Understanding the concept of Faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). It is imperative to extract from this portion of the Holy Bible, the fact that faith exceeds the borders of the material and tangible things. It extends even to that belief in the ability of the Almighty God to move Mountains for us, simply based on the fact that we believe He can. The very words of Christ to His Disciples after He healed the lunatic man lends credence to this fact: “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Mat 17:20). This statement came on the heels of the inability of the Disciples to heal the lunatic man. Jesus admonished them to have faith not to believe in magic.
Miracle, according to www.dictionary.com is an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause; such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God. This definition goes to buttress the fact that miracle is an act of God, thus credit for miracles should be accorded only to God, while due recognition will be given to the instrument that God used to perform such miracle; the priest. This is a departure from what obtains in our society today. We go to all manner of places in pursuit of “Miracles”, so much that we now regard the instrument of the miracle more than the God of Miracle. Today, it is common to hear and humans being addressed as Miracle workers. The mention of this often attracts hordes of miracle seekers. Most times we inadvertently draw upon ourselves the wrath of God, for the bible says: This is an evil generation: they seek a sign (Luke 11:29).
Hearken to the word of God when it says; Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Mat 7:21). Again, it says, many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (Mat 7:22)
We are therefore called to have faith in God alone, who can do all things.
True worship: It has become necessary to remind us Christians that there is a reason why God created us. The Catechism of the Catholic Doctrine teaches us that God made us that we may know Him, love Him, serve Him in this life, and live happily with Him in the world to come. This implies that our worship of God is primarily not for benefits, but because that is the sole purpose of creation. Our worship does not add to who God is. And if we fail to serve God, He can raise servants from stones (Mat 3:9). It is therefore important that we serve God diligently bearing in mind that the God of all goodness knows that “A labourer deserves his wages”(Mat 10:10). Thus, the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
In all things, let us remember that God knows how to give good things to those who serve Him (Mat 7:11, Luke 11:11). If we focus on miracles, we will not serve God heartily, but if we focus on true worship, the promise of God is that signs and wonders shall be the hallmark of those who serve Him (Mark 16:17). Serving God diligently is not just about Sunday worship, or “having a good heart” as many often say; often an excuse to criticize other people, but it includes, both corporal works of mercy;
- To feed the hungry;
- To give drink to the thirsty;
- To clothe the naked;
- To shelter the homeless;
- To visit the sick;
- To ransom the captive;
- To bury the dead
And spiritual works of mercy;
- To instruct the ignorant;
- To counsel the doubtful;
- To admonish sinners;
- To bear wrongs patiently;
- To forgive offences willingly;
- To comfort the afflicted;
- To pray for the living and the dead
Besides that, we are called to support the work of God with our money, and especially, with our time.
Know your doctrine: After our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, on mount Olives, the disciples went back to the upper room “and they continued steadfastly in the apostles‘ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Act 2:42) (Emphasis mine). The underlined part of that bible extract is the answer to the myriad questions posed to us Catholics, daily. There is need for every devout Catholic to understand the faith we profess, as it was handed down to us by the Apostles. We are unique in that regard. If we arm ourselves with this fact, we will not be pushed around, and we won’t follow the crowd. A lot can be said about the Catholic Church, as it in the nature of dwarfs to mount the shoulders of a giant, so as to gain some advantage. Remember that Zacchaeus had to climb a sycamore tree to get the height advantage of having a glimpse of Christ from the crowd (Luke 19:1-9). Same is applicable in this case. It is only when you fail to study the Catholic Catechism that you begin to shiver when someone tells you to join a Bible believing church. The questions to ask the person is, in what does the Catholic Church believe?
Again, it is important to remind you, that the lives of the early Christians form the bulk of the New Testament. Their lives were modeled after the teachings of the Apostles. This is the same teaching that the Holy Roman Catholic church has preserved as “Sacred Tradition”. So it is pertinent to ask yourself, have you ever seen the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Do you own a copy? Have you read the book? Tell yourself the truth. Get a copy and read!!!
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Serve God for God’ sake: In our Christian lives today, most of us pay lip service to the service of God, and blame every other person for whatever goes wrong. Some go to Church to showcase their dress-sense; some, go to Church on Sundays, for want of somewhere to go – in the event of being left alone in the compound, some go to Church because the minister is a great “man of God”, some others are attention seekers – lusting after the flesh, some go because the absence of their hallowed presence will be noticed, owing to the “front seat” they occupy in the church affairs. Generally, many go to church in search of solution to life challenges. Just a few go to church because it is important to serve God, the author and finisher of our faith.
