It’s easy to trust God when the sun is shining and life works. When your prayers are all answered and your dreams come true. But it’s not so easy when storm clouds threaten or your dreams are shattered on the floor. Then you find out what your faith is made of, whether or not it’s solid enough to support you when there’s nothing else to stand on. I once read that the average Christian is only one smart skeptic or one severe trial away from losing their faith. I hope that’s not true, but I fear it may be.
Stepping up to the pulpit for the first time following the death of his dear wife, Arthur J. Gossip preached a message aptly titled, When Life Tumbles In, What Then? He didn’t pretend loss is easy or spiritualize pain. He honestly faced the deep questions that come when life doesn’t work. “You people in the sunshine may believe the faith,” Gossip declared, “but we in the shadows must believe it.”1 We have to believe God, he said. There is no longer an option. When life tumbles in, when the lights go out, there is nothing else to cling to or count on. Only God. You either trust him in the storm or you walk away. You can’t fake it when you’re lying flat on your back.
Has your faith been put to the test? Has life tumbled in on you? James talked about the testing of our Christian faith. According to him, our faith is tested through trials and troubles, which come in many shapes and sizes.2 What form has trouble taken in your experience? The death of someone you love, despite your desperate prayers? Disappointment with a church or Christian leaders – or God? Kids who didn’t turn out the way you hoped? Stuck in a miserable marriage? When life tumbles in, what then?
Peter said our faith is tested by fire. Like precious gold, our faith is refined in the furnace of suffering and affliction.3 It is tested and tried. Will it pass the test? When the heat is turned up, will your faith prove to be genuine? In the weeks to come we’ll be exploring this important subject together on Sunday mornings in a new five-part sermon series called, Stretch Marks: Trusting God When Your Faith is Tested.
We’ll be starting the series in the “faith chapter” of the Bible, Hebrews 11. From faith’s hall of fame we’ll be learning about the true nature of faith and how to trust God when we don’t understand what He is doing. From there we’ll be boarding a boat with Peter on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus invites him to take a walk on the water. Talk about a test of faith! What does it mean for us to live by faith, not by sight? Our next study will take us over to Asia, where Paul is pounded by painful trials, beyond the breaking point. What can we do when life gets so hard it is utterly beyond our ability to endure? In the fourth message we’ll walk with David through his dark valley of failure and regret following his fling with Bathsheba. If you’ve ever squarely faced your own failures you may wonder, is it possible to regain a vibrant faith after a colossal fall? Finally, our series will take us back to the amazing life-journey of Joseph, from the pit his brothers put him in to the pinnacle of leadership in Egypt. Long before his rise, however, he had to wonder, like many of us, how can I keep believing when everything I believe in lies shattered on the ground?
You’ll gain the most from this practical series if you read and study the key passages in preparation for each Sunday gathering. Below is the series schedule with pertinent Scriptures for each week.
September 10 – Sermon Title: Saws, Chains, and Swords – Key Text: Hebrews 11
September 17 – Sermon Title: Walking on Water – Key Text: Matthew 14:22-33
September 24 – Sermon Title: Death Sentence – Key Text: 2 Corinthians 1:8-10; 4:7-18
October 1 – Fresh Encounter Communion Service
October 8 – Sermon Title: Bouncing Back – Key Text: 2 Samuel 11; Psalm 51
October 15 – Sermon Title: Shattered Dreams – Key Text: Genesis 37-50