The Trial of Your Faith

Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbor; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush howling forth, and let the waters lift up themselves, then, though the vessel may rock, and her deck may be washed with waves, and her mast may creak under the pressure of the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway towards her desired haven. No flowers wear so lovely a blue as those which grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam so brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky; no water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity. Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God's strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too.
"The trial of your faith." 1 Peter 1:7 -- Spurgeon, Morning & Evening


Peace! Be Still!

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. 
And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 
He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 
‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” Mark 4:35-41
“They were not in this predicament because they had been bad. They were not in this predicament because they had made foolish choices…It was a result of their obedience that they found themselves in the eye of the storm. It was obedience to the word of Jesus that found them in the place that buffeted them and challenged them. And God is a God who for his own purposes leads his people into storms, leads his people into difficulty, leads his people into experiences that makes them wonder whether they have any faith at all.
Notice what they ask. This is the worst of all questions: ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?
We know this kind of question. In the midst of the extremities of life, when the waves break over the bow of our vessel, when we feel ourselves in danger of being swamped, we’re not always immediately going for verses from the psalms simply to remind ourselves of truths we’ve learned long since. We may find ourselves, like the disciples, inquiring, ‘don’t you care if we drown?’
The storm, which was the immediacy of their circumstances, so filled their minds that it came between them and the assurance of Jesus’ care for them. The storm…the chilling reality of it, the undeniable challenge of it…came between them and their assurance of Jesus’ care. And it caused them to lose sight or lose sound of Jesus’ word, because Jesus’ word had been straightforward in verse 35: ‘Let us go over to the other side.’
Jesus stilled the natural storm on the lake and he caused a spiritual storm in the hearts and minds of the disciples. He calmed the sea and he stirred them up, because they find themselves saying, ‘who is this that even the winds and waves obey him?’
In every storm and in every trial of our lives, there is an opportunity for us to wonder again with the disciples concerning the identity and authority and majesty of Jesus.
The early readers of Mark’s gospel, buffeted by the oppression of Rome…they didn’t need a Sunday school lesson that said, ‘Jesus fixed that and he’ll fix you, too.’ They needed the lesson you and I need: He is majestic, He is king, He is ruler of all nature, and whether by His intervention our cancer is cured or whether it takes us prematurely, from our perspective, whether the breakup in relationships is resolved in the way in which we would desire —the very storm itself is an opportunity for us to make this discovery: Jesus Christ is Lord of All, the ruler of all nature, and the majestic king."
Alistair Begg, “Jesus Calms the Storm”

Encounters with Jesus

Jesus’ Encounter with the Demoniac / from IF:Equip Advent Devotional

This is "Advent W1D3 - A Demon-Possessed Man’s Encounter with Jesus" by IF : Equip on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who…

Jesus’ Encounter with a Bleeding Woman /from IF:Equip Advent Devotional

This is "Advent W1D4 - A Bleeding Woman’s Encounter with Jesus" by IF : Equip on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who…


“The faith that Jesus requires of the disciples is to sleep and rise in humble confidence 
that God has invaded this troubled world 
not with a crusade 
but with a seed…
that will grow into a fruitful harvest.” 
— James Edwards


“The gospel will not be relegated to insignificance. If it were only a human work, it could perhaps be dispensed with. But it is something more than a human work. It is the seed of God’s creative, redeeming, and restoring presence. Its beginnings, to be sure, are inauspicious, but slowly and inescapably it grows and intrudes in our lives. Like a bush or tree, it becomes something we can no longer ignore, despite the many other things in life that at first seem more important. The transformative power of the gospel produces the qualities of love and joy, peace and patience, goodness and kindness, that we most long for, but that most elude us.”

 — James Edwards


On Parables

“An allegory can be understood from the ‘outside,’ 
but parables can be understood only from within, 
by allowing oneself to be taken into the story and hearing 
who God is 
and what humans may become. 
Parables are like stained glass windows in a cathedral, 
dull and lifeless from the outside 
but brilliant and radiant from within.” 

— James Edwards


“My experience is that people think that just opening the Bible and putting themselves in front of it means that the Holy Spirit will just drop understanding on them to reward them for having given time to it. And what Jesus is actually setting up here is an understanding of how we ENCOUNTER TRUTH through words. It’s not always immediately evident; that understanding grows over time. You have to know, the disciples remembered these parables later, and understood them at a different level than they did in the moment. So we should expect that when we come to the Bible, we should not put it in a category of discipleship tools that will be intuitive or easy. We should understand that like all areas of following Christ, this, too, will require effort, and patience, and careful thought.” — Jen Wilkin, "What You Talking About, Jesus?"/podcast on parables
What are parables and how should we read them? Listen to this podcast featuring Jen Wilkin at the Village Church. Thanks for the tip, Jenny Dowling Smith!


Forsaking all for the Bridegroom

“The questions posed by the image of the wedding feast and the two [short] parables is not whether disciples will, like sewing a new patch on an old garment or refilling an old container, make room for Jesus in their already full agendas and lives. The question is whether they will forsake business as usual and join the wedding celebration, whether they will become entirely new receptacles for the expanding fermentation of Jesus and the gospel in their lives.” — James Edwards


Members of a Kingdom Family

“The best commentary on these verses is actually the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. There Jesus tells about a young man who takes his entire half of the family inheritance and wastes it and himself in sin, but is accepted back into the family by his loving father. But the prodigal can only come back in and receive clothes, food, and capital out of the elder brother’s wealth, at his expense. In the story, the older brother hates it. But this is Jesus’ way to point out that he is the true elder brother. He willingly brings us into God’s family at his expense. He died for us. He was plundered for us. We sit at the Father’s table dressed in Jesus’ clothes, with His ring on our finger. All through him. We must celebrate and live out the fact that we are members of a kingdom family, and it is all at the expense of our big brother, Jesus Christ.” — Tim Keller


“Our Lord’s answer is simple, brilliant and devastating. Had the Pharisees grasped its significance and followed it through, their lives would have been completely revolutionized. Doctors do not visit those who are well, but those who are sick. Jesus was teaching these men important lessons:

He was rebuking their misdirected zeal. They were concerned for the glory of God and for moral purity, which was commendable. But God’s concern for His glory and for purity among men had led Him down through history to visit His sin-diseased people to heal them. If the Pharisees were really anxious to see men and women become holy, then their separation to God should have led them to a loving commitment to the people, to show them God’s way.

He was exposing their false holiness. If their so-called ‘holiness’ expressed itself only in criticism of sinners and not in caring for them, it was not the kind which God wanted, nor the type that Jesus exhibited.

Think of the modern-day surgeon. He ‘scrubs up’ before his operation. Why is he so careful to be clean? In order to help those who are diseased. True holiness is like that, replied Jesus. My holiness is like that. It is not contaminated by my eating with these sinners. Rather, it seeks to make them whole and holy too.”  Sinclair Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark

I am so grateful for Jesus, our Great Physician. I’m grateful that He is willing to take his clean, holy hands and dive right in to our gangrenous, sin-diseased flesh. He’s up to his elbows in our mess — cutting away, cleaning out, sewing up.

 Like the leper who falls prostrate before him, imploring him, “If you will, you can make me clean,” we kneel before him. And He is moved to pity, filled with gut-wrenching compassion, and he reaches out his hand and he touches us — he touches us in all of our messy, sin-stained state — and He says, “I will, be clean.” What a Savior!


Here is the audio of Kathryn Noon's message at the SweetMercies meeting on January 21. Enjoy!