condemn classical theology as mostly irrelevant to living a vital relationship with God, and which is the road that Calvinism has taken with great names like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas in the list even preceeding John Calvin himself.
However, it is important to note that in the ultimate analysis, because our "complete" understanding of the infinite God will always be incomplete in this life, we have to make the warning that peripheral issues like these are things we can passionately disagree on and whether or not one is right and the other is wrong does not mostly affect one's road to salvation (although it may affect how one end's up finally saved or not!???).
Nevertheless, in this life, the words of Christ ring true. Although it matters little cardinally what a believer believes peripherally, it matters much how his beliefs are applied to reality and his life's journey on earth.
It will be done to us exactly ACCORDING TO OUR FAITH. If we believe that God never changes His mind in response to our prayers, so will it be done to you. If you believe that you can never persuade God in your prayes, so will it be done to you precisely "according to your faith". Your prayers will NEVER be answered since God will not change His mind for you anyway. If you believe that all God wants is to get glory for Himself from us, so will it be done to you. Since God's getting glory has really nothing to do with you, you will have to live a life that is satisfied with everything God dispenses your way, good and bad and just accept it.
For those of us who are relational, however, when we find ourselves in a bind, we plead with God because we believe God has a heart and will change His mind according to our requests WHEN WE ARE IN Covenant RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM CONSTANTLY ABIDING, then so will it be done to us according to our faith. God WILL respond. If we believe that we can persuade God the same as David's belief (and theology) when he pled for the life of his first son by Bathsheba, or better yet like the importunate widow and the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8. I emphasize verse 8:
"I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
I have personally been a witness several times of divine intervention even up to the point of death. My father-in-law underwent triple bypass heart surgery with a valve replacement at the young age of 90. What was supposed to be a 4 day confinement ended up to be 5 weeks. Just when he was going to be released on the 4th day, he had a heart attack of some sort which the doctors never finally determined (perhaps because they may have been so embarrassed at the way things turned out). Embarrassed because, they declared him fit to leave the hospital on the 4th day and that did not go right. Embarrased because he was flat line for 23 minutes and the attending physicians told us to give him up for dead but we refused because we said that God answers prayer and even if it was supposed to be his time to go, we could still move the hands of God through prayer (remember Hezekiah in Isaiah 38?). Embarrased because they said that if he survived the flat line he would be a vegetable anyway and at 96 he is still laughing with us as of this writing. Embarrassed because he was 8 hours in a coma at the Intensive Care Unit and they were still waiting for him to die. Embarrassed because when he awoke after my wife said good-bye to him for the night, he was fully conversant as if he just woke from a normal sleep.
A month later my own father had congestive heart failure. We met as a family because the only solution the doctors would give is a triple-bypass and valve replacement surgery. He was 83 and we encouraged him with the results of my father-in-laws own ordeal at age 90. What was supposed to be a 5 hour operation turned into 8 hours. For 5 hours, he was bleeding to death. The heart membranes would tear as soon as the doctors tried to suture a new valve into place. One after the other, the surgeon told us there was nothing they could do to save him. The heart surgeon himself went down to us at the waiting area to tell us that he was just going to die on the operating table and asked us if we wanted to view him there to say our last farewells. I thanked the good doctor, but specifically told him that we were a praying family who believed that God answers prayer and that if he could do his best to keep him alive, we would do our best to move God's hands through prayer. He seemed an unbeliever but doctors normally humor their clients request especially if they believe it would be the last request made.
I phoned my wife and kids, my mother, my brother in Canada to inform them to prepare for the worst. But I told them it was not over yet and there was room for us to knock on the doors of heaven to get to God's heart and tell him what we really desire to happen.
After telling us to wait for 20 minutes so the heart surgeon could prepare my dad's sedated body with the chest still open (they could not close it because the swelling from blood substitute products to replace the blood he was losing), 20 minutes turned into 30 minutes and 30 minutes turned into 45 minutes and then 1 hours and then after 15 more minutes, the surgeon popped his bewildered head into our waiting room. We looked each other in the eye for what he was about to say, but all he could utter was that the bleeding had stopped while he was preparing my dad's body for viewing. So he shifted gears and actually prepared my Dad to go to the ICU.
My sister who was with me is a graduate of Medicine and all of us in the room knew what the doctor meant. We were so elated, we didn't know what to say but we did not forget to thank God and the doctor for doing his best to save my dad (instead of giving up completely). At 89, my dad still drives for errands to the groceries and he and my mom are living alone but close to my sisters' homes. We are still enjoying his fellowship and his company.
God dealt with us ACCORDING TO OUR FAITH. What if we just surrendered to the natural consequences of failed operations or surgeries? Yes, we could do that. We could just accept what God has dispensed to us and "surrendered to His will" and there is absolutely nothing theologically and Biblically wrong with that position. However, both my Dad and Father-in-law would have long passed away if that were our position because God would deal with us ACCORDING TO OUR FAITH, most of the time, nothing more and nothing less.
