November 2015 Final Issue
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Obedience and Belief

When I was a little boy my grandmother bought me a small mirror with the words, “Believe and all things are possible” etched into the glass. It was a tiny gift, no more than a couple of inches on each side. It was given on a whim; something sweet for a small child. I lost it a few years ago during a move, but the message has remained etched in my memory. It changed my life. It pops into my head at unexpected moments and reminds me that God doesn’t live inside a box…that all things are truly possible. Late at night, and in the midst of a storm, Jesus nonchalantly walked across the heaving water to His floundering disciples. Desperate for reassurance, Peter asked permission to walk out on to the water to join His Master. Jesus doesn’t give instructions to this first-time water-walker, He simply said, “Yes, come.” A simple response to an almost child-like request. Peter walked on water! Then Peter sank. And Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him and said, You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?” (Matthew 14:24-30, NLT). The experience changed Peter’s life. Not long after this, Jesus healed a boy that His disciples had been unable to help. When the disciples asked why they were unsuccessful, He said, “You don’t have enough faith. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain ‘move from here to there’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible” (Matthew 17:20, NLT). One of the many things I love about Jesus is the simplicity of His message. He tells us repeatedly that all we need to do is believe and all things will be possible. He invites us into seemingly impossible or overwhelming situations with a simple, matter-of-fact, “Yes, come.” Then when we falter, He reminds us that the only thing we need to work on is our faith. He doesn’t correct technique. He doesn’t give Peter “Walking on Water for Dummies” and then tell him to come back later and try again. He doesn’t correct the wording and intonation of the prayers used by the disciples that failed to cure the demon-possessed boy. He says, “Believe.” And it changes lives. It changes us. Until the next time. This is the part that drives me crazy. I mean absolutely crazy. I have watched God lift three decades worth of shame off me. I’ve witnessed Him restore my heart and the joy and the tears that I had suppressed for so long. I’ve been party to some awesome moments of spiritual healing in the lives of friends and total strangers and have heard testimonies of physical healings that make my eyes widen, jaw drop, and hair stand on end. And yet… And yet each new time God promises to come through, I doubt. You would think…and I would think…that by this time I would have so much faith that after hearing just the first few words of a promise or invitation from God, I’d have busted out my big foam “God’s #1” finger and be cheering like a wild man in advance of God’s inevitable victorious display of power. But I don’t. Instead I give way to fear and doubt each and every time without even realizing it. God says, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this. I’ve got you.” Do you, God? I’m not so sure. “Don’t be afraid. I won’t let anything happen to you.” But what if You’re wrong? “Just rest in Me. I have this all planned out.” Maybe I should put together a “plan B”…you know, just in case. Why? Why is it so hard to have faith? Why? It seems so simple. Peter walked on water. Walked. On. Water! The disciples witnessed Lazarus rise from the dead! The people of Israel saw the Red Sea part with their very own eyes; they ate manna from heaven and flocks of quail from who knows where! And still they doubted the next time. It doesn’t seem like it should be possible for us to be this bad at having faith. It doesn’t seem like it should be this hard to have faith. But if we go back to the Garden, we start to see why it is. The very first lie Satan ever whispered went right to the heart of our belief and trust in God. “Did God really say…” invited us to doubt every single word ever uttered by our loving Father. In our innocence we took the bait, and in our subsequent guilt and shame, we bit down on that lie even harder. “Surely God won’t come through for me now that I’ve disappointed Him.” “Surely I don’t deserve to be rescued this time.” Then our earthly existence took over, and at some point, our earthly mothers and fathers in their human-ness didn’t or couldn’t come through for us when we really needed them to. Our broken logic grabbed hold of the transitive property (my math teacher would be so proud of me), and inferred that if our parents are supposed to show us God, and our parents let us down, then God must let us down, too. “No one has ever been there for me before…why would God?” “God’s just like everyone else…He expects me to fix myself before He’ll help me.” “I have to earn it. I have to earn His love. I have to earn His help. I have to make Him proud of me. I have to do it on my own.” I’ve been struggling with the effects of that broken logic for my whole life, but as I’ve come into healing, I’ve started to see just how pervasive and infectious it is. Nine months ago, God asked my wife to quit her job. He gave us both a tremendous sense of peace about the idea, invited us to have friends pray through the decision with us, and gave