BULDING MY FAITH
The Apostle Peter knew, first hand, that faith could not stand by itself without the support of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness and love. These things would make his readers better people (II Peter 1:5-9). What kind of a faith did Peter have in mind? It was something he had to build up. He was not born with it. Faith is a human necessity. We cannot live without it. Every time we take a chance, we step out in faith. We make faith work and succeed by doing what we set out to do. Dormant or inactive faith bears no fruit (James 2:14). Faith is being molded by what we do (Habbakuk 2:4). Without doing what is necessary and right, faith has no leg to stand on. My first twenty-one years I lived on farms and I have learned early that we had to seed and plant in order to have a harvest. We had faith that what we put in the ground would produce a crop. This is true about everything we do in life. Particularly, when we want to be better persons, we must cultivate an active faith that incorporates the traits Peter used.
We all live on faith, but it varies with the individual. We do not have the same amount of faith; nevertheless, it is sufficient to function adequately. Jesus told His disciples that faith could move mountains (Mt.17:20). In reality, however, they were men of little faith (Mt. 8:26), not even as large as a mustard seed (Lk.17:6). The disciples knew it and begged the Lord to increase their faith (Lk.17:5). Peter, the strongest among the disciples, was unaware that he lived on diminishing faith. Jesus had a special prayer for him, to turn back so that he could strengthen the other disciples (Lk. 22:31-32). Jesus urged His disciples to pray so that they would not succumb to temptation (Lk. 22:46; Mt. 26:41). Satan was eager to poke holes into their/our faith so that he can shame His followers and by shaming them/us he shames our Lord and our God (I Pe. 5:8; Ro. 2:24). Satan knows how to divert us from the correct and hard choices we must make (Mt.16:23). Like Peter, we can be inconsistent in our faith (Gal. 2:11-13). Even after Jesus had entrusted His disciples to Peter, the Apostle’s faith had to be tested and so must we examine where our faith leads us (I Jn. 4:1)? Our asset test is Christ Himself. Those that place their trust and hope in the Lord shall not be shamed (Ps. 25:2-3; I Pe. 4:16).
The most difficult test is when faith appears to be at a stand still. We are troubled when we have no answers or solutions during times when hardships become impossible to bear. Jesus, Himself, felt alone when He was hung on a cross (Mt. 27:46). God the Father did not respond to the mockers and took Christ off the cross. Men had hung the Son of God and men had to take Him down. It is a mystery, but God does not interfere in human actions. Faith can only alter our direction and choices but not God’s. God and so has Christ done everything necessary for the benefit of man. Before God created everything, He has put enough ability into man to cope with the unexpected (I Cor. 10:11-13; Eph.1:4). It is here on earth that we must deal with the pleasant and unpleasant surprises. When I look back, I am overwhelmed at the hidden strength that was at our disposal during crisis after crisis. At the age of five, two of my younger brothers lost their hearing to an illness. When I was nine, my baby sister died in a refugee camp in Germany. When I was ten, a car took the life of my best friend. At age thirteen, my youngest sister nearly died from poisoning and became handicapped for life. I was fifteen, when a truck driver brought my ten-year old brother in and I watched him die in my arms. I was also fifteen, when my youngest brother became crippled for life. By this time, I had survived poisoning, drowning and being drafted into the German army at age fourteen. During this time, we had lost two farms and a business. For almost a year we were homeless and lived in a covered wagon on the road in Germany. At the age 21, I immigrated to Canada and presumed that I had escaped from the miseries that plagued us in Europe. Within one half year in Canada, I was disabled in a fire and hospitalized for 18 months. A new faith emerged and it began to shape me into a different person. I found a new life in the pastoral ministry. A lovely young lady did not mind my scars and became the mother of three healthy and God fearing sons. At long last, we were making out, better than most. At least that was what I believed was taking place. I was unaware that my faith had stopped growing and I was not ready to face what lay ahead.
I retired at sixty-two and one half. I had to wait for my wife to build up her retirement. I too helped out in churches without pastors. Of course, I expected a tiny feather in my crown, but what I got was cancer. After some 30 radiations, I was informed that I could not be cured. To put even more bitter spices on my faith, ultra sound informed us that our oldest son’s third child was deformed and faced an impossible life of suffering and surgeries. We were in unbelievable disarray and we prayed as never before. I begged the Lord to spare my grandchild from a life with physical limitations that would have been far worse than mine. The child lived only one day, but left an indelible memory for us. Much more than that, it became proof that God cared when we had reached our limits. He had shortened the days for our little boy (Mk.13:20). In a special and invisible way, He helped me to reinvent my faith. The events that could have diminished my faith, actually renewed and strengthened it. Hardships and suffering have added a new dimension to my faith (Ro. 5:1-5). When things went well and we did have material rewards that did neither hinder nor encourage faith, we were in danger of hitching faith to earthly health and success. During such a time, we were living without the need to apply faith or depend on it. It was as if we had hope in this life only (I Cor.15:19) and our favorable conditions were fulfillments of God’s promises (Heb.11:13). My faith has taken me beyond our earthly glory and the uncertainties which it has surprised me with. I could not have done it without the occurrences that helped me build my faith. I trust that my encounter with faith shall aid you on your way.