At the end of every August, our church gears up for one of the biggest events of the year: the church picnic. This is not your typical church picnic, though. Our two services are combined and moved to an amphitheater at a local park. Then we make our way to a nearby shelter to stuff ourselves with some of the best food in Ohio, made by some of the best people in Ohio. The day before this huge event, the weather forecast was not looking favorable. Thunderstorms were predicted for Saturday night through Sunday morning. With over 400 hamburgers and hot dogs on standby, and everything else in place, several of us on staff began praying. It’s not as easy as one would think to cancel this huge of an event.
When I went to bed that night, I prayed two things: 1) that the Lord would push the rain to the south of us and 2) that I would get a good, restful night’s sleep after a not-so-sleepful week. My body didn’t get the memo for Prayer #2, and I woke up at 3am without seeing the inside of my eyelids after that. Checking out the weather for an update, I was thrilled to see the chance for rain had plummeted from 80% to 30%. Yes! There was hope, so I continued to pray. But something happened during the next four hours.
By 7:30am, the chance of rain had skyrocketed back up to 70%, timed right with the picnic! With this shindig starting at 10:30am, and help arriving at 8:00am, we had to make a decision. Can you imagine 300 plus people getting caught in the rain? Not a pleasant picture! A fellow pastoral staff member, who is usually more positive than I am, sent me a text declaring it was going to rain after all. I called her Negative Nelly and was adamant it wasn’t going to rain. When I discussed the situation with our fearless leader about what to do, I recommended we proceed as planned. I told him it was rare I had this much faith, but we had prayed – and prayed hard – so I knew it wasn’t going to rain. Lo and behold, it didn’t rain the entire day! There was a strong urge to say, “I told you so,” but I resisted.
Fast forward a week to the moment I discovered we were low on communion cups for the next day. As I prepared the trays, I worried we wouldn’t have enough. What did I do? I prayed. Right before I made a hurried 20-minute trip, hoping the store would still be open at 6:00 on a Saturday night.
Where was the abundance of faith I had just the week before? I don’t know. That’s the big mystery of faith. Jesus told us if we had the faith of a teensy weenie little mustard seed, we could move a mountain and nothing would be impossible (Matthew 17:20). But one day we can have so much faith that we feel like we could literally move a mountain while the next day it seems like we couldn’t move an anthill with a tiny mustard seed. An often quoted verse describing faith, Hebrews 11:1 (NLT), says this: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
As I pondered this mystery called faith, a scene from the movie, Empire Strikes Back, came to mind. (Of course it would – I’m a Star Wars fan!) Luke Skywalker wants to be a Jedi Knight like his dad so he’s being trained by Yoda, a Jedi Master. Here’s what transpired after Luke’s X-Wing fighter (basically, a fighter jet) finished sinking into the swamp:
Luke: We’ll never get it out now.
Yoda: So certain are you? Always with you, it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?
Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.
Yoda: No! No different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
Luke: Alright. I’ll give it a try.
Yoda: No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.
Luke gives it his best shot at using “The Force” to pull the jet out of the water.
Luke: I can’t. It’s too big.
Yoda: Size matters not. Then he continues with a long speech about The Force.
Luke: You want the impossible.
Yoda proceeds to show Luke how it’s done and brings the jet out of the water and moves it to land.
Luke: I-I don’t believe it.
Yoda: That is why you fail.
By now you’re probably asking me, “So what’s your point?” My point is simply this: Faith is believing God’s Word and trusting He will fulfill His promises to us. We may not visibly see God answering our prayers or even working on the situations we pray about, but He is listening nonetheless. He tends to work below the water line, so to speak, where we can’t see anything until He completes the answer. Just like Luke Skywalker, we tend to rely on only what we see. Luke didn’t have enough faith in The Force (God, in our case) to believe it was possible for big, and even huge, problems to be solved.
I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about faith; that’s why it’s a mystery. But take it from someone (me) who struggles with doubt on a regular basis, faith is so much more than believing God is going to give us everything we ask for. Because, frankly, He just might not give us everything we want. Faith is believing and trusting that He knows what’s best for us and that He will fulfill the promises He has laid out for us in His Word, in His timing, whether we see it happening or not.