Rahab’s Working Faith


Rahabs Working Faith

When my wife and I found out we were going to have our fourth child, people immediately asked us three questions: First it was, “Don’t you know what causes that by now?” Yes we’re well aware of what causes this. Then they asked, “Well, do you know what you’re going to have?” Yes, a girl. Immediately followed by, “Have you picked out a name yet?” Yes we have, but sorry I cannot tell you what it is. Finally, “When is the baby due?” End of May.


You can continue Rahab’s story with part 2  – Rahab’s Outreaching Faith and part 3 – Rahab’s Persevering Faith


I have to admit that it makes me happy to see others excited about our new addition. I do not mind all the questions one bit. In fact, I especially love the question about her name.  Like most parents, we take our children’s names seriously because names matter. Whether we will admit it or not, we subconsciously stereotype and form expectations of our peers and co-workers simply based on their first name. What do you think when you hear the name Mercedes or Bubba? Like it or not those names carry certain connotations.

While we are keeping our baby’s full name top secret, I can assure you that we will not bestow on our daughter the name of Rahab. We are not alone in this, according the U.S. Social Security Administration, Rahab has never made it into the top 1,000 girl names since 1900 (the first year for which data is available). I suspect it is based on the descriptive noun that is attached to her name throughout scripture, “harlot.” Time and again, the Bible reader is reminded of the fact that Rahab was a prostitute. (We’ll address this in the last post.)

Nevertheless, she was a woman of impressive faith. So much so, her story, that of a Gentile woman nonetheless, is recorded in the annals of Hebrew history (cf. Joshua 2:1-21; 6:17, 23, 25). Furthermore, the New Testament writers point to her faithfulness in an effort to fortify the fragile faith of Jewish believers (cf. Hebrews 11:31). Finally, James used her, alongside Abraham of all people, as a classic example of an active, working faith (cf. James 2:24-25). The only time we are not reminded of her past sin is when she makes a surprise appearance in the linage of Jesus (cf. Matthew 1:5).

Over the next few post, I plan to explore how this godly woman’s faith shaped her actions and life. It is my prayer that we will be challenged to a deeper and more faithful service for our Lord through this study.

As the book of Joshua opens, we find that after 40 years of wilderness wondering the children of Israel are poised to enter the Promised Land. Though it was a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8; et. al.) numerous battles were to be fought against the Canaanite inhabitants before the land could be conquered. The first such encounter would be a key city in the Jordan Valley, Jericho. It is here, along the massive walls of this fortified city, that the story of Rahab’s legendary faith is recorded for all posterity.

In preparation for the battle, Joshua dispatched two spies to, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho” (Joshua 2:1a). The spy’s intent to remain undercover was somehow foiled, and they took refuge in “the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (2:1b-2). At some personal risk, she hid the Jewish spies from her own people, sending their pursuers on a wild goose chase (2:3-7). Then, when the coast was clear, “she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall” (2:15-16). It was her protecting the spies that the New Testament writers point to as an example of a working faith.

So what set Rahab apart from the other inhabitants of Jericho? She reported to the spies how all in Jericho had heard of the Lord God’s drying up of the Red Sea and His destroying the two kings of the Ammonites (Joshua 2:10; cf. Exodus 14:21-31; Numbers 21:21-35). Moreover she added, “And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and the earth beneath” (2:11). Everyone in this great city believed (or had faith if you will) in God and His mighty works, yet, their faith lead only to fearful trembling. (Their faith was useless, akin to the faith of demons cf. James 2:19). However, Rahab was different. Her faith lead to action and in turn, those actions led to the saving of her life and the life of her family.

Spend any time in church and hopefully, sooner rather than later, Ephesians 2:8-9 will be emphasized in a lesson:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

As Christians, this passage is a cornerstone belief of our faith. Our works cannot save us, rather, it is by God’s grace through faith we are saved. However, while we are not saved by works we are saved to work. Paul makes this abundantly clear in the next verse, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10). Thus, good works are the subsequent and resultant fruit and evidence of faith.

This is the point that James drives home in 2:14-16 of his epistle. “Faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead” (2:17). Faith that is not accompanied by works is stone-cold dead and frankly is no faith at all. A mere profession of faith is unworkable without that faith being put into practice. The godly works of a believer proves the existence of their faith. He sums up his argument in verses 24-26 noting:

“You see a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

Rahab demonstrated the reality of her faith when she protected the messengers of God. Thus, she became a model of faith completed by works. A model we as Christians today should follow.

