**Originally Published 3 Nov, 2016**
Growing up I was exposed to my dad’s love of trains since he had several types of train sets. When he passed away, my brothers received the trains and set them up in their homes. I wasn’t as attached with the sets as my brothers, so he gave the trains to them. The other day, I saw one of my brothers and he was on the way to get some new pieces of track for his set. He showed me how the track had broken and needed a new piece. As I looked at the track, it dawned on me how the railroad tracks were a picture of a life of faith. Just like the tracks, we have two types of faith.
On one track, there is what I call the “exciting childlike faith” that we all begin with. We repent of our sin and receive Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. We experience a transformation in our lives and begin to see God show Himself in many wonderful and moving ways. He supernaturally provides. He heals. He answers prayer. He gives us clear insight. He gives boldness to witness and on and on it goes. God guides us and supplies us with everything we need. As our text tells us He tears down walls, protects us from our enemies, and women receive their children back from the dead. Wow! Exciting! Wonderful! We live our lives by simply trusting God to be who He is.
I’m mindful of the exciting time in the life of a retired Colonel I met and had the privilege to introduce to Christ. When I met him he had been told by his doctors, “you don’t have long to live.” The cancer you have is the very aggressive kind and it looks at best you have about 6 weeks to live. Devastated by the news, I encouraged him that God is able to heal and sustain his life. Let’s pray and ask God to bring glory to His name in this situation no matter what the outcome. I can testify God was gracious, for he is still growing strong 12 years later, since the diagnosis. The doctors are dumbfounded! He is rejoicing in the Lord and testifying to anyone who will listen! God is glorified! Hallelujah!
“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think…” (Ephesians 3:20a) That is one aspect of our faith.
Then, the second track is what I call the “enduring covenant faith.” This is produced when life brings its difficulties, discouragements, death, and defeat. The writer of Hebrews tells us there were others who were in the hall of faith – the Bible’s heroes – that we often don’t think about or want to think about. Those who were tortured, mocked, put in prison, stoned, sawed in two, persecuted and mistreated. Yet, the Bible says, “These were all commended for their faith.”
We get to enjoy the exciting adventure of “exciting childlike faith,” but we also experience the “enduring covenant faith.” As we walk with God, we don’t always get what we pray for. Instead, we experience unexpected suffering in order for God to teach us another aspect of our faith. For example, I was recently with a 22 year old man who learned he had brain cancer. I visited him to remind him that God loves him, and He is with him through his trial. We prayed together asking God for mercy and, perhaps in His sovereign power, heal him. With incredible sadness, I disclose he passed away two months later, though I believe God did have mercy on him. I must admit that was not the outcome I wanted for him. My faith was challenged to endure the outcome I hadn’t prayed for.
Over a year ago, I lost my daughter in love. I recall my wife and I fervently praying that God would deliver her. But, the outcome was the exact opposite of what we desired. What do you do when life presents unexpected hardships? I have learned you must lean on that “enduring covenant faith” relationship. You discover, as you go through those moments of disappointment in life, that God is building a deeper kind of relationship with you. If you are not cautious, you will believe the lies in your head saying, “I will follow you, Lord, as long as I am treated the way I think I should be.” This thought process is a contract faith not a covenant faith.
How did those before us handle the hardships of life that came their way?
The followers of Jesus held on to their “enduring covenant faith” relationship with God that withstands any difficulty. This may shock you, but God never promises that we won’t experience suffering, pain or problems. On the contrary, He promises the exact opposite. Jesus is the supreme example as He endured the cross, despising the shame of it. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3
Throughout my walk with God over the past 30 years – through several of ups and downs -there is one truth that has kept me confident through it all.
“God is Faithful!”
“Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” Deuteronomy 7:9 NASB
God never promised easy lives or easy deaths. BUT He does promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
As I lean closer to Him during the times I don’t understand, He grows my faith leading to a deeper walk with Him. In those times, He has strengthened me. He has sympathized with me. He has suffered with me, and He has saved me in many ways and times. He has delivered me from going back to my old ways of handling stress. He has helped me change my Stinkin’ THINKIN’ concerning trials and troubles I face. God is good!
Where are you in your journey of faith? Are you enjoying the exciting childlike faith or are you in a phase of covenant enduring faith?
My prayer for you and me is we will grow thirstier for a closer walk with Him.