Faith in the Midst of the Unknown

God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes He works in our lives in such a way that we do not really understand. Sometimes He answers prayers in a way that we weren’t expecting. And sometimes, from our perspective, we don’t see Him working at all. And in the midst of it all, we sometimes question God and wonder, ‘how are you possibly in the midst of this?’ We rationalize and say that “it’s always good to have a back up plan” and rely partly on God and partly on our own instead on relying completely on God as we are commanded to do. When we do that we are double minded between the world and God. In this hesitation there leaves no room for true faith but rather faith becomes a matter of opinion. We never are certain because we never quite give authority to our invisible God. This hesitation is the death of hope. It is so tempting and easy to take it upon ourselves and help God get His plans going instead of letting God lead. So how can we trust God when we do not know what the future holds?

I’ll tell you a little bit about my story. When God called me to Youth Ministry, I questioned God’s leading and thought His leading was ridiculous. My undergrad is in Gerontology, the study of old age, the only youth ministry experience I had was attending Youth Group as a teenager and to be quite frank, teenagers scared me! I questioned God many times trying to figure out what He was doing. Many times I felt very discouraged of God’s leading because it didn’t seem to make sense to me. But I knew I needed to obey God because He knew what He was doing. Abraham’s story of faith was one of the stories of faith that drove me to continue marching on.

As Christians, we have faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “…confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.” Paul describes the life of the Christian as living by faith and not by sight. In the book of Hebrews, faith involves active obedience; meaning you show your faith in God when you obey Him and where He leads you. Martin Luther King Junior said it well when he said, “faith is taking the next step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” It was by faith that enabled Abraham to overcome obstacles that from a human perspective were impossible.

God asked Abraham to leave his home and family. Abraham obeyed without hesitation even though he did not know all the details. He was called by God to go to a place where he would receive his inheritance although he did not know where he was going. Abraham left the known and familiar into the unknown and unfamiliar following God’s lead. He acted based on God’s promise alone completely controlled by God and his promise which, is what faith entails. Abraham acted upon his faith by obeying God and showing that He trusts Him.

Then once he arrived at the Promised Land, he lived as a foreigner in tents. Sometimes obeying God mean sacrifice. God sometimes asks us to give up our secure familiar surroundings in order to carry out his will. Even still, verse 10 tells us that Abraham “looked forward” to what God had in store. In the midst of the unknown, even if we do not know what the future holds for us, our faith gives us hope for the future.

I’m always marveled at the faith of Abraham and Sarah because where God led them seemed absolutely ridiculous yet they showed their faith in God even know they did not know all the unknowns. Let’s stop for a moment and put ourselves in the shoes of Abraham and Sarah. Who here has children? Who here had children when they were 90 years old and older? Who here thinks that sounds absolutely ridiculous? Well when Abraham and Sarah had Isaac, he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old. It’s no wonder Sarah laughed when she heard she was going to have a child. It is humanly impossible!

In the end, God fulfilled his promise to Abraham. He received the land and has descendants as numerous as the stars. (Pause). Despite Abraham not knowing what the future held, and despite living as a foreigner in the land God promised to give to him, he obeyed God trusting in His promise. Despite Abraham and Sarah being well past childbearing age, He trusted God would fulfill His promise. So although the future seemed preposterous, this did not alter his faith.

Honestly, there probably isn’t anything harder than waiting whether we’re expecting something good, bad or unknown. One way we cope is helping God get his plan into action or conclude what we are waiting for is never going to happen.

In Abraham’s case, God promised him the Promised Land and descendants as numerous as the stars. When he got there, he lived as a foreigner but he continued to look forward to that day it that would be inherited to him. God promised Him and Sarah a child even though they were very old. It was humanly impossible yet they looked beyond their humanness and trusted Him. Scripture doesn’t tell us that Abraham doubted God but rather obeyed without hesitation. He said yes to God’s leading with the drop of a hat because the faith he had in our promise-keeping God.

