Habakkuk 1:2-3,2:2-4, 2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14, Luke 17:5-10
Keeping Faith in God in Time of Challenges
There is an inspiring story of one Andrew who love visiting the deserts for tourism. So, on one of his visits to a desert in Africa, Andrew lost his drinking bottle.
He was so thirsty that he toured the whole of the desert looking for the drinking bottle. It was a very hot day, and the sands were bustling with heat. Andrew was in desperate search of water to drink. Otherwise, he will suffer dehydration.
The most worrying thing is that there is nowhere to find drinking water. In essence, there was no hope. The only hope that remains is to die.
Andrew was in a no-hope condition. As he struggled walking in the desert, he saw a little house at a distance.
He thought it was just imagination or illusion. But he continued walking towards it, and as he reached closer, he realized truly, it was a little house but it seemed like the place was in abandoned condition for a long time.
Then he looked to the right side of the house and saw a hand water pump. The water had all connections intact and a pipeline to the ground, which gives a little hope for water.
Then he started pumping it but there was no sign of water. He later gave up due to exhaustion. He wanted to give up but when he remembered that the only option left for him now is death which may occur due to dehydration, He started searching the little house for any other source of water.
Providentially, he found a bottle of water hidden in the corner. He was so excited. He then rushed to drink the water but found a piece of paper attached.
It was written on the paper, “Please use this water to start the pump. It works. After you have finished, do not forget to refill the bottle again.”
After reading the message in the paper, many other distracting and worrying questions come up. He was thinking “Will the pump work if I use this water? Are sure this water will work? Is the pump in good condition? What if this didn’t work? Can I trust the words on the paper?
Andrew paused for a minute and closed his eyes, and said “I have no other option than still trust the words in the paper, it must be written by the owner or the person who knows how it works” Then he poured the water from the bottle into the pump and pumped it.
Soon, he heard a bubbling sound, and water started pouring out. Wow, there was a moment of relief on his face.
Andrew got refreshed. He was happy that his faith in what was written on the paper about the water pump worked. Then he wrote in the paper, “Have faith. It works.”
Like Andrew, we have depressing times, moments of challenges, temptations and times of darkness that do come to shake our faith. Hence, we have to learn how to keep our faith strong even when we do not know what may happen next.
If what we can do is keep the faith. Just keep it and move with it. It is better than losing it. Andrew lost hope but he knows he has just one option, which is to lose faith and die. He has to trust in the words of the paper, and there was victory, life and refreshment at the end.
Keeping Faith in God in Time of Challenges can be so hard to do. It is sometimes filled with a lot of worries and “What if” questions. Despite this, we have to trust in God’s promises as we see in the first reading. This is what Andrew did. Andrew had no other option than to trust in the words on the paper.
Therefore, if what we read in the Bible are God’s words, why then do we doubt? The only option also should be to trust the words in the scriptural paper.
If they are the word of God, then God does not lie and if He doesn’t lie, then He cannot disappoint. Let us take the readings one by one.
In the Time of Distress.
There are times when we experience problems and difficulties and it will look as if our hope is dashed to the ground. There are moments when we pray and even fast, yet it will seem as if God is so silent to our prayers.
Sometimes this affects our faith and makes us lose hope in God. In moments of distress, we do ask questions like “God where are You” and “Why do you close your heart on me” even despite the crying, and worries, it will seem as if God remains silent to us. This is what happens in the first reading.
Keeping faith in God in times of distress seems extremely challenging and excruciating. Prophet Habbakuk is one of the prophets that is very close to God.
He was said to have written His prophecy in the year between the time when Babylon conquered Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire in 612 B.C. and the time when Babylon conquered Jerusalem in 587 B.C.
He lived in a time when the nation was undergoing a revival which was followed by a spiritual decline. His period experienced a time of political crisis, intimidation and turmoil among the political class.
The people witnessed intimidation and injustice from the political and the ruling class. Being a prophet who is so dedicated to God, Habbakuk prayed and fasted for God’s intervention, but it was as if God was so silent on Him. When He could no longer bear this seeming silence from God, the prophet had to show his frustrations to God.
In the first reading, He tells God that He is crying out to Him and shouting “Violence!”. In essence, the prophet is telling God about the violence that beseeches the city. Yet God was slow in saving them, this is the reason, He tells God that He is crying to Him, yet He will not save.
Hence, keeping faith in God in the time of this great challenge seems to be shaking. He looked at the violence and injustice around him in the nation of Judah. He wondered where God was, and why God did allow such to happen.
The Prophet asked the reason, God decides not to set things right. Instead of answering His prayers, the prophet was experiencing more trouble and iniquity.
Habakkuk saw trouble and sin everywhere. This distressed him so much that he cried out to God and asked God a series of questions.
In the same way, there are times we seem like questioning God. This happens especially in times of distress.
In times of distress we question God, we ask questions like “God why Me? Why do you allow these to happen to me? Why do you allow my beloved one to die, despite that we pray to you every day?
Sometimes we also ask “God why do you keep quiet on me? Why do you allow us to continue to suffer despite our closeness to You? Many of us are in these situations.
Many people today soak their beds in tears every day.
