The mystery and master of faith

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:25,26

Peter M. Prange

To broken hearts like ours, faith is a real mystery. We don’t naturally understand faith’s inner workings. We foolishly assume that faith is invigorated by easy roads and pleasant paths. How easy it is to have faith when everything goes our way! Surely that’s what God wants for his faithful people in this world, right?

But Jesus is the master of faith. He gets how it works. He creates faith, just as he has created everything else, in a powerful yet unsuspecting way. In a way only he can.

Trusting the master of faith

Just consider John chapter 14 and the words Jesus spoke on the evening before he died. He told his disciples that he would be leaving them. They didn’t expect that. Until the moment of Jesus’ arrest, his disciples were convinced he had come to establish a grand earthly kingdom. They were destined—or so they thought—to reign in this world alongside the Messiah. This was their faith, and it was simple to have. Jesus had spoken, and they believed. But Jesus would be leaving them, a point he made repeatedly so they wouldn’t miss it.

Still, they did. His words seemed strange to them. All was well, but soon he would be withdrawing. He would go unseen. Then faith would depend on his words without his physical presence. “All this I have spoken while still with you,” Jesus said, but soon his disciples won’t see him anymore. Things would change. Jesus would not be present with them as he had been for the past three years.

Martin Luther noted that while God’s people hear and accept God’s Word gladly, “it does not always touch the heart right away and is not always believed right away. . . . One can go for a long time without feeling at all improved or comforted and strengthened by it, especially if there is not any anxiety or danger” (Luther’s Works [LW], Vol. 77, p. 355).

Unveiling the mystery of faith

So what does Jesus do to deepen faith? He leaves us, even to the point that we may feel altogether abandoned. He launches storms in our direction. He inserts thorns in the flesh and permits messengers of Satan to torment us (2 Corinthians 12:7). In those challenges, Jesus drives us to his words.

When trials come, so does his Spirit, who teaches us all things and brings to mind the promises Jesus has made to us. It is as if he says, “I must be taken away from you, so that this comfort may work in you and the Holy Spirit may teach it to you. When you have lost me and are left alone in danger, need, and anxiety, only then will you realize that you need comfort, and then you will sigh for it. Then the Holy Spirit will find you to be truly teachable students and will help and remind you to grasp and note what I have said” (LW, Vol. 77, p. 354).

Though the lessons of faith our Master teaches are not always pleasant, how necessary they are and what fruit they bear (Hebrews 12:11). So don’t scamper too quickly from weaknesses and insults, hardships and difficulties. Delight in them. For through them the Master unveils the mystery of faith.


Contributing editor Peter Prange is pastor at Bethany, Kenosha, Wisconsin.


 

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Author: Peter M. Prange
Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

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