153 Faith Boosters

I was teaching a class on the natural habits necessary for overcoming anxiety when one of the students came up at the break in class.  Like this lesson, I would avoid the spiritual side of the topic for the first half and allow the students to leave if they chose to skip the ‘religious’ stuff, as some call it.  She said ‘I can tell from some of your in-between the line statements that you must be a person of faith, you know, I don’t believe in faith.  I’m not going to stay for part two.’   I thought to myself, I wonder what her hang-up is she must need a faith booster, maybe not 153, but at least one!

  • I said (a bit stunned at the wording of such a statement) so you have zero faith? 
  • She said That’s right.  And you aren’t going to fool me with the subtle hints you tossed in while talking about ‘take time to meditate’ when I know you are talking about reading a bible and church stuff.
  • I  said  Oh believe me I understand, I’ve wavered on my ‘faith’ before.   But I have to ask, how did you get here this evening?                  She said   By car of course.
  • I said So when you turned the key to start your car did you expect it to start?
  • She said  Well yes.  I said  You put it in drive expecting to go forward, correct.  She said  Yes.
  • I said  You drove down the street expecting the tires to not fall off and all the functions of the engine and all to hold together and roll down the road, correct.  She said   Yeah.  
  • I said  You drove through green lights having faith that the cars at the red light would stop and not smash into you?
  • She said   Well this time, that didn’t happen once and I was nearly killed by that idiot, it is why I have this back problem.    And I got hosed (I changed the word to keep the blog clean) by them and the insurance company. They tried to blame me and acted nothing like the ‘Christian’ stickers on their car.

The conversation took a rapid turn away from not having faith in anything.  It turned into a conversation on how both people and God in her bitter view had let her down.   She felt like her whole life changed for the worse in one moment when faith in an everyday travel event failed.  Topping it off was the double-dose of being treated poorly by people she expected to be honest and nice. 

She went on to tell of other bad people experiences including her ex leaving her on her own with kids.  She decided to describe how the church she went to split up because the pastor was abusing people, was money-hungry driving a Mercedes, and living in a big house off the money given by gullible people.   All together it caused the little faith she had to deconstruct putting her in a bitter state having no trust in anything or anyone.   But in reality, faith has nothing to do with it.  I convinced her to stay and enrolled her in counseling to work through the more difficult task of the root of her hang-ups, forgiveness.

 

The real Mark Twain

MarkTwain wrote, “Faith is believing something you know ain’t true.”  Actually Mark, Faith is not the issue.  I can give you 153 things to boost your faith, the hard part is dealing with letdowns and people hurts – it is called forgiveness.  Forgiveness takes everything we have to overcome the hurts from the people and institutions we put our faith in.

 

Since many today are touting trusting in science, I found an article that tapped into the importance of forgiveness.  Greatergood Magazine is a ‘science-based publication with insights for a meaningful life.’    They state that forgiveness has great benefits.  ‘Studies have shown that forgiving others produces strong psychological benefits for the one who forgives. It has been shown to decrease depression, anxiety, unhealthy anger, and the symptoms of PTSD. However, we do not just forgive to help ourselves. Forgiveness can lead to psychological healing.’  The full article can be find by tapping the title:

Eight Keys to Forgiveness
  1. Know what forgiveness is and why it matters
  2.  Become “forgivingly fit”
  3.  Address your inner pain
  4.  Develop a forgiving mind through empathy
  5.  Find meaning in your suffering
  6.  When forgiveness is hard, call upon other strengths
  7.  Forgive yourself
  8.  Develop a forgiving heart

I found item #6 to be an interesting ‘scientific’ subject matter.  The article suggests getting other people or professionals to help you defeat the bitter root of unforgiveness.  They went as far as saying ‘surround yourself with good and wise people who support you.’   The scientists seem to forget the very problem is they are the ones who put you in the position you are in.  There has to be more doesn’t there?  Perhaps we go back to the topic of faith, how does that really work?

Well, you can trust science, or maybe you might delve into that FAITH subject again.   GreaterGood Mag may have the answers you need, if not, I can offer you 153 Faith Boosters to really help…….

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If ever there was a seemingly blown-off answer given in the Bible to a deep question you would turn to Luke 17 to find it. Luke was a Physician who covered the life of Jesus based on the gathering of information from the original Apostles. He also is believed to be the author of the Book of Acts. His writings were very detailed and as close to a modern-day scientist as one might be. I consider Luke 17 and its placement of the following pieces as prophetic in many ways. The coincidences and ties to the order and the number of the chapter (17) are a phenomenal link to the keys of understanding Faith and Forgiveness. Some I would bet you have never heard before.

The blow-off answer has brought on probably millions of sermons on the topic of faith as the Apostles asked a question and got a seemingly nebulous answer5 “And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”  It describes the minimal amount of faith needed to seemingly do any task.  Preachers oft tie it to the statement Jesus made in John 14:12   “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”  Yet most Christians and preachers judge themselves as failures falling far short of having the faith to do anything close to a miracle let alone doing more than Jesus Himself did on the earth. 

