Practicing for Failure
Luke 8:25 Where is your faith?
Sometimes I read a story and fail to understand the lesson. When I read this passage, I found myself wondering why Jesus chastised his disciples. They were all traveling across the lake when a storm hit and threatened to swamp them. Jesus had apparently fallen asleep, so in fear and panic, the disciples woke him up. Jesus got up, calmed the storm, and then reprimanded them. Where is your faith?
What? The disciples were terrified of dying in a storm and turned to Jesus for help. This seems like an appropriate response. What did they do wrong?
Here is where the disciples failed. When things got tough and the storm hit, their eyes turned from God. They planned to follow God, but when disaster struck, they panicked and their gaze turned from God back to self. This is natural of course, which is why Jesus took offense. Faith is not natural.
If faith is taking my gaze off self and turning it to God (Peter walking on the water, Matthew 14), then faith is anything but natural and must be learned before the storm hits. Waiting for the storm is a terrible way to find out if I have faith. I must learn faith by practicing it daily, in the small things, so that when the storm does hit, I already have it.
I am often struck by the conviction of those who insist that they will be faithful to God when they get out of treatment or jail. What are you doing today to practice faith, to keep your gaze on God? They plan to follow God someday, but today, they practice for failure. They plan to follow God in the big decisions, but in the little everyday decisions, they still follow self.
The lesson for me here is obvious. If I prepare for failure by pursuing self daily, then I will not suddenly turn my gaze to God when the storm hits. I will panic and I will continue to behave as I always have, following self.
So, what would faith have looked like if the disciples had practiced it? I think the proper response would have been to keep their gaze on Christ. Perfect faith would have been to remain fearless, even in the storm. Faith was not knowing that Christ would save them (most of them went on to die violent deaths) but rather, keeping their eyes on him, even in the face of death.
How can I possibly attain this kind of faith? Only by practicing it in the small things. When I cannot find my keys or I get lost, I need to turn to God in faith, keeping my eyes on him. Faith does not mean that I believe God will magically find my keys. It means that I keep my eyes on his will, even when mine is frustrated.
Then, when bigger challenges arrive, when my children struggle, I do not panic and demand that God fix the situation. I keep my eyes on him and ask that He work his will in their lives even through the tough times. Then, when the storm hits, I have hopefully practiced for faith and not for failure.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.