The final foreclosure notice. The unwanted divorce papers. The devastating prognosis. The unexpected pink slip. These are all just little pieces of paper with the power to knock your faith to its knees. You know God is able to deliver you and the Word of God declares he is faithful. But your mind, reeling from life’s blows, wonders, “God, how will you help me? Oh God, when will you help me?”
Have you ever asked God those questions (especially when your circumstances seem unjustified) and received an answer you didn’t like? Or, maybe you didn’t get a response at all. While we are waiting for the answer to our prayers, we have two choices–we can use our faith or we can lose our faith. Making the right decision will determine whether or not we feel peace or pressure in the midst of adversity.
If you focus on the negative report, you will lose your faith. Before Jesus’ greatest victory, he shared some bad news with his disciples.
Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. (New Living Translation)
The disciples believed Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. He was supposed to be the one who would deliver Israel from oppression. They thought he would re-establish the kingdom of David. How could the negative report be true? The disciples didn’t want to believe the bad news.
When you receive bad news or when you begin to realize that things are not going to go the way you envisioned, how do you react? Do you get angry and go into denial? Like Peter, we would probably see the bad news as an opportunity to use our faith to avoid difficulty. We would pray and ask God to remove the situation. Yet, Jesus had a different perspective.
Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (New Living Translation)
The disciples understood Jesus’ mission, but they didn’t understand his method (the how) or his timing (the when). Because they didn’t have a revelation about God’s entire plan of salvation, the process of deliverance (Jesus’ crucifixion) shook their faith to the core.
The disciples didn’t realize God would use something bad to produce something wonderful. They focused so much on the horrible present, they forgot about the glorious promise–Jesus would be raised from the dead! Even Jesus had to resist the temptation to lose faith. How did he do it? He prayed for God’s will to be done in spite of his feelings about the ordeal to come.
Luke 22: 39-43
Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. (New Living Translation)
As Jesus submitted his will (his natural desires) to the Father’s will, he received supernatural strength and faith to go through a horrible experience. Jesus’ disciples missed their opportunity to strengthen their faith because of their sorrow over the current circumstances.
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (New International Version)
Do you realize that excessive sleeping can be a way to avoid problems you should face? The disciples were exhausted by sorrow, which means a deep distress, sadness, or regret especially for the loss of someone or something loved. Their sorrow was a sure sign they expected Jesus to be defeated–they were already mourning. When we really believe God’s promises, there is no reason for sadness. We can wait with expectation until the very end no matter how bad it looks. We can experience joy in the midst of our pain because we are confident in God’s plan.
So how can you know and be confident in God’s plan? You can pray. When life knocks you down, it’s not time to get angry, be sad, give in to self-pity, or attempt to sleep your problems away. It’s time to PRAY. During our prayer time, God reminds us of his promises and gives us power to handle adversity. Prayer strengthens our faith, fuels our endurance and helps us focus on God’s final outcome just like Jesus did.
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (New Living Translation)