I am so proud of my Church family. So proud of those who dared to go out on that limb of faith and believe God for the impossible. So proud of those who faced down their fears…”What if I stand in bold faith and declare, “I believe God for this healing.” “What if I hurt those I love by declaring healing and then it doesn’t happen?” “What if my credibility is destroyed by taking a position of faith, but appear to have been wrong?” “What if, what if, what if…”
I am so proud of those who were not intimidated by symptoms. Not intimidated by test results. Not intimidated by fear. Not intimidated by suffering. Not even intimidated by death. They are those of whom this world is not worthy.
I am so proud of those who pressed in and acted the way the church should act. Those who rose up in holy boldness. Those who laid hands on the sick. Who didn’t fear what people would think. Those who brought their faith out into the public arena and declared, “I’m believing God.” It was bold. It was heroic. It was faith in action. Good job, church.
Here’s the deal. It doesn’t always LOOK like our prayers have been answered. Well, we’re in good company. Hebrews 5:7-9 says,
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…”
I’m guessing that after Jesus’ cried out to the Father asking that the cup of suffering would pass by Him if possible, it might not have LOOKED like He’d been heard. When He was flogged, He couldn’t depend on His feelings. When the soldiers pressed the crown of thorns on His head, He couldn’t depend on how things looked. When He was nailed to the cross, He had to depend on the faithfulness of the Father.
As I process the passing of Tiffany Wendt, a dear friend who the church stood in faith on behalf of, I look to Jesus as my example. This passage from Hebrews teaches me some things I can hold onto:
God listens to the prayers of His people. Hebrews tells us that Jesus “was heard because of his reverent submission. “Was heard” means that the Father not only listened, but that Jesus was deeply heard. The Father listened intently. It also means that Jesus’ request was granted. You might ask, but how can that be? Jesus still had to suffer. He still died. It is only when we look at the outcome from heaven’s vantage point that we can see that our prayers and the Father’s will are both able to be satisfied. It is this eternal perspective that the Father did indeed save Jesus from death. It was through Jesus’ resurrection that death no longer had power over Him.
The Father does the same for us. He listens intently when we pray. We are deeply heard. We have His attention. God responds our prayers. He makes a way even when there is no way. When our prayers collide with His Sovereign will, He makes a way so that His will is satisfied and our prayers are answered. It just doesn’t always look that way this side of eternity.
There is purpose in our suffering. Hebrews reminds us that Jesus, “learned obedience from what he suffered.” The same is true for us. Suffering has a purifying effect upon us. I hate that, don’t you? That it has to come through suffering? It isn’t easy. But it is necessary. Jesus couldn’t bypass suffering, and neither can we. 1 Peter 1:6 says,
“…for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Suffering reveals the genuineness of our faith if we do not yield to unbelief. And it’s tempting to yield when it doesn’t look like our prayers are answered. It takes intentionality to believe God instead of our feelings or perceptions.
Faith acts as a shield that protects our hearts.
Our hearts are deeply in need of protection when we go through life altering trials. The enemy would love for some of his fiery arrows (lies) to get through to our hearts. He knows that his fiery arrows can cause deep, on-going burning pain. The good news is that we have a shield. The shield of faith. When we’ve had the breath knocked out of us through the death of a loved one, divorce, etc., we need to pick up our shield and keep it in place. That faith will protect us. In practical terms, we do this when we keep our eyes on the faithfulness of our God instead of our circumstances. When we can’t trust our own ability to understand, we choose trust in the One Who is trustworthy.
We will inherit what has been promised if we hold onto faith and patience. (Heb. 6:11-12) Some of what we have been promised we will see this side of eternity. Some we will see on the other side. It’s dangerous to put deadlines on SEEING the fulfilment of our prayers. Some of the great men and women of faith listed in Hebrews 11,
“were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”
It’s so easy to believe the lie that if we didn’t see the answer to our prayers the way we thought they’d look that we just didn’t pray hard enough. Didn’t fast enough, etc. But the heroes of the faith were commended for trusting God when things didn’t LOOK victorious. They went on to their reward. They DO see now. Someday we will too if we do not give up.
May your faith stand strong until the day that your faith becomes sight,
P.S. I didn’t realize that the last time I saw Tiffany on this earth that it would be my last time. If I had, maybe this is what I would have said:
Tiffany, thank you for all that you taught me. You taught me what fierce faith looks like. You taught me what it means to not give up on people; to see the gold in them before it’s visible on the outside. You looked me in the eyes in told me that God had equipped me to teach. You were one of those who gave me the courage to step into what God was asking me to do. You modeled what it looks like to suffer well. You taught me to believe God for the impossible. You taught me to go big or go home. You taught me what it looks like for God’s children to walk with favor upon their life. You taught me how it looks to live life fearlessly. Audaciously. What it looks like for a child of the Most High God to walk with a little swagger. And a lot of confidence. You brought so much color into our lives. You will be deeply missed. I love you dear friend. Until we meet again, Arlene