Faith is never common sense. This is where we sometimes get mixed-up. We can think we’re demonstrating faith for things that, with time and brainpower, we can figure out. You know: God, I trust you for money for…when we know a check is coming and auntie told us to simply call if we ever needed help.
If we can figure it out, it’s probably not faith.
Now before you stand me down, I’m fully aware that faith is necessary to sustain every part of our lives, including our general well-being. Faith is not a “crisis-only” apparatus, although some people view it that way. Our very awareness of God comes through faith and by it we are born anew.
Yet Jesus spends a great deal of time drilling faith lessons into the disciples. I’m talking about faith to trust when situations are beyond all hope. And usually when the teacher keeps talking about a certain thing, it means the subject is important and will be seen again.
A Simple Command
Hebrews 11:1 is the Bible’s hallmark denotation on faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NASB). God thought it really important that we were clear about this. An incident with Jesus in Luke 17 richly explains faith and this great verse.
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem from the Galilee region and encountered a band of lepers. This is indeed the story of the ten that were healed with one returning to say thanks, but I only care to deal with the first half of the story. These lepers would have been calling aloud to all passersby; it was required by law due to their contagious disease, which had separated them from society.
But when they knew that Jesus was present, they cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” There is no indication that Jesus drew near to these folk or talked in-depth with them, although we cannot know; instead, he gives them a simple command: “Go show yourselves to the priests.”
They would need to present themselves before the priest, as detailed in Leviticus 14, whenever they could prove that their leprosy was cured and to be restored back into society. We are told nothing more of the initial encounter.
The Ease of Faith
Common sense folk have tantrums at moments like this one. They’re like Thomas for whom seeing was believing. What do you mean, “Go show yourselves to the priests?” You’ve gotta do something and make this better! It’s why we want your help. But they miss the point of what they’ve implied.
Admittedly, Jesus’s command is a glaring lesson on faith, and reading it makes things go off inside me—just like this passage: “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water. And He said, ‘Come!’” (*mind explodes*) You see, faith is an invitation into the supernatural that truly matters when situations are dire: God, I trust you for money because I lost my job—and now it’s the local food pantry and possible foreclosure.
Shockingly, what God requires at these times is our full confidence in him and for us to rest and accept the reality of our petitions granted—and what a chore that presents to us and all our striving. But that is the only posture of faith.
And this makes all the difference between two people on the same pew because one is trusting God for mere results while the other is just trusting God. Those who rely on God must “believe that He is”—or acknowledge more than his existence but the deeper aspect of it, that he is good and merciful such that it compels them to draw near to him.
John expresses this clearly: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
Faith is about more than getting God’s stuff; it’s about getting to know God.
What the Lepers Teach
Jesus gives them a command that doesn’t make any common sense, but options don’t matter when you’re desperate (unless you have leprosy and your name is Naaman, remember him?) They probably knew Jesus was a twinge eccentric, and a 60-plus mile hike down to Jerusalem would be putting full trust in him.
But something happened and, from the sense of the text, it wasn’t long after they met Jesus: “And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back…” These ten trusted Jesus so much that his words alone were enough evidence of their cure. It is the same quality of faith the centurion demonstrates (Matt. 8) at which Jesus himself marvels.
We cannot know if any of the lepers bore lingering doubts or if the miracle occurred for them individually as they each decided to truly believe. Certainly they had already tried various unhelpful remedies, so it couldn’t have hurt to do what Jesus commanded, which reminds me of another set of lepers, the four in 2 Kings 7, who also got it right: “Why sit we here until we die?”
And when our situations have walled us in and circumstances are blackest bleak, we too will cry out to Jesus and he’ll offer us a similar challenge. The only question we must then assess will be how well we trust him.