Having ran three marathons, it’s interesting to observe sports and how faith plays a vital role in what athletes do. Whether it’s watching Wimbledon, the Tour de France, the Olympics, or the FIFA World Cup, these men and women push themselves to a testing limit. “Can I win? Can I finish?” I clearly remember thinking such thoughts near the end of one marathon as my knee went out on the 22nd mile and having 4.2 more to go. I was tested.
What Do I Believe?
I also remember when we were living in the Dominican Republic, I was standing in my kitchen one day looking out my back window at the clothes hanging on the line in the hot Caribbean sun, exhausted from all the commitments and challenges of being a missionary in a third-world country, and thinking — “Do I really believe all this ‘God’ stuff? What do I really believe about Jesus?” It was then I discovered that faith is not really faith unless it is tested.
Much of the sports world has taken on the chant: “I believe that we will win.” Beliefs are the core values that make up each one of us. What we believe determines who we are and what we do. It’s the “why” motivating us, however, we don’t always know what we believe until it’s challenged.
Faith is Tested
We can read how many great heroes of faith were challenged. Imagine Noah, building a giant boat in the middle of nowhere and telling people it was going to rain. I’m sure he got some rude and sarcastic remarks over the years; it’s possible at times he may have felt like giving up. And what about Abraham? God changes his name and claims he will be a father of many nations, even though he’s very elderly and without children. Then he’s tested more by being asked to kill the very son he finally had to be his heir! And what about having to leave his own country to move to — wait — he didn’t know exactly?! What if your friend asked you to come over and help them pack to move and they said they’re loading everything in a truck and heading north but have no idea where they’ll live; they say they will wait for the Lord to tell them. Think about how crazy that sounds.
But when God poured down rain upon the earth and Noah’s ship began to float, and when God sent a ram in the thicket to replace Isaac as a sacrifice for Abraham, their beliefs were solidified. Their faith increased. As God calls us out and causes our faith to be tested, we find out what we truly believe, and I personally believe this is a good thing.
How do we know we truly believe something unless it’s tested? I think many times we are hard on ourselves for our unbelief. We may feel condemned or that we are being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” (Eph.4:14) Yes, this can happen, however, I would encourage you today if you’re feeling some wavering that it’s possible your faith is just being tested. Your beliefs are being challenged and that’s okay. It’s growing pains.
So how do we handle our faith being tested? We allow ourselves to go through the testing, the questioning, and maybe even some anger at God — knowing that He loves us no matter what we think or how we feel. And as we get through it, we will come out stronger and more secure in what we believe.
I do believe that we will win, as the famous chant goes. We do know how the world will end. So as Paul at times compared us as athletes running a race, let us continue to run to obtain the prize and finish our course with joy. (Acts 20:24; Heb.12:1; 1 Cor. 9:24)