Have you ever failed to act on your faith? You knew the direction God was leading but allowed fear to prevent you from pursuing that path. Maybe your belief in God’s omnipotence didn’t translate into action because challenging circumstances overwhelmed you. Perhaps real risks or potential consequences paralyzed you into inaction.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar you’ll be encouraged to know that stalwarts of the faith suffered similar shortcomings. Even those closest to Jesus occasionally displayed a disconnect between belief and action. Yet Christ always extended them another opportunity to faithfully follow Him. Here are three brief examples from Scripture I hope encourage, inspire, and console you, when your faith falls short.
First, there’s the apostle Thomas. After Jesus announced He was heading to Bethany (just outside Jerusalem), Thomas declared, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16, NKJV). He expected Jesus’ death to occur shortly after they arrived in the city and he eagerly professed his willingness to die with Him. Thomas’ willingness to join Jesus in death revealed his belief that Jesus would conquer death and establish His eternal kingdom in heaven.
But his faith faltered after Jesus’ crucifixion when the other disciples informed him that Christ had risen from the grave. Thomas asserted: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25, NKJV). He refused to believe in Jesus’ resurrection unless he saw firsthand evidence that proved it beyond a doubt.
Eight days later Jesus presented Himself to Thomas, encouraging him to place his hands and fingers into His mortal wounds. In doing so Christ did more than eliminate Thomas’ doubt, He also strengthened his faith to the point that he became a fulltime evangelist traveling across Asia, as far east as modern day India.
Then there’s Peter. Remember how he confidently rebuked Jesus when told he would deny the Lord. “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be,” he proudly proclaimed. When informed him he would in fact deny the Lord three times before the night was through, he declared, “Even if I have to die with You, I will never deny You.”
Of course, we all know that Peter’s boast was an empty one. Before dawn arrived he had thrice denied knowing Jesus, as predicted. In fact, Peter used profanity to distance himself from the Lord and to demonstrate he was not a disciple. Such a colossal failure in faith might seem to merit Jesus’ reprimand. At a minimum we might reasonably expect Christ to lecture Peter on following through on his bravado and to put him in his place.
But Jesus does the unexpected. He restores Peter. He lets Peter know He has significant plans for him, building and nurturing the Church. Peter feared his failure would compromise his relationship with Christ or, worse, sever it altogether. Instead he becomes one of the pillars of the First Century Church.
Finally, there’s Martha. After her brother died she told Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (John 11:21-22, NKJV). Her comment demonstrates a belief that Jesus can restore her brother to life. She loves the Lord and her faith in Him appears to know no bounds.
Yet minutes later when Jesus makes known His plan to raise Lazarus from the dead, requesting the stone that blocked the tomb be rolled back, Martha informs Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39, NKJV).
The remark manifests her doubts. Cognitively, she believes Jesus can raise her brother from the dead but she is unwilling or unable to translate that belief into action. Instead, she holds fast to doubt. But Jesus does not castigate her for harboring disbelief or place an albatross of shame around her neck. Instead, he brings her brother back to life and maintains his close friendship with her.
Have you doubted Jesus? Have you, at times, failed to act on your faith in Him? When Jesus asks you to act on your faith have you, like Martha, offered explanations and excuses for why it makes no sense?
If so, find comfort in the fact that God provides second chances. He willingly restores and reconciles us to Himself, so we need not wallow in despair, crushed by our inability to live faithfully in every situation. Take solace in the fact that others have failed the Lord, including those who spent years at His side. Ask Christ to remove your doubts and replace them with an infectious faith that demonstrates to those around you your faithful confidence in Him.