us plenty of time to mentally adjust before she actually was supposed to offer her resignation. He told us, day after day, for months that He was in this, that He was going to take care of us, that He would bless us more abundantly than we could even begin to imagine. Within days of her resignation being finalized though, I was a nervous wreck. God, this is crazy! We can’t mathematically live on one salary! “It’s okay, Jon. I’ve got you.” But God, you don’t understand! What are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to make this work? “Don’t worry, Jon. I’m not going to abandon you. I have all of this in My hands.” God, you expect me to take care of this somehow, right? I’m supposed to agonize over our budget, start looking for a second job, and worry about this night and day, right? “You’re funny, Jon. Just relax. I will not leave you or forsake you. I am not going to hang you out to dry. I’m not going to embarrass you. I will provide for your every need, and you will witness my glory and provision in ways that you haven’t even imagined.” So that’s a ‘yes’? Aaaaaaarrrrgh!!! (that was me, not God) Why is this so hard? I did it again this past week. It was my turn to teach our adult Sunday school class, and so I started praying the week before about what God would want me to say. He’d had me teach for the previous three weeks on masculinity; what true masculinity looked like, how it had been distorted and perverted, and how we could reclaim what had been lost. I thought it might be time for a new topic, but when I asked Him what I should teach on, He simply said, “Apologize.” Huh? “Apologize for what men have done. Apologize for the hurts and the wounds that men and women have suffered at the hands of men. Apologize for all of the wrongs that have been committed by those that did not understand true masculinity. You all need to hear this so that you can better receive from Me. These wounds are getting in the way, and I want you to do this so that I can work in them and in you. Don’t prepare anything. Don’t write anything down. I will give you the words. I will show up. I will not abandon you or forsake you. It will be good.” Simple enough, right? Foam finger? – check! Excitement and joy and breathless anticipation? – check! Total faith and confidence that God will come through exactly as promised? – umm… It was a brutal week. I doubted. I questioned. I tried to wriggle out of it. I kept asking my wife to pray with me in the hope that she’d hear that I was supposed to do something different. I didn’t want to do this, and I definitely didn’t believe that God would come through. I was sure I was going to walk into class and bumble through something I would have to concoct on the spot. I was sure it was going to be awful and that people were going to laugh and maybe throw rotten produce (they still do that, right?). It was GLORIOUS! God showed up in a HUGE way. I started. I got choked up before I had said more than a dozen words, and then after a moment the rest just came out in a flood. All I could do was hang on. And then it was done. And then we prayed. And God was still there, moving in the hearts of each person. Shining light into dark places and bringing us gently out of bondage into wide open fields. And at the end, all I could do was sit there and marvel at what He had done through me. At what He had allowed all of us to be a part of. At what He had brought to fruition in spite of my doubts. It was a rock pile. It was a reminder to me of His faithfulness. It was yet another testimony that when He says He will come through, He will do exactly that. No. He will do more than that. All I have to do is believe. All I have to do is have faith the size of a mustard seed. Believe, and all things are possible. Thanks, Grandma. Thanks, God. Father, thank You for reminding me yet again that You always come through. That You’re always there. That nothing is too small or too big for You. That I’m not too small or too big a problem for You. But Father, I know that I still struggle with doubt. Please show me where that started? When was the first time I felt like You wouldn’t come through for me? What are the lies I have believed about You? What vows did I make to protect myself? Whom do I need to forgive for making me feel like I have to do it all on my own? Father, break all of this off of me, and then show me Your truth. What is true about You? What is true about me? What areas of my life do You want to move in so that my faith in You can grow? Thank You, Father, for showing me that all I have to do is have faith. That all I have to do is trust and obey. I want to grow my faith in You, Lord. Help me. I love You, Father, and I believe that You will come through for me.
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About Jon Ackerman

Jon Ackerman
Jon is a Midwestern transplant who now lives in Sterling, Virginia, with his amazing wife Brooke and their three dogs. He has taught world history to high schoolers for the last 10 years, and enjoys filling his spare hours with international travel, reading, hunting, and riding his motorcycle (when it’s working).

One comment

  1. God bless you, and your beloved wife, Brooke. She has been an amazing inspiration to me, and you were a great influence on my daughters (specially Ivette Rebecca). Best wishes for a prosperous 2015.

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