By this time, I was spending everyday after work at the cemetery, not to grieve, but to pray. I found it to be a quiet, distraction-free place where I could sit for hours and pour over scripture to seek the face of God. I was trying to mine out what faith actually was and how I could know if mine was the active, genuine article or just the passive, counterfeit of it.
I was asking questions like where does faith originate from, me or from God? And how was it that it had the power to move mountains? What was faith not? How was it not mustering up meaningless willpower? How was it not misguided assurance about false hope? What was the faith that Jesus seemed to be so laser focused on teaching his disciples to have and how is that different from the deception of “name it and claim it” sensationalist self-centered false doctrine.
One thing was very clear, without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). And through faith God works miracles, produces fruit, and tells amazing stories of glory (See the Bible… pretty much all of it).
I had been ignoring faith for far too long, living instead off some dull, deflated doctrine that says, “God is going to do what God is going to do, best just to accept it and learn to be okay with whatever He gives you.” This kind of approach to God was suddenly no longer acceptable. But what was acceptable? Of that I wasn’t sure.
And I was still constantly on the search to discover the value behind persistence. I turned to some word studies as I mined a little deeper. From the Ask, Seek, and Knock passage in Luke, I had noticed that the word “persistence” is sometimes translated as “Impudence.” (For the fuller context of this passage as it relates to my story, read the chapter: The Promise of Bread). If I didn’t understand “persistence” very well in this context, I had no idea what “impudence” meant. Yet another translation offered up the words, “shameless audacity.” Persistence was starting to sound less and less like the endless grind of a child’s pointless begging and more like something strong and bold, born of a bravery I did not know but desperately wanted to have. When I looked up this word for “persistence” in the Greek, there was one definition of the original word that opened up the meaning for me, stating “this shameless persistence of which Christ taught relates to carrying out God’s plan with unembarrassed boldness in the dignity of faith. In other words, the shamelessness of a faith-led believer who is not halted by human fears—even when others cry ‘overdone’”.
This unpacking of biblical persistence was like opening a window upon a beautiful landscape I had no idea existed outside my house.
I thought of two other verses that I had held close to my heart for nearly a decade now, though I could never really understand what they meant. The first was 2 Corinthians 3:12 “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” And the second, Romans 5:5 “Hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” What was this hope of which Scripture spoke in such outstanding absolutes?
I thought again to the other night and my secret place of lantern light and Bible and Journal splayed open before me on the floor as Jesus came to me and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Why had He invited me to ask Him for what I wanted? Why didn’t He just tell me what He wanted to do so that there was no confusion on what I was to set my hope on. What did faith look like here? If faith always originates with “hearing” the word of God (See Romans 10:17). Then He must plant the seed and it is my response to His seed that could either grow a tree or not. Was I good soil? Was my heart soft enough to risk this love? Could I be single-mindedly focused on the words of God enough to not let the weeds of fear and taunts of how impossible this all was choke out the seed He had planted in me?
Then I began to wonder, would the LORD actually ask me what I wanted Him to do for me? Was such a statement within His character? I didn’t know and so I began asking that God would either confirm and reassure me of His voice and show me what I was supposed to do with it or course-correct me if I was terribly mistaken about all of this.
And so there I sat at the cemetery, in the rain, asking, seeking, knocking and somehow I found myself in the gospel of Mark and met an impudent man named Bartimaeus. The story unfolded like this:
And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a bling beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”
And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; for faith has made you well.”
And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:46-52)
The story gave me chills, for there it was in ink on the page of my Bible, Jesus saying, “What do you want me to do for you?”
So such an invitation to state our desire and request before the LORD was absolutely in-line with the character and personality of Jesus Christ.
And there was Barrimaeus, written into the story of Jesus’ life because of his unashamed persistence in the dignity of faith. Others had cried “overdone” but Bartimeaus paid them no mind. Though he was blind, he could see the Messiah and no human fear was going to halt his ability to reach him.