A time is coming when we will no longer have the comfort of playing a part and will have to decide to be real with God in our faith. Too many of us are just coasting along, content to worship God and have a good life in this world. We have some challenges in our life but not the sort that would cause us to sweat great drops of blood like Jesus did in the garden. Jesus was about to lose it all, including his life and he had to exert his spirit over his flesh and declare all his trust in his Father, "Not my will ... but yours". Until we get to the point of having our faith tested in this manner we cannot be sure that it is genuine.
Too many people walk away from God when he exerts his responsibility as a Father to discipline us and to test our faith to make sure it is genuine. I think most of us would want our parachutes tested before we leave the ground. Once you are out of the plane there is no time for testing, it's either good or it isn't. Our faith must be tested here because if it is not tested then it will be too late if we discover after the fact that it wasn't real. Peter wrote:
These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:7)
Many of us would fold, crumble, fade away if we were faced with losing everything. We have a hard time understanding God's ways so we end up allowing the enemy in to fill us with doubts, fears and discouragement. We sing and we testify that Jesus is our all but when it is tested we fail because we believe untruths about God. We have not studied the Word for ourselves and discovered his heart to understand how much he loves us and what he sees as important. The Psalms are filled with faith in the face of great trials and some of those trials the psalmists deserved to go through. We hear from them:
Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors;
I am a dread to my friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
I am forgotten by them as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
For I hear the slander of many;
there is terror on every side;
they conspire against me
and plot to take my life. (Psalm 31:9-13)
Have you been there? Perhaps these are consequences of your actions or they are the consequences of someone else's. It doesn't really matter because they are trials nonetheless. Some of you know what I mean but many don't but I think we all will before this life is over. So let me ask the base question: If you lost everything today, could you praise him? This psalmist did as his very next words are:
But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.” (Psalm 31:14)
This goes beyond running to God if you don't have money to pay your bills or you need a parking spot. Those things require the same faith but when your life or the life of someone you love is at stake, do you have this faith to put the situation and its potential outcome in God's hands? Are you prepared to love him that much, to trust him with it all? This psalmist started off with a prayer of desperation:
In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Free me from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth. (Psalm 31:1-5)
"Into your hands I commit my spirit" is a statement of trust, of handing it to God, of saying I have no control here. Many of us try to control our crisis. We try to take care of things in our strength, ability, wisdom. It is only when we are in the dark pit and we realize there is nowhere else to turn that we look up. But it shouldn't be that way. We do not have to go down into that dark pit to discover God. All we have to do is look up. The psalmist didn't just sit in his fear an anxiety; he started declaring the praises and glory of God:
How great is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you,
which you bestow in the sight of men
on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from the intrigues of men;
in your dwelling you keep them safe
from accusing tongues. (Psalm 31:19-20)
This week my wife and I lost our unborn child. In the first moments of realizing this I held my wife's limp, heaving body as she was overcome by sobs of great sorrow. Her pain and emptiness stabbed at my heart and I felt like an impotent man, unable to use any of my strength to protect her or rescue her from this pain. But yet, from out of this sobbing I heard these words; "God, I trust you". It was my wife, in the worst possible moment of her life declaring her faith in our God. It sucked the air out of me and filled me with a joy beyond measure.
But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
In all of his anxiety and fear the psalmist was able to allow his faith to rise up and take control, as did my wife this week. He ends his prayer with this declaration:
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD. (Psalm 31:24)
Our God is real and he is present in every moment of our life. He is with us in the normal days, the glorious days and the dark days. He has given us many promises and he is faithful to each of them, not because we are faithful but because he is. Do not fear when your faith is tested but instead rejoice that he loves you enough to care. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD!