Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12
G.K. Chesterton told the story of a yachtsman who set sail from England, determined to reach an exotic South Sea island. But after many stormy days at sea, he sighted land. Beaching his boat, he ventured inland to find a pagan temple before him. In the spirit of Indiana Jones, he was determined to claim it for England so he scaled the walls and bravely planted the Union Jack at its pinnacle, only to discover that what he had scaled was the Brighton Pavilion on England's south coast. He thought he had sailed in a straight line, but in the storm he had been blown off course and had actually gone in a circle without knowing it. As David Wells put it, "He imagined that he was the first in the land, but it turned out that he was the last."
We smile at the comedy of the error, yet more than a few people I know launch out in the venture of faith, only to hit stormy waters and find themselves going the opposite direction of heaven's shore. Casualties of the faith. How do you keep from being a fatality in the storms of life? The following are guidelines that will help you when you feel tempted to retreat.
Guideline #1: Learn about the nature and character of God. Actually, faith rests upon the character of God. Faith comes by hearing, says Paul, and hearing comes from the Word of God (see Romans 10:17). What we know of God, we have gleaned from the Bible, a book that has been a map for pilgrims and travelers for centuries. If you believe that the Bible contains God's direction for living, you then are confronted with the issue of whether or not God will keep His promise. The more you know of the character of God, the greater will be your faith.
Guideline #2: Realize that winds of testing only strengthen your faith when you remain faithful and steadfast. Some folks become Christians with the anticipation that they will never, ever again face problems. They are the ones who become disappointed. Remember, God never promised to exempt you from storms, but to be with you and to take you through the storm. Literally dozens of promises in the Bible can be found to that effect. Notice that the storm strikes both the believer and the unbeliever alike. The one is not subjected to great force because of his wickedness, nor is the other spared because of his faith; yet God has promised to be with His children in the storm. That's the difference.
The Bible promises a blessing for those who are tested. James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote that "the testing of your faith develops perseverance" (James 1:3).
Guideline #3: Rest in the assurance that God is still in charge no matter how hard the wind blows. Now I freely admit that sometimes when the storm is raging, you wonder. The dog gets sick, your husband is out of town, the kids have to be taken to the doctor, the babysitter can't sit, and the car won't start. "God," your heart cries out, "why me?" Things must have looked pretty bad to Daniel as his eyes adjusted to the darkness and he saw the lions licking their chops at the thought of fresh meat—him. Please remember the storm will pass, and God will be there to welcome you at the beginning of another day. God will never leave you in the lurch. Here's the promise: "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).
Guideline #4: (Most important!). Realize the walk of faith is one step at a time, one day at a time, one problem at a time. God's will is like a flashlight in a dungeon: It doesn't shine around corners but gives you just enough light for the next step. That's as far as you need to go for today.
Resource reading: Philippians 1:12-30.