Sometimes it’s easy to have faith. It’s awesome when you walk in obedience to the Lord’s clear leading and things go well. A great example can be found in Luke. Very early in his ministry, Jesus came upon a fisherman named Simon. The Lord asked Simon to take him just off shore so that he could speak to a crowd from Simon’s boat. What happened next can be found in Luke 5:4-9 (ESV):
And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken.
Simon, also known as Peter, eventually became one of Jesus’ closest disciples. This early test of Peter’s faith ended well. He was instantly rewarded for his faithful obedience to Jesus. There was no doubt what Jesus was asking of Peter, even if it seemed like a futile effort. The immediate and likely miraculous result seems to have significantly strengthened Peter’s faith in Jesus.
Anyone who has walked closely with Jesus for some time will know that faith and obedience are not always rewarded so quickly. Sometimes the Lord leads one to walk a path of faith that ends up being a long, hard road. At such times, it’s common for a Christ follower to draw very close to God in his word, in prayer, and in listening to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. The faithful one may do so again and again over a lengthy period seeking to ensure that he or she is on the right road. And each time the answer may be, “Stay the course, this is the road I want you to walk, know that I am with you.”
At such times the Lord’s leading can be just as clear as it was for Peter. There may be no doubt at all in the heart, soul, spirit, and mind of the Christ follower. And yet, we are human. We are subject to discouragement even when the Lord’s leading is abundantly clear.
It’s at these times when we grow. It’s in these times when our faith is pulled, stretched, and tested. A Pastor I very much respect was fond of saying, “Faith that is not tested cannot be trusted.” It’s never easy when our faith is tested in this way. When the Lord’s leading is clear and yet things are challenging, we can respond in one of two ways. We can draw closer to the Lord, or we can walk away. I suspect that the Lord allows such times in order to strengthen our relationship with him. He knows that one who remains faithful under such circumstances will love God all the more. By standing firm in faith in difficult circumstances, we learn to trust God in ways that others may never know.
There’s likely a reason why Jesus wants our faith and trust in him to be tested and true. He told us time and again in the Scriptures that as his return draws closer things will get very difficult. In fact, concerning these times Jesus says in Matthew 24:9-12 (NIV):
You will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.
I suspect that Jesus allows trials and tests of our faith while we walk through life so that we will not be among those who fall away from him, who hate other believers, and who follow false teachers who draw people away from genuine biblical faith and intimacy with God.
Think about it. If everything God asks us to do ends with immediate and glorious results, how strong would our faith be when severe challenges appear? How likely would we be to remain faithful to God when true persecution befalls the Church? And what are the chances that we would be among those who help others stay strong in faith at such times?
If our trust in God is only as deep as the discouragement that we’ve had to fight off in times of trial, perhaps we can begin to understand why our Lord would have us face such times.
As noted above, we are human. We all face discouragement from time to time when the road of faith and obedience seems difficult and long. And yet, we have God’s word and the Holy Spirit as our strength and encouragement. Through prayer we can enter God’s very presence in order to express our deepest concerns and to ensure that we remain in his will. In addition to this we have brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we can walk the longest roads.
If you find yourself on a long and weary road that you know our Lord would have you walk, trust that he is with you and stay strong. If things are going very well for you right now, reach out and encourage someone who needs it.
Oh, Lord, may we be among those who’s faith has been tested and found true. May our trust in you be deep and wide. And may we be among those who stand with you and love others no matter what trials may come. Amen!