Trace of Faith

Jesus said in Luke 18:8b: “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” We know that God looks for faith in our lives. Faith in him, faith that he is good to his kids and works all things together for good. God can work with just a trace of faith, and faith comes by hearing. We can build up our faith by reading the Bible aloud or listening to a teaching or music. Because faith comes by hearing, we have to stop and think about what we listen to. When we hear something we either accept it, or we reject it, and what we listen to and accept either feeds our faith or feeds our doubt. When he comes into your situation will he find faith? Faith is a requirement for God to move the mountains that we need out of the way.
I was reading John chapter 11, when Lazarus was sick and Jesus waited two days to go and see him after he was dead. Jesus came, but it seems that he came too late. Jesus arrived and Martha went out to him. She said in Luke 11:21: “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Do you see the pointed accusation? But she went on in verse 22: “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
Verse 23: Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha had a trace of faith even though her brother was dead, and Jesus responded with: “your brother will rise again.” Her trace of faith was met by affirmation. Jesus goes on to say in verse 25: “I am the resurrection and the life...” Jesus did not respond to her first statement, and he gave no excuses for his tardiness. He did respond to her faith: “even now I know that God will give you what ever you ask.” I have heard it said that faith is the currency of heaven.
Her second statement had faith, hope, and expectancy in who Jesus is in the present moment, not in who he was in the past. The thing that struck me is that Jesus came into a situation and I think he was looking for something: a touch of faith. He knew he was going to find a dead man, but was he just coming to raise someone from the dead, or was he seeing what faith there was?
After her encounter with Jesus, Martha came to Mary and called her aside from all the mourners and told her, “the Teacher wants to see you.” Mary went to Jesus and fell at his feet and said, “Lord if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” You might say that she knew he was God, but she could not see past the pain in her circumstance.
Verse 33: “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him and he was deeply troubled.” The wailers rehearse and rehearse the sorrow, like a dog licking its wounds, taking pleasure in wallowing in grief. Jesus did not respond to Mary’s statement or to the wailers, but he said “Where have you put him?”
35: “Then Jesus wept.” Did Jesus weep for Lazarus? I don’t think so, I think he wept because of the lack of faith that he found with his friends. Faith moves the heart of God. Jesus came looking for faith. A trace of faith is what he found with his friends and it was enough, but I think that he did weep over it.
The rest of the story, John 11:38-44: “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.
“‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’
“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’
When we have faith, even just a seed of faith, we need to speak it, believe it, and act on it. This faith draws God close and invites him into the situation. A farmer has faith that the harvest will come, and when he prepares his fields for the harvest, he begins in the spring. What does your harvest look like? Mix your faith with works like James says: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James 2:18)
Editor: Change “Metro Voice News” in the fifth paragraph to the name of your newspaper.
He’s a Hollywood producer who teaches Sunday School
By Michael Foust
In Hollywood, Ralph Winter is known as a producer of such well-known hits as X-Men, X-Men 2 and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
But in his home congregation – Montrose Church in Montrose, Calif. - - he is known as the Sunday School teacher who leads a class each January and February examining movies from a biblical perspective.
Not surprisingly, it’s often standing-room only. That’s partially because Winter has 44 movies, TV shows or documentaries to his credit as a producer, including four X-Men movies, four in the Star Trek series, and two Fantastic Four films. He’s also been a producer on several projects with explicit Christian content, including The Promise, Captive and Thou Shalt Laugh.
Winter said he wants to help Christians think more critically about what they watch.
“The class looks at the Academy Award Best Picture nominees, so for you to come to my Sunday School class, you need to see the Best Picture nominees, bring your Bible and then we talk about it,” Winter told the Good News NW. “What’s the movie about and how does that match up with what we believe as Christians? And it’s always a lively discussion: What’s the intent? What’s the story about? What’s the journey about? The class loves it. People want to engage. They’re watching these movies and they want to understand why they do or don’t like what they’re seeing.”
Too often, Winter said, people are led astray by movies. As an example, he points to the 1999 box-office sensation The Matrix, which has Christian elements but at its heart “is not about Christianity,” Winter said.
“That movie is about salvation coming from within,” Winter said. “That’s not what we believe as Christians. We need a Savior. We need salvation from outside of ourselves. … [The class] is about how do we become better consumers, how do we build our skillset in understanding what movies are about? Otherwise, we can be distracted by the shiny things.”
Winter knows that many Christians are skeptical about movies. Still, he thinks Christians should strive to understand and critique movies because of their role in society.
“The best story wins in our culture,” he said. “That’s what cuts through. And a lot of times, the agenda-driven propositional truth that we try to promote – as, this is what you ought to do to become a Christian – just doesn’t ring through for a lot of people. And yet, telling stories does.”
By better understanding the themes behind a popular movie such as Les Miserables, he said, “you can engage with people about a spiritual dimension of that.”
“There’s plenty of stuff in the culture that we just need to be cognizant of and see what gets attention and why it’s important and why people are responding.”
Winter also teaches a class at Fuller Seminary about theology and film. Recently, the class examined the movies Up and Adjustment Bureau.
“We talked about free will and destiny, digging into what those are,” he said. “We put those in play with a book like Ecclesiastes. How does that work out? It’s really fun and interesting.”