Friday, January 13, 2012

O 'Me' of Little Faith

One reason Christians fall into sin, whether short-term or prolonged, and miss blessings from God is because they sometimes lack the requisite faith to stave off sin and to experience the oft-missed blessings from Him. Jesus had much to say about this.

When Christians have little faith, they can fall prey to the sin of anxiety and miss the blessing of contentment that comes with knowing that God is faithful to meet the needs of His people in times of want (Matthew 6:25-43).

When Christians have little faith, they can fall prey to the sin of fear and miss the blessing of peace that comes with knowing that God is faithful to be with His people in the midst of the storms of life (Matthew 8:25-27).

When Christians have little faith, they can fall prey to the sin of doubt and miss the blessing of assurance that comes with knowing that the Lord can be trusted in any circumstance (Matthew 14:28-32).

When Christians have little faith, they can fall prey to the sin of self-reliance and miss the blessing that comes with seeing the Lord use them for His glory (Matthew 17:19-21).

Several times in the gospel, Jesus rebukes his disciples with these words: "O you of little faith." I experienced such a rebuke, today.

I had the honor and privilege of going to Cerritos College, today, with my friend and mentor, Ray Comfort.

Initially, things did not look promising. As we walked onto the campus, we saw a lot of people (it's the first week of the new semester), but we also heard loud music. Loud music and open-air preaching without amplification are not typically a good mix. But I was with Ray Comfort.

Ray walked up to the DJs who were playing the music and asked them how long they planned to play. Ray came back and said with a grin, "They'll be done in four minutes."

And, true to their word, the DJs soon said their good-byes, packed up their gear, and left.

We set up in one of our usual spots. Things were looking up. Ray climbed atop the box and began to ask trivia questions in an effort to give away "180" DVDs and draw a crowd.

Nothing.

Ray and I have preached on the campus of Cerritos College for a few years, now. Neither Ray nor I could remember a time when the people on the campus were more apathetic. And we've seen some tough days on the campus. Any good open-air preacher can handle being ignored by the masses. But this was almost embarrassing.

I began to feel uncomfortable--discouraged--almost anxious. I began to think: We're wasting our time. There's plenty to do back at the office. We should just call it a day, and come back some other time. I hope Ray doesn't ask me to get up there.

My thoughts were interrupted when Ray said, "Tony, do you want to give it a try?"

I got on the box and began to ask some trivia questions. Again, nothing. We were on a college campus, with students walking from class to class and milling about, but you could have heard a pin drop. It had been a long time since I felt like a "freak show" standing on the box. I didn't like it.

Defeated, I stepped off the box.

Ray, with a look of determination and a tone of voice to match, said, "We're not going home defeated!"

I half-wondered if Ray had read my mind and didn't like what he was reading.

We waited ten-to-fifteen minutes, hoping the student presence in the area would increase. It didn't. But that didn't deter Ray. He hopped back on the box, determined to find someone to climb atop the heckler box and engage him.

The time it took Ray to find someone seemed interminable, but in reality it was probably only a few minutes. I can't think of any other evangelist who has the tenacity of Ray Comfort. Decades of experience, a passion for the preaching of the gospel, and a love for the lost--it was both humbling and convicting to watch Ray draw the crowd with the grit and determination of a battlefield commander and the skill of a master tactician.

I stepped away to pray. I ask the Lord to forgive me, O me of little faith.

Because of my little faith, I fell prey to the sin of discouragement, as well as the before-mentioned sins, to one degree or another. And had the Lord not brought me to confession and repentance, I would have missed some wonderful blessings.

Ray finished preaching the gospel. Before he could ask me if I wanted to preach, I was climbing atop the box. For the next thirty minutes (or more--I lost track of time), I engaged both sincere hecklers like Carmen, and disingenuous hecklers like Benjamin. And I preached the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

Although scattered throughout the general vicinity, the crowd numbered over fifty--and people were listening. The eyes of two culinary arts students never seemed to leave me. Students to my left and my right--some with arms folded, some nodding their heads--were listening.

Before stepping down, I let the crowd know that if anyone wanted to talk, I would be happy to do so.

As Ray got back on the box, I walked into a grassy area behind us. I was immediately met by a young man (who will remain nameless). He looked downcast and worried. "Can I talk to you?" He asked.

"We've met, before." He told me.

The young man began to pour out his heart, confessing sin and his lack of assurance of salvation. So demoralized was he, fleeting thoughts of suicide had crossed his mind.

He told me that for the last year he had been involved with the International Church of Christ campus group. The ICC is a cult. The ICC focuses much of their attention, on college campuses.

When he told me he was involved in the ICC, I remembered the circumstances of our first meeting. Several months ago, after preaching on the campus, I believe the same young man approached me. He was very friendly and began by thanking me for preaching. But it didn't take long for me to see through the facade to his true agenda. He wanted to argue with me about the ICC's belief that baptism was required for salvation. I rebuked him for sharing a false gospel and called him to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Now, several months later, he came to me broken and contrite. I spent some time counseling him, sharing the gospel with him, and listening to him. I prayed for him and gave him my contact information. I'm waiting to hear from him so I can help him find a solid, Bible teaching church in his area.

O me of little faith.

Because I didn't see the Lord working during that first long hour on campus, I assumed He wasn't working. O me of little faith.

Because my thoughts were more about me and what people thought of me, I let that negatively impact my concern for the lost people on the campus. O me of little faith.

If I had followed my sin-stained heart and mind, I would have left the campus without preaching the gospel and therefore would have missed the opportunity to minister to a hurting young man. O me of little faith.

I learned some hard lessons during the two hours Ray and I spent on the campus of Cerritos College, yesterday. I learned I need to have and exercise more faith when I take to the streets to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I learned that I need to pray specifically and more diligently against the sins of pride and selfishness before I hit the streets.

And I learned that I need to pray specifically and more diligently, asking the Lord to deepen my love for the lost and to fashion me with more perseverance and greater awareness of His presence.

I was reminded that "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).

I was reminded that "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).

And I was reminded of how blessed I am to have Ray Comfort as a friend, leader, and teacher. "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith" (Hebrews 13:7).

Thank You, Lord.