Toothaches and Trouble

"Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot is a confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble." Proverbs 25:19

In 1983, Dana and I called a sitter, and went on a date night to see a "real" movie for the first time in a long time. I was almost in a sugar sweet coma from all the "My Little Pony," "Care Bear," and "Miss Strawberry Shortcake" movies we had been attending. The theme song of "Ghostbusters" can still bring a smile to my face, "Who ya gonna call? 'GHOSTBUSTERS!'"

Challenges to our faith do not come from ghosts who are not real, but from people who are. For almost four years, I attended a monthly meeting with a group of men who were unapologetically intent on knocking my feet out from under me. I often referred to them as "FAITHBUSTERS." They were good at it and proud of it. There were times, I would leave those meetings, and my teeth would hurt. Sounds like Solomon had some experience with this. Who knew?

I tried the Matthew 18 thing with the ring leader of this group, and went to his house to try and discover what made these guys so difficult to trust. His words were, "You just have to understand. We are all engineers." That was his answer. It was perfectly clear to him that he was not doing his job if he didn't find the flaw in every design, or the cloud behind every silver lining. He went on to describe four different times in the life of the church where they had missed God. Each story began with a pastor bringing a plan. They would tear it apart, and berate the pastor until he had no following. The pastor would leave, and they would start over. Note: This church moved 16 pastors in and out in less than 30 years. They had "U-Haul" on speed dial. One of the pastorates lasted two weeks. I was beginning to think he was the smart one.

As I approach 60 years of age, I can honestly say, I have spent almost six decades around "people of faith." There is probably no greater oxymoron to describe the Christian community. "People of faith" too often is associated with a snoozing assembly of people snuggled in a safe harbor. It should be a word picture of an army with fearless trust in God, overcoming obstacles, and conquering new territory in spite of the trouble ahead.

Over the past 60 years, I have seen trouble come, and I have seen it go. One of my favorite lines that only experience can teach you is, "This too will pass." The one denominator, all too common in the face of trouble, has been "the people of faith" have often lost their confidence in the face of unexpected circumstances.

Faith is a risky business. Faithless people have terminal "risk aversion." This causes them to get very creative when trying to make up excuses for not following through on what God has planned for their lives. If economic times are tough and money is tight, they will say, " We need to wait until times get better." If there is an economic boom going on, then their response to a "divine appointment" is, "Well, it won't last. We need to save for a rainy day." Faith is rarely improved through exhaustive examination. This is called the "paralysis of analysis." It is not a matter of dissection but it is a sense of direction.

The real "people of faith" will always be tested by toothaches and challenged by troubling times. Faithful people refuse to be intimidated by immediate circumstances. They resist the urge to doubt in the dark what they knew to be true in the light. Rather than turn up the heat of anxiety, they turn on the light of God's Word.

"Take no thought for tomorrow." Matthew 7: 34

"Nothing will be impossible with God." Luke 1:37

"Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you." I Peter. 5:7

"My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory." Philippians 4: 19

"Without faith it is impossible to please God."Hebrews 11:6

"I will never leave you or forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

Faith is not a weapon to point at God in order to coerce Him to do our will. Faith is the risk we take every time we trust and obey God's Word for His will in our lives. "People of faith" should not be a laughable, contradictory oxymoron. It should be the description of people who are childlike in their trust in God. Children run up to the sign next to an adventurous ride, and stretch as tall as they can. They pop their vertebrae and eagerly search the face of a parent for the nod of permission to get on board. If they are refused access to the adventure, all hell breaks loose. In too many faith communities all hell breaks out when permission is given for the adventurous ride, not when it is refused. I think the doors of every church ought to have a sign out front, "YOU HAVE TO BE THIS TALL TO RIDE THIS RIDE!" It might save the Body of Christ a toothache.