Scripture Reading: Luke 17 - 18 ...
Let's face it, living the life that God calls us to live, following the example of Jesus and obeying all that God has commanded, is impossible! You can try your hardest and still fail miserably. But God says, "What is impossible with men is possible with God!" (18:27). Luke 17 and 18 are a rapid-fire account of people ... everyday, ordinary people, being confronted by Jesus and the choice to believe or not believe. It was a choice to seek first the kingdom of God or to continue to live in their own little world, where their minds were on themselves and their circumstances rather than on God and His power and grace at work in people just like them.
When Jesus told the disciples they needed to forgive those who sinned and asked for forgiveness, even if they did the same thing over and over, the disciples responded, "Lord, increase our faith!" (17:5). They realized that their old nature just didn't WANT to do what Jesus was asking. Jesus' response is often misunderstood. He said, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you" (17:6). He then explains that a servant does what his master needs without expecting anything in return: "When you have done everything you were told to do, (you) should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty'" (17:10).
You see, "faith" is not measured by HOW MUCH of it you have. Jesus is saying, "You either have faith or you don't." You either believe God can do what He says He can do, or you think you have to do it yourself and you leave God on the sidelines of your life. Faith believes God, comes to Him with empty hands and receives all He has to give, and then lives life humbly before God one day at a time. Look at all the examples in these two chapters alone.
The ten lepers cried out to Jesus for help. That's the first step. But when Jesus gave them what they asked for, only one came back and thanked Jesus, realizing that his life had just changed! He couldn't go back to life as it had been. He was now living by faith - in Jesus. His faith had made him WELL! Jesus says it this way: "The kingdom of God is within you" (17:21). And, "Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it" (17:33). God doesn't settle for changing your circumstances ... God's goal is changing YOU! He does that by giving you a new vision of life in this world - a life lived now with God, for God, by the power of God. You have to LOSE the old life in order to gain the new one, and that requires FAITH - trust, dependence on God.
The persistent widow knew she needed help, so she kept on asking. That's faith. Jesus asks, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (18:8). Will Jesus find people who are humble enough to keep asking, believing that God will answer? The example of the Pharisee and the tax collector emphasizes again the need for an attitude of humility. Faith and pride do not go together. Pride trusts in itself. Faith trusts in God. A little child can have faith! "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (18:16). In fact, "anyone who will not RECEIVE the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (18:17).
You have nothing to bring to God except what He Himself has given you. If you come to God like the Pharisee, believing you have earned the right to enter the kingdom or that you can do what is necessary to follow Christ by your own strength, you reveal that you do NOT have faith! Faith believes, faith receives, then humbly thanks God and lives one day at a time, depending on God to supply all that is necessary to serve Him. Faith doesn't believe what YOU can do, but what GOD can do in you and through you. It's not how much faith you have, but whether you have faith at all!
The rich ruler displays the sad way that so many reject what God offers. His pride, like that of the Pharisee, believed he could hold on to his old life, where he depended on himself to accomplish what was necessary to earn its own reward, but Jesus told him he had to choose: "Trust in yourself and your possessions, or trust in ME!" Give it all away and follow Jesus, or keep on doing what you're doing and see how it works out for you. It seems impossible, but "what is impossible with men is possible with God" (18:27).
Jesus takes this opportunity to remind the disciples that they are going to Jerusalem, where He will be put to death and then rise again on the third day!! "What is impossible with men, is possible with God!" The disciples didn't understand it yet, but they would - eventually. They would need to learn that God was calling them to a difficult life, where suffering and persecution would require ... FAITH! They needed to know that they were not strong enough to do what Jesus was calling them to do, but that God would give them what they needed: FAITH ... a faith that believes and receives, that is thankful to God and that lives for Him by the power HE Himself provides.
People like the one leper, the persistent widow, the tax collector, and now a blind beggar, were given such faith. The blind beggar would not, could not keep quiet. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" he cried. In humility and faith he asked Jesus for what seemed impossible: "Lord, I want to see!" (18:41). Jesus replied, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you" (18:42). Such is the faith that leads to eternal life ... a faith produced by the very Spirit of God.
Do you have such faith? Have you come to God with empty hands, confessing your sin and your need, ready to receive from His hand all you need? Then say, "Thank YOU!" to your Father in heaven, draw near to Jesus in faith and live as a humble servant of the King of kings, "for what is impossible with men, is possible with God!"
"Father in heaven, I know that I cannot reach the standard of perfection that you require for those who come to You, but I trust in Your grace and mercy to cleanse me through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ. I draw near to You, asking You to continue to work in me, receiving from Your hand all I need to serve You. Thank You, Father, for Your mercy, Your love, Your forgiveness and Your grace. In Jesus' name, Amen"