PASSING THE TEST OF FAITH
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 5, 2012
 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, ESV
Like most people who find themselves in hot water, the disciples called on the name of the Lord. The name they used seems to be a favorite in the Gospels, “Teacher.” Jesus has many names above all names: Lord, Savior, Lion of Judah, Lamb of God. But during the days of His earthly ministry, He was most often referred to as the “Rabbi” or “Teacher.”
There are all kinds of teachers. Some are interesting, some are boring. Some are easy, some are hard. It seems to me that the best teachers are the ones that are both thought-provoking and tough. They challenge you and often make it hard on you so that you will eventually master the subject. Jesus was that kind of “Teacher,” and in this text He passes out a really tough test. It is the test of faith.
What is faith?
The writer of Hebrews gives us a wonderful, inspired definition of faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (ref. Hebrews 11:1). Faith is present tense acceptance resulting in action based on future tense verification and ultimate reward. I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, that my sins are forgiven by His death, burial, and resurrection, that I have a meaningful life on earth and an eternal home in Heaven. Therefore, I act in accordance with the commandments and examples found in the gospel and the word of God. But ultimately, I cannot prove any of this until I die. For now, I live by faith. Every now and then, my faith gets tested. And, a faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted.
The disciples’ faith was tested on this day, in this boat on the Sea of Galilee. In the process they were taught a new working definition of faith. They were with a certain person, the Lord Jesus Christ, “just as He was.” He had made them a certain promise, that they were going “across to the other side” to continue to be fishers of men and engage in the work of the kingdom of God. When a certain storm arose and threatened to drown the whole enterprise, Jesus used His omnipotent will “and the wind ceased, and there was a great calm,” thus allowing them to reach God’s predetermined destination. Therefore, faith is trusting in a person who has made a promise with the power to make it come true.
Did the disciples pass the test of faith?
Now that we have a working definition of faith, let’s put it to the test. First, let’s look at the first disciples of Jesus. Did they pass the test of faith? Let’s ask them some questions.
Who is the person of Jesus Christ? They answered this question with a question, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Obviously, they thought a lot of Jesus, even to the point where you can say they loved Him. You just don’t leave your family fishing business or profitable tax collector’s office for someone you don’t love. But what did they think about Jesus? I think they thought He was God. Who else controls the wind and the sea?
What promise did Jesus make? The Lord said they were crossing “to the other side.” Actually, this promise is conditioned by previous promises to become fishers of men, to reap a harvest, to find forgiveness, to live in the kingdom of God. How could these be fulfilled if they all, especially Jesus (“weare perishing”), drowned in the Sea of Galilee? As the waves fell their faith waivered, but for eleven out of twelve it did not fail.
What power did Jesus display? Obviously, it was the power of Almighty God. Jesus did not use it for show, or profit, or to launch a new television ministry. He used it to protect His followers and fulfill His promises. They landed safely “on the other side.” They continued to experience life and work in the kingdom of God. Faith is trusting in a person who has made a promise who has the power to make it come true.
I believe eleven out of twelve believed that Jesus is God incarnate, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. I believe they now live on the other side with Jesus, in the presence of God. I believe they are secure in the power of God, which calmed the stormy seas, healed the sick, raised the dead, and gives eternal life to everyone who believes. I believe they passed the test. Can you?
You can pass the test of faith.
First of all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It really is the only way to learn. God is never afraid or offended at our honest questions. Look what the disciples questioned: “Do you not care?” and “Who then is this?” Have you ever wondered where God is when the storm of serious illness or death blows in, when divorce breaks your heart and family, when the loss of a job threatens your very survival? It is okay to ask God whether or not He cares, as long as you ultimately believe that He does.
Secondly, put your trust in a God you will never fully understand. The disciples first found Jesus as a prophet, then more than a prophet, then the promised Messiah and Son of God. It wasn’t until after Jesus’ death and resurrection that they finally ascertained that God Himself had lived and walked among them. I don’t understand electricity, but I believe in it. I don’t understand the Trinity, but I believe in one true and living God who has revealed Himself to man in the three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I don’t understand why God heals some and allows others to die, how He has chosen a few for eternal life and passes over the rest, why He is waiting so long to come back to a world in desperate need. But, I believe in Him.
Finally, wait patiently, for the power of God. It flashed brilliantly at creation, though God alone could see the fireworks of the big bang. It worked miraculously through the ministries of Moses and Aaron, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and the Apostles, though only a minority enjoyed those mighty miracles. God’s power reached its historical apex in the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His power to save exists in anyone who believes with all their heart. But at the end of the day when days come to an end, at the second coming of Jesus Christ, the power of God will be present as never before. Then all believers of all time will hear Jesus say, “Let us go across to the other side.”
Believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Believe in the word of God. Believe in the Heaven that awaits all who truly believe. In this life storms will come and faith will be tested. But you can pass the test of faith, if you simply have faith in the greatest Teacher of them all.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org