But we need to recognize that a working faith like Rahab’s is more than sitting in the pew each Sunday and fulfilling our weekly spiritual duty. Do not get me wrong, that is important, but having a working faith like Rahab’s is so much more. Staying in James’ epistle we find a definition of a working faith called religion in this passage:

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle the tongue but deceives heart this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:26-27)

All Christians should be challenged by these two verses because it demands that our faith extends beyond our assemblies and worship services to the point it permeates our day-to-day lives.

James catalogs three characteristics of the truly religious person who has a working faith. First, they keep a tight rein on their speech (cf. James 3:2-6; 1 Peter 3:8-17). Second, they demonstrate sacrificial love by helping the helpless (cf. Matthew 25:34-36; 1 John 3:17-19). Finally, they keep themselves unstained by the world’s sinfulness (cf. James 4:4-10; Romans 12:2). This is the essence of the working faith.

God could have made the spies invisible or smote the people with blindness or used angels, but He chose to use a Gentile woman with courage to act on her faith. While our culture may not memorialize Rahab by naming our daughters after her, we as Christians should model our faith after hers. If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God’s blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news.

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The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus


rich man and lazarus

In these tough economic times panhandling is a common scene. Visit any sizable city and it seems there is someone on every corner asking for money. No doubt, a few desperately need help; nevertheless the majority of panhandlers are taking advantage of the generosity of others. It is enough to make you numb to the problem of poverty and thus help no one. Worse yet, we could begin to think of ourselves as superior people because we are not like the poor person holding the sign. Our Lord told a parable of a rich man who whose heart was numb to the plight of a panhandler. In this passage Jesus challenged the conventional thinking of His day regarding riches and poverty and in the process taught His disciples the importance of using money to aid the poor.

Our parable[i] is set within the context of our Lords’ teaching on the use of riches and the Pharisees’ ridiculing of His instructions. Following the Lost Parables (Luke 15:1-32), Luke recorded the parable of the Unjust Steward and its accompanying principles governing the way disciples viewed and used material possessions (16:1-13). In summary, Jesus taught that we love and serve God, and use money in this life to make friends in eternity. However, “the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things and they ridiculed Him” (16:14). The underlying problem of the Pharisaical system was that they were seeking approval from “men” rather than God (16:15). Their standard of righteousness was based on outward appearances others could evaluate; thus, in their hearts they loved money more than God (16:15a; cf. Luke 20:47). Therefore, in vv. 16-18, our Lord accused those who prided themselves as keepers of the law with being its corrupters. They had created loopholes in the Law which enabled them to fulfill their sinful desires, cases in point: marriage, divorce, and what constituted adultery (16:18). The Pharisees had corrupted God’s law to the point that their righteous-cloaked greed was exalted among men; nevertheless it was “an abomination in the sight of God” (See Jesus’ rebuke of the practice called Corban; Mark 7:10-13). Our Lord’s swift two-point rebuke set the stage for the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

The Lord begins with a vivid picture of “a certain rich man” (16:19) who lived in lavish opulence. He wore luxurious “purple” robes; even his undergarments were made of “fine linen” and his life consisted of “feast[ing] sumptuously every day” on the finest of foods. In the mind of the Pharisees this man’s riches proved he was righteousness (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Psalm 37:25; Proverbs 13:22). So entrenched was this belief, that when Jesus taught on the difficulty “a rich person” would have entering the kingdom of God, the astonished disciples asked, “Then who can be saved?” (Luke 18:25-27).

Outside the rich man’s gate was “a poor man named Lazarus” whose body was “covered with sores” (16:20) and who lived daily on the brink of starvation. From where he laid, he could have smelled the delicious foods and heard the revelry from the daily feast. His only desire was “to be fed with” the crumbs that “fell from the rich man’s table,” and yet the rich man and his guests repeatedly ignored him (16:21a). “But instead the dogs would come and lick his sores” (16:21b HCSB), providing Lazarus his only earthly relief[ii]. In the eyes of the Pharisees, and popular culture, Lazarus was getting what he deserved because sickness and poverty were viewed as divine judgments for sinfulness (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15-68; John 9:2, 34). In light of his plight, Lazarus’ name seemed a mockery; “He whom God helps” appeared to be he whom God has abandoned.

