Faith as Driver of Human Effort
God sees and encourages human work and will intervene with a miracle as he considers necessary. If your motivation and methods and approach are consistent with Living in the Image of God; then focus on doing what you can humanly do, because your battle belongs to God and he will guide you to victory. We discuss these principles based on Christ interactions with the disciples in their encounter with two storms. Both ended in miracles. However, he scolded the disciples in one and encouraged them in the other. Differences between the two help us understand human relationship with God regarding faith, human work, and miracles. Also, we examine David’s motivation and faith in his victory over Goliath. He focused on doing what he humanly could and received a miracle to end the battle.
We conclude our study series on Following God’s Schedule with a discussion of human relationship with God regarding faith, human work, and miracles. We begin with a discussion of Christ interactions with the disciples in their encounter with two storms on the sea of Galilee. Both storms ended with a miracle. However, Jesus scolded the disciples regarding their behavior in the first storm but encouraged them in the second storm. We examine the different interactions in relation to the behavior of the disciples during the storms to understand that God encourages human work that is consistent with his purpose; is aware of the human effort; and will provide a miracle as needed based on his consideration.
The study leads to an understanding of the basis for faith as a driver for human effort. If the motivation for your effort is consistent with God’s purpose and you are committed to methods and approach consistent with the principles of Living in the Image of God, then the battle belongs to God (see Following God Schedule by Living in His Image). Therefore, he sees your effort and wants you to succeed. He will determine if you need a miracle and what, when, and how. Therefore, focus on doing what you can humanly do—with faith of God intervening as necessary according to his schedule.
We use this understanding of basis for faith to examine David’s famous victory over Goliath. He was motivated to fight Goliath to remove a “disgrace to Israel” due to Goliath’s defiance and confirm that Israel’s army was the “army of the living God.” He expected victory because the battle belongs to God, focused on fighting as he humanly could, and won victory by a miracle that manifested through his human effort. God sees your effort in human work, wants you to succeed, and will intervene with a miracle as he considers necessary.
Encounter with Storm #1
Accounts of this storm are provided with the gospel according to Mark 4:35–41, Matthew 8:18 and 23–27, and Luke 8:22–25. On the day before the storm, Jesus spent a long time teaching by the lake, using a boat as platform to speak to a large crowd that gathered on the shore [Mark 4:1]. In the evening, he and his disciples left in a boat to go to the other side of the lake [Mark 4:35]. A severe storm occurred while they were on the lake. Jesus was asleep and their boat was filling with water. The disciples feared they might drown and woke Jesus up [Mark 4:38]: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Jesus woke up and commanded the storm to stop. “Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” [Mark 4:39]. Thereafter, he scolded the disciples [Mark 4:40]: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” All three gospel authors considered the scolding an important aspect of the interaction. Therefore, in addition to the quotation from Mark, we have “Where is your faith?” [Luke 8:25] and “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” [Matthew 8:26].
Jesus scolded the disciples against fear and lack of faith. They were supposed to focus on working to save the boat, with faith of God guiding them to victory. Instead, they were afraid and focused on praying to awaken God to their human understanding of the realities they faced. Praying and seeking God should be done in the context of faith that spurs human effort. That is, we should always focus on doing what we can humanly do—with faith of God intervening according to his schedule. Instead, the disciples appeared to abandon human effort and focused on seeking God.
Encounter with Storm #2
The second storm encounter, like the first, also occurred during the night following a day that Jesus and the disciples interacted with a large crowd by the shore of the sea of Galilee. The interactions included feeding a crowd of five thousand men plus others and ended late in the day (see Feeding Crowds of Thousands). Thereafter, Jesus asked the disciples to go ahead of him to Bethsaida on the other side of the lake and the disciples left in a boat. Jesus “dismissed the crowd…and went up on a mountainside to pray” [Mark 6:45–46]. The disciples encountered a storm on their way and worked feverishly to keep the boat advancing toward their destination. Several events that occurred thereafter help us understand human relationship with God regarding work, faith, and miracle.
