This week let’s think about walking in faith. There are times that it is easy and times that it is hard. It is easy to walk in faith in the areas that you don’t really feel threatened. For most of us, the call to come to church isn’t hard because we aren’t threatened. The same is true for most of us in the area of serving. Stretching our faith by raking a widow’s leaves or taking meals to someone who is struggling may stretch us, but it isn’t really hard.
The tough times to walk by faith is when God asks you to walk by faith through something that is close to your heart. In those times, we feel scared or threatened. Even when we generally use our faith to guide us, there are those times when something happens that hits close to home. Our faith is challenged in a place that we really care about. Suddenly, all those truths that we have heard, studied, and even quoted to others seem shaken. It’s not easy at all then. We cry or shake our fists, and then we wonder if we aren’t the biggest hypocrites in the world when we come to church and nod our head at the preacher’s words. At times like that, I think about Mary and Martha.
Why do I think about Mary and Martha? I think of them because of how similar and yet different they are. I also think of them because of how differently we see them. We get to see how these women live their life with Jesus. In those instances both Mary and Martha were faced with this type of faith challenge. Something they cared about deeply was being challenged. When Martha fails, I respond as if her concerns are unimportant. When Lazarus dies, I am deeply moved by Mary’s deep and consuming grief. Did you notice how both of these women were deeply hurt by the circumstances in front of them? Martha was hurt because she felt that Mary was abandoning her. Martha believed that her role as hostess was paramount to her identity. Jesus challenged her. Mary’s deep grief over the death of Lazarus overcame any sense of hope that the presence of Jesus should have given her. Both of these women stumbled in regard to faith. Why did they stumble? They stumbled for the same reason we do: God was asking them to believe His promises when what they cared about said God’s promises had failed. Martha stumbled because her self worth was wrapped up in how she could perform. Mary stumbled because she had lost her brother. What is the good news? The good news is a person.
Life is always truly found in the person and plan of God. However, there are many areas of life where we build (probably unintentionally) apart from God. This happens when you are saved at an older age. It also happens when a Christian believes something about their life that does not reflect the absolute truth of the Scripture. In either case, those assumptions about life will eventually be challenged by Jesus. He loves you too much to leave parts of our lives built on sand. We are told in Proverbs 3:12, “For whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” God does not correct our misconceptions because He is angry with us. He works in these areas that we care deeply about precisely because He loves us. He knows that building our spiritual house on sand (even if we are well intentioned) is a recipe for disaster. When we feel we must live by what see or think instead of by the truth God reveals, we set ourselves up for pain.
For example, when our life changes and those changes affect who we think we are, faith is a struggle. Think about a man who works with his hands. For years he has built things. It is his occupation. He has made Christmas presents for his wife and children over the years. He has served his church by remodeling the baptistery, redoing the nursery, and changing out the carpet in the sanctuary. Suddenly, he is in an accident where nerve damage takes away the use of his hands for this purpose. He may learn a new trade. He may pick up singing in the choir at church. He may buy presents instead of making them. However, we all know that these things are inconsequential to his main question: who am I now that I can’t work with my hands? His pastor speaks with him about being a child of God. The pastor encourages him to value himself because God gives him value. His struggle between the reality of what God says gives a person value and how he had gotten value in the past will be very real. Such a man knows what both Mary and Martha feel like.
Nothing hits us like death. It doesn’t matter if that death is a person or a much loved dream. For anything that is important to us to be suddenly taken away we feel a tremendous loss. When someone or something we love dies, faith is a struggle. Have you felt that struggle? The struggle comes when God’s truths feel like platitudes. The struggle comes when we feel anger toward God for taking away that something or someone that gave our life meaning. The struggle comes when we think that we understand what life is about and then find out we’re wrong. This is the struggle of Mary and Martha. This is our struggle every time we focus on something that we think is real and God points us to faith instead. It is hard.
Where is the hope? How do we weather a storm that challenges the core of what we are? Sometimes it feels like the very foundation of who we are is being challenged. We aren’t sure if the challenge is coming from God, Satan, or just circumstance. We feel like a boat without an anchor in a hurricane. Where do we find hope?
The hope that Martha points to in John 11 is the hope for us. Martha’s declaration of Jesus’ ability to save her brother was not just an accusation or even a statement of faith. She declares, “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” (John 11:22) Even more so, she hears Jesus declare a most profound truth. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) What was her hope? Her hope was not to be in a religion or even a body of knowledge. Jesus called her to place her hope in Him. She was to place her hope in the person of Jesus. This is what she did. She says in response to Jesus’ statement, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” (John 11:27) She does not question Jesus’ statement. She does not argue that His statement is confusing. Martha states her agreement. She declares that Jesus is her hope. The person who is hope gives her strength. That hope moves her to be one of the few who declare before Jesus’ own resurrection that Jesus is the Messiah.
If you think about it, this is where hope really comes from: a person. The hope we experience in the truth of the Scripture is not a dry and impersonal hope. It is the personal hope that the One who has made promises to us can keep them and also loves us enough to keep them as well. It is this hope of Jesus’ love that invites us to trust Him with our lives even when He is asking of us something that we aren’t ready to give. Hope comes from trust. When we trust Jesus we can take the curves, bumps, and pains of life. We need this hope when the very foundation of what we think is real is challenged. Here’s a simple example: as each of my children learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels they believed that they couldn’t do it. They each felt that it was just not possible for them. I always asked them to trust me. When they trusted, they learned that I love them so much that I would take care of them and would tell them the truth. This made them hope that one day they would ride without training wheels. This is what I mean when I say that hope must be a person. The hope that can overcome our false reality must be based on trust. It must be in Jesus. It is in Jesus that we find victory!
Something to think about,