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When All Hail Breaks Loose
Weathering the Storms of Life
By R. Pat Day
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2011 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
Faith It until You Make It
2 Corinthians 5:7
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
At the climax of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana has to pass three supreme tests to reach the Holy Grail and save his dying father. The first test is "the breath of God." As he walks down a corridor, Indiana must bow down at precisely the right moment to keep from having his head cut off by large revolving metal blades. The second test is "the word of God." Indiana must walk on just the right stones—the ones that spell God's name in Latin—to keep from falling through the floor to his death. But the third test, "the path of God," is the most difficult. Indiana comes to the edge of a large chasm—about a hundred feet across and a thousand feet down. If I were Indiana, I would call "time out" on this test.
On the other side of the chasm is the doorway to the Holy Grail. The instructions say, "Only in the leap from the lion's head will he prove his worth." Jones says to himself, "It's impossible. Nobody can jump this." Then he realizes that this test requires a leap of faith. His father says, "You must believe, boy. You must believe!" Even though every nerve and fiber of his being screams that he must not do it, Indiana walks to the edge of the cliff ... lifts his foot ... and then steps out into thin air, hoping that somehow he won't crash to the floor of the deep chasm. Instead of falling, he is upheld by an invisible force. This is a powerful picture of what faith is all about. Without faith it is impossible to please God, but when we take that first step of faith and then another and another, our confidence and trust will grow with each step.
The beginning of a new year, a new day, a new job, a new relationship, or a new project is an excellent time for a faith checkup. Our success will largely be defined by our ability to faith it until we make it. A life characterized by faith or a life paralyzed by fear—which will we choose? Will we choose as Indiana Jones did and venture out, or will we simply call for "time out"?
Faith Is as Essential to Achievement as Air Is to Breathing
Faith is the key that unlocks the door to God's blessings and favor. He challenges us to trust him before we actually see the results. We are reminded in the Scriptures that without faith it is impossible to please God. The Christian life is an ongoing learning experience based on our ability and willingness to trust God as our divine provider and promise keeper.
In 2 Corinthians 5:7 we read that we are to live by faith and not by sight. Without a doubt, God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). God wants to create great things through us and our faith. While only God can see the number of apples in a single seed, with the eyes of faith we can see immense possibilities. Faith gives us the peace to imagine, to believe that we can do it, and to know that God will provide the resources necessary to make the dream become reality.
When I read about the great men and women of faith in the Bible, I'm inspired and challenged by their ability to trust God for the seemingly impossible. For example, "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going" (Hebrews 11:8 NIV). My faith grows and is strengthened when I read these words. God said to Abraham, "Go, leave the security of the known and take my unseen hand into the unknown." How simple, yet how profound!
If we choose to walk by faith and not by sight, it will not be easy. The faint of heart cannot walk by faith, but the faint of heart are not often successful either. If we dare to do great things for God's glory, we will be tried and tested—count on it! But as our faith grows stronger, the greater will be our determination to prevail. David Foster writes, "Faith is the ability to trust in advance that which will only make sense in reverse." How much faith do I need? How much faith is required? How do I build my faith?
Faith It until You Make It
In my life I have found I can faith it until I make it by working to follow these biblical principles:
First, I choose to move from a risk-free safe zone into the riskier faith zone.
Second, I surrender my fears to God.
Third, I learn that problems and obstacles are a part of God's plan for building my faith.
Fourth, I trust God's promise.
Finally, I persist until I break through to a new level of faith.
* * *
Moving from a Risk-free Safe Zone into the Riskier Faith Zone
All of us have what could be called "a spiritual comfort zone." A comfort zone is safe, easy, predictable, and manageable. In our comfort zones we are able to live and perform basically under our own power. We can handle whatever comes our way by our own intellect and our own planning. Life is very predictable, maybe even monotonous. There are no real surprises. We risk nothing. We choose to play it safe. We are comfortable, safe, and secure without any threats to our rather mundane existence. When we think of the past, we remember our failed attempts to risk anything very big because we fell flat on our faces. For the most part, we leave God out of our lives or compartmentalize or quarantine them so as not to intrude or affect the areas of our lives that we think are important.
Only one way is available for us to escape the unproductive comfort zone: we must choose to live daily in the faith zone. This takes a risk—a leap of faith. Each of us must admit: "I cannot do this in my own strength any longer. I really need to begin to trust God." God wants each of us to live in the faith zone. He will orchestrate situations, circumstances, and events that will stretch us again and again. He wants us to move from the safety of the shallow water into the unknown of the deep water of faith. There, in the depth of faith, is where God lives.
