Who has control over faith? Can we convince others to believe?
23 But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.
One of the biggest obstacles I think exists today in the area of evangelism (sharing the good news of Christ with others) is that we think it is up to us to get others to believe. However, the scriptures say that this is God’s job. I don’t have to convince anybody of the existence of God, it’s His job. I can point people in the right direction, but ultimately His faithfulness is what gives faith to others. We need to look at this from both sides of the issue.
Our relationship with God is unique because it is between Him and us on an individual basis. Jesus came as the intermediary (the bible uses the example of Moses being the intermediary between Israel and God in the Old Testament). Do we see anywhere in the bible where it says the church deacon or the pastor or your parents are the intermediary? (If anyone says “yes,” then please show me.) Yes, there are people in our lives that can help us; teachers and spiritual leaders can guide us by revealing to us God’s truth, by encouraging and inspiring us through words of wisdom, or even by affirming God’s presence in your life by being another source of the same information. But what happens when a pastor or church leader is caught in a life of sinfulness? I’ve met many people who have felt “burned by the church” because a spiritual leader did something wrong. Why does a church congregation fall apart after this? Was their hope and faith in another human or in God? Too often we put our faith in those who are unfaithful and sinful (even if their position dictates they shouldn’t be). I’m not perfect in this either. Sometimes I put a lot of faith and hope in another human being and they let me down; but that is exactly my point. Our relationship with God is to be independent of any other relationship. After all, how close can you get with someone if you always have to talk through another person? My wife and I wouldn’t be as close as we are if I had to always relay my messages through a third party. So then why do we try to have this type of relationship with God?
On the other side, why do we try to be the intermediary? Our pride and selfishness encourages us to be the person who saves others; yet, this is not how it works. Does the bible say anything about humans being the savior of the world? Did anyone else make it possible to have a relationship with God except God Himself through Jesus (who was God in the flesh)? Sure, throughout the Old Testament we have the Jewish traditions of sacrifice to make oneself presentable to God so they might have a moment or two of closeness with God until they sinned again, but this was only a temporary situation until Jesus was crucified. How can I prove God’s faithfulness to someone else? How can I act on behalf of God to convince someone else that God is God? Certainly I could try or even pretend to be God if someone was ignorant enough to think I was, however it wouldn’t be the real thing. I can’t stand in the place of God and then transfer the faithfulness over. We see this when people in positions of authority are replaced. The replacement doesn’t immediately assume the trustworthiness of their predecessor, do they? No, they have to earn the trust of their subordinates. So too it is with God and by trying to be the intermediary for someone else, you are just slowing down the process of his or her spiritual growth.
Our collective involvement with God is to work together for the worship of God, whether it is to guide others towards Him, to inspire others, or to continue working on your individual relationship with Him. This is what Paul means when he says, but we are workers with you for your joy. Are you trusting a human the way you should be trusting God? Are you getting in the way of someone else’s spiritual growth?