But if we are honest with ourselves, saying “yes” to God is really hard sometimes and never doubting God or obeying without hesitation is really hard sometimes. Perhaps we pray for something and God answers it in a completely different way than we were expecting and that is hard for us to handle sometimes. Or perhaps you pray and nothing happens. Or a loved one gets sick and the future doesn’t look good. Sometimes the future looks grim or it looks confusing and we wondering, ‘what are you up to God?’ And it’s scary not knowing what the future holds: whether it involves the world, our nation, Berwick or even this church.

But faith is so freeing. The African impala can jump over 10 feet high and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet in one jump. Yet, within the walls of a 3-foot high wall at a zoo, they won’t jump. They will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. We can be like that African Impala sometimes. We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, we don’t know exactly what is going to happen in the next hour. Like the African Impala who will not jump where they cannot see, fear can make us freeze when we do not know what is going to happen next. Faith is so freeing! Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see. …confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.” Living by faith and not by sight. In the book of Hebrews, faith involves active obedience; obedience means trust. Faith is taking the next step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Frankly, sometimes God’s leading can seem preposterous, but faith gives reason to trust our promise keeping God. I want everyone, if you can, to put your hand on your chest. We probably all feel the same thing. Your heartbeat. The human heart beats about 60 to 100 times per minute and each of those beats is a gift from God. God woke you up those morning. That means God has a plan for you today. God has a purpose for you today. Paul tells us that God chose us before the foundations of the world. He chose you. He didn’t have to create you but He did. Isn’t it such a comfort to know you are chosen by God. So if we are chosen by God and He has breathed life to us and has given us the gift of a heartbeat today, that means God’s promises apply to us too.

If God promises He has plans for you, plans for you to prosper, not to harm you but plans to give you a hope and a future, then he does. If God promises He will comfort you when you’re down, then He will. If God promises He listens to your prayers, then He does. If God promises that if you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you, then He does every time. The Bible is filled with promises from God to us. Our God is an unchanging God so why is it we doubt Him sometimes and doubt His leading? Our humanness gets in the way sometimes when we try to help God along with His plan; but that only shows our lack of trust in Him.

We can learn from Abraham and the faith He had in God; he was always mindful that God always keeps His promises, no matter how ridiculous they may sound. So when God leads us somewhere, and it seems ridiculous, that is when our faith in God will shine through. Instead of humming and hawing like I did when God called me to youth ministry as I questioned His leading, we should remind ourselves of Abraham’s faith who obeyed God without hesitation. Abraham obeyed God because he had faith knowing God knew what He was doing despite Abraham perhaps not completely understanding.

Some days, I still question God’s leading into youth ministry but what I know now is God has brought teenagers to Evan and I who may not have heard of Jesus otherwise. Even if that is the only reason, and I never know all the details of what God is up to, I’m convicted that I ever mistrusted God’s leading. Even though it seemed ridiculous at the time, He has brought me to and through that experience trusting Him more than ever before.

Our willingness to obey God is dependent on how much we trust Him. Even though Abraham was not readily seeing what was being promised to him, what kept him going was faith and the hope that God would fulfill his promises. What kept him going was confidence in God who does and always will keep His promises. God is faithful and unchanging; if he kept His promises then, He does now as well.

As I mentioned in the beginning, sometimes He works in our lives in such a way that we do not really understand. And that is okay. He is God and we are not. Sometimes He answers prayers in a way that we weren’t expecting and then we look back and the pieces start to fall together. And sometimes, from our perspective, we don’t see Him working at all and if that’s the case perhaps we need to check our priorities and ask ourselves, am I God over my situation or am I letting God be God?

So how can we trust God when we do not know what the future holds? God works in mysterious ways and that’s okay. Because we have a God who can and does the impossible. And we also have a trustworthy God who always keeps His promises no matter how preposterous the future may seem. We have faith. Faith allows us to break from the chains of fear knowing we can trust our future as a church, as a community and as Christ’s disciples by trusting in our promise keeping God.


