[Westmister Theological Seminary] 1998-02-03 - Faith Tested

Proverbs 24:10 "If you faint in the day of distress, Your faith is small."

For Further Study: Biblical examples of faith, once weak, that later became strong:

  1. Commissioning of Moses, the burning bush, Exodus 3:1-22, esp. 3:11
  2. Aaron and the golden calf, Exodus 32:1-10, 19-29
  3. Peter's Denial, John 18:25-27, John 21:15-17
  4. Zacharias, upon learning of his impending fatherhood to John the Baptist, Luke 1:8-25
  5. Doubting Thomas, John 20:24-29

Sometimes we do not know the strength or weakness of our faith until our faith is tested. An account from church history:

In the 1550's, when there was disagreement over religious convictions the solutions were much simpler than they are today. Generally those in power burned, be-headed, banished, locked-up, or dealt in other various severe ways with the minority.

On October, 16 1554, Bishops Ridley and Latimer were to be burned at the stake for their Protestant convictions. Archbishop Thomas Crammer was to watch from a tower, with the understanding that, "you are next". The two Bishops were tied to the stake and gunpowder was placed around them to make quick work of the task. Latimer, is reported to have said to his companion, "Be of good cheer, brother; we shall this day kindle such a torch in England as, I trust God, shall never be extinguished." Latimer died quickly, as he was very old. Ridley lived for a while among the flames.

This sight was more than Archbishop Crammer could stand. He renounced his faith, recanting it in writing. His actions were published all over the country. And while his faith was small for a while, he must have realized that it is never to late to return to a merciful Lord. He recanted his recantation. When he was tied to the stake, in the presence of a mass of people, he produced from his bosom the paper which contained his initial recantation. In a symbolical gesture, he took it and threw it into the flames. In a last gesture, he said, "This which hath sinned, having signed fer punishment." Placing his arm and hand over the fire, Crammer burned them himself.

This example from church history shows both that being faint in the day of distress happens, and yet that it is never to late to come clean and live the life of faith and trust in the Lord.

Now we don't have burnings much in the modern church, although I think we would all be very surprised how many around the world do pay with their lives for their faith in Christ. Our struggles are different; inviting a neighbor to church, or to a neighborhood investigative Bible study, taking a stand on a moral or ethical issue with our colleagues at work, and the like. Nevertheless, we still must not faint when called upon to show our faith to be strong.

"You don't know what faith you have until it is tested." Rees Howells

Soli Deo Gloria,