One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.
“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Luke 8:22-25, NIV
What is faith? Let us look at it positively. The principle taught here is that faith is an activity, it is something that has to be exercised. It does not come into operation itself, you and I have to put it into operation. It is a form of activity.
Now let me divide that up a little. Faith is something you and I have to bring into operation. That is exactly what our Lord said to these men. He said: “Where is your faith?” which means, ‘Why are you not taking your faith and applying it to this situation?’ You see, it was because they did not do so, because they did not put their faith into operation, that the disciples had become unhappy and were in a state of consternation.
How then does one put faith into operation? What do I mean by saying that faith is something we have to apply? I can divide my answer in this way. The first thing I must do when I find myself in a difficult position is to refuse to allow myself to be controlled by the situation. A negative, you see. These men were in the boat, the Master was asleep and the billows were rolling, the water was coming in, and they could not bale it out fast enough. It looked as if they were going to sink, and their trouble was that they were controlled by that situation.. They should have applied their faith and taken charge of it, and said: ’No, we are not going to panic’. They should have started in that way, but they did not do so. They allowed the situation to control them.
Faith is a refusal to panic. Do you like that sort of definition of faith? Does that seem to be too earthly and not sufficiently spiritual? It is the very essence of faith. Faith is a refusal to panic, come what may. Browning, I think had the idea when he defined faith like this: ‘With me, faith means perpetual unbelief kept quiet, like the snake ‘neath Michael’s foot’. Here is Michael and there is the snake beneath his foot, and he just keeps it quiet under the pressure of his foot. Faith is unbelief kept quiet, kept down. That is what these men did not do, they allowed this situation to grip them, they became panicky. Faith, however, is a refusal to allow that. It says: ‘I am not going to be controlled by these circumstances - I am in control’. So you take charge of yourself, and pull yourself up, you control yourself. You do not let yourself go, you assert yourself.
That is the first thing, but it does not stop at that. That is not enough, because that may be nothing but resignation. That is not the whole of faith. Having taken that first step, having pulled yourself up, you then remind yourself of what you believe and what you know. That again is something these foolish disciples did not do. If only they had stopped a moment and said: ‘Now then what about it? Is it possible that we are going to drown with Him in the boat? Is there anything that He cannot do? We have seen His miracles, He turned the water into wine, He can heal the blind and lame, He can even raise the dead, is it likely that He is going to allow us and Himself to be drowned in this way? Impossible! In any case He loves us, He cares for us, He has told us that the very hairs of our head are all numbered!’ That is the way faith reasons. It says: ‘All right, I see the waves and the billows but’ - it always puts up this ‘but’. That is faith, it holds on to truth and reasons from what it knows to be fact. That is the way to apply faith.
These men did not do that and that is why they became agitated and panic stricken. And you and I will become panic stricken and agitated if we fail to do the same. Whatever the circumstances, therefore, stand still for a moment. Say: ‘I admit it all, but -‘ But what? But God! But the Lord Jesus Christ! But What? The whole of my salvation! That is what faith does. All things may seem to be against me ‘to drive me to despair’, I do not understand what is happening; but I know this, I know that God has so loved me that He sent His only begotten Son into this world for me, I know that while I was an enemy, God sent His only Son to die on the Cross on Calvary’s Hill for me. He has done that for me while I was an enemy, a rebellious alien. I know that the Son of God ‘loved me and gave Himself for me’. I know that at the cost of His life’s blood I have salvation and that I am a child of God and an heir to everlasting bliss. I know that. Very well, then, I know this, that ‘if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled to God by the death of His Son, we shall be saved by His life’ [Romans 5:10]. It is inevitable logic, and faith argues like that. Faith reminds itself of what the Scripture calls ‘the exceeding great and precious promises’. Faith says: ‘I cannot believe that He who has brought me so far is going to let me down at this point. It is impossible, it would be inconsistent with the character of God’. So faith, having refused to be controlled by circumstances, reminds itself of what it believes and what it knows.
