And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him – Hebrews 11: 6
Ever since I was a little boy, I have been enamored with sports. I have spent a significant portion of my time on earth playing and watching sports. My favorite sports to watch are those that involve my hometown Cincinnati teams. In fact, Last weekend my wife and I went to Tampa, FL to watch the Cincinnati Bengals play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This game was supposed to have been an easy win for the Bengals, but it was not easy at all. In fact, the game was not decided until the final play. It was an up-and-down emotional roller coaster. One minute I was jumping up and down in excitement, and the next I was so frustrated that I had to pray just to keep from having an outburst of anger. As I sat there fighting through my emotions and wondering why I get so stressed watching these games, the Lord took the opportunity to teach me something.
In that moment, it dawned on me that I was never nearly as nervous or emotional while playing sports as I now get watching them. I have played in games where my team won by a substantial margin and games where my team lost badly. I have played in games that came down to the last play or the final inning, and in several of those games I was entrusted to take the final shot or throw the final pitch. I can’t remember one of those moments when I was as nervous or frustrated as I sometimes become now just WATCHING other people play.
What God impressed upon me is that I wasn’t as nervous when I was playing, because I had some control of the outcome. It doesn’t require faith when we have control of a situation. We all feel a little bit better when we have our hand on the ball, and we at least get to try to affect the outcome. However, in those moments when things are completely out of our control and we have no say in the outcome, we feel helpless. It is in those moments that we have to trust God the most.
The bottom line is that, as human beings, we want control. We want there to be a formula that, if we follow it, will result in life working out in accordance with what we think we deserve. But faith is defined as “confidence in what we HOPE for and assurance about what we DO NOT see.” That definition does not say, “confidence in what we KNOW FOR CERTAIN is coming and assurance about what we have already seen.”
There are parents who work diligently to raise up their children in a Godly way, only to watch those children make poor decisions that negatively affect their lives. There are devout followers of Christ who obey his commands, and what they receive in return is rejection and persecution from the world around them. There are loving and caring people who devote their lives to serving others, who still have to deal with loss and disappointment in their own lives. In all of these situations, it takes complete and utter faith to maintain trust in God, and to not venture down our own path where we have the majority of control. It takes faith in the midst of the struggle to lift our hands towards heaven and to say, “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” It is one thing to trust God when we are still clinging desperately to our ledge of control, but it is quite another to have faith when we let go and feel like we are free falling towards the ground without a parachute.
I would be willing to bet that there are people reading this who have reached a point of desperation. There are people who have received poor news about their health, people whose marriage feels like it’s collapsing before their eyes, people who have lost loved ones, and so many more unfortunate circumstances of life that are outside of our control. Our natural tendency might be to just give up and quit, to throw in the towel on the good fight of faith. However, I want to pass on some good news today. It’s always those moments that we depend on Him the most in which God’s presence and grace are the most tangible in our lives. Throughout scripture we see people with their backs against the wall, who feel like there is no way out, and then God shows up in mighty ways. If you are going through a tough time right now, it’s not time to give up. It is time to press in. It is time to lift your hands up to God in faith and say, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” Your circumstances may have forced you to a place where you had to let go of that ledge and trust God. The good news is that you can, because He loves you and cares for you!