John 1:43-50(NKJV) The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
In the passage proceeding John 1:43-50 Jesus had just recruited Simon Peter and his brother Andrew and was headed to Galilee. He found Philip and said “Follow Me.” Well Philip wasn’t going alone so he goes to Nathanael and says that he’s found the Messiah, the one Moses and the prophets wrote about. Philip mentions that Jesus is from Nazareth and Nathanael, perhaps scornfully, replies “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip then tells him to come and see for himself. Then Nathanael meets Jesus and Jesus knows him already. Nathanael wants to know how He knows him. Jesus tells him that He saw him under a fig tree before Philip called him. Nathanael then professes his belief in the Christ saying “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus scolds him saying, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” Jesus is saying don’t just believe based on a small thing. Jesus could’ve recognized Nathanael from actually seeing him sitting under a fig tree the day before! Jesus’ reprimand is warning against believing based on something anyone could tell you. If your belief is based on something like that, it will be short lived. Deep faith is based on seeing and experiencing the deep things of God.
The New Testament is full of references about seeing and believing. In fact John’s entire gospel is constructed around seven miracles which John records so that one may see and believe. Our current generation is a special breed of believers because although we may not have seen these same miracles yet we believe. Miracles, signs, and wonders still exist today, but many believers see or recognize them after coming to Christ. Let us be vigilant about observing such miracles today so that we may increase our own faith and witness to others through these signs.
Theology is defined as the study of the nature of God and religious belief. Sounds dry and monotonous yes? I mean theologians are those crusty above middle age men and women you see on National Geographic documentaries right? Why should we study theology? I am a nerd by trade and a bookworm to boot; it just comes naturally to me. I love learning about God and the Bible. I’m currently taking a class entitled Systematic Theology. As if theology itself wasn’t hard enough, we have to get all systematic about it?? But I’ve been reading some interesting things in one of my textbooks recently. One traditional definition of theology is “faith seeking understanding.” Studying theology leads to questions. We aren’t questioning our faith, rather we ask questions in order to understand God better. Augustine, and later Anselm, both theologians, agreed that believers inquire not to attain faith but rather to increase their joy by gaining a better understanding of who their God is. True faith keeps on seeking and asking after God. True faith leads a believer to want to know more about their glorious God since they have already experienced the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us in Matthew 6:33 to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. True theology is not just about reading a bunch of books, writing a couple of academic papers, and getting a PhD. Rather it is about seeking after God, getting to know Him, and trying to understand Him just because we love Him. Of course we can never fully understand God, which is not the goal. But the more we learn about Him, the more we grow in Him!
After my missions trip to Panama last September, I came back to work feeling depressed. I bumped into a girl in my office who asked me where I had been. I told her I had gone on a missions trip to help build a soup kitchen. She then said, “Well that’s nice, do you feel better about yourself now?” To which I instantly answered with a simple “No.” It was an auto answer, I didn’t have to think about it. It meant, “No, I felt worse than before I went.” Nothing traumatic had happened to me. I had caught a cold but that wasn’t what was troubling my spirit. I didn’t feel better about myself at all, rather I felt like I hadn’t done enough for those I went to serve. I felt like a week and a half was not nearly enough time to accomplish what I wanted to do. I thought about all the sweet children I had met. They had stood outside the tiny building watching us work throughout the week. They were fascinated with the tools we were using, they wanted to help us paint. Every little detail we added to the room was like a new treasure to them. They were excited and they didn’t mind traipsing through the dusty, dirty conditions we worked in. The heat was unbearable at times, the worst being when I painted the kitchen. There were no windows and the smell of the paint mixed with the stifling air was almost too much to handle. I almost gave up that day, but I pressed on since that was all I was able to do to help. If I didn’t do it, someone else would have to step in and finish it which would take them away from another task they could be doing. I didn’t want the rest of the team to know how tired I was, how much my hands, my shoulders, and my back ached.
Missionary life is a calling. It isn’t a vacation. It’s not a “cultural experience.” You don’t go on a missions trip to fulfill any duty. It’s not a requirement, meaning you don’t have to go. Of course Jesus said “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” But the lifestyle is not for everyone. It doesn’t fulfill anything in yourself IF you do it right. What you’re doing is fulfilling Christ’s work. You’re being His hands and feet. Because we love our Jesus so much, missionaries will give of themselves freely. We do whatever it takes to accomplish God’s plan. We spread God’s love in tangible ways and hope that the little things we do in His name helps someone to come to know Him and love Him as much as we do.