Journeys of Faith—Success or Failure

It is a strange dilemma for all humans, the problems of life in a fallen world. For the non-Christian the problems must be faced through human ingenuity. The Christian, when facing problems, in the fallen world, is called to handle the problem through faith, faith in God. Jesus said a very important truth about life on earth.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,” John 16:33.

For Christians, Jesus gives three powerful promises of truth.

  1. In all He spoke, as recorded in the gospels, only in Him, we have peace!
  2. He told His followers, be real, in the world you will have tribulation. For the Christian, the problems of life in the world are ratcheted-up a notch. We will face the normal problems of life every human face, plus the hate and tribulation brought against us for the name of Jesus.
  3. Amid these promises of warning, He gives us a command to, “Be of good cheer!”  In other words, don’t despair, don’t worry about worldly problems and tribulations. His brother James understood these words. He said, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience,” James 1:2-3.
  4. The final promise of the Lord, in John 16:33, gives us the hope and reason to handle the promised fact of tribulation and problems with joy is, He has overcome the world. The Christian can now go through all of life’s difficulties, with the joy of faith, in Christ. The reason is, He has conquered all of life’s hardships and tribulations. He has the strength and wisdom to get us through them.

Life is a strange existence. Here we live and breathe, sometimes we live it without a care in the world. When suddenly, our timeline gets interrupted with a problem.  Maybe, we get a bad health diagnosis. In hostile lands, tribulation begins against Christians. Perhaps, we lose our job. Yes, an event begins in our lives we wish would never have happened.

This brings us to a verse concerning life’s events.

“The end of a thing is better than its beginning,” Ecclesiastes 7:8.

Solomon is teaching a life truth concerning disconcerting life events. They have a beginning, a middle and an end point. On the timeline of the problem, the walk to the end of the matter, may be a short distance or an extremely long distance of endurance to its end. Solomon is also talking about matters, which end with a better result than what we had before the matter began.   Some matters do not end up well. Jesus taught this very strongly.

“There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish,’” Luke 13:1-5.

Unfortunately, there are matters, which do not end better than their beginning. Therefore, what things or matters is the Holy Spirit teaching you, which will end in a superior way than before they begin? They are the matters which God allows into our lives according to His sovereign will.

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1Corinthians 10:13

For what reason or reasons would God allow “temptations” to begin in our lives and overtake us?

Reason One: Temptations are allowed for our discipline.

“You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the  chastening of the  Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For  whom the  Lord  loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives,’” Hebrews 12:4-6.

Reason Two: Temptations conform us into the image of Christ.

“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren,” Romans 8:29.

Reason Three: Temptations bring us into right thinking.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” Romans 12:2.

Reason Four: Temptations can bring glory to God; as taught in the life of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

“Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it,’” John 11:3-4.

Perhaps, there are more reasons which the Sovereign Lord allows “temptations” to overtake us. Nevertheless, let us look at a fifth reason. Which I believe is the foremost purpose.

Reason Five: Temptations can build up or strengthen our faith.

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith,” Romans 1:17.

Without a doubt, every Christian will confess we must live by faith! However, our track record for doing this is probably on the fail side. We are learning reasons why God allows matters to come into our lives which we personally don’t like. The fifth reason was to build up our faith. Romans 1:17, teaches us, God allows many matters to enter our lives. How does this verse teach this? Please notice the words, “From faith to faith.”  What does this mean? Is there more than one type of faith? It simply means, there is only one faith, but there are many matters or instances in which the implementation of our faith must be applied. This verse also states an important glossed over truth for the use of faith in life’s matters. When we handle our problems by faith, we allow God to enter in and reveal His righteousness. In other words, we allow God to be God in our situation through faith. God’s righteousness is revealed by our faith, which trusts in His right way of dealing with and enabling us to get through the problem or matter. 

We have learned, concerning life’s matters; on the timeline of our life, matters have a starting point, a middle journey of living in it and an eventual end. For the unbeliever, the journey through a matter must be accomplished by personal strength, ingenuity and worldly wisdom. The Christian is to go through a matter, not only with their strength and wisdom, but by faith in God to work His wonders to deliver and bring the matter into a successful conclusion. All believers are called to glorify God by faith in all of life’s moments.

Many of us face the beginning of a matter with faith in God and His promises. We start out well; however, as the journey begins, and we come into the middle or heart of the matter, our faith falters, strength weakens, and our wisdom fails. The power of our problem becomes overwhelming and overshadows God and soon becomes our god. We lose faith in God and crippling despair sets in. Perhaps, the disease becomes tragic in scope; the financial burdens are crushing, and family problems keep increasing. The scope of these tragedies accelerates onward and downward. All these events (and many other events) which do not go away shout at you, there is no hope for you in God. Therefore, after starting out faithfully, the apex of the problem causes a failure in faith, which many do not recover from.

