Be Faithful and Faith-Filled in Fickle Times

Each “breaking news” headline seems to communicate a new cause for worry: pandemic and viruses, politics and elections, civil unrest and rioting. Making matters worse, these swirling plights intermingle and mutate into what has become a tornado of divisiveness and relational destruction with a sweeping path of chaos. Even sadder, the Church hasn’t been spared.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be so.

We, the Church, should be different. We can and should be actively, engagingly living differently in these tumultuous times. In promising the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)” The way we live, the words we speak, and the behaviors we express should be markedly different than those of people around us who don’t know God, follow Jesus, and aren’t filled with the Holy Spirit.

Even so, we are still human, and we still live fully in this broken, dead, and dysfunctional world. So, how do we do it? How do we live, speak, and behave differently in this challenging, divisive season?

Insight from the Word

Two interesting passages help us to faithfully navigate times like this.

First, we visit the familiar story where, one night, the disciples left on a boat without Jesus to cross the Sea of Galilee:

And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, It is a ghost!and they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.  (Matt. 14:23-27)

We can probably identify with the disciples. They had been faithfully doing ministry and were on their way to more ministry. Yet in the middle of the night, they were far from the security of the shore and solid ground, and they had been subjected to a night of being beaten by the waves and the wind was against them. In the context of that constant battering, they saw Jesus but didn’t recognize Him. They cried out in fear. The first thing He said was to calm them and encourage them. “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Peter—never one to do things half-heartedly—put Jesus to the test, asking to be commanded to meet Him atop the water. Jesus agreed and Peter stepped out of the boat and did the impossible, walking on water toward Jesus (vv. 28-29).

Pause here to look at the exhortation given in James about faithfully walking through adversity:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8)

Understanding the wind and the waves

James explains that doubt has the capability to render an otherwise faith-filled person to be nothing more than a proverbial wave, that is powerlessly under the control of the wind swirling above and around it. The winds blowing today can control you and even tear you apart if you surrender to them. Looking closely at Peter’s experience, he was able to do the impossible when his focus was on Jesus. Yet, notice this provocative detail:

 But when he saw the windhe was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:30)

When Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he was able to be distracted by the wind. Immediately, his faith was replaced by fear. And he began to sink.

Our instruction is to seek God’s wisdom in faith without doubting because doubt and faith do not co-exist, and being distracted by doubt can destructively undermine your faith walk.  What really sabotages people in these moments is when they doubt their faith and instead put faith in their doubts. When that happens, the winds gust and churn, the waves careen and you sink.

How to Keep Focus

Maintaining focus amidst adverse circumstances is not impossible nor unprecedented. But it doesn’t happen by accident or passively. When doubt encroaches (and it will, because you’re human), you have to determine to keep your focus on faith. In this, you have the opportunity to doubt your doubts and actually put faith in your faith. Believe your beliefs! Remember that God is good, that Jesus is faithful, and that the Holy Spirit guides you. He makes His will known and makes it possible for you to follow Him. He provides relief to your anxieties and cares for you.

See how our spiritual champions expressed it:

King David –

I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set Your rules before me. (Ps. 119:30)

The Prophet Isaiah

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You. (Is. 26:3)

The Apostle Paul –

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Col. 3:2)

My prayer for you is the same for myself and my family:

Lord Jesus, help me keep my eyes fixed upon You. When the winds of circumstance swirl around me, draw me close so I am not distracted. Guard my mouth from speaking anything that swells waves of doubt in me or in others. Give me words of faith, of peace, hope, and love. Lead me, Lord, in a straight path of faith that points other people to Jesus, even in these chaotic times. I trust You, I believe in You, and I walk by faith in Your power.