This pathetic situation leaves much to be desired. The Christian faith has recently come under serious attack and on the verge extinction the northern part of Nigeria and the Christians are silent. We are too scared to speak up for Christ. Meanwhile, in southern Nigeria, there is a stiff competition not really geared towards winning souls for Christ’s kingdom, but rather to attract the largest crowd for the sole purpose amassing fortune. It is now the norm for preachers to reject a life of poverty, to which they are foresworn, and live in the manner of flamboyance unexpected for a supposed model of Christ-like living. The best houses, latest cars, off the run-way clothes and a retinue of armed and unarmed bodyguards have become the hallmark of ministers. Sadly, for most worshipers, it is a question of the richer the preacher, the better. We forget so quickly that “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mat 6:24 ). Thus, the minister who’s primary concern is tithe offering, seed- sowing, love offering, thanksgiving offering and second collection etc cannot be said to be a true servant of God. Remember that the great commission never included large and imposing place of worship, neither did Christ instruct ministers to amass fortune from the Gospel. And he said unto them, “Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mar 16:15-16) Again, He said, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Mat 28:19-20)
Thus, the song on the lips of Christians and ministers should be; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preachthe gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…”(Luk 4:18)
Be a prayerful Christian. Learn to pray for yourself: It is common knowledge that a “prayer less” Christian is a powerless Christian. The bible says “Therefore I say unto you, whatsoever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them,and you shall have them.” (Mar 11:24). This words from Christ the savior, are reassuring to the effect that heaven is not deaf to the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart. However, we must realize that God’s time is the best and He is all-knowing. Again, the bible calls us to “Pray without ceasing” (1Th_5:17). This indicates that prayer works miracle, not magic. Thus, you don’t start praying only at troubled times and you don’t quit praying simply because the time frame you “gave” God to answer you has elapsed. Prayer is a continuous process and a life-time activity. It should be a part our daily programme of events. We need to make out time for God. An hour of prayer is that time when God comes down to meet with us. If it becomes a regular occurrence, God will wait for us at that appointed time. Cast your mind back to the healing of the paralytic man at the beautiful gate; the bible says that “Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.” (Act 3:1) This emphasis is to highlight the importance of keeping a time with God. First, the Apostles were going to keep up their hour of prayer, next, they had faith had God can use them to give more to the beggar, than mere silver and gold. Furthermore, they instructed the man to “look up”. We should always look up to God in anticipation. In Act 3:4-7, the bible has it that:
…Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
This scenario is a departure from the ugly trend that characterizes our Christian lives today. First, in the thick of pursuit for wealth and worldly comfort, we no longer have time to pray for ourselves. We rather pay people to pray and even fast on our behalf. The bible is not against prayer request, but it emphasizes the need for us to pray, not for people to pray on our behalf while we take care of “important” issues. The paralytic man was there at the hour of prayer, by himself, to make his miracle possible. So, we need to make friends with the word of God and draw strength from it to do good and avoid evil. We have by our actions and inactions contributed in making “Church business” the most lucrative. Thus, everybody that can cite one or two bible verses accurately or in some cases, smells the four-walls of a Bible school, automatically becomes, for us, a “man of God.”
No cross, No crown – understanding the relationship between Christ’s suffering and the glory of resurrection. We need to understand that the price at which the creator gave us freedom is eternal vigilance. This implies that freedom is not free. The savior came to the world to die for our sins, but we still need to key into God’s plan for our salvation, in other to be saved. Therefore, the notion that the once you become “Born Again”, you seize to be a sinner and all things becomes easy going for you is misleading. Prosperity is now the trending gospel. We now have more motivational speakers on the pulpit than we have in an average capacity building workshop. The average Christian, today, wants to hear that “problems are not my portion”. But Jesus says “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”(Mat_16:24; Mar_8:34). The gospel of Luke makes it emphatic when it says “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me”(Luk_9:23). Take note of my emphasis on “daily”. It underscores the fact that suffering for Christ’s sake is a continuous process of life’s engagement. It does not come to an end because we are born again. Rather, living a life of faith in Christ Jesus guarantees that our long-suffering and perseverance will not be in vain. God gave man discretion so that he will work out his salvation or his condemnation, as he so desires. We all know that Christ did not imply that we should carry the wooden cross, as he did, but that we should be ready as Christians to accept whatever trials, troubles, temptation, hardship, etc that come our way, marked with the sign of faith. His promise is sure, that, “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Mat_24:13).
The miracles of Christ in the bible go to show us that our problems are not impossible for God. The gospel of St. John accounts for a man who had infirmity for thirty-eight years! (Jn 5:5).
Therefore, we need to realize that patience may be a virtue that God wants us to learn in a given situation; running helter-skelter for a magic solution may rob us of that virtue.
Victory at last: The bible assures us that in all things we should never forget that Christ our savior has overcome the world. We, therefore, should claim victory, with faith, even when it seems not to be in sight because “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (Joh_20:29). We should also learn to ascribe victory unto the Lord as the bible says, “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all” (1Ch_29:11).
Remember that the psalmist says “O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory” (Ps_98:1).
So we can now see that faith, deep-rooted faith in God is a panacea to false miracle. We may be faced with hardship for professing the Christian faith but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Co_15:57); for whosoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith (1Jn_5:4).
-Francis Udoka Ndimkoha
NB: Bible quotations are from King James Version.