One of the great joys of attending chapel with the students is the deeper devotion time I am able to enjoy in both singing praises to God and reflecting upon some vast veracities from his word. In one recent chapel session, one of the students led this song, unaware that it was exactly upon what I needed to reflect at that moment in my life. We all have our ups and downs, and I was experiencing some discouraging circumstances, but this song spiritually shook me back to reality. Please consider carefully the lyrics that William Hiley Bathurst (1796-1877) wrote:
O for a faith that will not shrink, though pressed by every foe,
That will not tremble on the brink of any earthly woe.
That will not murmur or complain beneath the chastening rod,
But in the hour of grief or pain, will lean upon its God.
A faith that shines more bright and clear when tempests rage without;
That when in danger knows no fear, in darkness feels no doubt!
Lord, give us such a faith as this; and then, whatever may come,
We’ll taste even here the hallowed bliss of an eternal home.
Mixed in this song of unquenchable faith and conviction are encouragements to withstand any weakness, doubt or complaining, even in moments of grief or pain. I needed that at that moment, and maybe you, the reader, do also. These exact expressions from this lyrical author may serve as encouraging words in a selection of different situations. Whether we are facing sickness, persecution, discouragement or any general form of weakness, we may take comfort from these words, which point us back to God and remind us of what he has already stated in his word. How may we develop a faith that will not shrink?
First, focus on God—remember that God cares for us. In the face of his own points of discouragement with which he deals in his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul began such with the bold affirmation, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). This is why the apostle Peter plainly declared, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). One of the great blessings from studying the Psalms is to see the psalmist do exactly that—he pours out his heart to his God. Whenever we face trying times, we are to remember always that we serve a God who cares for us. He demonstrates concern for us. Even the Hebrew writer uses our Lord Jesus Christ as an example of one who is concerned about those who are hurting, portraying him in the following manner: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Then, his conclusion to those Hebrew Christians who were on the verge of quitting their faith was, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Why would he give such a charge? He did so because he knew they needed to hear that God cares for us!
Second, focus on others—look to the burdens of others. Whenever we face trying times, instead of looking inward, look outward. Instead of relegating to the attitude, “Woe is me,” take the moment to count your many blessings and realize that there are others who are far worse. What an inspiration Job offers—no matter what I face, I doubt I will ever face as harsh conditions as he faced, and through it all, he remained faithful to God. Thus, I can draw strength from such. I can begin to find others who need comfort, and I can offer such: “…that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). Not only will I forget my own problems, I will realize that I have helped another. My own problems diminish as I focus on others.
Third, focus on today—learn to live one day at a time. We all will face painful problems that will test our faith. When such occurs, focus on simply the day at hand. Far too often, we create exponentially difficult situations when we look to the uncertainty of the future. Our stress levels rise. The truth of the matter that all Christians know is that tomorrow may never come—our Lord may return, and we ought to prepare ourselves for such (cf. Matthew 25:1-13). Concerning our daily needs, about which the Gentiles would often worry (cf. Matthew 6:31-32), Jesus succinctly stated, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34). Even James spoke against the uncertainties of the future in James 4:13-15. Therefore, when we only concern ourselves about the present day at hand, our problems greatly diminish, and they become so much more easily manageable. This is the way our God intended us to live.
How do we develop a faith that will not shrink? Focus on God, focus on others and focus on the day at hand. Whenever we do this, our day will brighten, and our problems will not seem that severe, and with the aid of our Redeemer, we can overcome anything!