Advent II – Day 15 - Faith?
‘”Will He really find faith on the earth?”’, what a salient line for Jesus to speak regarding His return. He is speaking to both the apostles, other believers, and the religious of the day, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and this major challenge is thrown out. Can you imagine being one of the apostles and hearing that? Peter, John, and Andrew even, those closest to Christ. What would have they been thinking? ‘We have followed you through think and thin, and now you question whether we will be there when you return?’ Of course, Jesus may have been pointing to the others, but then look what happened to Peter not that long afterwards. Before Christ had left to go back to the Father, he denied Christ three times. So, it seems Jesus was very right to throw out the challenge, and perhaps helps us understand why He said ‘blessed are those who believe without seeing’ to doubting Thomas and the others when He appeared to them after His resurrection.
How could this occur, as Jesus’ suggests, that the love of many will grow so cold? This love is the ‘agape’, other centred, persevering, sacrificial love often associated with those devoted to God! However, truthfully for many of us, our love for God is based on feelings, or what we receive (perhaps in return for our devotion), or how our needs are met, or the ‘signs’ we see. All this might seem natural but is the one type of love that is not sustainable, nor ultimately fulfilling. This type of love will not last the test of time as we wait for Christ’s return. As we watch the world around us lose sight of the way, seem to plunder due to their selfish way, and even our prayers seem to go unanswered according to our expectation, the temptation will be great to have a type of conditional, or lukewarm, love for Christ, seeking to benefit from the world’s plunder by being in it, while worshipping God…a type of each way bet. Thank goodness, it is written, ‘If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.’
The faith and love that endures, comes by the grace of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and flows as we make the hard, wilful, decisions to press deeper into God, despite our circumstances. With eyes zeroed in on Jesus Christ, a heart devoted and trusting in His love, and a vision for eternity, the things of earth do grow strangely dim. Trained through the trials of life, our focus is on who Christ is, and His word, rather than our circumstances, and our own promises. This love knows the presence of God, but copes when that seems absence, withstands hardship, for it transcends our thoughts, into the place of trust, and simply believes. Jesus is training us for eternity, where all our woes on earth will be of no consequence, and much of our life is but a breath of air. This love chooses to forgive, endures the waves of life, shows mercy, give grace, and walk in the ways of Christ.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” (Luke 1:13-20)
“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:11-14)
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-6)