Some people are like Habakkuk asking “God, How long am I to cry for help”? But sometimes it seems as if God is not listening.
At this time, Keeping faith in God becomes so hard and unachievable. It was like when Andrew lost his water bottle and looked for it everywhere, it was as if all hope was lost.
God’s Response in the Time of Distress.
1. In the first reading, God answered Habakkuk. He instructs Him to write down a vision and inscribe the vision on tablets so that it could be easily read.
Writing the vision down is evidence that He said that. It is for a time, waiting eagerly for its fulfilment. It will also be proof that God does not deceive.
2. Therefore, God always responds to our prayers. He does not keep quiet or silent as we think. He responds to us through inspirations, visions, dreams, experiences, etc just as He does to Habbakuk, but the problem is our inability to understand and interpret what was happening or what happened.
God can also cause someone to talk to us in times of sorrow. He does not keep silent, even when it seems He does, it is for a reason and for a time. Our God does not deceive us in times of distress. He is still with us.
3. God also promises Habakkuk that the fulfilment of the vision or the promises must surely come, but it will be gradual. It will come slowly. God says that His promises will not fail. Hence, the way for the righteous man to live is only through faith.
The only one who does not live rightly and who does not trust in God is the one who flags. He easily loses energy and enthusiasm in times of distress. But for the one who is more close to God, there must be a difference.
4. Therefore, we have to trust in God’s promises just as Andrew trusted in the words on the paper. Since the promises come from God, we do not have to doubt them as if they are words of ordinary human beings. We have to take it as what it is; the word of God.
5. So, in times of distress, we have to know that God’s answer to our prayers or the fulfilment of His promises is always gradual. He does His things in His way. We do not have to pressure Him nor push Him to obey our caprices.
God is not a machine to be manipulated. When we pray or cry to God, we have to wait on Him to perfect and manifest everything at His best and perfect time. His promises do not fail.
Therefore, keeping faith in God in times of challenges is trusting in His promises in times of those challenges no matter whatever that comes against us.
In Moments of Fear, Passiveness and Challenges.
1. In the second reading, Saint Paul reminds Timothy to fan into flame the gift that God gave to him when he laid his hands on Him.
I tried to search and find a reason for this advice. My little findings are: 1. Timothy was still a young lad but a leader of a great community. He is highly gifted but very timid.
Timothy is not outspoken like Paul. He seems to have some challenges owing to his age and then being in charge of a large community filled with wise, intelligent, learned, strong and elderly people.
2. Timothy finds these challenging. Therefore, Paul writes this to encourage him. Instead of thinking about the challenges, problems and difficulties facing Him, Timothy has to use his gifts.
Instead of remaining passive due to the stumbling blocks along His path, He has to fan His gifts into flame. Paul advises Him that what is in Him is greater.
Therefore, the spirit of God in Him is a Spirit of Power, Love and self-control. He should never be afraid nor ashamed to proclaim God among the people despite how learned, intelligent, wise, and strong they are.
He should never be ashamed because His master is now a prisoner. Rather, Paul advises Timothy to be bold and resolute. He has to persevere and bear the hardships for the sake of the gospel.
Also, He has to keep His faith and love for Jesus Christ so strong and resolute. He must also rely on the power of God during these great challenges.
God has entrusted him with souls. So, many souls are now handed unto his care, he has to guard them with caution, seeking the help of the Holy Spirit that lives in us.
3. Therefore, with these Paul has already revealed to us what to do in the moments of our challenges, fear, and passiveness.
From what Paul said we can sieve out what we have to do in the moments of our fear, and challenges.
In those times we are afraid of our tasks, or afraid of what is beseeching us, in those moments we are tempted to live in fear and afraid of the future, we are tempted to lose our faith in God, or become ashamed because of what has befallen us, Paul advises us to stay resolute and bold.
4. We have to rely solely on the power of God and not on the power of the circumstance. Also, we have to increase our faith and love for Jesus. With this, we will always keep our faith going despite the turbulent moments.
Also, we do not have to rely solely on our intelligence, wisdom or power, but we have to rely first and foremost on the power of the Holy Spirit. Where the Holy Spirit is, there is power, and impossible things become possible.
When we are faced with challenges, instead of keeping our focus on the challenges at hand, we have to rely on the power of God that is beyond all great challenges to help us.
We have to stir up our gifts. Our gifts can make a way where there seems to be no way. We have to fan our gifts into flame and not our fears or your worry.
In Moments of Faithlessness.
There are also times when we seem to have lost faith in God.
There are times when we encounter problems, we do not seem to have that inner power to pray again.
When this happens we limit God’s power and remove Him totally from our minds, because deep down within us, we believe and think that keeping faith in God is useless.
In the moments of our faithlessness, what do we do?
1. We have to trust what we say and what we believe. That is faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Therefore, faith involves full confidence, and assurance in what we believe and say during prayers, even though we have not seen it. Therefore, faith is the confidence that we have in the unseen will surely manifest one day.
Faith comes both before and after we have prayed to God.
A good example of the attitude of faith is in John 2, at the wedding at Cana. Immediately the Blessed Virgin Mary tells Jesus that they have no wine, she didn’t request further.