That unknown might come as a crisis, a crossroads, or a challenge that makes us so miserable, so desperate, and so restless that business as usual is no longer acceptable. The disciples fished all night without any success. Then Jesus told them to put their nets out into the deep water. John 21:6 tells us that they caught such an enormous amount of fish, the boat almost sank. Had they not attempted to risk everything, they would have continued to catch absolutely nothing. Like the disciples, it is time for us to move out of the safe zone into the faith zone.
It is okay to say no, but be forewarned: we will miss God's best for our lives. We will never get to see what God really could have done in our lives. Remember, the faith zone is where miracles happen. When we deliberately make the decision to enter the faith zone, we will feel very uneasy, unsafe, out of control, and uncomfortable at times. But we will come to depend on the Lord in a way that we never could have done in the safe zone. "Without faith it is impossible to please God," Paul tells us in Hebrews 11:6. His will for us is to be constantly and consistently dependent on him for everything. Faith is not our responsibility; it is our response to God's ability. And like Indiana Jones, we can learn to respond to his ability and surrender our fears to God.
* * *
Surrendering My Fears to God
Fear has three basic traits that we need to acknowledge. Then we need to find ways to think beyond these characteristics that limit our opportunities for success in our lives:
Fear is contagious. We catch it from others. In late 2008, a worldwide economic crisis resulted in tremendous losses in both the stock market and in personal wealth. An epidemic of fear magnified the effects of this crisis.
Fear is limiting. It will keep us from doing what God wants because of our sense of inadequacy and powerlessness. Fear has tremendous limiting power over each of us. When we are afraid, we will never attempt what God is asking us to be or to do.
Fear is draining. Fear has a way of stealing our strength, destroying our dreams, and robbing us of our power and possibilities for the future. Fear sucks the very life out of us. It destroys the very best within us.
Fear disrupts faith because it is the biggest obstacle to trusting and obeying God. In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt said to the American public in the dark hours of the Great Depression, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." In other words, we keep life carefully confined within the boundaries of what we are confident of being able to handle by ourselves. Our fear of failure or of taking a big risk keeps us from anything that we cannot control or that we cannot safely foresee. We place self-imposed limitations on what we can do as well as on what we think God can do. We have calculated, reasoned, and predicted the outcome based upon our human resources, experiences, and limitations. In reality, we don't need God to do the possible. We need, instead, to let go of all those artificial protective barriers we have established. We need to let God have our fears and move into the faith zone.
Faith doesn't mean the absence of fear. It means having the courage to go ahead, right alongside the fear, remembering that problems and obstacles are a part of God's plan for building our faith.
We feed our faith by asking the Holy Spirit to direct us to the promises in the Bible that apply to our problems. Then we can begin to obey the conditions that are attached to those promises.
We believe and expect God's provision and faith.
We praise and thank God in advance for his miraculous provision or intervention.
We verbalize our faith by speaking his promise as prediction.
We maintain a constant attitude of trust in the Lord and not in ourselves.
We associate and worship with positive, faith-filled people as a way of building our faith.
Now let's ask ourselves what daring, amazing thing we'd attempt when we know we cannot possibly fail.
* * *
Learning That Problems and Obstacles Are a Part of God's Plan for Building My Faith
God is the master designer, and he has a master plan that is uniquely suited for our lives. Obstacles and problems are vital parts of his teaching us faith development. Initially when we come face-to-face with a major problem, crisis, or obstacle, we may feel discouraged, defeated, and depressed. We may be tempted to question, doubt, or even become angry with God because of his leading us into this challenging situation. But every stage of our faith development depends on God. What obstacles are you facing that are challenging your faith and causing you to become fearful and give up? Many obstacles can hit us: loss of a job, financial reversals, health problems, or a bad relationship. We may be terribly discouraged by these problems and wonder, "What's the use?"
