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From Chris's Heart

October 2009
Teaching Article
by Nick Harris

The other day, one of our students asked me, "How do you understand the concept of faith?" I explained to him that the Scripture makes it clear that faith is not "a feeling" or "a mental exercise." Faith goes far deeper than that. I explained that the exercise of all vital faith begins with the human will. When we exercise our wills and take control of our thought processes, especially our attitudes toward God, the result will be a vital faith. Doubt and unbelief will be driven away.
All of us know the power of the human will. We apply our wills in every circumstance that arises in our lives and we will either choose to put our faith in God or we will choose to put our faith in our circumstances. It all depends upon our wills.

In reality, there is very little difference between faith and doubt. They are twins conceived in the same womb, but they live opposing lives. The exercise of the will determines which of the two powers will dominate our lives. The Bible describes the power of the human will in Proverbs 23:7:
"As a man thinks in his heart (his innermost self) so is he."

This verse tells us that what we will eventually choose to do in our lives is determined by that upon which we allow our minds to dwell. If we allow our minds to be focused upon the negative circumstances that arise in our lives and upon our abilities to overcome those circumstances, doubt and unbelief will appear. If, on the other hand, our minds are focused upon God and God's abilities to provide for us, then faith will be released.

A perfect example of the effective exercise of the human will can be seen in Luke's account of the feeding of the 5000. This story provides an excellent illustration of the proper exercise of faith. It demonstrates the fact established earlier, that every human problem involves two elements: 1) the circumstances we face, and 2) the provisions (or lack thereof), to meet those circumstances.

The circumstances that Jesus faced when he fed the 5000 were absolutely overwhelming when examined with the natural eye. In the human sense, there was absolutely no way to overcome the magnitude of the situation and yet, in spite of the greatness of the problem Jesus faced, the power of His faith proved to be victorious.

The circumstances were as follows: approximately 5000 people had followed Jesus into a wilderness place to hear him teach. This multitude had been with him all day and many of them had not eaten since early that morning. Needless to say, this multitude was hungry. Jesus could see the gravity of this situation and understood that they needed to be fed. However, at least two tons of food would have been required to have fed such a crowd. Obviously, such a huge amount of food could not be purchased in this solitary, wilderness place. In fact, the only food available at that time was the lunch of a small boy, which amounted to five barley cakes and two small fish.

Obviously, the circumstances and the provisions did not coincide. As one of the disciples said, "What are these five loaves and two fishes among so many?" Of course, he was looking at two things; 1) the circumstance (5000 hungry people) and 2) the provisions on hand (five barley cakes and two small fishes). This particular disciple was not the only doubter who was present on that day. Throughout the entire episode the twelve disciples continually displayed what it means for a person to walk by sight and not by faith. One disciple was heard so say that their treasury only contained seventeen denarii.
This demonstrates the fact that the twelve disciples of Jesus responded to this situation in much the same way that most people react when they are confronted with the negative circumstances that often arise in life. First, they reviewed the situation within which they were placed. And, then, they reviewed the resources they had on hand to see how much of the situation they could resolve on their own. These two steps will always lead to defeat; that was true then and it is still true now.

By this point in the story, this much is clear: if you look at the circumstances through natural eyes and if you divide the five loaves and two small fishes into at least 5000 people, it makes for a rather bleak outcome. In fact, dividing the resources into the situation has always been the breeding ground for doubt and unbelief and faith will always be defeated.

However, in the situation as it is recorded by Luke, Jesus did not choose to divide; instead, He chose to multiply. Rather than turning His eyes toward the circumstances, the 5000 people, or toward the supply on hand, the five loaves and two small fishes, Luke 9:16 says this:
"Then Jesus took the five loaves and two fishes, and looking up into heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. And they did eat and were all filled."

Notice, here, that Jesus refused to look at the circumstances. If He had focused on those circumstances it would have only generated doubt and unbelief. But Jesu also refused to look at the earthly supply. That too would have generated doubt and unbelief.

Instead, Jesus chose by a deliberate act of his will to "look into heaven." He looked in his direction because He knew the truth of what Paul would later share with the Ephesians, when he wrote:
"Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3)

By looking to God and His abilities and believing God rather than his doubts, the will of Jesus generated faith and as a result he received "exceeding abundantly more than he asked for thought." In fact, he received so abundantly that twelve basketfuls of bread were left after all the people had eaten their fill.
The lesson is this: watch your focus. Always look to God for your supply, and never look at your circumstances or your own abilities to resolve it. Remember this: God is faithful.

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