K. KENDALL MATHEWS: Faith strengthens us during difficulty

Sunday, April 3, 2011 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

I remember growing up in Detroit how I put my faith into action at my uncle’s party store. 

It was there that I learned how to work with people and work through problematic situations that challenged my faith. Sometimes it was a thankless job. My uncle would always say, “You must be patient with the customers because we want them to come back again.” I did not always agree with that viewpoint, but because it was not my store, I had to do what I was told. 

Our walk with Christ is the same; we have to be patient with God’s creation and learn to wait on him to bless us through other people — even through individuals who respond to us with ungrateful words or actions. 

Take note of these words from the Bible: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” --1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV. The things I cannot change in others are reminders of the benefit of keeping my faith strong and steadfast. 

My faith in Christ helped me avoid possible negative responses to the people who shopped at Mathews Party Store in the '70s. Faith in Christ is my decisive answer to the chaos of the world and the faithlessness that some people demonstrate. Faith is the light that shows people in pain that they, too, can find hope, health and help in God. 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” -- Ephesians 6:10-11 NIV.

Events that are beyond our control take place. Perhaps someone misunderstands something you said or we don’t understand someone speaking to us. Do you think Abraham understood why God asked him to offer up his only son? Do you think Noah understood why God asked him to build an ark? They placed all their faith in God. I think that the Lord is calling us to remain faithful to him. We never know what lesson God may be trying to teach us. Hebrews 11:1 NIV says, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

When my only daughter, KaShaye, was 3, I would stand her up on the bed, and then ask her to fall into my arms. The first couple of times we tried this, she had a hard time trusting that I would not let her fall. But after awhile she placed her faith in the fact that Daddy would catch her. Our heavenly father needs us to do the same when we are facing hardship, personal pain, or spiritual battles. Our complete trust in him has the power to increase our faith.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your path straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

Faith in God’s promise that he will never leave me nor forsake me was the key that allowed me to overcome those challenging people at my uncle’s store. I had to work at it, but the example of Christ helped me stay on the track of faithfulness. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” -- Hebrews 11:6 NIV

By faith, let us pray for the people in Japan, many of whom have lost everything in the recent earthquake, tsunami and radiation troubles. We must place our faith in God that he will lead humanity in helping the Japanese people overcome the hardships of this great tragedy. We must be ready to act in a positive manner when called upon to do so. Our faith in each other’s ability to do good will play a key role in bringing about physical healing and restoring their society. Moreover, it will take a total reliance on God, an unmovable faith, and spiritual dependence upon the Lord to strengthen the people impacted by this disaster. Faith is not merely belief — belief becomes faith at the point of taking action in what we believe.

Let us take action and pray that God will increase everyone’s faith during this time of transition for the people of Japan. “Do not let you hearts be troubled.  You believe in God; believe also in me.” — John 14:1 NIV.  The days ahead will be very trying and there will be many tests.  What we do shows what we believe.  Through these difficult times ahead, let us develop more fully our trust in Jesus and our faith in God. 

Major K. Kendall Mathews is the regional coordinator for The Salvation Army.

(573) 356-3595

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