The Apostle Peter was a person who could enter a matter with great faith. Once he saw Jesus walking on water during a storm. He cried out to Jesus, let me come to you. Jesus said, “Come.” With strong faith, the beginning of Peter’s walking on water started well. However, “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30) Yes, in the middle of the matter, Peter lost faith and began to sink. He did not have the stamina required, by faith, to get to the end of the walk to Jesus. Jesus concurs with this assessment of Peter. He said, “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31) The point of this account is poignant. If Peter, walking through the storm to the visible Jesus, could lose his faith, so can we, who cannot see Jesus visibly. The middle of the faith walk is the make or breaking point of faith. Peter did not have a faith of stamina to get to the end and the better part waiting there.

I am not trying to pick on Peter. However, let us examine another matter in the life of Peter, which had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Unfortunately, Peter teaches us the problem of losing faith in the middle of the event. It was unbeknown to the disciples of Jesus; they were entering into their last supper with Him. During the supper, the Lord warns the disciples they will stumble and desert Him. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered,’” Mark 14:27.

Peter, upon hearing this, became indignant, thinking not me. At this point, he enters the beginning of a trying circumstance and makes a bold declaration of faith to Jesus. “Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be,” Mark 14:29. Jesus didn’t buy Peters bold assertion. “Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times,’” Mark 14:30. Peter is  more indignant about what Jesus declares to him. He ups his faith declaration, “But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”  Mark 14:31. Let us fast-forward to the middle of the matter with Jesus’s arrest and Peter hiding in the crowd against Jesus.

Denial One: “Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, “I am not.” John 18:17.

Denial Two: “Now Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. Therefore they said to him, ‘You are not also one of His disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, “I am not!” John 18:25.

Denial Three: “Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, ‘Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are saying!’ Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed,” Luke 22:59-60.

The Lord’s Response to Peter’s failure of faith: “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.”

I Don’t Know Him!

Peter’s Response to His Lost Faith:“Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times. So Peter went out and wept bitterly,” Luke 22:61-62. 

Once again, Peter lost his faith in the middle of the matter. The biggest culprit of his failure was fear, the fear for the safety of his life. Peter, like most of us, start out well, but lose faith in the middle of the circumstances of problems which enter our timeline. Peter lacked something to carry him through the problem. He did not know how to exert faith in the middle trials of the event. Jesus teaches the problem of the quick-start faith and the failure of faith in the middle of the action.  “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41. Peter had a willing spirit to live by faith, but his flesh was weak in accomplishing it. He knew how to begin, but the wisdom in understanding how to get to the end and the means to maintain faith through to the end was lacking. Perhaps, Peter did not know how to endure through the situations he was in.

Paul, wrote about this problem in Hebrews, giving the solution to it.

“For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise,” Hebrews 10:36.

Faith requires conviction, strength and the ability to endure for what you believe. Therefore, God allows faith to faith circumstances to come into our life in order to strengthen our faith in conviction and endurance. Faith is like a vow. A vow is a promise to do something. When you vow to God, He expects you to do it. Likewise, so is faith, God expects us to live by it.

“When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed,” Ecclesiastes 5:4.

Likewise, when we enter a matter by faith, God expects us to continue to the end in faith. If we do not continue in faith but falter, we show God how foolish we are, causing Him displeasure.

It is interesting and sad to see how Peter faltered. We can only wonder what was going on in his heart since he was with Jesus, constantly for three years, seeing all His miracles and hearing His wisdom. At two of the most critical times of his life, he did not remember who Jesus is.  Instead of a better end to his matters, he had bitter ends. I bet he suffered regret all his life from these two failures. Although he was forgiven, I hear him muttering to himself, “Why didn’t I keep walking? Why did I deny Him?” How many regrets do we have from our failure of faith in the middle of a matter?

As Peter traveled with Jesus during His ministry, he witnessed many marvelous miracles. There is one instance, which should have given him the stamina and endurance not to lose his faith. There was a certain ill woman who “Had a flow of blood for twelve years,” Mark 5:25.

She was bleeding daily for twelve years. Not only was this embarrassing for her, but she was feeling tired continually. This also, took her into a deep depression of hopelessness for healing. She spent a fortune with no results. Concerning the doctors of her day she “Had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse,” Mark 5:26. I believe many of us today can sympathize with her. Without a doubt in, my mind, she cried to the God of Israel, her God for healing. Twelve long years of suffering are under her belt. However, God was bringing her to the beginning of the end of her matter. News had reached this lady, about a man from Nazareth, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him,” Acts 10:38. News came to her, about Jesus, from many sources. One source was probably from the disciples of John the Baptist, who saw the miracles of Jesus. Jesus, said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard:  that the blind  see, the lame  walk, the lepers are  cleansed, the deaf  hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them,” Luke 7:22. This was exciting news of hope for the bleeding lady. This is where a beginning matter starts for her. She reasoned in her heart, “If Jesus can heal lepers, give sight to blind people, hearing to the deaf, and raise the dead, surely He can stop my flow of blood. Thus, she declared her faith, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well,” Mark 5:28. Like Peter, she declares her intention. Therefore, she gathers her strength and sets out to find Jesus. Meanwhile, Jesus had returned to Galilee from the country of the Gadarenes where, “The multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him,” Luke 8:40. It was here, Jairus, “Fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying.” The Lord consented to go, “But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him,” Luke 8:41-42.

