Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Faith of Abednego

I am truly grateful that God was able to use my post When God Doesn't Heal to touch some hearts last week. That post was a tough one to write, partly because I can get quite angry with people who discount and denegrate the faith of someone who has cancer or is stuck in a wheelchair. But it was also difficult to express because there is a line which I do not want to cross. I do not want to give the impression that God doesn't still heal people divinely. I know it still happens. I've seen the results. And I don't in any way want people believing that God cannot do miracles. Nothing is impossible with God.

Over at Cerulean Sanctum, Dan, who is my brother in Christ Jesus, has commented that we must believe that God can do the miraculous, and I wholeheartedly agree. Dan and I simply differ on how much faith we have and how much faith we need. I maintain that Jesus told us we need just the amount as small as a mustard seed, which was the smallest seed known at that time. In other words, a little is powerful stuff.

A little bit of faith got Simon Peter out on the water for a little stroll. When he noticed the waves and it kicked into his head that he was doing the impossible, the doubts flooded in. Jesus allowed Peter to drop into the water and taught him a valuable lesson that God can do the impossible and that we should trust Him. He did not say that when our doubts creep in that he will no longer be our source of physical strength. In fact it should be noted that when Doubting Peter fell into the water, he cried for help to Jesus and it was Jesus who reached down and pulled him out again. Peter's faith had been weakened, but it was not gone.

I've already written at length about the people whom God chose not to heal. The Apostle Paul is the most glaring example because we even have Paul's account of God telling him "No". But let's remember that in no way and at no time did Paul ever not have faith that God could heal him. He could have. He didn't. And that is the most important distinction we can draw. I have much faith that God can do the impossible. I have faith that if I pray and it is God's will, that He will do the impossible. However I also know that sometimes God chooses not to do the impossible.

To the best of my knowledge, He has never answered a prayer to move a mountain into the sea in spite of the fact Jesus told us we could do that with the tiniest amount of faith. So why isn't Kilimanjaro in the middle of the Atlantic? It is not God's will. No matter how much faith we have, if God doesn't want it done, it will not be done. There are some extremists (and I am not including my friend Dan) who say that we must have faith that God can do the impossible, that God will do the impossible, and that if we ask it, that God must do the impossible. Nonsense. God doesn't take His marching orders from us. If we are not careful in our thinking that God will always heal, we can move into the mindset that we are entitled to that healing because of our faith. That simply isn't true. Ask Paul.

These extremists are the people who belittle the faith of the disabled and chide the cancer-ridden for a lack of belief. Those are the people who get my dander up. (Whatever that means.) I've already shown that healing is not guaranteed by Psalm 53:5. I've written about the need to be asking in Jesus' authority, that is in agreement with His will, when we pray. But what I want to make clear is that we must have faith that God can heal, even in the most desperate situation, but we must accept that God will not heal if He has something better for us in mind. That means "better" from His perspective, not our perspective. And I'll have faith in Him that He knows what is best.

What we are called to have is the faith of Abednego. And Shadrach. And Meshach. The text says they all spoke the words, but I doubt they said them in unison, so I'm making Abednego the spokesman for the group. What words? In Daniel 3:16-18. You remember the situation. Daniel's three friends are about to be thrown into the incinerator for not bowing down to worship the golden image as they were commanded. Nebuchadnezzar gives them one final chance to worship the idol or be burned alive. That's when Abednego and company pronounced their words of faith:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
See that distinction? Our God is able to -- He can -- save us. He will rescue, but even if he does not... Wait! Is that a lack of faith? Of course not! Abednego and friends simply knew that sometimes God makes His point in other ways. We have no information that God disclosed any revelatory information to the three. They knew that God was able to save. They knew that if it was His will, he would save. But they also knew that God might have other plans, and they warned the king that even if God would let them burn to death, their faith in Him would not be diminished.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew the difference between faith that God can heal, faith that He will heal, and faith that He must heal. The lesson we must learn is that our faith should not suffer simply because God chooses not to answer our prayers for healing just as we ask. Believe that God can. Believe that if it is His will that He will. But never for a moment believe that He must. Only God is God.

Almighty God, give us the faith of Abednego.


Chad said...

Rev-Ed, Thank you for this post. It is is very helpful to me at the moment. I agree entirely with what you are saying. "Not my will but thy will be done." If we pray those words and mean them, then how can we be so arrogant to assume that what we want is the same as what God desires? We can have faith in God to heal, but not necessarily know that he will choose to do so.

Lauren said...

Having sat under the teaching in a women's ministry at church, where it was taught that if someone is not healed it is their fault, due to lack of faith, let me say a hearty, "Amen, brother preach it!"

When I went to God and His Word to ask for His take on this teaching, incredibly these are very verses He lead me to. I never realized how prevalent the teaching was. For some reason I didn't think many others were struggling under these teachings.

Do you really want to get angry? After a friends husband died, at the funeral the Pastor's wife told her, "Tsk, tsk, he just should have believed and you wouldn't be in this pain." Grrrrrr

julie said...

I think you're right - Abedneggo's position is the one with the most faith. He was willing to concede that regardless of his experience, God can and will do anything HE wants. That's faith. God doesn't have to prove anything to us.

(God recently healed our family dog. This still mystifies me a bit.)

I've always wondered why Jesus only healed one person at the pool of Bethsaida.