I recently received a private note from a Shades of Gray reader who is going through a particularly challenging time. When such times are introduced into our lives, we can easily feel overwhelmed, bewildered, devoid of answers to an overflow of questions. We may doubt God, scream at God, cry out to God, or maybe hide from God. Emotions run high, and often one of the more prominent emotions is fear.
Rather than respond privately, it seemed appropriate to respond publicly, because the challenging circumstance mentioned above is not unique to this reader, despite the common feeling of loneliness felt by those in the eye of the storm swirling around them. What follows is the opening of Chapter Six from the soon-to-be-published book, Finding Faith in Slow Motion, due out before Christmas. I hope it is helpful to many of you, but especially to the friend mentioned above.
Faith and Jesus
Jesus talks a great deal about faith. He praised the faith of the woman who touched His garment and was healed. He praised the faith of the Roman centurion who understood the chain of authority and because of that, believed Jesus was able to heal from a distance with nothing more than a word. More than once, Jesus said to those who were healed, “Your faith has made you well.” He chided the disciples when their faith was lacking, even though they had seen Him demonstrate authority over wind, water, sickness, physical properties, and even death itself. It is difficult to imagine watching Jesus raise someone from the dead and then ever questioning Him about anything at all, yet it happened. Even today, to my shame, I question Him and doubt Him.
Given the truth of the opening line of this book, that without faith it is impossible to please God, I find it curious that in all of the conversations Jesus had with various audiences about faith, He is never quoted as saying anything along the lines of, “Here is how you find faith,” or “Here is how you grow your faith.” Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, but we have no record of Him ever teaching them how to have faith. My friend Steve jokingly asks, “Didn’t Jesus read Hebrews?” Jesus simply says, “Have faith in God,” and expects that to happen.
In Mark 4:40, Jesus stopped the wind and waves with nothing but His words. Interestingly enough, Jesus used the same terminology to hush the wind and waves that he used to hush the demons in the demon-possessed man, three chapters earlier. Immediately after calming the storm, Jesus expressed incredulity toward the disciples for their fear and lack of faith. He expected them to have faith. Why is that?
All of us have heard the sermons, devotionals, and classes describing how suddenly storms can arise on the Sea of Galilee, and because of the bowl-stadium configuration of its seafloor, how genuinely dangerous these storms can be. I will not belabor that point here, but it does provide some interesting insights into the strength of the storm to see the reaction of the disciples to it. These were hardened fishermen. They had weathered many storms throughout their lives storms on that very sea. The fact that they feared for their lives in this one is a testimony to its severity. I do not believe Jesus would have been upset with the disciples for being irritated by the storm. The issue for Jesus was that they were fearful of it. Somehow, He had the idea that they should not have been fearful, when everything in their experience said otherwise. Some might even make the case that they would have been foolish not to fear the storm.
I guess this is one of those cases where man’s wisdom does not even measure up to God’s folly. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Maybe Jesus is looking for the kind of trust in His presence that allows kids to be thrown into fires with no fear of death, and men to sleep all night with starving lions, confident of God’s ability to shut their mouths. There are real dangers in the world. The possibility of injury or even death is unquestionable. However, we have to realize that come what may, such dangers are of no consequence to us if we are with Jesus as we face them. Traumas and abuses may rain down on us in torrents, yet the man or woman who steadfastly endures with Jesus and the indwelling Spirit of God will triumph in the end, even if that end is his or her own death.
Now by that, I do not pretend to mean that we will always win out against the world in the sense that the world defines winning. But we will triumph with God and we need not be afraid. Our circumstances are simply that – circumstances. We must get beyond the default response of reacting to God in light of our circumstances, and train ourselves to react to our circumstances in light of God. Do not be afraid. Never be afraid. Be strong and courageous. Walk in God’s perfect love knowing that perfect love casts out fear.
Victoriously in Christ!