Why do I say this? Because God is a relational God. He framed two covenants to illustrate that - the Old Testament (covenant) and the New Testament. He desires to interact with us on a real and personal level and the only way that can happen is if He releases absolute control over many things (which means He takes quite a few risks for our sakes). That means we can pray and plead. That means, like in the case of Hezekiah and Jonah with the people of Ninevah, He can relent (Hebrew, literally, change His mind about a previous decision) if it were His will and then change it in our favor.
What a wonderful God! He doesn't have to do it. He could refuse to take any risks. BUT...He loves! and true love entails risk. Glory, Hallelujah!!! Amen! God is Love. His lovingkindness is without limit,
"Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds." - Psalm 36:5.
Were these isolated incidents? Was I just lucky? God forbid! Only an infidel could say such a thing! I have prayed for a friend about to undergo angioplasty only to have her appointments cancelled because the blockage could not be found after our prayer! Note that the initial diagnosis had to be confirmed with 2nd opinions and it was verified.
I have prayed for a couple who had a miscarriage and had difficulty having a baby. Their own church prayed for them without success. What was the difference? We believed that it would be done according to our faith! We assured the couple that God was a relational God despite everything they may have been taught (or mistaught!). That God was the same yesterday, today and forever. That God desires to be in relationship with His people and that His people need to be in the same mode needing God, wanting God, desiring His presence, hungry to seek His face constantly. In relationship with God as the branch abides in the vine, the promise of Christ holds true, "Ask anything and it shall be done".
It took only 9 months to prove that God responds in relationship and they are now enjoying their baby boy. There were absolutely no issues with the pregnancy despite all those doctors warnings because of the prior miscarriages. They are enjoying as of this writing, their healthy baby.
Today we are still experiencing God's responses to our prayers according to our faith. Oh, believer, please DO NOT lose out on the goodness of God. Whatever your previous beliefs, launch out on this new adventure with the God which perhaps you have never known this way...God is truly relational. He is a real person.
I've had an old classmate who was at the hospital preparing for surgery for a brain tumor half-way around the globe. I pled with God for her. Her surgery didn't go through because the tumor disappeared! Perhaps it was not just my prayer. Perhaps others were praying for her the RIGHT way too. But this is too much of a coincidence. She was already in the hospital room getting prepared for the surgery, which means that there were already 2nd, 3rd opinions on her tumor. Then there is the final scan before the actual surgery...and there was no tumor!
I have another friend, a medical doctor who is dealing with His own lung cancer. I tried to admonish him to refuse both chemotheraphy and radiation not because I was like those Christian Scientists who do not believe in medicine, but because I have read medical research and journals that prove that there is no statistical difference between those who get these treatments and those who don't (I am a mathematician, by the way, and statistics do NOT lie!). In fact, it will only weaken his immune system and lessen his capacity to fight any disease and even the cancer itself if it recurs, not to mention all the side-effects that make even most oncologists unwilling to undergo the procedure themselves were they or their loved ones to be stricken with cancer).
All I wanted was to spare him the agony. I wanted to suggest that he get treatments in Mexico or Germany which have better success with cancer treatments in a less invasive and toxic way, but I did not want to confuse him at his time of need so I kept quiet. Right now, I have a hard time praying for him, not because I have unbelief, but because he is further subjecting himself to worsen his case. It is like tempting God. "Lord, heal me. I am going to make it worse for me so you can heal me". Well, if he ever gets healed, guess who will get the glory? Will it be God or the toxic theraphies that he is going through. I believe people will glorify these cancer treatments instead of God and hence it is hard to pray to God for something where His work will be completely overshadowed by human effort.
In such cases, if he is granted deliverance from God, it will be despite everything bad he has allowed to be done to himself. However, it is doubtful that God will get the glory here and that is what makes me struggle to pray for him. When God does not get glory, He rarely answers or responds to prayer.
My only assurance is that it will be done to him --- ACCORDING TO HIS FAITH. If he believes that God will heal him through his cancer treatments, then perhaps God will. Unfortunately, I just do not see any concrete Biblical assurance for this where I can hang my faith on.
In the case of those Christian Scientists who "killed" their son suffering from diabetic attacks, note that they were a cult and have the wrong belief and hence the wrong God - an idol that they themselves created. Hence, the child died. This is both Bibilical and natural. They had a god with no ears or heart or life.
But we believe in the God of the Bible. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samuel, David - - - the RELATIONAL and loving God!!! The God who is the same yesterday, today and forever! The God who has "no shadow of turning" according to James.
He loves you and will NOT impose His will upon you under normal circumstances, so...IT SHALL BE DONE TO YOU ACCORDING TO YOUR FAITH!
Other related topics:

No comments:

Post a Comment