In the process of time, both the rich man and Lazarus died. In a Pharisaical frame of mind, the eternal destinies of these two men were fixed. The rich man would carry on his festive lifestyle in the presence of Abraham, while Lazarus’ torturous sufferings would continue in Hades. However, Jesus completely reversed the conventional expectations, thus dramatically illustrating His words, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (16:15).

“The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side” (16:22a). Death brought an end to Lazarus’ suffering. Too poor for a funeral, his hollow body of skin and bones would have been dumped in a potter’s field, quickly forgotten by all who knew him. Yet, unseen to human eyes, “He whom God helps” was quickly escorted by the angels to Abraham’s side. The phrase, “Abraham’s side” (ESV) or “bosom” (KJV) denotes closeness and honor in a meal setting (ref. John 13:25; 21:20; cf. Matthew 8:10-12; Luke 13:28-30). In life, Lazarus was a sick, starving beggar who lived outside the rich man’s gate; in eternity he was on the inside as an honored guest at the table of Abraham. The words of the Psalmist sum up his life: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:6).

“The rich man also died and was buried” (16:22b). His life of ease, comfort and pleasure suddenly ended. His riches would have afforded him a grand funeral, yet from a divine perspective it was not worth mentioning. On the other side of the grave, the rich man found himself in the hellish torment of Hades. From there “he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side” (16:23). In life he had not used his wealth to aid the poor, thus he had no friends to receive him in the eternal dwelling (16:9). He had callously hidden his eyes to the plight of poor Lazarus; consequently, he would suffer eternal curses (ref. Proverbs 28:27).

From the flames of torment the rich man “called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me” (16:24a). The unsympathetic rich man was now the beggar pleading for mercy and, in a way, seeking to become “He whom God helps.” He appealed to Abraham based on their kinship (16:24, 27, 30), however, his relationship to the patriarch had not guaranteed his salvation, nor would it ensure him minimal comforts (cf. John 8:31ff). He entreated Abraham to send “Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue” pleading, “for I am in anguish in this flame” (16:24). Despite their relationship and the rich man’s suffering, he received no comfort. “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all of this,” Abraham added, “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (16:25-26). Just as Lazarus was refused help from the rich man’s table, the rich man was refused help from Abraham’s table.

Rebuffed, the rich man pleaded, “Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (16:27-28). Since his eternal state was fixed, perhaps he thought he could change the course of his brothers’ lives. In a figurative sense, the rich man’s brothers were the Pharisees who were listening to this parable. Presumably, the five brothers lived lives of luxury just as he had and yet he realized that one can gain the whole world but lose his own soul (ref. Luke 9:25). Again, Abraham was not persuaded to grant his request, “They have Moses and the Prophets,” he said, “let them hear them” (16:29). To “hear” means to listen and obey. The rich man’s brothers, and the Pharisees they represented, had ample information to reform their lives. Countless passages in the Old Testament called for Jews to compassionately use their wealth to alleviate the plight of the poor. Deuteronomy 15:11 summarizes those instructions, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” Also, the prophet Amos bluntly described the judgment of God against the rich of Israel who, at the expense of the impoverished, lived indulgent lives (ref. Amos 4:1-3; et. al). Furthermore, even the Proverbs spoke of the blessedness of aiding the poverty-stricken (ref. 19:17; 22:9; 28:27; 29:7). Though the Pharisees had ignored God’s word regarding the use of their riches to help the poor, these instructions still stood and they would ultimately be judged by them (16:15-18).

Amazingly, the rich man sought to correct Abraham’s assessment of his brothers’ situation. He knew too well that they would require something more than scripture. “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (16:30). Ironically, no one listened to Lazarus’ pleas for help in life, but the rich man was sure they would heed him in death. Abraham replied, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (16:31). Abraham pointed out the brothers’ refusal to repent was the result of hard hearts toward God and His word, which no supernatural event would cure. With these words, our Lord ended His parable.

I often picture Jesus walking away at this point, leaving the Pharisees alone to fume over what He had said, shocked by the dramatic and unexpected turn of events. Not only had this seemingly righteous man been sentenced to a life of eternal torment, but his own patriarch refused his request for mercy. In dramatic fashion, our Lord drove home the consequences of seeking the approval of men and ignoring divine teachings, especially on the proper use of wealth in aiding the poor.

