Perusing a list of Christian book titles ought to be encouraging, inspiring, and helpful. Christ-following authors have urged us to demonstrate “Crazy Love,” implored us, “Don’t Waste Your Life,” and challenged us to live in a way that is “Radical,” and to “Do Hard Things.” We Christians know we ought to be living a life of demonstrated faith, and we truly want to live in a way that makes a difference.
But as we read books or even just their titles, we may mistakenly imagine the hard, radical, crazy, life lived for Christ must also be exotic–a sanctified kind of exotic anyway. For those of us sitting in the carpool line, browning hamburger, cranking out monthly reports, paying bills, wiping counters or noses, our faith hardly feels exotic or remarkable.
The demands of family and work prevent many from considering an overseas mission trip, caring for orphaned children or tackling what we imagine to be “ark-building,” “sea-crossing” acts of faith of the Old Testament variety. We’re exhausted, and sometimes riddled with regret for what we cannot do and have not done.
It’s a little ironic–and maybe proof of God’s sense of humor–that a book titled “Remarkable Faith” was born out of a time when my faith and relationship with Jesus felt anything but remarkable.
I’d been in an intense season of what I’d call “front-lines ministry”–parenting our three boys and two sweet little girls who’d been entrusted to us through the ministry of foster care. It was humbling and hard trying to parent well, and I felt I should be doing a much better job.
I mean, for crying out loud–I wasn’t homeschooling. I wasn’t a single parent. Each of our five kiddos had unique and individual needs, but none that were medically or developmentally urgent. I wasn’t helping refugees overseas. I wasn’t building orphanages.
Many of my friends were doing much harder things. Parenting medically fragile children, parenting large families, building orphanages in hurricane-torn Haiti, conducting mission trips, leading local ministries,–helping lots of people all over the world!
I was barely making it to church. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the free childcare provided by the nursery and Sunday school teachers may have been my main reason for attending church. “Everyone else” was performing remarkable acts of faith and ministry, and I could barely fix supper.
I began to wonder…
If my faith was pleasing to God, wouldn’t this come easier?
My “acts of faith” are nothing compared to so-and-so. Maybe my faith is second-rate?
If I’m feeling so desperate all the time, maybe I don’t have faith.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God,” I read in Hebrews. I was so disappointed with myself, and I was certain God was too. After all, followers of Jesus are supposed to be examples. Leaders. Bible heroes!
I picked up my Bible to find out, and discovered something remarkable.
When Jesus spoke with his chosen disciples about their faith, he said they were faithless and twisted (see Matthew 17:17, NIV). More than once he exclaimed, “O you of little faith!”
But there were others in the gospels whose faith Jesus noticed and commended. He saw their faith, remarked about it, and was even astonished by it! But here’s the funny thing. We don’t know their names. We only know them because of their sickness, tragedy, and sordid histories. Jesus not only knew them by name, he knew their suffering, and saw great faith in the midst of it.
And if he commended the faith of these nameless examples of faith with no résumé of “great acts of faith,” then maybe my faith wasn’t a disappointment to him after all. And what was their demonstration of faith? What do they show us about faith that Jesus commends? I discovered something that gave me relief and peace. Remarkable faith is depending on Christ, not performing for him.
I wanted to study each of these people, read their stories, tell those stories to myself, and then follow their unlikely example. In each story I discovered that perhaps the most remarkable act of faith is to unreservedly carry our inadequacies to Jesus and trust Him to transform our weakness into worship.
The stories of these eight unlikely examples of faith were so fascinating that I retold them in a series of eight biblical vignettes. Each one weaves history, theology, and fictional detail into their biblical accounts to bring a new perspective to those whose faith feels unremarkable. Those eight stories became my first book, Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People.
If you feel like you’re too weak, needy, or dependent, or if you’re afraid your faith is a disappointment to God, Remarkable Faith will be a huge encouragement to you. You’ll be relieved and delighted to discover that the faith Jesus commended in the first century is exactly the kind of faith he is looking for today. It’s faith you and I can demonstrate in our everyday lives. And it’s very likely you already are.