God Sees Human Effort: Jesus “saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them” [Mark 6:48]. Because it was night and Jesus was alone on the mountainside praying while the disciples were in a boat out on the lake, he could not have seen them physically. Therefore, the phrase “saw the disciples straining at the oars” refers to God’s interaction with the disciples. Jesus, as God, saw and was aware of their human effort at advancing the boat against the wind. However, Jesus, as human, was not with them physically and could not see them. Therefore, this information in the account conveys an understanding that God sees human effort.
God Encourages Human Effort: Jesus went out toward them shortly before dawn, walking on water. When they saw him, they were alarmed and maybe distracted from their work because they thought he was a ghost. He encouraged them to continue what they were doing [Mark 6:50]: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
God Provides Miracle as Necessary: Jesus was about to pass them, maybe expecting to meet with them at the destination, when they appeared distracted by his manner of presence (walking on water) [Mark 6:48–50]: “…He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified…” He did not pass them. Instead, he entered the boat and the storm ceased. Therefore, instead of continuing past them as he intended, he joined them to end the storm with a miracle.
Example from David versus Goliath
We discuss David’s victory over Goliath and his interactions with members of Israel’s army prior to the battle to understand more about faith, human effort, and miracle. David went in for the battle expecting to fight and hurled a stone at Goliath to get things started. However, the stone struck Goliath with the momentum of a mechanized projectile, penetrated into his skull, and immobilized him. David went up and used Goliath’s sword to cut off his head. Essentially, Goliath was killed by the miracle of the projectile. We examine interactions leading to the battle to understand as follows regarding David’s faith, human effort, and the miracle he received.
Motivation Consistent with God’s Purpose: David was motivated to kill Goliath to remove the “disgrace to Israel” due to Goliath’s defiance. Further, he believed that killing Goliath would confirm the status of Israel’s army as the “army of the living God” [1 Samuel 17:26]: “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Therefore, he was going into the battle for his country Israel, for the honor of God, and to advance understanding of God’s relationship with his country.
Battle Belongs to God: A battle belongs to God if the motivation for the battle is consistent with God’s purpose and the person is committed to methods and procedures consistent with God’s mandate of Living in the Image of God (see Following God Schedule by Living in His Image). David satisfied the first condition based on his conversations with members of the army and with Saul, the king and commander [1 Samuel 17:32–37]. Also, he satisfied the second condition based on his reputation as a person committed to serving God through interactions with other people.
Faith: David’s faith that he will be victorious was based on his understanding that the battle belonged to God. He made the case to convince Saul [1 Samuel 17:36–37]: “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Also, he made the case to all people as part of his battle cry [1 Samuel 17:47]: “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands” [1 Samuel 17:47].
Focus on Human Effort: David focused on doing what he humanly could, believing God will lead him to victory because the battle belonged to God. Therefore, he rejected Saul’s battle gear because he could not function well in it [1 Samuel 17:39]: “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” Instead, “he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine” [1 Samuel 17:40]. Because of faith driven by understanding the battle belonged to God, he expected to be victorious by doing what he humanly could. His focus on human effort was driven by faith.
Applicable to Every Endeavor: This lesson of David’s victory over Goliath is applicable to every human endeavor, such as a confrontation with adverse circumstances that appear insurmountable. If your motivation is consistent with God’s purpose and you are committed to methods and procedures consistent with Living in the Image of God, then the battle belongs to God. Therefore, focus on doing what you can humanly do. God will guide you to victory and will provide a miracle according to his schedule if he determines that a miracle is needed.
Summary of What We Learned
God sees and encourages human work and will intervene with a miracle as he considers necessary. If your motivation and methods and approach are consistent with Living in the Image of God, then focus on doing what you can humanly do, because your battle belongs to God and he will guide you to victory.
We discuss these principles based on Christ interactions with the disciples in their encounter with two storms. Both ended in miracles. However, he scolded the disciples in one and encouraged them in the other. Differences between the two help us understand human relationship with God regarding faith, human work, and miracles. Also, we examine David’s motivation and faith in his victory over Goliath. He focused on doing what he humanly could and received a miracle to end the battle.
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