03 May Fear Says “What If”, Faith Says “Even If”
Fear likes to ask, “What if”.
“What if…?” is a question that always pops into our minds. Especially now when we see that the COVID-19 situation does not seem to be improving, more questions will trouble us. “What if I cannot find a job by next month? What if the economy cannot recover? What if I get retrenched? What if I got infected with COVID-19? What if my family gets sick?” There are so many “what-ifs” that we like to entertain. And it doesn’t help that the news we are hearing every day can trigger more “what-ifs” in our minds. Consequently, we will all become highly anxious and fearful, if we fail to guard our hearts. And fear is contagious; when we become worried, we can easily pass on that anxiety and fear to others.
However, the remedy to fear is faith. Fear likes to ask, “What if”. Yet, what-ifs are mere possibilities, while God’s word and truth are certainly being fulfilled and will eventually see complete fulfilment. The strange thing is, people cannot find peace from God’s sure truths, yet they lose sleep over uncertain what-ifs.
Yet, faith says, “Even if”.
The most classic biblical example is Daniel’s three friends. They said in <Daniel 3:17-18>, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Now, this is amazing faith! Here, there are a few things about such “even if” faith that we can learn:
The “even if” faith means that we should not impose our ideals on God.
Now, one may expect that after such bold and godly proclamation by Daniel’s three friends, God would certainly act mightily to stop them from being thrown into the furnace. Yet, we know if we read on, that God still allowed the scary thing to happen. Some people cannot understand why God did that and may feel that God was unreliable in saving His people. We humans tend to have certain preconceived mindset about how God should help us or grant us our wishes, we have certain ideas about what it means to be blessed by God. However, God’s power and creativity cannot be confined to what we expect or imagine. Certainly, as what Daniel’s friends professed, God can deliver them, but God can choose to do it by helping them totally avoid the furnace, or let them go through it without any harm.
Indeed, to profess a faith that says “even if” is not easy, because it is always hard to surrender our desires, and we somehow feel entitled to certain blessings, thinking that God owes it to us to give us what we pray for, especially if we have been a faithful follower. Now, God does not promise that our feared “what-ifs” will never happen, but He promises to be with us through it all, as He did with Daniel’s three friends.
One key factor in building up a faith that can say “even if” is to be convinced of God’s character.
Paul professed in <2 Timothy 1:12> That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. The important words here are “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able…” Because of Paul’s trust in God’s character, he found strength to overcome all fears as he faced his sufferings. Even as we face the uncertainties posed by COVID-19, let us confirm God’s loving and trustworthy character. Ponder about what is God telling us and the world through this pandemic. God is giving this world a message, telling us what we should not trust and what we should; He is humbling human hearts, leading the unsaved to eternal salvation and leading the saved to further refine themselves to shine for the gospel. When we know what God is doing, that He is not rash nor unfeeling, but that He is a loving and righteous God who cares not just for people’s earthly wellbeing but for their eternal salvation, then our hearts will feel assured instead of fearful.
Next, we need to ask, “What stands in between fear and faith and moves man from one to another?”
It is the truth, and the intentional confirmation of that truth, that builds up our faith.
<Psalm 119:114> says, You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. Knowing and believing in God’s word builds up our hope and removes our fears. Yet, to believe in God’s word is not something which fallen man can do easily. Thus, meditating on and confirming God’s truth is what prayer is about. We can let God’s word be the very contents of our prayers. Some call it “praying scripture”. As you use scripture to pray, the words of the scripture will get deeper into your head and your heart, calming your mind and replacing anxious thoughts with reassuring ones, thus reinforcing your faith and giving you peace.
The “even if” faith is not built overnight but over time.
Since Day 1 of their captivity, Daniel and his three friends had resolved to keep themselves from defilement, starting with the food they ate <Daniel 1:8, 11-20>. But in fact, their faith would have been built even before their captivity. That is why they could stand firm even when they met trials. When we read about how the three friends could so unswervingly proclaim their “even if” faith, many of us may wonder if we can do the same. Even for me, I have to admit that such “even if” faith is easier said than done. Thus, let’s take time to build our faith, even before major crisis comes. We can use the little challenges we face daily to build a faith that can help us withstand a storm one day, if it comes. And as much as we do not enjoy trials, trials also build our faith. The more we experienced how God went through the flames together with us, the more we will be assured of His faithfulness and power. With more confidence in God, we will then be more able to profess the faith that says, “Even if God does not (do what I hope for), I will still trust in Him.”
Certainly, our God can stop this pandemic if He wants, God can make me pregnant at age 40 if He wants, God can make our children obedient and godly, God can take away the dreaded disease from my loved one, and if He wants, God can give me a job against all odds…, BUT even if He does not, let us still consider Him God and trust in Him. It is not easy, but may God help us and give us faith even in the face of fears. We may never reach a stage where we can be totally without fears, but even as we still have fears, we can choose to follow God by faith. Instead of focusing on the “what-ifs” that we do not know, let us focus on the God whom we do know!