A large area of our United States experiences major drought conditions frequently. This is unusual for some of the affected areas. Occasionally, this happens everywhere but when it happens to your territory you react differently. The Bible used the phrase, “It depends on whose ox is getting gored.” We don’t mind if the desert Southwest goes dry, they are used to it! And it’s okay if the Sahara Desert gets a little bigger, nobody important lives there anyway! However, when your grass turns brown or they start water rationing in your neighborhood…then it is a crisis!
Wherever there is a crisis, it affects those around them and larger areas in a ripple effect. If the hay crop is reduced, if the tomatoes don’t bloom, or if the corn withers away, then it hits the farmers first and gradually stores, and finally our own pocketbooks. If people thought Katrina only affected those in Louisiana, they learned in subsequent months just how far-reaching disaster spreads. Just ask your local insurance agent!
The Bible portrays many disasters; some were local disasters, and some were widespread. Each time the events are lived out with all the consequences that are possible. Sometimes the events were seasonal and lasted a short while. Sometimes the events were catastrophic and lasted many years. Many times the people of the Bible and the surrounding areas were forced to change their lives and adapt to a new environment. A few times many people had to leave their homeland and begin somewhere else. As we see, many people are moving away from Florida because of too many hurricanes. We can appreciate that even “paradise” can have its problems!
Behind all the events there is the residual “something” inside of people. What creates their resilience? What creates the wisdom to stay or to move? Why do some folks stay while the flood waters are rising and perish? Why are some folks the first ones to leave and find a new beginning somewhere else? Why do some hearts collapse under the strain of loss while other souls bounce back again and again?
At the heart and soul of everyone is something called faith. It is intangible. It may not be on the chart in medical school, but it has been always been a part of human existence. It seems like some people come with different amounts. I don’t think you can blame it all on our genetic makeup. Maybe you do get some of it from your parent’s example, but certainly that is not automatic. Nor do I think it is a matter of being a “pessimist” or an “optimist.” It is deeper and more solid than a trite little term used to sum up people.
Faith is used to describe a source of strength that is based on something. It may be faith in yourself; it may be faith based on successful business practices or the ultimate success of science to solve problems. Most Americans tend to base faith on individual strength—that is our heritage. Some people base their faith on tangible assets and little else. Some people will base their faith on luck or cunning.
I think the church must base its faith on something different. Too often the values of the world rub off on the church, and it begins to act just like everybody else. However, we are called to focus our faith on just one thing and one thing only, our relationship with God. From that relationship all other things are measured. We are empowered through that relationship. We are energized the same way. Our circumstances are not to determine our faith. They only serve to measure the extent of our faith. What God has given us is the ability to endure all of life’s possibilities using faith in Him as our source of strength. Take a few moments in prayerful attitude. You already know what the answer to this question should be, but it takes a crisis to remind us:
What is the foundation of your faith?
Joseph M. Westfall is a bi-vocational minister living in Oak Ridge. Since 1975, his ministry has covered pastoral positions in 17 churches across several denominational lines in six different states. He has special training and experience in interim ministry for churches in transition. He has a biblical style and teaching heart. He encourages honesty and the Holy Spirit. His favorite response to a sermon he has preached? “You make me think!”