Whenever Jesus taught His disciples about prayer and serving God, He listed two specific groups of people they were not to imitate. The first group was the Pharisees, whom He often labeled as hypocrites. The second group was the Gentiles living across the border.
I have no doubt that the disciples immediately understood why the Gentiles were totally off course with their idol worship, long and repetitious prayers, and unholy lifestyle. But when Jesus marked the Pharisees as bad examples, He must have shocked everyone who heard Him.
After all, the Pharisees knew the Scriptures like no one else. In fact, they devoted their whole lives to studying the law. They faithfully prayed, fasted, gave alms and tried to keep every requirement they could find. For Peter and the rest of the disciples, it was inconceivable that God could require an even higher level of commitment and service from them. No one could do more!
But Jesus was not looking for a greater number of good works from His followers. Rather, He desired their lives and service to be more effective than that of the Pharisees.
First, He wanted them to be real and to serve God out of love and with all of their hearts. Second, He wanted them to do everything by faith.
That’s where the Pharisees had their blind spot and were dead wrong. They believed God accepted them on the basis of their own righteousness, generated by their effort to keep the law. They never understood Genesis 15:6, “And he [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Hebrews 11:6 makes it even more plain: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him [God].”
For us who have received salvation through faith in Jesus, to continue walking by faith should be easy. But that’s where we miss it the most. Whenever we fail to enter the realm of faith in our prayer life and service to God, everything we do or accomplish remains in the realm of the physical: our own selves.
The Bible contains hundreds of promises that God is eager to fulfill in our lives as we walk with Him. Yet we will never see a single one come to pass unless the Word we have received from Him is united by faith in our hearts.
Only those who are weak in themselves can believe God for the impossible.