A while back while playing ping pong with friends, I had a buddy who interrupted the game with a weird question. Right before his serve he set the ball and his paddle on the table and looked at me almost aggressively and said: can you move mountains? I was completely caught off guard so I just said, “What?” So he asked again: can you move mountains? Before I could answer he got to his point. He said, “you’re a Christian, right? Your bible says you think your faith can move mountains. Do it. Move mountains.”
I would later discover that at the heart of my friend’s question was pain, agony, and struggle. He was going through a lot and was wondering if faith might make all his problems go away.
I think that’s a fairly common misconception people have. You know, this notion that if you just believe hard enough all of your problems disappear. There’s this view out there that much faith means many blessings. And there’s this idea believing in Jesus makes life easier or exempts you from the challenges of life in this world.
Unfortunately, faith alone will not make our problems go away. And what’s worse is in some ways being a follower of Jesus – a disciple – it comes with a cost. And it presents challenges of its own. It can make life harder, not easier. That is the message Jesus has for his church in our gospel lesson for today – and it is a hard one to hear.
In our gospel lesson for today Jesus tells his disciples that following him will create strife and stress – even in relationships we take for granted. He indicates that there will be trials and obstacles. He asks them to love him more than anything else – even more than they love their parents. And to lay down their life. He says, to follow me is to be a loser.
What I wish I could have told my friend all those years ago is that faith is hard. It’s hard loving everybody. It’s hard trusting God. It’s hard forgiving people again and again and again. Sometimes, it’s hard to accept forgiveness. It’s hard because discipleship requires that we be quiet when we want to shout, and it asks us to shout when it’d be a lot easier to be quiet. Discipleship asks us to leave our comfort zone and invites us to love God more than anything else. It’s hard because no one wants to be a loser.
However, it is in losing that we win. And it is through death – the big death at the end, but also the little deaths throughout our life (death of pride, death of the need to be right, death of sin, death of ego, death of self [which Luther called the great pope]) – that we discover new and abundant life.
I cannot move mountains. But I have witnessed faith move hearts as heavy as boulders, save relationships and restore friendships that were beyond repair, heal wounds physicians can’t help, and bring new life to all those gasping for air.
May we cling to our faith now even in the midst of pain, agony, and struggle. Not because we believe it will make everything easier or take the world’s problems away, but because we love and trust god more than anything or anyone else. Because it is clear that the ways of this world are not working – and we know the Jesus way does. May we cling to our faith as hard as it can be – knowing that God is clinging to us. So closely, Jesus says, that every hair on your head is counted. So, do not be afraid. After all, even a little faith we’re told can allegedly move mountains.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.