Today there is a great falling away from faith and trust in God. Paul warned about this: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [Christ’s return] shall not come, except there come a falling away first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
In the Old Testament, the Lord gives us an example of what happens to those who fall away from faith in God’s power on their behalf. In 2 Chronicles 14, King Asa faced a million-man army of Ethiopians. But the king had great faith: “Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God” (2 Chronicles 14:11).
What happened then? “The Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa” (14:12). What great faith Asa had! For years afterward, “There was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa” (15:19). For years, Asa walked in faith before the Lord, and that brought God’s favor to Judah. A great peace fell over the land, and that peace became a witness to the world. Soon hungry people from surrounding nations flooded Judah, because they knew Asa walked with God.
Then, in the thirty-sixth year of his reign, Asa faced another crisis. Israel’s king rose up against Judah, capturing Ramah in an effort to cut off all trade to and from Jerusalem. The plan was to starve Judah into submission. Asa was left completely vulnerable, but this time he didn’t rely on the Lord in his crisis. Instead of praying for God’s direction and counsel, he turned to the king of Syria. In exchange for Syria’s help, Asa opened up Israel’s treasury, emptying it of all the nation’s gold and silver.
And so Judah was delivered from their enemy, but not by the Lord. That glory went to an alien army from Syria—and Judah’s witness to the world of God’s power was gone. A righteous prophet in the land came to Asa with this scathing word: “Thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God . . . For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars” (16:7, 9).
I am convinced many Christians today are troubled for the same reason Asa was. They have war in their souls because they have traded faith for self-reliance. But the fact is, there is no way a follower of Jesus can have faith in any other source and not be troubled.
Right now, your life may seem like a boat in the midst of a raging storm, your situation beyond all hope. The storm swirling around you may be as frightening as any you’ve ever faced. But He is still God, and you have One greater than Solomon present with you. He is Master over every storm, and He’ll use that storm to test you. He’s allowing your crisis to see what’s in your heart.
You may think, “But what if my ship actually sinks? What then?” Consider Paul’s example in the book of Acts. His ship sank but he didn’t lose his life. In fact, he clung to God’s Word to him in the midst of that storm: “The ship will go down, but I will give you the lives of everyone on board.” When the storm ended, God was glorified for his faithfulness. And great miracles followed, accompanied by an awesome revival (see Acts 28:1-10).
Yes, the Lord may allow you to endure something that looks absolutely disastrous. But you will survive—and so will your faith—if you trust Him. Your ship may go down, but God will give you the strength to swim ashore, as He did Paul. All you can lose is that which is material, and God can easily replace that. He owns bigger, better boats, and He’s able to bless you with more than anything you may have lost. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)
I have to admit, as I read Jesus’ rebuke to the disciples, I think, “Lord, that’s not fair. I receive letters from people today who are facing their own terrible disasters. They’re losing their homes, their jobs, their loved ones. Surely You don’t expect them to remain full of faith.”
Then the Holy Spirit reminds me of some of the poverty-stricken areas I’ve visited. I’ve seen people living in shacks and sleeping on dirt floors, yet they have a joy I’ve never witnessed anywhere else. They rejoice in God’s daily faithfulness to them, and He causes their faith to abound, despite all their trials.
On the night before His crucifixion, at the Last Supper Jesus told His disciples, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me” (John 14:19). What an interesting statement for Jesus to make, knowing the disciples wouldn’t grasp it. One of them asked, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” (14:22).
Of course, Jesus had a lesson in mind. He answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. . . . Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. . . . And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (14:23, 27, 29-31).
I have slightly abridged Jesus’ response here to bring into focus a theme He is driving at throughout this passage. That theme is separation. In these few verses, Christ makes three clear distinctions between His kingdom and the world: “The world will see me no more, but you will see me” (14:19). “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (14:27). “The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me” (14:30).
Why did Jesus make these distinctions to His followers? It seemed important to Him that we see the clear divisions between these things. The fact is, God makes such divisions throughout the Bible. At the Creation, He separated light from darkness and day from night. He separated Israel from all other nations. In the New Testament, He commands His Church, “Come out from among them and be separate.” And at the Judgment, He will separate sheep from goats. Throughout His Word, God constantly draws lines of division that tell us very clearly, “This is one thing and this is another.”
Let me ask you a question today on God’s behalf: Are you willing to love others the way Jesus commanded us to?
Will you be willing to open your home to others if necessary—to give of what you have to meet the needs of others in the Body of Christ? Will you be willing to be a vessel through whom God will give a drink to somebody who is thirsty? Food to somebody who is hungry? Clothing to somebody who is naked? Shelter to somebody without a home?
Now please don’t misunderstand me—I am not suggesting that you go out today and call a real estate agent, sell your house or your apartment, go to the bank to take out your savings and just throw it all to the wind. What I am saying is that God, foreseeing the days ahead of us, knows what we need to hear and consider, for this is what will earmark the true Church of Jesus Christ. Such was the case in the book of Acts: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47, NKJV).
When it says, “having favor with the people,” I believe it was exactly what Jesus told His disciples: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Over the past few decades, many have gone to great lengths to try to prove God’s presence among them. However, it is obedience to this new commandment that is the evidence! Tongues can be imitated, gifts of the Holy Spirit can be faked, prophecy can be of the flesh. All of these things can be fraudulent, but an ongoing, benevolent, self-sacrificing love for one another cannot be faked—at least not for very long. That is why if people in the world see the Body of Christ living in genuine fellowship—a stark contrast to the self-centeredness and divisions of this generation—they will have no choice but to acknowledge that this could be done only by the Spirit of God.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.
How it must grieve our Lord when we forget His past victories in our lives, all His miracles of deliverance. He has called us His friends (see John 15:15), yet in our crises we often forget all about His faithful friendship. This is why Jesus warned the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees (in Mark 8). He told them, in essence, “If you come to Me with hard questions, don’t expect Me to answer if you have a heart of unbelief. You’re to come to Me with trust and faith, believing I am One greater than Solomon.”
In Mark 4:35-41, the disciples were again crossing a lake. This time, “There arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full” (Mark 4:37). Waves flooded the boat, and the frantic disciples rushed to bail out the rising water. These were experienced fishermen, and they soon saw that their lives were in danger. They quickly awoke Jesus, who’d been asleep at the back of the boat, and cried, “Master, we’re going down!”
As I see Jesus being awakened, my flesh wants Him to encourage the disciples: “I’m so glad you woke Me. This is serious. You poor brothers, I’m sorry I let you endure this storm for so long. Forgive Me for not acting sooner. Hopefully, you didn’t think I was unconcerned about your crisis.”
No, Jesus’ reaction was just the opposite. He rebuked the disciples! “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). Imagine what those men thought in that moment: “Did Jesus really expect us to stand in water up to our waists and have no fear? This is the worst storm we’ve ever faced. Waves are pouring in, the ship’s about to sink. Were we supposed to practice faith in a seemingly hopeless situation?”
The answer is: Yes, absolutely! Jesus was testing their faith. He wanted to know, “Will these followers trust Me in the face of death? Will they cling to their belief in Me?” In the flesh, Christ may have been asleep, but He was also God, and the Lord never sleeps: “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).