Like the young lady I referenced earlier who was frustrated with people of faith and perhaps with her lack of faith we must start with the context of the question from the start of Luke 17 before the question of ‘faith’ came into play.   “He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”  Luke 17:1-4

The Amplified  version translates the simple words of FORGIVE HIM as: you must forgive him [that is, give up resentment and consider the offense recalled and annulled].”

I always marvel at both the question and the answer.  

The question was really – Jesus – do you know what jerks some people are?  Judas did this and keeps on doing it.  We’ve been in business for years, do you know how many times we’ve been ripped off and cheated and lied to?   Do you see what the government and tax collectors are doing to us?

Jesus’ answer seemed to say – guys, it has absolutely nothing to do with INCREASING your faith.  You already have or will have some day all the POWER to do amazing things.  Have you not been paying attention or are you just caught up in bickering with each other all the time?  

Faith is important when tied together with forgiveness.   What it comes down to – it IS a spiritual matter.  The disciples with their questions were throwing up their hands saying that it is impossible so they tried to be cute and sound spiritual.   They all had rough lives before Jesus came along.  They were beginning to see firsthand that their numbers were dwindling in regards to faithful people, as many of their disciple cohorts turned away from the group.  Rumors of people wanting to kill Him were in the air, how could He talk about forgiveness at a time like this.  Jesus do you not know what this tax collector Mathew did to us before, and we know Judas is up to something?  The thought being; there must be a magical formula to make us be like you Jesus, ‘what is it, faith?’

Jesus with His answer said yes, it is difficult, but IT IS NOT impossible.  He was emphasizing that it is a must that you in your heart forgive both yourself and others for offenses!   Perhaps He wanted to explain that later on, they would have extra help if they entrust it to the Holy Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit with power that lives within us today.  Sure, little things we can shrug off the first time or two, but seven times?  Matthew 18:22 expanded the amount (Mathew was an Accountant, Luke a Doctor) saying the number mentioned is 7 times 70.  And, what about those big ones?   Fill in the blank on the unforgivable ones  on your list  __________________________. 

In addition as the woman in part 1 shared, a huge struggle is for those in the church world.  How do you deal with the Christian, especially one who is the leader, when they do not repent?   I have a future lesson on this topic as the church too often today allows leaders off the hook, a primary source of divisions.  The whole chapter of Mathew 18, 2 Thess 3:13-15, and 1 Tim 5:17-22 instructs us how to handle such situations and actually tells us to publicly reprimand them. It seems cold, but if they do not repent, then have nothing to do with them.  Unfortunately, too many Christians are not aware of such actions then accuse the accusers of not being forgiving.  The abuser, or whatever the offense may have been, then convinces some people to choose ‘their side’ and off to start a new church they go.  Or the whistle-blower becomes the bad person for daring to question their offenses and they are the ones that are shunned.   It is a gross misinterpretation of scripture.  Nevertheless, the task at hand for each of us when one does not repent, is to be sure we do not resent.

So forgiveness is of extreme importance, in fact 1 John 3 likens it to hating, which comes from a deep-rooted non-forgiveness: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:15 NASB

 

We are back to the impossible again, aren’t we?  But Jesus put that to rest shortly thereafter with an example of the amazing.

Luke 17:12-19   “Jesus was met by ten lepers who stood at a distance; 13 and they raised their voices and called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were miraculously healed and made clean. 15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, glorifying and praising and honoring God with a loud voice; 16 and he lay face downward at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him over and over. He was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten of you cleansed? Where are the other nine?   Was there no one found to return and to give thanks and praise to God, except this foreigner?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith, your personal trust in Me and your confidence in God’s power has restored you to health.”

We saw that Jesus performed another miracle.  He healed 10 people dying of Covid 19, err sorry, of Leprosy.   He also showed them, hey guys; understand that as you do this job of taking the good news to people and even doing miracles you will receive very little thanks from people.  Did you see 9/10 of those jerks I just healed did not even say thanks? (that was sarcasm)   We always want to see results or see positive comments on social media pages for everything we do.  A life of faith often does not always have rewards.  If we are not careful, we may even turn on those we help and crawl in a cave like Elijah did and become depressed.  The need for us to forgive goes to multiple levels.  If it is inevitable they/we have to understand forgiving people is a constant way of life.  We must get used to it, or all that faith will not produce very much fruit, if any at all.

Next Luke in chapter 17 covered the future.  Jesus told them that He will be crucified before their eyes.  A second coming will take place in the future that will make the time of the Noah flood and the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah look like nothing.  He did not mention that Peter and the others would run off, hide in fear, and then feel horribly guilty about abandoning Him.  One of them would hand Him over to the Romans and later hang himself from the guilt.  In other words, they would need a lot of help from God for everything in the future and have to deal with forgiving themselves on top of forgiving other people for all they will do to them as well.  Sell me on signing up for that package, please.