He Already Knows What He Is Going To Do

I recently heard a 6-year old boy talk about how God is in the snow. I’ve never thought about that before. I don’t know about you but when it is “spring” and it looks like winter and I have to play Russian Roulette when I leave my driveway because I can’t actually see if any cars are coming, I just kindda dart and hope there isn’t anything coming. I’m sick of the snow. But in the mind of this 6 year old, God is in the snow. And He isI always knew and believed in my theology that God is everywhere but when I see snow, my mind has never gone to how God is in the snow. Knowing and believing that God is everywhere and in everything should give us this ultimate faith where God is in everything, in every circumstance, in every situation, in every trial, in every church, in the heart every believer. This ultimate faith where we never doubt because we have the comfort in knowing the truth that He will never leave us or forsake us but yet sometimes we do not trust God fully.

I am currently in ministry in a church where the average age is 70 and as I look out into the congregation, it is a sea of gray hair scattered in the pews that hold 250 people with about 40-50 present each Sunday. We also have a vision of having more young people in our congregation, as is the case with many churches in the Maritimes. So it has been my prayer for many months now that God would help our church bring young people to our church. It seemed God was silent. He wasn’t doing anything. So the attitude of my prayers shifted slowly from “excited to see God work” to “hoping” God would answer my prayer.

To me, it seemed unlikely that young people would want to come inside a church filled with older adults, an organ and old hymns. But a few Sundays ago, there were three young people in the church. To be quite frank, I was surprised. I was convicted by my reaction because my surprise meant I did not have confidence that God would work. I “hoped” God would answer my prayer instead of have confidence that He would. When I was praying all those months, it seemed like God was silent so the enemy started planting thoughts in my mind and I began to doubt my prayer. Well maybe it isn’t realistic for young people to come to this church. Maybe this church doesn’t have a future. Maybe this is it.

That day when Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee, people began to follow him to the other side because they saw all that he was doing, the healing and the miracles. And when Jesus looked up He saw all the people coming toward Him. John 6:10 about five thousand men were there. Now that’s just men. During the time that this would have been recorded, it was quite common to document events by mentioning only the men because women and children had a very low status in society during this time. So if this is the case, this is not taking into account women and children, which leaves the possibility of there being approximately 20,000 people there. Just to put that into perspective for you, that’s all the students at Acadia University and Dalhousie University combined. Or all the people who live in Wolfville, Gaspereau Valley, Greenwich, New Minas, Kentville and Coldbrook combined. 20,000 people. Some argue that it could have been just 5,000 people and if so, that is still staggering.

So after seeing all of these people, Jesus asks Phillip, “where shall we buy food for these people to eat?” And Phillip was a good one to ask because he was from Bethsaida, which was approx. nine miles away. A fishing town so Phillip would know where to get the food. But Jesus didn’t actually want to know where to get food. Verse 6 tells us He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

God does that a lot. He puts us in situations and circumstances to test us. It may be a financial situation that seems impossible. Or we may have nothing lined up yet after graduation. Or it may be the future of a church that seems grim. Or maybe you have 20,000 people in front of you and five small barely loaves and two small fish to feed them all. God puts us in those situations to test us, to see how far we will trust Him. He asks, “what are we going to do now?”

Philip responds, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” What a human thing to say. Jesus asked for a human solution knowing there was none highlighting the miraculous and powerful act He was about to do. The wheels starting turning in Phillip’s head as he began to assess the probable cost of feeding so many people. But Jesus points out here that financial resources are not the most important ones.

God taught me this lesson recently when I went to the dentist and learned I had to get my wisdom teeth out. Since the Acadia plan only covers 50% of wisdom teeth extraction, it would cost me some money. As I was talking to the receptionist, she quotes me at $737. I politely said, “okay!” and began to walk home. But in my mind, I was budgeting like crazy and I could feel my anxiety rising as I tried to figure out where the resources were going to come from. During my 15 minute walk home, I was dwelling and brainstorming on how “I” would make this happen. Then I got a call from the Dentist Office. It was the receptionist and she said, “I’m so sorry Kayla, I misquoted you. You would only have to pay $244.” I thanked her over and over and then hung up. As I hung up, God began to convict me. I did what Phillip did. The wheels began to turn in my head as I began to assess the probable cost. But financial resources are not the most important ones.

