“when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work”

From time to time in the gospels, Jesus has a particular rebuke to the disciples.  He calls them men and women of little faith.  They are skeptical about God’s power to change lives.  Their vision of God is too small.  Despite the signs they have seen of God’s love and grace, doubt persists.

Psalm 95 is the same kind of rebuke to people of little faith.  The people of Israel have seen God’s power at work again and again in the account in Exodus in the miracle of deliverance, in the Passover, in the crossing of the Red Sea. Yet still they doubt.  They will receive the law on Sinai.  They will travel in the wilderness experiencing the daily miracle of manna.  Yet still they will doubt and when the moment comes for this generation to enter the land of rest, they will lack the faith to move forward at the critical moment.

This verse offers us a second powerful reason to listen to God’s voice this day and each day.  The first is to help us confront bitterness, grumbling and doubt within.  The second, more positive reason is so that our faith can be strengthened and built up and will shape our lives.

Jesus takes time in the gospels to build the faith of the disciples and the faith of the church.  He encourages Peter to walk on water.  He talks the power of having faith as small as a grain of mustard seed and being able to move mountains.   Hebrews 11 in a similar way offers to a discouraged community a catalogue of models of faith to inspire us and to expand our own vision of what we are called to do and to be.

Testing God is the opposite of faith.  All of us will live today and this week in a world and culture which is largely without faith: which has no expectation of God’s love and grace, no confidence that God will hear or answer prayer, no hope that anything can change.  The Church becomes infected daily with that cynicism and shallow expectation.

As I look back on the last hundred years in the life of this Diocese, I see scores of examples of big, expectant faith – not least in the founding of the Diocese itself and in the planting of so many churches down the years (which continues to this day).  I see faith in building projects past and present, in bold ventures of community engagement, in prophetic witness, in people entrusting their lives afresh to Christian faith, in others investing their lives in ministry. I see faith in the daily, sacrificial giving of the people of God in this place.

And that is why it is so important that we come, daily, to listen for God’s voice, to read the very different world view of the scriptures, to recentre our lives upon faith in God.  As we do that we go out into the world believing and expectant that God is at work:  we look for where God is working and where we can join in.

This post is one of a series of daily reflections on Psalm 95 in January, at the start of the Diocese of Sheffield Centenary Year

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