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Vol.  9  No. 11 November 2007  Page 9
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Ordinary People/Extraordinary Faith

Adam BlaneyBy Adam Blaney

    The Bible, especially in the Old Testament, speaks often of great and powerful kings whose leadership was honorable and mighty, of men who were noble and wealthy, having great influence on the people. However, mingled into those accounts, and literally filling the Old Testament record, are those powerful stories with timeless messages and lessons to be learned, which are not of kings and leaders, but of the common, everyday individual. Consider Gideon, the weakest of the weak (cf. Judges 6:15) and Rahab, the harlot from Jericho. These had no honor, no wealth, no fame and no power. But what they did have was great faith, and that made all the difference. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the power of one—rich or poor, powerful or weak—and of the fact that even one soul’s faith has the ability to inspire, encourage and make a difference in other’s lives. Consider some New Testament examples.

    The Syrophoenician Woman – In Matthew 15, we find an unusual and yet moving encounter in the Lord’s ministry. A Gentile woman approaches Jesus seeking aid for her afflicted daughter, to which Jesus at first does not even respond. He then challenges her faith with a statement amounting to little more than “No.” Consider this woman’s obstacles: she was a woman, she was a Gentile woman, and she had most likely never met Jesus, nor saw him perform a miracle. She sought healing based solely on the word of others. When she approached him, she was ignored, and even after his friends tried to persuade him, he refused to offer any help. Finally, our Lord looked at her directly and refused to help her. For how many of us would the story end there? Not so for this woman of faith. Her persistent and honest faith prevailed, which warranted the commendation, “O woman, great is your faith!” (Matthew 15:28). This heathen, Gentile sinner taught a great lesson to the disciples standing by, and still teaches us of persistence and the blessing of an unshakable faith. Unnamed in the text, yet how many have been inspired by such unmovable faith?

    The Poor Widow – This story, known to most as The Widow’s Two Mites, has served as one of the greatest examples of sacrificial giving for nearly two millennia. After a fierce day of questions, badgering and ridicule, how much the scene must have touched Jesus’ heart as he watched this poor widow offer up all that she had, even “her whole livelihood” (Mark 12:44). She gave, knowing full well she may have been giving up her sustenance for the next day. What love for God and devotion to his purpose! As far as we know from the text, this woman never even received a commendation from Jesus personally, and just as the Gentile woman, she is unnamed. Yet, many commentators have pondered over the incalculable number of church buildings this woman has built, orphan homes she has established or missionaries she has financed. It is likely that this woman went to her grave knowing nothing of the example she left behind. Lowest of the low in Jewish society she was, but her faithful and sacrificial love has inspired for 2000 years and will continue to do so as long as God allows this earth to stand.

    The Desperate Father – Just as the last incident must have touched Jesus’ heart, this incident must have broken it, as coming down from the glorious Mount of Transfiguration he was met with confusion and despair. After the disciples displayed the “littleness of their faith,” by failing to cast out the boy’s demon, Jesus approached and asked what the disputes were about. The man then turned to Jesus, asking for his help. Though coming originally in faith, he then asked doubtfully, “if You can do anything…” (Mark 9:22). Again, think of this man’s obstacles: his son is severely afflicted, he comes for healing from supposed men of God, and they fail him miserably. He then has to watch as the scribes ridiculed them for their attempt. We could only expect his faith to be daunted, and his request be delivered in doubt. After a short exchange with Jesus, concluding with a challenge from the Savior, the man, with faith renewed, made this confession: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (9:24). What faith! What humility! What made this man’s faith great was not, as the poor widow’s, a sacrificial, unwavering trust, but rather the recognition that his faith was not where it needed to be. What a recognition each soul should have! How we all need such a lesson of humility in faith!

    These are but a few examples of the power that a simple trusting faith can have on others. None had great wealth, fame or honor, yet every one of them had a great faith in the power of the Son of God, even to the extent that the Spirit felt necessity to memorialize them for eternity on the pages of sacred literature. Most of us fall into this same “common people” category. Just as these three individuals’ examples yet speak, let us never forget or underestimate the influence we, as but humble servants, can have on those around us.

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