The great lesson taught in this parable is timeless and foundational to the faith: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). This love is expressed by obeying the Lord’s commands to help the poor, cheerfully supplying the needs of one’s deprived neighbors (cf. James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:17-19). Scripture nowhere teaches that being well off is sinful. Rather, our Lord, through this and other passages, sounded a note of warning concerning the “deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22). Paul’s exhortation in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 is an excellent summary of our Lord’s teachings and a fitting conclusion to our study: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God…They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” 

A shorten form of this article appears in the August issue of Biblical Insights.


[i] Some debate surrounds the question of whether or not this is a parable or a factual story. Generally, those who believe this passage relates the events of a true-life story base their argument on two facts. First, they say, since this story is not introduced as a parable is should be views as a factual story. However, three other stories in Luke’s gospel are not introduced as parables but are recognized as such: The Good Samaritan (10:30-37); The Great Banquet (14:12-24); and The Unjust Steward (16:1-8) and several others. Therefore, just because a parable lacks a formal introduction that alone does not disqualify it as being a parable. The second reason put forth for why this is not a parable is that the poor man has a name, Lazarus. This fact is seen as significant since no other character in our Lord’s parables is provided a proper name. However, this argument fails to take into account the meaning Lazarus’ name and how it fits into the context of the parable itself, something that we will do in our study. But, someone might ask, “Why does it matter whether this is a parable or a factual story?” They would be right; ultimately it does not matter so long as the central message of this story is kept in context. Nevertheless, it has been my experience that those who are adamant about calling this a factual story do so in order to discuss, as they call it, the intermediate state of the dead and tragically ignore the powerful message our Lord taught about riches and helping the poor. Throughout this study I will refer to this story as a parable.

[ii] Commenting on v. 21, Robert’s Word Pictures states: “Moreover, even the dogs” (alla kai hoi kunes). For alla kai see also Luke 12:7; 24:22. Alla can mean either “moreover,” though it often means “but.” Here it depends on how one construes Luke’s meaning. Additionally, in his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (Downers Grove, IVP), pp. 385-386, Kenneth Bailey provides three reasons why the licking of the dogs should be viewed as a compassionate , especially in contrast to the Rich Man’s uncompassionate actions. First, he states alla should be translated as “but instead” thus forming a contrast with the rich man. He continues to state that in the Greek this contrast is clearly seen and important to the story. Second, he cites a Harvard study to show that dog saliva contains helpful antibodies that facilitate healing. Third, somehow the ancients knew this and a major healing temple was present in the ancient city of Ashkelon. There archaeologist have unearthed over 1,300 dog skeletons used in the temple. This would also explain the prohibition of Deuteronomy 23:18 which forbade the worshiper from bringing “the wages of a dog” into the temple treasury. In the ancient world dogs were not kept as pets but where used for idolatrous healings. Therefore, since, as RWP points out, the language of the verse does not force one to accept the dog’s licking of Lazarus sores increased his pain and suffering, I’m inclined to accept Bailey’s explanation.

Wise Saying #29


angry woman2

Wise Saying #29:

“Do not be angered by evildoers, and do not be envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” [i] (24:19-20)

Does it ever make you fuming mad that the lives of sinners seem so easy-going and fun as compared to your morally austere existence? Have you ever wished your life could be as carefree as theirs? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then welcome to the Christian race. The Wiseman warns us against the common, and especially alluring, temptation of envying sinners. So powerful is this enticement, he warns against it three other times (cf. 3:31; 23:17-18; 24:1; see also Sayings #14 and #19). Twice David and Aspah muse about the topic (Psalms 37, 73). And bringing it closer to home, in the old standard Farther Along, we lyrically wonder ourselves why the faithful have it so hard while the wicked live in such prosperous ease[ii]. Burning with envy over the evildoer’s success is foolishness, since God has ordained that their prosperity and ease is but temporary. Sinners have no future seeing as, “They will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb” (Psalm 37:1).  So today, allow God to deal with the wicked and let’s, “Delight [ourselves] in the Lord and He will give [us] the desires of [our] hearts” (37:4).

This week’s theme: The Thirty Sayings of the Wiseman

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[i] Nearly all English translations begin verse 19 with the word “fret.” So, for example, the ESV says, “Fret not…” When I think about the word “fret” I think anxiety or worry. However, according to Brown-Driver-Briggs the Hebrew here means to “to be hot, furious, burn, become angry, be kindled.” Therefore, the Wiseman is not saying don’t worry about the wicked but don’t become angry over the wicked and their prosperous, and/or carefree lifestyle. (The life of the wicked must seem good or fun in order to be an object of envy.) The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates this verse, “Don’t be agitated…” I have taken the liberty to translate my own version of this verse in an attempt to capture what I believe the Wiseman intended to say.

