Continued from here.
I was blown away by this teaching and can personally testify to the truth of the importance of maintaining an atmosphere in your life that is conducive to your faith. I have not been as consistent with surrounding myself with friends of faith to spur me on, but I do have some dear Christian friends who I reach out to for prayer support when I am struggling. It helps to talk with someone who has been in the trenches and has personally experienced God’s faithfulness as you are facing your own storms in life.
If you want to be a man or woman of great faith – not just in size but in duration – I strongly encourage you to partner with others who are chasing God and to take intentional steps to control your atmosphere. Even if you can only set aside five minutes at a time, follow Daniel’s lead to set aside three times a day to pray and thank God. This simple act can radically change your outlook, shifting your focus from the size of your storm to the size of your God.
Also, remember that endurance is built one step at a time. Think about an alcoholic following the Alcoholics Anonymous program one day at a time. It’s too much to think about never drinking again, but it’s manageable simply to get through this moment. The program encourages accountability through a sponsor – perhaps find a “faith sponsor” for yourself to hold you accountable for growing your faith. And the program also encourages a change in atmosphere, such as no longer frequenting bars or being in relationships with people who are going to encourage the alcoholic to drink. In the same way, we can change our atmosphere to remove ourselves from the influences that lead us to doubt God and replace those influences with those that encourage us to keep walking toward God, no matter how stormy the waters. Just as an alcoholic can learn to live sober, you can learn to continue walking in faith, one step at a time.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing by a staircase and asking, “What’s good?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]
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Pastor Ashley also made the observation that Peter’s faith faltered because of the atmosphere around him. As if stepping out onto water was not daunting enough, his feet sought to walk on a body of water that was stormy, with the waves crashing against him and the wind whipping him. This atmosphere was a distraction from his faith, leading him to doubt and sink.
Pastor Ashley pointed out that we are responsible for the atmosphere surrounding us, and the best way to change that atmosphere is through praise and worship. Amen to that! I have been living this reality for a long time now. In fact, God had led me to meet with him in prayer followed by praise & worship three times a day – first thing in the morning, midday, and then before bed.
I have been starting my day with God (the first hour) for years now, and I noticed that it was easy to hold onto my faith in the mornings. No matter what storms hit me at work or in my personal life, I could rest in the stability of a God who loves me and is in control. However, by midafternoon, I was much more susceptible to becoming unstable in my faith. Why? Because I allowed the atmosphere surrounding me to change. Too much time had passed since I filled up with the Living Water in the wee hours of the morning, so the storms of life that could not touch me before lunch had the ability to shift my focus from Jesus to my problems in the afternoon. The antidote has been engaging in prayer, praise, and worship after lunch to provide me with the stability I need to maintain my faith throughout the afternoon. This is what Daniel did, which is how he managed to maintain his faith in the lion’s den. If we want Daniel-type faith, we need to do what Daniel did and maintain an atmosphere that focuses on our God rather than on our problems.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing under a dark cloud with lightning and pouring rain. Courtesy Bitmoji.]
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Pastor Ashley’s first piece of advice for increasing the duration of your faith is to surround yourself with people who are chasing God. He pointed out that Peter had the faith to step out of the boat when he was surrounded by the other disciples. However, he stepped out alone and wasn’t next to Jesus yet when he doubted and began to sink. Perhaps if he had stepped out of the boat with James and John, the story would have had a different ending.
Contrast this with two other stories in the Bible about people who surrounded themselves with others of faith and were successful. Pastor Ashley’s first example was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who together refused to bow to an idol, even at the price of being throw into a fiery furnace. Pastor Ashley pointed out that in every group, you typically find a rule-keeper and a rule-breaker, both of whom can influence the group. You want to surround yourself with people who want to keep the rules in following God and break the rules of your circumstances that say that something is impossible. Perhaps Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego might have buckled under the pressure if they had stood before King Nebuchadnezzar alone, but by standing together, they were able to extend the duration of their faith on to victory.
He second example was the men who lowered their paralytic friend through the roof of where Jesus was preaching. Alone, each one might have given up because it seemed impossible to get their friend to Jesus because of the crowds. However, these men worked together and refused to leave until they got their paralyzed friend to Jesus. I’m sure it was not easy to carry a paralyzed man onto the roof, cut through the roof, and lower him down to Jesus, but they did it by working together. They urged one another on, extending the duration of their faith. Pastor Ashley’s advice is to surround yourself with other people who will help spur on your faith so that it will last.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking sad and opening a door under the words, “I need new friends…” Courtesy Bitmoji.]