“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:16-21)

These are difficult days throughout our society and world. Faith in God is separated from everything. “Informed” people often regard believing, placing implicit trust in God, as an expression of superstition used by “weak” people. For the first time in any of our memories, it is becoming increasingly unpopular to place primary trust in God.

When faith is under so much stress in our society, it is easy for us to want to build defenses to protect ourselves. Rather than seeing opportunity in an increasingly hostile environment, we are tempted to huddle up with only us, see those who wish to be a part of us as potential threats, and cautiously welcome those who are totally in agreement.

Without realizing it, we are tempted to migrate toward a position of control instead of being a people of faith. We let “our light shine,” but too often the only time we turn the light of faith on is when we are inside our closed community.

What is the harm of exercising control rather than living in faith?

(1) People who are controlled are not people of faith. Thus when stress occurs, controlled people have little understanding of how to rely on God.

(2) God’s values in Jesus always have attacked faithlessness with love and compassion. Christians attract attention to God through their good works. (See Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:16.)

(3) Faith in Jesus advances through sacrificial service. Jesus became our Savior by dying. Christians of the first century often found life in him through suffering. (See Jesus’ statement in Matthew l0:38, and remember that the only use of a cross then was as a means of execution.)

Jesus died to be Savior. At his death, not even his disciples (who became his apostles) could see God at work. At the cross, to them, it looked as if Satan won and God lost. When Jesus physically rose from the dead, the apostles were elated—but they still did not see how God would use Jesus’ resurrection to accomplish His purposes. Yet, today we understand that God’s most significant achievement to date is seen in Jesus’ death and resurrection. What looked like defeat at the cost of enormous suffering was actually God’s greatest victory. May God always work through our suffering to produce His victories! May we dare to be a people of faith who live by God’s values even in times of stress!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 27 September 2007

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