Worry & Faith: Part 3
When Everything Falls Apart
It is Good Friday. We have just come home from Church. We are looking forward to Easter.
But that first Good Friday was very different. The disciples were crushed, completely in despair, and afraid they might be next. The women were weeping and getting ready to prepare spices to cover the stench of the decaying body of Jesus. They had forgotten His words that He was going to Jerusalem and would be put to death and on the third day rise. Or they were confronted by all the things that called Jesus' promises a lie, and they didn't know where to turn.
Even worse in their minds, was what had happened to Jesus. They had thought that He was the Christ. Why then had God forsaken him? He said that Himself. He prayed, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" It was "when everything falls apart." That's what they were dealing with.
But this is exactly where faith comes into its own. The measure of faith is taken when it is put to the test. That is part of the definition. Faith is to believe the words and promises of God -- simply believing His words and promises. Not seeing. Not having it proven. Simply believing. It means in the middle of everything to say, "I know that God loves me and that He is faithful."
Faith means (Part 1) to believe the words and promises of God, (Part 2) no matter what. There are times I will ask someone in our congregation, "How's your 'no-matter-what' today?" And they will smile, or sigh. And we will talk. The disciples had more "no-matter-what" than they thought they could ever endure. And they would go through that "no-matter-what" until Sunday.
But they were disciples of Jesus, and Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of faith. He is the one who invented it, began the walk of faith, and teaches every one of His people, from the fall back in the Garden of Eden, to the end of the world. Faith is very specific. And faith has an object. It is to believe the words and promises of God. This is not a cliche, just some nice saying. And it is not an unanchored hope. It has to be bound to something.
The Word of God is the stuff of faith, and it is the stuff of the life of God. The Word of God is part of the fellowship within the Trinity, the communion between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And this is the pattern of life that Jesus knew before He came into the world.
When Jesus took human flesh He had to walk by faith. No longer seeing in the same way He had to hold on to the words and promises of God. Morning after morning He went to spend time in the Word of God, reading the words, meditating on the promises, and preparing for the work of that day. (Isaiah 50:4 and Mark 1:35) But faith has to be tested. Without testing it is not believing without seeing. Matthew 4 tells about the temptations. With each one of them Jesus responded by turning to the Word of God. He said to the first one, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)
At the cross Jesus brings the words and promises of God all the way to the most forsaken, condemned and darkest place. There, when His Father judged Him and was pouring out wrath and judgment, what did Jesus pray? "My God, My God ..." This is the beginning of Psalm 22.
Realize first that Jesus was praying, and was still believing the promises of His relationship with His Father. It is the ultimate persistence of faith, to hold to the promises no matter what -- no matter the pain, looming death, and fearful darkness. "My God ..." is a claim of that eternal relationship.
Then, second, realize how Psalm 22 continues. After the description of crucifixion it continues on. Verse 22 says, "I will tell of Your name to My brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise You." Right there in the middle of the suffering of the cross, Jesus claimed and held on to the promise of praising His Father and celebrating with us after everything was done.
Now that is the mastery and perfection of faith; to hold on to the promise even when God hides His face of grace and love and all Jesus saw was wrath, judgment and death.
But that is exactly the point. Jesus went to the most extreme place, to show to us that the promises of God hold true even there. Even in our darkest place we can trust those promises. Because whatever our darkest place is, however far from God that is -- Jesus went farther. He hung there in the darkness of "Why have You forsaken Me?" and He prayed and believed.
That's why Jesus is able to teach faith. He has been there. He knows the patterns of faith. He knows the promises of God and how to hold on to them in spite of everything. He knows how to guide you with the promises of His word. And He knows how to strengthen you in holding on to them.
"Therefore ... let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Lord Jesus, teach me faith. I need it a lot! You know Your way around facing troubles, holding on to promises, taking the words of God into Your soul. Remind me of the faithfulness of Your promises. When I am discouraged give me hope. When I forget, be my Shepherd and seek me out. Keep me as Your own all the way into the life that is eternal. Amen.
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Rev. Mark Willig
Pastor Willig is pastor emeritus of Friends in Christ Lutheran Church.