If Only I Touch His Hem!

It was at this moment, the woman who was seeking Jesus, to touch His garment, came upon Him. This is now the apex of her matter. In her weakened condition, would she have the strength to get through the thronging crowd and past the disciples surrounding Jesus like bodyguards? Would she be like Peter and say, “What’s the use? I’ll never get near Jesus. I guess I will have to bleed to death!”  No, is the answer, the throng will not stop her, nor that big disciple Peter! I will touch His hem, she declares again. With this conviction of purpose, she finds new strength and jams her way to Jesus. After a lot of pushing and shoving from the densely packed crowd around Him, she makes it to arms reach of Jesus. And, “Came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction,” Luke 8:44 and Mark 5:29.

After twelve long years, she is finally healed! The woman feels alone in the crowd by the joy she has in her heart. However, fear comes upon her when she hears the voice of Jesus. “And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” Mark 5:30. “And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.” Mark 5:32-33. Well, is Jesus upset about this? Did he think, how dare someone touch me? Was He going to take back His healing power and give the woman her flow of blood again? NO, “And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction,” Mark 5:34. Unlike Peter, her enduring faith gets the praise of Jesus. She endured to the end of the matter and received the better. And had no regrets about this all her life! Peter did not remember this nor all the other things he saw and heard, which should have given him strength to endure from the beginning to the end.

The contrast between Peter’s faith and the faith of the woman with the unstoppable blood flow is stark. This lady, from going to Doctors to finally coming to Jesus, had the stamina to exercise her faith for healing to the better end. Peter did not have the stamina to exercise his faith, which ended bitterly. This should be a lesson we all must learn. We want our journey of faith to be successes not failures. This is a serious issue of faith and the problem of maintaining faith during the crisis. Recently, I have seen the tragedy of Peter’s failure, happen in the life of a friend. This person was a great saint of the Lord. The history of this life is a life of good works and loving care for others. Although, our friendship was within the last few years, I experienced the faith of this friend. We worshipped and prayed weekly together. I marveled at the depth of faith of this friend. During this time, a series of life events entered this life. These events were devastating. They are events we all could receive. Like Peter on the water, the crashing waves came down on my friend; the vibrant faith began to suffer loss. The sight of Jesus was lost. Although, my friend didn’t have an illness, my friend ended up on the death bed, and death happened. The collapse of faith was shattering (and still is) to all who cared for this friend. Many tried to reach this friend with love and care, prayer and exhortations. The downward spiral was difficult for all to handle. It was faith challenging. Our only hope was, a few days before death, God shook this friend and a repentance happened. Nonetheless, the damage done to the body was past medical health.  We believe, God forgave my friends fall. However, the wages of sin were not prevented.

The lesson of this event, on our timeline, is shaking to one’s theology. The point God is teaching all of us is, our faith is dependent on our personal decisions. Christianity cannot be lived vicariously; it is a contact sport (for lack of a better analogy). Each of us must have the conviction of faith to carry us through the narrow way which is a difficult way. The Lord taught me two valuable verses at this time.

  1. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12
  2. “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” Hebrews 3:12

In other words, you and I are responsible for our faith and trust in Christ to the very end of physical life. We may be commanded to exhort one another, but the response to the encouragement belongs to you and me, alone. We must pray for one another’s endurance. I believe God answered our prayers for my friend and did not forget the good works done by my friend in Jesus’s name. The friend finally responded and repented. We all face the choice of holding on or letting go! It is easier to let go than to hold on. However, the consequences of letting go is horrific. Therefore, we should heed Paul’s warning in the lesson of Israel.

“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-5

I do not know what matter you are in, going into, or coming out of. The fact I know is no matter where we are, we must endure by faith in Christ, even through the darkest trials. I do not have a magic panacea for this, because the choice to hold on is yours and my individual problem. However, I think three suggestions may help.

  1. No matter where you are in the timeline of life, always bring to remembrance the past care of God in your life. Please do this from the day you were converted and born again, up to this moment. If you cannot remember, ask the Holy Spirit to bring all God’s working in your life. Therefore, Jesus instituted Holy Communion. “And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes,” 1 Corinthians 11:24-26. If we don’t remember what God has done in the past, we will lose faith to trust Him in the future.
  2. If you are in a trial, be like Jesus, pray and cry vehemently before the Lord. “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear,” Hebrews 5:7. Don’t be ashamed to do this, your soul depends on it!
  3. Make up your mind, for better or worse, “I will endure!” “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise,” Hebrews 10:36.

Brethren! May God strengthen you. And always remember the end of a thing is better than its beginning.

“For  yet a little while,

And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.

Now the just shall live by faith;

But if anyone draws back,

My soul has no pleasure in him.”

“But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” Hebrews 10:37-39

© Guy Peter Calandra, Author: The Inside Word, Available on Kindle, Nook, and Google Play Books.

All Scripture Verses From New King James Version of the Bible.

Jesus Film Photos Used by Permission  

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