The very problem that has the possibility to destroy, discourage, and defeat us contains the resources that will nourish our faith. Problems and obstacles become stepping-stones to a stronger faith. They become stair steps for moving up in life. Problems provide the platform on which God can work his miracles. My faith has grown in the face of the challenges that I've encountered. I've learned that great faith is neither possible nor required in the absence of great problems. If we know how faith works, challenges are the best things that can happen to us. Andraé Crouch wrote a wonderful little chorus many years ago that has helped me. He sings, "Through it all, through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus. "
By faith, I've known that the bigger the problem, the greater the possibilities and the greater the blessing. Adversity has within it the seeds of advantage. Problems give birth to possibilities, and everything turns on the hinge of faith. When a God-given opportunity comes along disguised as a problem, it is God's gift to us. What we do with it is our gift to God.
Zig Ziglar writes after the death of his daughter,
There is no grief that I have experienced that has come close to my grief over the loss of our child. Throughout our months and years of grieving, faith has been the redeeming force that has enabled us to bear the pain and continue to live in victory.... The very process of grief is given to us by a loving heavenly Father. God uses grief to heal us, strengthen us in our faith, and cause us to grow in our relationship with Him. (Confessions of a Grieving Christian [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999], p. 2)
It is in the furnace of adversity that our character is refined and our faith is strengthened. Sir Edmund Hillary became the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He had failed several times. After one failure, he shook his fist at the mountain and said, "You have defeated me, but I will return, and I will defeat you, because you can't get any bigger, but I can!" And he did accomplish the goal of climbing Mount Everest in 1953.
The best way to learn about the power of faith is to actually place ourselves in a situation that forces us to trust God for big things. Jesus promised in Matthew 17:20, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (NIV). God doesn't require great faith; he asks only that we trust his promises.
* * *
Trusting God? s Promise
My dad was a peanut broker. Each spring, like farmers all over the world, his customers took the risk of buying seed and fertilizer, plowing their fields, and planting their crops. Those peanut crops resulting from the farmers' risks provided support and financial security for our family so that I, as a young boy, could make choices about the direction for my life. A farmer cannot possibly begin to expect a harvest until the seeds are planted in the spring. The same is true with our faith. We must act before God will ever bless. We must plant the seeds of faith in rich soil and nurture them and water them on a daily basis so that our faith will continue to grow and produce a harvest of a hundredfold.
We live in a world where trust is at an all-time low. Promise keeping and truth telling have fallen on tough times, especially in the business, investment, and political worlds—even in the religious world. Many millions of people have been betrayed by trusting unscrupulous people to invest their money properly. But this is not the case with our faith in God. What he says, he will do. The greater the problem, the greater the promise.
When God gives us a promise, we must listen to his voice and obey him completely. "Faith is believing what we do not see. The reward of faith is to see what we believe," according to Saint Augustine, a saint of the early church. Listening requires reading the Bible—his word to us. But it also involves being still before him, listening to his still, quiet voice, and then recording what he says we should do.
I normally keep a notebook close by so that I can jot down what I believe God is telling me. Faith requires obedience if we are to solve our problems. I pray for wisdom and discernment. I ask God for his action plan, and when he reveals it, I write down what I hear. Once we have his plan, we must act by faith to build upon that plan. James 1:6-7 states, "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord" (NKJV). In Mark 11:24 we read, "Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (NKJV).
In the summer of 2005, my dad went home to be with the Lord. He was my hero and my best friend. He was a very successful businessman who chose to live modestly. He did not have the toys or symbols of success that so many people flaunt. But the one thing he took great pride in was a diamond ring that he liked to wear. When he died, the ring was given to me. For months I refused to wear it. Then one day I felt it was time to start wearing the ring in his honor, even though I did not feel worthy to do so. When I tried it on, it seemed to be a little loose—maybe a size or so too large. But I chose to wear it anyway.
The next morning I dressed for church, but I could not find the ring! Of course, as soon as church was over, I turned my apartment upside down. Still no ring! I searched high and low but still could not find it. I began to pray. How could I, in such a short twenty-four hours, have lost Dad's ring? I called my aunt and told her what had happened and asked her to pray that I would find it. I then called my son to come and help me look for it. I began to pray frantically.
I searched with fear welling up inside me, but still no ring. Just as I started to look again in the apartment, a thought flashed in my mind. It was strong, so real, so powerful: Look in the Dumpster! I thought, You've got to be kidding! I'm not going to look in the Dumpster; it's filthy and stinks terribly. What would people think if they saw me rummaging through the Dumpster on a Sunday afternoon? So I quickly dismissed the thought.
Excerpted from When All Hail Breaks Loose by R. Pat Day. Copyright © 2011 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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