Many of us have this inkling which manifests itself as a nudge, to probe a little more into certain aspects of things that go beyond what meets the eye, just to be doubly sure before embarking on a venture or taking a decision prior to making a commitment. Why? because that is the only way you can be at ease or else you will be forever fretting that something might go wrong and that the consequences could be devastating. Nothing really is wrong with such an attitude.
Our Lord Jesus knew this when He taught His audience that it is better for them to build on rock than on sand or mud because when the storm comes there is very little that can be done to your house. It is securely standing on a rock which is not so with the sandy or muddy foundation. With the latter, water will seep through to the foundation and the house will crumble and fall and great will be the crash.
Somebody once wrote that it is not in the middle of a storm at sea that you should learn how to pilot a ship. If you do, you are likely to cause more trouble. A storm should have found you ready with all the apparatus you need to protect yourself, so that you will not panic.
Yet, we shall always have around us people who will never be ready for the worst-state scenario. When all the disciples were saying ‘the Lord is risen,’ one of them was saying; ‘Except I thrust my hand into his side and a finger into His hands, I will not believe.’ We deduce that apostle Thomas was not listening when his Master declared He was going to die and rise again; that He would destroy this temple (His body) and build it up again in three days – referring to His death and resurrection.
Simpletons like Gideon who twice sought confirmation from God to be certain God had sent him, is not any better than Thomas. The angel of the Lord did all he could to boost Gideon’s resolve to take on the challenge before he could believe it was God speaking to him. Gideon was amazed that he could exchange with an angel but was hesitant to do as the angel had instructed not until he was convinced beyond any shadow of doubt.
Apostle Peter was with his companions in a boat crossing to the other bank of the Sea of Galilee when a storm arose. Naturally, all of them in the boat were frightened. To overcome his fear when he heard Jesus’ voice, he called to him: ‘Lord, if it is you tell me to come?’ In other words, I do not feel safe here. So, can I come over to you where it is safer? Couldn’t he have just got off the boat and rushed into the Lord’s hands for safety? Well, it is easier said than done. Peter was not sure he could walk on water like Jesus did unless he got the nod from Him. It is apparent that neither of these characters had robust faith.
Some of the seasoned personalities behaved differently. This same Peter after the Lord’s resurrection did not hesitate to plunge into the water soon after he recognised it was the Lord who had asked them to throw their net for a catch and they caught a lot of fish. The doyens of faith had been ruminating on the word of God -- from whence came their strength. Echoes of comforting words of assurance like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you‘ were firmly anchored in their hearts.
There was one instance when Moses asked to see God’s glory and God retorted: “You cannot see my face, for no one may see my face and live.” (Exodus 33:20) When our Lord Jesus spoke to His Father about glory, He spoke from the standpoint of someone who had already it seen before. He only wanted a reconfirmation. “Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You.... And now, Father, glorify me in the presence with the glory I had with You before the world began.” (John 17:1,5)
Human beings are very difficult to deal with because they are self-willed. Most of them are hard of hearing or simply just blind. No end of repetition can get them to fall in line. But prophet Isaiah had prophesied that “Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving” (Isaiah 6:9) because the hardness of their hearts would be an obstacle to receiving the word of God.
Two disciples of Jesus were returning to their hometown after what seemed like a disappointing experience following Him. Their hopes had been dashed for they were expecting a Messiah to fight for them and deliver them from Roman occupation. Now the person in whom they had put their trust is dead – there was no point for them to hang around in Jerusalem. Jesus joined them on their way, but they could not recognise Him. He had resurrected with a new body.
They started discussing the events that had taken place and Jesus interrupted them to enquire about ‘what things?’ Jesus seized this opportunity to enlighten them. “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26) Close to the village, they urged Jesus to stay with them before pursuing His journey. As they were about to share a meal, Jesus “took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised Him and He disappeared from their sight.” (Luke 24:30-31) Their reaction? “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (verse 32)
Following Jesus is not about our sensations or feelings; it is about building and maintaining a relationship on a day to day basis. He Himself said you must stay with the vine to survive -- if you want to be a fruitful branch. (John 15:5) It may take some practice getting used to the voice of God like young Samuel in the Temple. However, for the three Jewish lads Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who displayed strong faith in their God -- despite an ultimatum of instant death if they failed to bow before the golden image, -- it was clear that they would not bow to a lesser god.
Hear their response to the king: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
They knew in whom they had believed, and were not surprised when a fourth person joined them in the furnace.