When I was a bachelor, I liked to make my life as easy as possible (Actually, I
admit that it's a quality I still nurture, especially in regards to house
chores!). One of my least favorite tasks was cleaning out the cat litter box,
and each time I performed this unpleasant task, I had to ask myself how it was
that I ended up with two cats!
I faced this bi-weekly task with a clothespin over my nose and a pair of rubber gloves on my hands, and after completing this arduous, smelly chore, I would always feel a slimy film of kitty litter all over my face and hands. Would there be any way I could avoid such an embarrassing, downgrading task?
I began to pray for a miracle: "Please, Lord, help both of my cats to start using a regular, human toilet!" I tried to make my cat use the toilet once, but this only resulted in a scratched hand and a proud-looking cat. To my dismay, my prayers were left unanswered!
I know of two reasons. First, because it was self-centered; and second, it was filled with doubt. I had a hard time imagining cats using a toilet on their own, and after my failed attempt at forcing the issue, I was pretty sure my prayers would never be answered!
But then my Heavenly Father, in His grace, showed me that nothing is impossible with Him: "All things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27 NIV) Some time later, as I was buying kitty litter, my attention was drawn to an unusual kit: "Train Your Cat to use the Toilet!" You can guess what went home with me that day! Yes! The "Train Your Cat" kit! I excitedly fit the plastic lid filled with kitty litter over my toilet seat. As my cats got used to the idea of jumping up on the toilet to do their business, I could cut out the inner layers of the lid until eventually there would be no lid left. Amazingly, my cats started using a regular toilet!
That's when I learned the truth of 2 Cor. 5:7: "We live by faith, not by sight." I discovered that faith can change anything! In looking back over this incident, I realize that rather than "Train Your Cat to use the Toilet" kits, what I needed was more faith!
Faith is something that we so often neglect; but it's also something that makes the most important difference in our prayer lives. Remember Jesus' prayer for Peter? "But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:32 NIV)
Paul also assures us that it is only by our faith that we can be victorious: "It is by faith you stand firm." (2 Corinthians 1:24 NIV); and Peter concurs, making us aware that faith is our only way to resist the devil: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV)
There was one time when the disciples were unable to drive out a demon. They were confused, and they asked themselves: "Why couldn't we drive it out?" (Matthew 17:19 NIV)
Jesus answered them with a powerful illustration: "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20 NIV).
The simple answer was that they lacked faith!
Notice Jesus' answer: "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed . . . Nothing will be impossible for you." A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds in the world. Wow, does this mean that our faith is even tinier than that? It must be, otherwise, nothing would be impossible for us! (See also Matthew 21:21)
Not only do we need a tiny bit of faith to transform the impossible into the possible realm, but we also need it in our prayer life, otherwise our prayers will remain in the closet!! "And 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 NIV); and "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." (James 1:6-8 NIV)
Wow! Is this why so many times of our prayers seem to go unanswered? Do we trust God that He can come through for us, or do we, trusting our eyes, concentrate on the hopelessness of our situation?
Just what is this "faith", and how can you develop it?
The book of Hebrews gives us a powerful explanation of faith: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)
Two key words emerged from that definition. The words "being sure" and "certain". Faith is having a boldness beyond the circumstances, having an assurance that we can, indeed, trust in our Creator, who far surpasses our mere circumstances! We can be assured of God's amazing promise: "But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." (Hebrews 10:38 NIV).
Haven't you noticed that every time we are assaulted by the devil, he always tries to put doubt in our minds?
"But everybody does it!"
"No one will ever know!"
"Isn't it worth the risk?
Remember this line? "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1 NIV)
Why does the devil always use the same tactics? It's simple! Once he can shake our faith, we will learn to trust our eyes instead of our hearts! This will inevitably lead us to doubt God, and doubt will shake the foundation of our prayers and make them ineffective!
Friends, who should we trust? Our eyes? Or God's promises? Our own reasoning? Or God's reasoning? A bit of faith can turn our world upside down for the better!
But how can we have that tiny bit of faith?
The only way is by focusing our eyes on Jesus. He is the only One who can and will perfect our faith. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." (Heb 12:2 NIV)
I like how this text is rendered in the Message Bible: "Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!" (Heb 12:2-3)
Who will you trust?
P. S. There was just one downside to the cats using my toilet: They often turned themselves the wrong way, and instead of their business going IN the toilet, it went down the outside! But with no kitty litter in sight, this was an easy job to take care off. Except for the smelly urine, that is. For some reason, my fiancée was not too excited about the idea. I didn't understand at the time, but now that I think about it, it wasn't really all that hygienic, was it? I wonder if that's why some of my guests refused to use my bathroom . . . Oh, and when we got married, my cats reverted back to using the cat litter box . . . Maybe there was something to the "self-centered" part of my prayer after all . . .
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