Mark 4:35-41

Faith is a verb. It is active and alive. Faith is never just some fuzzy belief about something opaque and indefinite. It has muscle and backbone, and it breathes with the ability to do what it sets out to do.

No one knew this better than Jesus. Consider the incident we have read about today. He asked His disciples to put out into the lake in a small fishing boat. Jesus had been teaching the crowd and was drained and sleepy, so as the others rowed, He stretched out for a little nap.
As He slept a quick storm brewed up on the lake. That set the stage for a great teaching event. The disciples got scared during the storm so they woke Jesus. Can you imagine that? He was sleeping through a storm!
That in itself was part of what His disciples learned, at least later. There are times to work, but there are times to sit back and not worry so much.
It is like a man who once applied for a job on a farm. The farmer asked him what his qualifications were, and the man said, “Well, I can sleep through a storm.” The farmer thought that was a strange answer, but he needed a hand, so he hired him. One night a couple of weeks later the farmer woke up and heard the rain pouring down and the wind howling. He got up and went to check on the farm.
He found that the barn was closed up tightly and all the animals were alright. All the equipment was in the shed where it belonged, and, in general, everything was in good shape. It was then that it dawned on the farmer what his hand had meant when he told him he could sleep through a storm. He did his work when he was supposed to do it, and he did it well, and did not need to worry if a storm blew up in the middle of the night.
It was this kind of thing that let Jesus sleep in the boat. But the disciples were not nearly as sure of themselves as He was, so they interrupted the nap and asked this biting question: “Lord, don’t you even care if we drown?”
As we look back on the story we can tell the answer to that question but for those men in the boat it was a life or death situation! Jesus’ response stilled the storm immediately. “Quiet! Be still!” He said. That literally means, “Be muzzled.” Then He turned the question back on the others in the boat: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
What did Jesus mean? Was He asking if they believed in Him? Yes, it was that, but it was more than that, too. Jesus wanted to know if their faith was a verb, if it was active and alive. He wanted to know if it was something that would lead to action. Action under pressure can be an act of faith, too.
Jesus is still asking that question of His believers. “Do you believe to the point of acting on your belief?” That is a tough question!
So many things seem to get in the way of belief. We are pulled from every side by someone or something vying for our attention and our time. Our faith is challenged by so many storms, and so many events which seem to remove our will to follow Christ.
H. G. Wells wrote a story entitled, “The Country of the Blind.” This is a story about a group of people who were cut off from the rest of civilization by a natural disaster. As the years went by, all the people in this isolated place gradually began to lose their sight. Finally they all became blind. But they had adapted to that area so well they did not even miss their vision.
One day a stranger was out hiking, slipped and slid down into this valley. He was found by the blind men and brought to the leaders. The stranger, who was named Nunez, realized that everyone was blind, so he tried to use his own vision as an advantage. He reminded the chief that in the country of the blind even a one-eyed man is king. To this the leaders simply asked, “What is blind?”
Nunez met and fell in love with one of the women in this valley, and wanted to marry her. According to the custom, he brought his request to the leaders. They considered his request and finally gave him an answer. They would allow him to marry one of their women on one condition — he had to blind himself. They wanted no misfits in their society.
Nunez was horrified by this choice between his sight and the woman he loved. Finally he summoned his courage and climbed out of the valley, deciding to keep his sight.
We are all tempted to blind ourselves to what we know is true. Jesus gives us sight in our faith, and people come along and say things to us like, “Oh, come on now, you don’t really believe all that religious stuff, do you?” Or we run into a moral situation in which we know what the right thing is, but we are tempted to look the other way, or to act in a non-Christian way.
The choice is often between blinding ourselves or summoning our courage and doing what is right. Across twenty centuries we hear that ancient question echo in our consciences: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
When we put faith into action changes start to occur, both in our own lives and the lives of others. Think of that. Things can be different!
J. Harry Cotton put it this way: “Whenever in the long history of the church new reforms have broken the encrusted custom of lifeless men, it has been because someone has had a fresh encounter with Jesus. Whenever new life renovates the church, Jesus is alive and at work. In the name of Jesus what wonders have been wrought!
“A Francis of Assisi releases the power of unselfish love and the old ways suddenly appear shabby and cheap. A Grenfell goes to Labrador and a Schweitzer to Africa, and all the world of fretful, self-seeking men feel rebuke within themselves. By the power of Jesus men have built hospitals for the sick, provided the homeless with shelter, freed the slaves, established free governments; have left home, comfort, and safety to carry the gospel to unknown lands.
“By the power of Jesus men of leprous and foul tastes have been made clean, dishonest men have been led to the truth, weaklings have been made strong, hard hearts have been melted into tenderness. See them: a mighty army that no man can number, singing, ‘All hail the power of Jesus’ Name!”1
This story of Jesus and His disciples reminds us that faith helps us — indeed forces us — to do some things that other people do not do. It has always been this way. Wherever the people of God have obeyed Him they have been called on to do what seemed strange to others.
Think of the strange plan of a campaign recorded in the book of Joshua 6. The Israelite army was told to march around the city of Jericho six times, and then blow the horns. They were told that the walls would then fall down and they could go in and win their battle. Can’t you just see them when they first heard these instructions? They probably looked at each other and said, “This is a strange command.” But they did it, and the walls of Jericho fell.
Or think about the story of the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. This is recorded in 1 Kings 17. The Lord commanded Elijah to go into Zarephath and to request a meal from a widow he found there. This is what the widow answered: “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread — only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it — and die.”
She was down to the last morsel, not even enough for her family. What right did the prophet have to request some of it? Elijah said to this woman, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day of the Lord gives rain on the land’.”
There are those words again: “Don’t be afraid.” God has always required faith from His people. And faith is a verb. It is action, not just passive belief. What happens to you when you find yourself in one of life’s storms? Can you believe that you are not in it alone? And believing it, can you conduct yourself in such a way as to live out your faith?
An old parable tells about a trickster who broke into a store one night. He did not steal anything, but just went around the store re-arranging the price tags. The shoppers were shocked the next morning when they found diamonds selling for a few dollars, and costume jewelry priced at thousands.
In a sense, the gospel is like that. It reprices everything. It shows that some of what others consider to be of great value is practically worthless. It also shows that much of what some consider of no value is really a priceless treasure. Your faith is that priceless treasure. It is alive and active. The question is really not only, “What do you believe?” but also “What do you live?”
Jesus once took a boat ride with His disciples. At the end of the journey they were not quite the same. They witnessed something rather incredible. Life took on new meaning because of that day. The gospel is wide open for you to believe, and especially for you to live. You will never quite be the same!
1J. Harry Cotton, The Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1955), Volume 11, p. 668.

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