Most Christians have a basic understanding of faith that includes the principle of justification by faith, and that by the grace of God. A smaller number have learned that faith is a lifestyle and the prescribed way of living for the believer: “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). It’s possible for a believer in the course of receiving teaching about the lifestyle of faith to come to the erroneous conclusion that if they simply had enough faith, no trouble would ever visit their life. Unfortunately, the Scripture teaches just the opposite. Jesus said boldly, “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Mark chapter four states emphatically trouble comes because of the Word. A balanced and accurate rendering of biblical faith must include the understanding that (1) faith attracts trouble into our lives, (2) faith sustains us in that trouble, (3) and faith delivers us from that trouble. No, you are not a freak or an inferior Christian because you are going through a tough time.
The Bible is filled with stories of faithful servants who experienced trouble not due to a lack of faith, but because they were individuals of great faith demonstrating that faith through consecration to God and faithfulness. Abel’s faith led to his demise at the hands of his own brother. Daniel’s faith landed him in the lion’s den. The three Hebrew boys were tossed into the fiery furnace because of their faith. Joseph’s faith landed him in the pit. David’s faith and the success it brought got him into trouble with the spear thrower known as King Saul. While it’s true that our own behavior has often been the source of our trouble, it is also true that we can get into trouble for simply being faithful to God.
Paul and Silas were thrown into the inner core of prison and chained like violent criminals for bringing deliverance to a fortune-teller and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 16). Imagine how you would respond if you were apprehended and jailed for doing nothing more than sharing your faith in Jesus Christ (foreign to American Christians but a very present realty around the world). The amazing reaction and behavior of Paul and Silas in this story illustrate the proper way to handle the trouble that comes from being a person of faith. When you find yourself in trouble because of your stand of faith, draw from their godly example.
First, make sure you maintain a good attitude in the midst of the situation. It’s amazing we don’t see Paul and Silas whining, griping, or complaining over their situation. In America today, Christians get put out if their latte is not made to their liking or if someone snatches their parking place at Wal-Mart. The attitude is the best indicator of the present health of our faith and spiritual life. I love the story of the little boy who visited his grandpa one afternoon. As Grandpa fell asleep on the couch and the little boy thought it would be funny to smear Limburger cheese all over grandpa’s mustache. Later, when grandpa awoke, he couldn’t help but smell the cheese under his nose. Thinking the front room was the source of the smell, he headed into the kitchen to find the smell just as strong there. Looking for relief from the stench, grandpa headed outside, took a whiff, and exclaimed, “the whole world stinks.” Ironically, the smell was not coming from the front room, the kitchen, or the world, but from grandpa himself. Our attitude is just like that – the source of a smelly attitude is never someone else.
Second, make sure you keep your song. At midnight from deep within the prison walls, Paul and Silas began to pray and sing hymns. It’s noteworthy that the other prisoners were listening to them because people around us are watching and listening as well to see how we will handle the adversity brought on by our faith. The powerful praise and worship was followed by a prison shaking earthquake that caused all the prison doors to open. We have to remember that the doors open after the praise and not before. Don’t wait for the circumstances to change before you break out into song and praise. Praise God in the midst of the trouble and watch His deliverance begin to flow. It’ also noteworthy to mention that the deliverance of others (like the other prisoners) depends on our lifestyle of praise.
Third, regardless of the trouble and the setbacks you are facing, make sure you stay focused on your mission in the midst of the trouble. Too often believers are oblivious to the needs around them because they are so dialed in to their own trouble. Paul and Silas, despite their treatment, had the presence of mind to focus on the souls of the jailer and other prisoners. Instead of killing himself in response to what looked like a jail break, the jailer found Jesus through the ministry of two men sensitive to the Holy Spirit despite the hardship they were experiencing. How many ministry opportunities pass us by because we are consumed with our trouble, our challenges, and our hardships? Let’s not teach the enemy he can shut down our ministry simply by stirring up a little trouble in our lives. Choose to look for chance to bless others right there in the midst of your mess.