No Way Out!
Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord which he will work for you today.
Exodus 14: 13
It is always good to have mountains to the right and left, an enemy behind and the sea in front, for then faith has its opportunity. One great hindrance to faith is lack of need. If God blesses you with need he will bless you with faith, and faith works best in really desperate need. Faith, we are told, can remove a mountain. Nothing is said about anthills. You will find no record in Scripture of the Lord healing a mild headache. No, he deals with impossible cases. The trouble is that when God gives us a chance to exercise faith, you and I often cast it aside.
There is little sense in believing if at the same time you provide yourself with an alternative way out! Faith works most convincingly when there is none. Pray boldly therefore to be shut up, as Israel was, to the Sea. Then, to unbelief’s question, “Can God?” you can dare to affirm as your personal confession: “He is able.”
Most of us would like to tell amazing stories about how God made a way for us in an impossible situation, but few of us really want to live those stories. Someone has said that there are no testimonies without the accompanying tests. Those of us who read the stories in the Bible of the great victories and amazing outcomes often fail to see that while the end of the story is amazing, living the story not so much. Yet, in truth, as long as we are able to figure a way out, to have a backup plan, or some means of help besides the Lord, we will see few miracles.
One of the things I learned in my missionary journeys is the simple truth that where there is a need with no remedy available except God, that is the place of faith. Only when we find ourselves in dire straits and have exhausted all resource with no change to our circumstances and further have come to the end of ourselves will we discover faith. I discovered, for example, that divine healings occurred not because myself or the person in need were extraordinarily spiritual, but that the need was great and there was no source other than God. When I was working in Kenya there was little to no access to the level of medical help we find here in America. As a matter of fact an admission to the hospital usually resulted in death because of the lack of knowledge and equipment and medicine. That produced in those who were sick a desperation that moved them to faith. On my part, the expectation of those coming for prayer for an intervention by God moved me to deeper faith because the situation demanded it. When there’s no other hope, faith arises. However, we shouldn’t wait until we are in that place before we begin to build our faith. Romans says that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Therefore we need to be people of the Word who are learning the character and promises of God. For most of us we wrestle with what we think we know and all the details of the situation against what the Bible teaches. I’ve often said that the more we know the less we believe.
Let’s consider a few stories from the Bible to illustrate:
One day Elijah passed by the house of the Zeraphath widow who was in dire straits. With no resource, she was preparing to bake the last oil and flour into a little cake for herself and her son. Once that was gone, she and her boy would starve to death for there was no help available. Elijah instructed her to bake him a cake first. Now we have a dilemma. Should she bake the cake and give it to the prophet or should she keep it for her son and herself? This is the dilemma of faith. Do we choose to set aside what appears to be facts and trust God or do we choose to be rational and logical? Rational would say if I give away the cake I’m hurrying up my death and if I keep my cake perhaps before I starve some other option might become available. But full knowledge of the place of desperation can move us to faith. I’m sure she must have concluded that either way starvation was imminent and apparently she decided to cast the die of faith and make the cake for Elijah first. You see faith isn’t some clean, easy, polished thing. Faith is a struggle about what we will believe and act on, sometimes at great costs.
In the New Testament we find a woman who has a medical condition- an issue of blood. Scripture tells us that she had spent all she had and had gone to a multitude of doctors and was still in the same condition. Perhaps she had given up any hope of being well again. At the very least she had exhausted all resource. But on this day she heard that Jesus was passing by and she had heard that He had healed many people. She determined that she was going to ask Him for help. I’m sure we can all relate to this story for often we wait until we have exhausted every other means before we bring our need to Christ. This woman had several hurdles to get over before she could get help. First of all, Jewish law required that any person who had an issue of blood was to isolate themselves from society. Her first barrier, then was to overcome religious ritual. Second of all, her body was weak and it would take all her energy to make the trip. She had to overcome past and reason that told her if she exerted this energy and got no help she would worsen her condition. Sometimes we feel we need to conserve or resources, even though they’re running out and we’re at best surviving, rather than choosing to “cast all of our cares upon him.” Once she made her way to Jesus, she discovered another obstacle- the crowd. They had pressed around Jesus and in her weakened condition she had no strength to push her way through. But that didn’t stop her for desperate faith will always find a way and more often than not it will be the path of humility. This woman who couldn’t walk upright and make it through the crowd began to crawl until at last she found herself at the feet of Jesus. Can you see her now slipping between the feet and legs, perhaps being kicked as she brushes against someone? Does the actions of others who seemingly barricade our access to Christ send us back home still sick? Do the obstacles move us to give up and settle for our present condition? Not this woman.
As she is crawling, she decides that it’s unnecessary for her to be touched by Jesus, fir Him to even speak to her. She decides that her point of faith doesn’t need to be large or obvious- just to touch the fringe of His garment is sufficient. Those who find desperate faith don’t feel the need for some great experience. A small indicator is sufficient.
Faith moments aren’t really the place that most of us seek on our own. God, who loves us, often leads us to these places. The psalmist in Psalm 23 tells us that “he makes me to lie down in green pastures.” God knows that left to ourselves we would at all costs avoid the “green pastures” for they are in the valley hemmed in by the mountains. We would choose the peaks where the views are amazing without realizing that the peak has no nourishment and we would starve.
The Israelites were ready to leave Egypt but they weren’t ready for Egypt to leave them. God in His grace led them to the testing place of the Red Sea so they might learn to trust Him. That’s the purpose of testing. It’s not so much to test us as it is for God to prove to us His faithfulness. The Israelites were trapped with no way to go forward for the Red Sea was before them and no way to go back for Pharaoh’s army was coming behind. They only had one course- to look up. God used that moment to teach us a lesson. When He brings us to the place of impossibility, He shows us a new way that we could never conceive of on our own. Who would have imagined that God could and would make the waters of a sea divide? Second, He brings us to that place so we might see His power over our enemy. Just as Jesus was led to the wilderness to overcome the tempter, so too, God allows us to be confronted with temptation so its power over us can be destroyed. Finally, that place became a barrier to the Israelite’s past. When the waters closed again, the way back to Egypt was shut off. In the times of great testing, God desires that they serve to deliver us once and for all from our past.
Today, as radical as this may sound let us pray what Nee encourages us to pray: Lord, shut me up as you did Israel at the Red Sea so that I might answer doubt’s question-“Can God?” with “I know He is able!”
Dr. John Thompson