[ii] The first verse says, “Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder, Why it should be thus all the day long, While there are others living about us, Never molested tho’ in the wrong.” The chorus states that while our lot in life may seem unfair now, “Farther along we’ll know all about it, Farther along we’ll understand why.” So then we are admonished to, “Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine, We’ll understand it all by and by.” Another verse adds, “Toils of the road will then seem as nothing, As we sweep thro’ the beautiful gate.” This hymn is an old standard in many churches in the South.

 

The Cornerstone Verse In The Foundation Of Our Faith


In the beginning

The divine explanation of our origin,

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

Sometimes the simplest statements are the most profound. The Bible begins with such a declaration; a straightforward, unambiguous statement explaining the origins of the universe. These words are so simple a child can understand them. Yet in all their simplicity, clarity and uncomplicated language, man in recent centuries has struggled to accept these ten words by faith. By their position as the first words of God’s inspired revelation, Genesis 1:1 is the cornerstone in the foundation of our faith in and understanding of Jehovah God. So today, spend a few minutes admiring the Creator’s handy work; remembering the God who created the universe with the words of His mouth is the same God is working in all who believe in Him. That give me hope, and I hope it gives you some as well.

For a deeper examination of the significance of the creation see my lesson: In The Beginning God…

This week’s theme: Old Testament Potpourri

When The Manna Ceased God Still Provided

Who Am I That You Are Mindful Of Me?

True Healing For Spiritual Wounds

No Matter What I Will Rejoice In The Lord

Life Vanishes Like A Mist, So Live It To God’s Glory


James 4.14

A reality to ponder this morning,

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)

Life is short and uncertain; it is like the fleeting, frail mist of morning that soon vanishes with the rising of the sun. There are no guarantees about today or tomorrow, let alone next year or ten years from now. You may be young and healthy this morning, but you easily could be a corpse by sundown tonight. As Christians we profess to know Christ, and yet we talk and make plans like atheist, never taking into account our own mortality and God’s sovereignty. So today’s prayer then is, “O Lord, make us know our end and what is the extent of our days; let us know how fleeting we are! Teach us then to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalms 39:4; 90:12).

One last thing, where will you spend eternity after the “mist” burns away? It would be my pleasure to help you in your quest to know Christ and follow Him. You can email me at clay@claygentry.com, I’ll be happy to come alongside you on your spiritual journey.

Other post in Devotions From The Epistle of James:

You Are Not Your Own

Are You A Hearer Who Forgets Or A Doer Who Acts?

Are You Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself?

Are You Teaching For The Right Reasons?

Are You A Hearer Who Forgets Or A Doer Who Acts?


a doer who acts

A divine challenge for your day,

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his reflection in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” (James 1:23-24)

Imagine peering into a mirror as you head out of your house when you notice your hair is a mess, your shirt is stained, and plastered on your face are the remnants of breakfast… and you do nothing about it as you head out the door. James tells us this is no different than looking into the mirror of God’s word, seeing our true selves and doing nothing about it. Let us never be deceived into thinking that merely hearing God’s word, or studying and comprehending its intricate details is enough. As believers, we must do more than hear the Word or know the Word… we must practice the Word. So today, “look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free,” remembering, “if you do what it says and do not forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it” (James 1:25).

en español

Other post in Devotions From The Epistle of James:

You Are Not Your Own

Are You Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself?

Do You Want To Go Away As Well?


do you want to leave

Jesus the life-giver has a question for you:

So Jesus asked…, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67)

Many people follow Jesus in order to have their needs met; needs that are typically defined for Jesus, not by Jesus. So, when the Lord fails to meet their demands they blame Him and leave. On one such occasion, after many of Jesus’ followers deserted Him, He asked the Twelve if they too were going to leave. Predictably, Peter spoke up saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” Our greatest need is the forgiveness of our sins, not more bread on the table. When the crowds thin and people leave how will you respond to the Savior’s question? There are only two answers, either you will accept Him for who He is and what He offers, or you will reject Him. So today, choose life; choose Christ.

For the whole story read John 6:1-71

en español

Other post in the Jesus Has A Question For You series:

What Do You Want From Me?

Who Do You Say That I Am?

What Were You Arguing About On The Way?

Why Are You Afraid, O You Of Little Faith?