And then the next step is that faith applies all that to the particular situation. Again, that was something these men did not do, and that is why our Lord puts it to them in this way: ‘Where is your faith?’ - ‘You have got it, why don’t you apply it, why don’t you bring all you know to bear on this situation, why don’t you focus it on this particular problem?’ That is the next step in the application of faith. Whatever your circumstances at this moment, bring all you know to be true of your relationship to God to bear upon it. Then you will know full well that He will never allow anything to happen to you that is harmful. ‘All things work together for good to them that love God.’ Not a hair of your head shall be harmed, He loves you with an everlasting love.
I do not suggest that you will be able to understand everything that is happening. You may not have a full explanation of it; but you will know for certain that God is not unconcerned. That is impossible. The One who had done the greatest thing of all for you, must be concerned about you in everything, and though the clouds are thick and you cannot see His face, you know He is there. ‘Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.’ You say that you do not see His smile I agreed that these earthborn clouds prevent my seeing Him, but He is there and He will never allow anything finally harmful to take place. Nothing can happen to you but what He allows, I do not care what it may be, some great disappointment, perhaps, or it may be an illness, it may be a tragedy of some sort, I do not know what it is, but you can be certain of this, that God permits that thing to happen to you because it is ultimately for your good. ’Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness…’ [Hebrews 12:11].
That is the way faith works. But you and I have to exercise it. It does not come into operation automatically. You have to focus your faith on to events and say: ‘All right, but I know this about God, and because that is true I am going to apply it to this situation. This, therefore, cannot be what I think it is, it must have some other explanation’. And you end by seeing that is God’s gracious purpose for you, and having applied your faith, you then hold on. You just refuse to be moved. The enemy will come and attack you, the water will seem to be pouring into the boat, but you say: ‘It is all right, let the worst come to the worst’. You stand on your faith. You say to yourself: ‘I believe this, I am resting on this, I am certain of this and though I do not understand what is happening to me I am holding on to this!”
That brings me to my final word, which is my third principle - the value of even the weakest or smallest faith. We have looked at the trial of faith, we have looked at the nature of faith, let me say a closing word on the value of even the weakest and smallest faith. However poor and small and however incomplete the faith of these disciples was on this occasion, they at any rate had a sufficient amount of faith to make them do the right thing in the end. They went to Him. Having been agitated and distressed and alarmed and exhausted, they went to Him. They still had some kind of feeling that He could do something about it, and so they woke Him and said: ‘Master, are you not going to so something about it?’ That is very poor faith you may say, very weak faith, but it is faith, thank God. And even faith ‘like a grain of mustard seed’ is valuable because it takes us to Him.
And when you do go to Him this is what you will find. He will be disappointed with you and He will not conceal that. He will rebuke you, He will say: ‘Why did you not reason it out, why did you not apply your faith, why do you appear agitated before that worldly person, why do you behave as if you were not a Christian at all, why didn’t you apply your faith as you should have done? I would have been so pleased if I could have watched you standing like men in the midst of the hurricane or storm - O why didn’t you?’ He will let us know that He is disappointed in us and He will rebuke us; but, blessed be His Name, He will nevertheless receive us. He does not drive us away. He did not drive these disciples away, He received them and He will receive us.
Yes, and He will not only receive us, He will bless us and He will give us peace ‘He rebuked the wind and the sea and there was a great calm.’ He produced the condition they were so anxious to enjoy, in spite of their lack of faith. Such is the gracious Lord that you and I believe in and follow. Though He is disappointed in us often and though He rebukes us, He will never neglect us; He will receive us, He will bless us, He will give us peace, indeed He will do for us what He did for these men. With this peace He gave them a still greater conception of Himself than they had had before. They marvelled, and were full of amazement at His wonderful power. He, as it were, threw that into the bargain on top of all the blessings.
If you find yourself in this position of trial and trouble and testing, take it as a wonderful opportunity of proving your faith, of showing your faith, of manifesting your faith and bringing glory to His great and Holy Name. But if you should fail to do that, if you apparently be too weak to apply your faith, if you are being so besieged and attacked by the devil and by hell and by the world, well, then, I say, just fly to Him at once and He will receive you and will bless you, He will give you deliverance, He will give you peace. But remember always that faith is an activity, it is something that has to be applied. ‘Where is your faith?’ Let us make certain that it is always at the place and at the point of need and of testing.
Excerpt from Spiritual Depression Its Causes And Cure by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
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