July 17, 2007

Heat-of-the-moment Faith

2007 1519 page6 caphis summer is the first time in my life I’ve spent a significant period of time outside of the Midwest. Yep, I’m a born and raised pure-blooded corn-husking Nebraskan. While (contrary to popular coastal belief and Hollywood stereotypes) we aren’t just discovering typewriters, eight-tracks, and Model T’s, life does move at a slower pace. Moving to Maryland was quite the adjustment. And that was before the snowball started to roll.
The first thing to go was the headlight switch in my pickup truck. What’s worse than being lost in a big city in the middle of the night? Being lost in a big city in the middle of the night with no headlights, of course.
The next day I was zooming back from the airport on I-495 trying to figure out why going 10 over the speed limit wasn’t fast enough. All of a sudden I heard a loud snap followed by a kerplink from behind me. Then I felt the back of my seat give, and suddenly I was driving from the backseat.
A short while later, I was backing my pickup into a parking spot adjacent to my summer home when I felt my steering wheel go stiff and my engine lose power. I started my pickup again and heard an awful grating sound (think fingernails scratching a chalkboard times 1,000). No big deal, probably just a fluke. I tried again, same result. What next?
2007 1519 page6It occurred to me during this 24-hour span of catastrophes that my faith was not where it should have been. I couldn’t concentrate at work; I lashed out at people and walked around with a sluggish demeanor. As my problems mounted up, I let the stress of the moment consume me.
The man shoved his way through the crowd until finally he was able to cry to Jesus. “[The demon] has often thrown [my son] into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
Jesus replied, “‘If you can?’ Everything is possible for him who believes.”
The man answered, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24).
I believe, too. I believe that Jesus died for me and that He has a direction and plan for my life. Like this man, I believe.
But being a believer doesn’t automatically do away with unbelief. I know that God has called me to Maryland this summer. Yet amid the turmoil of my truck imploding, I crumbled under worry, fear, and insecurity. I was tempted to complain—even though I knew God was in control.
That’s the unbelief. Despite having amazing promises of salvation and protection we still let day-to-day worries and fiascoes take away our joy. It’s easy to have after-the-fact faith. But God calls us to have heat-of-the-moment faith. This kind of faith does more than look back in the rearview mirror at the amazing things God has done in hopeless situations. This kind of faith stands tall during struggles and adversity because of the amazing things He will do. But this brand of faith doesn’t just happen—it must be purposely cultivated.
As my professor, Chris Blake, says, “Communication is the key to life.” Not only is it the key to life, it’s the key to our relationship with God and trusting Him implicitly. God isn’t our therapist or a police officer—He’s our friend. Our communication with Him should dictate such. Find how you best connect with God—by writing, walking, driving. . . . Do it deliberately, do it consistently.
It’s also vital to keep reminders of God’s faithfulness in the past to provide strength during current trauma. God provided the Israelites with such a reminder as they wandered the dusty, barren desert road toward the Promised Land. The cloud took them along a path that kept the Red Sea right in their line of sight. This served as a symbol for them of what God had done and what He would do. But instead of pressing on, eyes fixed on the Red Sea, they chose to focus on the desert sand burning their feet.
It may not always be in our ideal timing, but God is faithful. He’s called us to put our faith squarely in Him during the heat of the moment, even when our headlights are burned out and we can’t see where we’re going.
Jimmy Phillips is a summer intern at the Adventist Review and senior communications major at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.