The Faith To Stay Still
Growing up in a pentecostal tradition I’ve heard a lot of pre-message sermons on faith. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the pre-message sermon, that’s the sermon you get before the regular sermon. It can be anywhere in the service, but pentecostal pastors like to give their congregants their money’s worth — so we normally get 2 sermons. (Sorry for that rabbit trail…see I make a good pentecostal preacher).
So, as I was saying, I’ve heard a lot about faith — mostly in the context of moving or doing something. We even have a phrase for it: stepping out in faith. It’s a very biblical concept. After all, Peter stepped out of the boat and walk on water (Matthew 14) — albeit for a brief moment, but nonetheless he stepped out of the boat.
There are many other examples of stepping out in faith found in the Bible. David marched out to meet Goliath. Noah began building the ark, when he had never seen rain before. And there is Abraham, the father of our faith. He was told to leave the land of his family and go to land God would show him (Genesis 12).
There is another kind of faith that I have found takes just as much courage. This lesser known faith doesn’t get preached as much, but it’s just as risky. I call this faith: the faith to stay still.
There are many examples in the Bible where God’s call is not to do anything but to stay still.
David had to wait in the wilderness to become king. He had his chance in the cave, but God’s plan was different (1 Samuel 24).
After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt they were trapped against the Red Sea — the Egyptians were behind them while the Red Sea was in front. The only thing separating the Egyptians and the Israelite was the pillar of fire sent by God. God told Moses to “stand still and watch the Lord rescue you.” (Exodus 14)
One of my favorites and the most quintessential story for this type of faith is when God promises a son to Abraham (Genesis 18). Abraham was to wait for the promise. He didn’t wait and that set off a chain of events that we feel to this day.
The faith to jump out of the boat is what we most often teach, but many times the faith that is required is the faith to stay still. Stay calm. Wait. Your friends may goad you into premature action, misunderstanding what God is doing. Everything within you might be crying out “take control.” Nothing’s happening. Maybe you didn’t hear God. But this is where your faith must stand strong.
A number of years ago my time serving at a particular church was coming to an end. The church board had told me that they could no long afford to pay my salary. I was given a certain amount of time to find a new job, so I began to search for where God would lead us next. I had dozens of conversations with many pastors over the next few months. Eventually, all proverbial irons in the fire disappeared except one, which we assumed was the place where God was leading us.
All the way, my wife and I had been praying for a place where we would feel loved and valued. About 85% of the way into the hiring process, we learned there was some disunity on the search committee regarding the decision to hire me. The majority was for me, but the percentage of people who didn’t feel I was a good fit was too high for us. When my wife and I prayed about it, we decided to pull our name from the list of candidates, based on our specific prayer to be at a place we were loved and valued. Keep in mind, I had no other prospects and my time at my job was quickly coming to an end. The pastor that we had been interviewing with called to say he wanted us to move forward in the hiring process, and I, with knees knocking and hands shaking, told him we were pulling our names from the list of candidates.
In that moment my wife and I needed the faith not to step out, but the faith to stay still. This was one of the hardest decisions we have had to make, but it ended up being the best decision and has led to some amazing fruitfulness. Without getting into all the details, everything worked out and God paved the way for us to join that same church — where we would grow in our faith and build lifelong friendships.
I could tell you more stories about times I wanted to run, but God was saying “stay and be faithful.” Time and time again, when He asked us to stay we see the fruitfulness — usually it displays itself in greater maturity.
I don’t know your situation. God may be telling you to take a step of faith out of the boat — grab His hand in the storm and let Him lead you. Or He may be telling you to stand still. Be faithful. Keep calm. That’s where discernment comes in. With the Holy Spirit’s help He will lead you to the right decision. Whatever it is, God has something great in store for you!
I’m sure we’d all love to hear your story. Feel free to write it in the comment section below.
PS — another amazing story about standing still while God works things out is found in 2 Chronicles 20. It’s worth reading!
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