As I have mentioned in previous devotionals, I watch Andy Stanley sermons online. Andy is the Pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, and the son of Charles Stanley who was the former pastor of 1st Baptist Church Atlanta and founder of InTouch ministries in Atlanta.
Recently I tuned in to watch Andy’s weekly sermon online and discovered that someone else was giving the message that week. It’s not unusual for Andy to “share the pulpit” with associate pastors and guests, which I think is really cool. Even though he is the Pastor/founder of a 30,000+-member church, he doesn’t have the “big head”.
Much to my surprise, the speaker for that Sunday service was one of my favorite speakers, Stuart Hall. Stuart is a regular speaker at BigStuf Camp, a summer camp in Panama City, Florida where I have taken youth groups for many years in the past. If fact, we probably would have heard Stuart speak this past summer in person at BigStuf. We were registered for the June 15th-19th week of camp. Unfortunately, COVID had other plans and BigStuf was shut down for the summer.
As it turns out, Stuart got COVID over the summer and almost didn’t make it. After being infected, he had a heart attack and was put into a medically induced coma for a couple of months. It was touch and go, but Stuart survived. Stuart is a colleague and long time friend of Andy’s, so Andy invited Stuart and his wife to join him for an interview during a Sunday service about their experiences. It was a powerful and inspirational story of faith and survival in the face of overwhelming uncertainty. Stuart and his wife shared that their faith was severely tested. Their sense of control and certainty of God’s providence were rocked to its core. Its one thing to say we believe and have faith in God, but it’s another to live it when life is cruel and uncertain.
As a result of the interview, Andy asked Stuart to do a two message series called “One Thing is for Certain”. Basically, Stuart shared that the “One Thing” that was for certain was uncertainty. Uncertainty always shows up and shatters our illusions of control and invulnerability.
Stuart shares this quote in his message. “Trust is not for the weak. It’s the excruciating option.” Putting our trust in something or someone else is one of the most difficult things we have to do. It can be intensely painful and mentally agonizing. We don’t just hand it out freely. Sure we may give someone the benefit of the doubt in the beginning, but once our trust is violated it is very difficult to re-earn it.
Just like Stuart, our faith and trust in God has been tested. For most of us, it has been tested multiple times. Life is basically a series of faith/trust exams and pop quizzes. When we are tested we say things like “God is in control” and “He’s still on the throne”. We put on a brave face to show the world that we are “trusting” in the Lord like it’s an easy thing to do. We cannot show weakness or vulnerability. We are supposed to take it in stride right? If we question what God is doing or have a hard time dealing with it, then our faith is not genuine. Have you ever felt guilty for being upset, depressed, or having doubts? Has your faith ever been questioned by another Christian because you weren’t handling it perfectly?
Jesus asked the disciples “Where is your faith?” in Luke 8:25. They were in a boat on “the lake”. There was a terrible storm and the boat was filling up with water. They were afraid and in danger. Jesus was asleep, and wasn’t worried for obvious reasons. Instead of saying “God is in control” or trusting that God was going to take care of them, the disciples woke Jesus up. “Master, Master, we are perishing!” “We are going to die!” Jesus wakes up, tells the storm to take a chill pill, and asks the disciples, “what happened to your faith?” I don’t think He was asking whether they “had” faith. He was asking them what happened to it. Where did it go? Sometimes our faith and trust can just run off and hide.
Jesus question may have been a rebuke. “You guys should be ashamed of yourselves. I’m in the boat with you for crying out loud! When we get to the shore, we’re going to have to go our separate ways because you obviously don’t trust me anymore!”
Apparently, their lack of faith was not a “relationship killer”. The band didn’t break up. They sailed to shore and continued doing ministry. Jesus didn’t give up on them because they struggled. Basically, almost every story in the Bible contains clear evidence that God followers have faith/trust issues. We are not perfect or bulletproof, but He loves us anyway.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV)
I love to read the Psalms because they are so honest. Each one of them is like a diary or journal entry. The writer is pouring out their feelings to God.
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13 (NIV)
“God, my world is falling apart. My enemies are defeating me! Where are you?” The sorrow, fear, and doubt are REAL! BUT the Psalmist, the writer, chooses to trust in God’s unfailing love. He reminds himself of God’s goodness, and salvation. He even chooses to rejoice and sing to the Lord in the midst of pain.
“Trust is not for the weak. It’s the excruciating option.” Working out our faith and salvation with “fear and trembling” as the Apostle says in Philippians 2:12 is no picnic. If you are struggling, doubting, or wrestling with your faith and trust in God today, be encouraged that:
- God is listening.
- You can be honest with Him.
- He can handle your pain, fear, and doubts. He has big shoulders.
- Our lack of faith is not a deal breaker or a relationship killer. It actually reveals our dependence on Him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management