It is good to be a man or woman of faith. It is good to be a man or woman who regularly attends church, who faithfully studies the Scriptures, who diligently puts sin to death and who joyfully comes alive to righteousness. This is all good and very good.
But every now and again it is important to ask something like this: What does your faith do for you? In those times when life is difficult, in those times when sorrows are many and answers are few, in those times when life is not going the way you had hoped, the way you had planned, the way you had dreamed, what does your faith do for you?
What does your faith do for your when wealth gives way to poverty and abundance gives way to lack? Do you forget all of the blessings you have enjoyed and neglect to give thanks for them? Do you grow disillusioned with God as if he is no longer worthy of your trust, your worship, and your adoration? Or do you profess, with confident humility “I can be content … for I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
What does your faith do for you when you face the fires of persecution, when colleagues or family members or government officials harass you, disparage you, mistreat you, because of your love for the Lord? Do you respond to anger with anger and to insults with insults? Or do you respond peaceably, praying for that person and entrusting yourself to the God who judges fairly and faithfully?
What does your faith do for you when you are called to pass through trials? Does your heart rise up in rebellion against God that he has taken what you loved or failed to give what you longed for? Do you dispute his plans as if your will should always triumph over his and impugn his motives as if he could never gain glory through anything but your happiness? Or do you bow before him and, even through tears, submit your heart by saying “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
What does your faith do for you when your hands are emptied, when your mind is troubled, when your heart is broken, when your faith is tested? What then? Surely the Christian faith is meant to be displayed not only in the good times but also in the hard. Surely the light of Christ should shine most brightly in the darkness, the joy of Christ be heard most prominently in the gloom.
It is a good thing to have studied deeply in doctrine and theology and a great thing to have an extensive knowledge of Scripture. There is tremendous benefit in knowing creeds and catechisms and in reading the classics of the Christian faith. These are disciplines every Christian should practice with diligence.
Yet these practices are meant to serve a greater purpose—the purpose of godly living. These practices are meant to equip us to master every circumstance, to meet each one with a stout heart and a deep submission, with the joy of salvation and the character of Christ. These practices are meant to not merely inform our minds, but to train our hearts, to bend our knees, to lift our hands in worship even in the most discouraging of circumstances and even in the most difficult of providences.
And so I ask you to ask yourself: What does your faith do for you? It is inevitable that trials will come. It is inevitable that difficulties will make their way into your life. But it is not inevitable that you will pass through them well, that you will endure them with your faith intact and your godly character on display.
Those who pass through them well are the ones who have trained their minds to know what God says about his character, his will, his glory. They are the ones who have trained their hearts to respond to this divine revelation with joy and submission. And they are the ones who have surrendered not just their minds and hearts but their very life and circumstances, who have prayed “not my will, but your will be done.” And then, when the trial comes, when the light fades, when the rain pours, they diligently enact what they have believed, enact what they have professed, enact what they know to be true. They prove to themselves, they prove to those around, they prove to the Lord himself that their faith is true and deep, that it upholds and sustains, that with it they can endure any trial and emerge sweeter and better, holier and more fully devoted to God.