The rest of His time on earth was spent teaching more lessons and doing many more faith-increasing miracles before their eyes.  They saw water turned into wine.  Storms were calmed and He walked on water.  The blind received their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, masses were fed with a few fish and loaves, and as John said in the last Gospel chapter (21) “so many other things which Jesus did, which if they were recorded one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

Just before John 21:21, Jesus went out of his way for a final moment to increase the disciple’s faith.  As if rising from the dead and roaming the earth with them for 40 days was not enough – He performed a final miracle.   Peter and the others that were fishermen had gone back to their business of fishing.   Peter was certainly feeling a deep guilt for denying he even knew Jesus let alone defending him, and his self-doubt was at a low.   Three years with their leader and now, He was dead.   They had seen His risen body twice but doubts and what their future would be was hanging thinly.  Jesus pulled a similar attention-getter, a similar one when He offered to Peter the opportunity to follow Him.   He found the great fishermen had been out trying to catch some fish and had none.  He told them simply to cast the net on the right side of the boat and low and behold, they caught an overflowing net full of fish.

We find what most people discuss that what happened was different this time:  11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. John 21:11 NKJV  Perhaps you have heard sermons discussing the fact that this time the net did not break signifying that the Holy Spirit would hold them together or something like that.   A few may have even caught the odd fact that they counted the fish, there were 153 of them.  Some blow that off as just a random number or that it showed there were a lot of fish.  Others speculate a myriad of theories, some of which are layed out in this article titled Do the 153 fish count for anything.

Personally, I believe the # 153 is anything but a random number.  Some theorize that 153 represent the number of gentile nations in the region or perhaps 153 worldwide nations where the Gospel was to spread.  This seems to be a great talking point.  Some tie it to another random number 273 mentioned in the old testament when the Levite priests were set apart as the Old Covenant was established with Moses in the book of Numbers.  Add 153 to the 120 first believers in the upper room as the new remnant for the New Covenant.  I touch on this in greater detail in the post 22,273 Choices‘. 

All could be true although Mark Twain may not agree.    Minimally we know that Peter had his request to ‘Increase our Faith‘ shot out of a cannon with the large number of fish caught in one cast.  It was the 2nd time Jesus helped Peter with his fishing business (as Jesus today helps all of us with our everyday job/businesses, He cares about every single thing we do).  Add another theory that all 153 fish were of a different species.  Do you think that Peter’s FAITH INCREASED with the 153 tally of large fish all being of a different species?  The odds would be like 1 in 2gazillion.  It was in fact a very purposeful faith-increasing miracle.   

If Luke 17’s message was about not only increasing faith but also ties in that Forgiveness was a top priority it is more than just a faith increaser.  It highlights the crux (Definition of crux – The basic, central, or critical point or feature.) of the salvation message. The Good News message the disciples; and soon-to-be Apostles were to spend the rest of their lives telling the world.  It is one we can site that

God goes out of His way to help increase our faith, if only we are paying attention to all the details.

17 has a not so easy tie to find regarding the number 153.  If you count and add up 1-17 it equals 153.  Is that yet another random coincidence or one to be written off because the big-bang-theory is more probable then the Genesis description of the creation?   Miracles were everywhere in Jesus’ three years on the earth and when we read the book of Acts we see indeed the Apostles were fulfilling Jesus prophecy that they would do even more than He did in His time.

So did it all stop at the end of Acts 28 as some modern-day cessasionist believers say?   I  look around in this day and age and listen to how many near-deaths have been reversed even in the past year alone.  While the pandemic has been a travesty of proportional numbers, there have also been many miraculous recoveries.   Darkness has surrounded many and fear mongerers have attempted to shut down men and women of faith.  Now is the time more than ever to step into what God is doing while the near end-time chaos mentioned in Luke 17 is close.  (I am no prophet, close could be many more years)

I am sure though that Jesus wants to increase and strengthen the faith in those who are part of His great remnant.  Personally I am empowered by the hard times many have faced not weakened.  After nearly dying from a stroke, (see the story Lucky or a Miracle) it motivates rather than slowing me down (although I pay mind to what the Dr. Lukes say).  It empowers me to tell all the more that God is alive and well in our midst.   

He has shown in many ways that living a life of faith while knowing we are forgiven souls is no joke.  How many Biblical miracles do you need to know about to believe?   If that is not enough, understand it did not stop upon Jesus’ death.  Peter saw the #153 Faith Booster to get him out of the fish catching business was to fully motivate him to go into full-time fishing for men.    Today we are seeing God reveal hidden secrets proving the power of His word, The Bible.  Miracles are occurring everywhere in our time.  How much is enough for you to believe? 

I think we have plenty and even more than just 153 Faith Boosters!  Let us live like we believe!   

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