Despite that Jesus didn’t give her a yes or no answer, she proceeds and tells the servants to “do whatever he tells you”.
The blessed virgin Mary trusts that the request she made to her son will be granted. And Jesus grants her request. This is faith in action. And faith does not disappoint.
2. In today’s gospel, an apostle of Jesus comes to Jesus and asks Jesus “Lord increase our faith”. This apostle knows the secret of faith.
This is why He did not ask ‘Lord increase our money, or Lord make us powerful etc, rather, the apostle knows the power of faith.
He may have seen Jesus do a lot of miracles. He has seen Jesus walk on the water, calm the storm etc, and He knows that the secret of this is faith.
Also, in Matthew 17:19-20, Jesus said this statement when the disciples could not heal a demon-possessed boy.
Jesus rebuked them for being faithless, unbelieving and perverse. After it, the disciples of Jesus came to Him in private and asked the reason they could not drive away the evil spirit. It was then that Jesus replied that it is because of their little faith.
Then, He tells them that if they have faith as small as a mustard seed, they can do the impossible.
It then means that when this happened, the apostles do not have any atom of faith. What Jesus needs from them is not the increase of faith as they requested but little faith.
Therefore, the implication is that if a little faith can make the impossible happen, then a bigger faith can pull greater mountains.
And if just a little faith is what is needed for us to move mountains, then it means that both faith and lack of faith are the two most powerful forces in the world, but are disregarded by Christians.
What it means is that when you have faith, great things happen and when you do not have faith, things also happen.
When you have faith, mountains bow in your favour, challenges are pulled down and difficulties are surmounted. It is our faith in the times of challenges that will lead you through it and out of it. It is not the lack of it.
Hence, when we do not have faith, the opposite will happen, difficulties will swallow us, mountains will remain unmoved and problems become insurmountable. Therefore, in moments of faithlessness, keeping faith in God is the best option.
1. In the gospel, Jesus says to the apostles, “if your faith were like the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea and it would obey”.
Let us take a look at Jesus’ statement. Jesus affirmed here that faith is not only limited to our belief. Faith must find expressions in what we say and do.
We cannot say that we have faith, yet our words depict the life of people who are living in worry and depression.
When you are full of faith, what you say also must be full of faith. You may say things like “I strongly believe that I will be fine for my redeemer liveth”, also it does not end there, we have to back it up with action.
2. What I truly like in the apostle’s request is the “our” mentality. The apostles who approached Jesus did not request just for his faith nor the faith of His family. He did not pray for himself and His siblings. Rather, He asked Jesus to increase not only His faith but the faith of others.
If we can have this kind of mentality, there will be a change. If our families can adopt this and avoid all these unnecessary competitions, our challenges will become lessened. Sometimes, the reason we have a lot of difficulties and challenges is that we want to compete.
We want to show the other person that we have arrived. Or we want to be in charge. We want good things only for us and ourselves alone.
Even when we pray and book masses, we only concentrate on ourselves. Who knows if that may be the reason, our prayers do not cross heaven.
Even when an apostle came to ask Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1-4), He also said to Jesus “teach us”. He did not say “teach only me”. We have to learn that when we focus on others or when we pray for others, we easily get what we want from God.
Let us imbibe the “our” mentality. Imagine a situation where every political leader has this “our’ mentality. What is killing us today is the “my” mentality.
3. During the discussion, Jesus asks the apostles ‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink? You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’.
Hence, Jesus is reminding him that it’s their obligation and duty to serve. Therefore, when they do it, they should not expect an extraordinary reward from it.
Therefore, when we pray and fast, let us not think that we are doing it for God. No. It is what we ought to do as children of God. It is our duty. We have to pray. It is also our responsibility to have faith.
Some people will tell you how they have prayed from morning till night and fasted every day, yet, they have seen nothing as if they are commanding God.
Whatever we are doing is what we ought to do as children of God, Whatever God grants to us is from His merciful heart. Therefore, when challenges come, we have to express our faith and not worry.
We do not do them for the sake of God, we are doing them because this is what we have to do as true children of God.
4. Therefore, in moments of sorrow, distress, fear, passiveness, challenges, difficulties, faithlessness, hopelessness, etc quit focusing on the circumstances.
Quit focusing on the evil that will befall you, rather focus on what God can still do for you despite the challenges at the moment.
What it means is that the times of your challenges are not the times to exercise your fear or worry but rather the times to exercise your faith.
Keeping faith in God in times of challenges can be challenging itself, but that’s the way we have to prove that we are truly sons and daughters of God.
A son or a daughter can never abandon His father or mother in moments of great need or difficulties, why then do we do it to God?
If God is truly your Father, why then do you lose faith in Him because of the problem that you have? It simply means we are not true to ourselves. Our faith in God should not be conditioned by circumstances.
5. If we say we love God, the only time to prove it are those times it seems God is silent. They are those times, everything is going against us.
Keeping faith in God in times of challenges is what truly shows how strong our faith in God is. Like Andrew, We have to keep going. We have to keep searching. We have to trust His words. In the end there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
May God bless you dearest and give you the grace to conquer your challenges. Amen