I find it interesting that over the last few weeks, as I have written about "joy" and being "joyous," life has become anything but!
I could fill you in. I could tell you all the latest news in my life. But why do that to nice people such as yourselves?
Besides, isn't it just like God to flash our own words before our eyes when we're in the middle of conflict and crisis? When unresolved matters that have festered to the boiling point surround us? When plans so perfectly made fall apart and we just can't understand why? When we feel like if we start crying now, we'll never stop. Ever?
But there is truly a reason (actually, more than one!) to be joyous...and they all center around one immutable fact: Jesus loved us, forgave us and died for us, "while we were yet sinners." (Romans 5:8)
A Look Back At Parts One, Two, and Three
We began this series by looking at a verse of Scripture from 1 Peter, which reads:
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6b, 7)
The question raised was: In what do we rejoice?
In part one of this series, we looked at the words found in verses 3-6a:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice...
We rejoice because we have new birth into a living hope.
We rejoice because we have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade-kept in heaven just for us.
We rejoice because we serve a God of mercy.
In What Else Do We Rejoice?
We rejoice in our faith.
Can you imagine not having faith? Think about the worst thing you ever went through and then imagine having dealt with it without your faith in God. But is faith a perfectly formed gift from God, or something we have to grow...you know, like the mustard seed?
While Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to the "very high mountain" where He was transfigured and spent time with Moses and Elijah, the remaining disciples were in a nearby town. There, a man brought his epileptic son to them, asking for healing. Jesus had already given The Twelve the power and authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, and drive out demons. "Freely you have received," He had said to them. "Freely give." (See Matthew 10:8)
But when Jesus, Peter, James, and John rejoined the remaining Twelve, they discovered that the men had been incapable of healing the man's son. When the boy was brought to Jesus, he was healed...leaving the disciples confused by it all. Like Barney Fife, they had the authority, but not the power.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"
He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
What is faith as small as a mustard seed? Why did Jesus use this metaphor rather than another?
This isn't the first time Rabbi Jesus used the mustard seed as an example. He spoke of it in relation to the Kingdom of Heaven when He said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants and grows into a tree where birds can come and find shelter in its branches." (Matthew 13:31b-32)
Rabbis in Jesus' day often used the example of the mustard seed when they wanted to express something that was "smaller than small." Though tiny, when the seed in planted in proper soil and nourished, it grows upward of fifteen feet in some cases. It becomes so large; birds can find shelter in its branches (but not build nests). They can also feed off the seed from the leaves.
If our faith is like a mustard seed, it not only will grow when properly planted, but will also extend higher than anticipated, will offer shelter to others and to ourselves, and, at times, others will be able to "feed" off of it.
Sometimes we depend on the "faith of our friends," those times when our faith just doesn't quite get us where we need to be. The important thing to note here is that the faith is there. We simply have to wrap our minds around God enough to believe. We must take hold of that mustard seed faith, plant it in fertile ground, nourish it, and watch it grow.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Think of faith like a garden of mustard seeds. The soil has been cultivated, the seeds have been planted. How then does your garden grow?
I asked a few of my friends this important question. Here are a few of the answers I received:
The first thing I thought about when I read this question is the verse from Romans (10:17) that claims, "...faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Seems to me faith grows when we spend time with God in the Word of God. As we know Him we trust Him more, depend on Him more, etc.
For me, my faith has grown when I feel God asking me to step out in a certain area, but feeling insignificant to do so. God calls me to BIG things; I get scared, cling to Him, and discover that's exactly where He wants me to be!
God's will is expressed toward each of us according to the measure of our faith, (See Matthew 9:29 and 1 John 5:14-15) He grows our faith through perplexing, difficult, opposing and even tragic circumstances. Prayer is confidence in God expressed. Prayer is an act of faith. Faith grows when we choose to hold out hope in God's character. Sometimes our faith is grown in conceding that we will never understand, but we unreservedly trust God according to His character, anyway.
My faith was planted through the telling of Bible stories. To this day, I absolutely love the stories of the scriptures and they continue to cause my faith in God to sprout. My faith was grown, however, through personalizing the scriptures and stories in my private prayer journal. It chronicles the changes in my life wrought and hammered through application of the scriptures to my own struggles and joys, talents and failings.
Tend The Garden, Watch it Grow...REJOICE!
My husband knows how much I love tea roses. He's quite the gardener(owns a landscape company, so he'd better be!) and as a special gift to me, he planted tea roses in the yard of our first home. When we moved, he repeated the gesture. My job was to prune the bushes, which meant cutting the stems at just the right angle, allowing them to grow even more beautifully.
The roses were magnificent! Usually no less than ten rose bushes, just for me. About our home were vases filled with tea roses; their scent sweet and intoxicating. Friends and neighbors were gifted with the beauty of the roses. Each and every Sunday morning our pastor wore a tiny bud in his lapel.
Then we moved to our current home. My husband planted the roses, they grew and as always I tended. Until...one day...when I saw a snake, who'd apparently taken up residency near my little section of paradise. I refused to go back into the garden; the bushes eventually grew scraggly, no longer blooming. Now, every time I see the area of our lawn where the roses once bloomed, I am saddened.
Faith is like my rose garden. We plant it deep in the soil, tend it, prune it, and enjoy the beauty of it. But the moment something comes along to stop our part of growing faith (imagine how the disciples must have felt when they couldn't heal the boy!), it grows scraggly and dies.
Let us then tend the garden of our faith! It will grow lush and beautiful. It will spread its sweet scent throughout the house. Friends and neighbors will reap the benefits, too.
We can rejoice!
Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams & Summon the Shadows and an award-winning national speaker. She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at Bridegroomsbride@aol.com or you can go to her website here.
Other Articles in this Series:
Why Be Joyous, 3: Our God is a Merciful God