Thursday, September 16, 2010

O Us Of Little Faith

Perspective must be one of the greatest factors to a changed life or a changed attitude. I once had a friend I visited in Capetown, South Africa who was the pastor of a small church. As we know from recent historical events and even current events, Capetown has had its share of troubles. The challenges to be a pastor in this city, in the country, would be plentiful. He told me that on days when his challenges threatened to overwhelm him he would climb Tabletop Mountain which towered over the city. He would find a place where he could seek his neighbourhood in the city and then he would try to locate his church. He said the changed perspective often put his challenges back into perspective as he realized how insignificant they were compared to the larger mission.

There are many days in our lives when things, situations, people, circumstances threaten to overwhelm us. Emotionally or mentally we just want to shut down and find a cave to crawl into. Either that or we spend hours crying out to God to rescue us. Often times though these things are meant to strengthen our faith and to increase our maturity. No one likes the idea of going through these things as a form of training but neither do any of us want to be seen as a 98 pound weakling in our faith. Often times we ask God to remove the challenges and out of compassion he does, but that doesn't mean he wanted to. Consider the incident with the disciples in the storm.

Jesus stepped into a boat to move to a new region and his disciples faithfully followed him. Here, I will let you read it for yourself:

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!"
He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. (Matthew 8:23-26)

Some people look at Jesus' rebuke and conclude that it was for the disciples doubting that Jesus could do something about the storm. Others may consider that the rebuke was for the disciples not taking care of the storm themselves. However, I think the rebuke was due to the fact that the disciples had feared the storm in the first place and asked to be rescued. God does not always desire to rescue us.

Fear is a faith killer and if we do not realize the size of our Father many things in life, which are bigger than us, frighten us. We forget that nothing is bigger than our Father. The disciples did not think this through. Yes, the storm was huge and looked like it was going to capsize them but they were with Jesus, and Jesus had a mission from the Father. Even if they did not fully understand the mission they knew enough now, they had seen enough now, to know the mission was real. Just from that perspective they should have understood that nothing was about to happen to them and to Jesus. In the face of that storm they should not have been calling out for rescue, they should have been growing in their faith as they watched the Father guide them through it.

I used to pray for people to be rescued from their difficult situations. As a pastor I hated to see what they were going through and often interfered with what God was doing to try to rescue them myself. My church often prayed that God would put a hedge around people, to protect them in the situation. Then one day the Spirit rebuked me for this attitude and perspective. He gave me clarity by taking me up to a "mountain" and allowing me to see some things through his eyes. Then I understood we should not be praying for hedges to hide us away but for strength in our faith to push on through. Pushing through develops spiritual muscles and a solid relationship of trust with our Father. Hedging in weakens us and turns us into "you of little faith" in the storms of life.

I believe we should be developing more of a perspective and attitude like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Their faith was unlike what many of us have. Our faith seems rather shallow and tinny compared to the great depth of trust they showed. When the king became angry with them because of their persistence to honour Jehovah as the one true God, he prepared to throw them into a specially prepared furnace. They did not cry for mercy, they did not panic, they simple made a statement of faith that, to this day, shakes the foundations of any earthly kingdom:

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:16-18)

In the face of their storm they did not back down and Jehovah met them in it. The fire was not put out and angels did not descend. The king was not killed and there was no last minute change of mind. They were put in the furnace and there God preserved them, strengthened them, increased them and as a result the king bowed down and worshiped their God. How many people in this world are desperate to see that kind of faith so they too can discover the God who strengthens us in the storms of life because he knows us and knows what is best for us? Try climbing God's mountain today to take a look at your place in the scheme of things so that Jesus is able to give you a new perspective, a proper perspective that will also give you a new attitude to the things in your life. When we are able to see these things with his "eyes" we will start becoming the people of faith he has called us to be and the world around us will be changed.

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