Like Phillip, I didn’t trust God to provide the resources. How often does God ask us what we are going to do and we often respond by doubting and taking matters into our own hands. We forget that God is everywhere, in every situation, in every circumstance, in every trial, in every church, in the heart every believer. We can get so caught up in this world and our busy culture that we even forget that God is even in the snow. Sometimes God asks us only to test us for he already has in mind what he is going to do.

We are all a praying people. But I bet you can all agree with me when I say sometimes we pray about the same thing for a long time and we don’t see anything happening. We don’t see God moving in the situation or in the person and the enemy likes to plant thoughts in our mind to change our attitude. It’s a very human thing to do. Like Phillip, our automatic response sometimes can be on the flesh. What can “I” do. How much is this going to cost. Where am I going to get the resources? But like Jesus taught Phillip that day, as children of God, we do not have to depend on human resources. We have a divine resource that we can depend on.

As disciples of Christ, He is constantly growing up and stretching us. In the midst of all that, sometimes it really sucks. Sometimes we wonder what the heck God is doing and even question how God can be a part of it all. Sometimes nothing seems to make sense. Sometimes He puts us through things in life to see how much we truly trust Him, how much we will truly trust Him in the midst of it, how quick we are to rely on our own understanding. God stretches our souls sometimes and it hurts and its rough and its frustrating. But the soul is like a violin string; it makes music only when its stretched. What a beautiful thing. God brings us through trusting Him more than ever and depending on Him more than ever. In the midst of stretching our soul, He is bringing us closer to Him.

So when I was praying all those months for God to bring young people, and as my attitude of that prayer began to change from “excited to see God work” to “hoping God would work”. God was using this to test me because He already had in mind what He was going to do. God was already working in the hearts of these young people. God gave them the drive and the curiosity to see what was going on inside that church that morning. And there I sat, surprised by God working. God works despite us, even when we do not put our full trust in Him.

Since we are all human, I think we can all agree that we would have had the same reaction as Phillip. Whether you believe there was five thousand that day or 20,000, how would you respond if Jesus asked you, “where are we going to buy bread for these people to eat?” If I’m going to be honest with you and with God, I would have probably have said, “Well, geez! Bethseida is like nine miles away so that’s going to take forever to get food travelling there and back! And all we have is five tiny loaves of bread and a two fish which will feed like three people! So I don’t know!” Then I would probably proceed by budgeting in my head and letting my anxiety rise.

But really, being in a relationship with someone means you also trust that person. Being Christians means we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Furthermore, being in a relationship with Jesus Christ means we have direct access to God. We have divine leading in our lives. The only thing eternal is God and if we truly trust Him, we depend on Him in all circumstances. The wisdom of the Proverbs in chapter 3:5-6 tells us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” A deeper look at those two verses tells us that means a deep reliance on God, and settled confidence in His care and His faithfulness to His Word. “Your own understanding” is often what humans perceive to be the right course of action. Trying to figure things out on our own. It doesn’t make any sense when you stop to think about it. Trying to figure things out on our own when we have the glorious gift of a never failing, ever-trustworthy faithful God who already has in mind what He is going to do.

So maybe you are in this place now and if you’re not, its guaranteed you will be in the future. If you are in a place where God is asking you, “what are we going to do?” God is asking because He is testing you. But be comforted in knowing He already knows what He is going to do. He wants to see how you will respond. He wants to see how far you are willing to trust Him. He wants to see how much you truly rely on Him. Remember, He’s in the snow. He’s everywhere, in every situation, in every believer’s heart. He is already working. He already knows what He is going to do. He just wants to see if you will trust Him in that truth. God seems like He is quiet sometimes, but remember, the teacher is always quiet during a test.