[Adapted from this week’s sermon: “Have a Little Faith.”]
I’ll be honest: for most of my life, I’ve interacted with God in much the same way that Daniel does in chapter 12, verse 8:
I heard but could not understand; so I said, ‘My lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?’
Have you ever felt like that? “I could not understand.” Maybe you don’t know why you’re even in the place you are—literally or figurative; relationally, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. Maybe you don’t know where you’re going next. Maybe you don’t even think you’re still on the map!
A little bit of context for these verses: this is the end of the story of Daniel—at least what’s told in the Bible. This passage comes after several chapters of visions and dreams and prophecies that are hard to understand. God reveals them to Daniel, yet they concern social, political, historical events that will happen hundreds of years after Daniel’s death.
So understandably, his response is: “I don’t understand; can you explain it to me?”
Sometimes we like to think that if we only knew more, we’d be able to live life better.
If only I knew what school I’m getting into; or what I’m going to major in; or what job I’m going to get (or that I’m going to get a job!); or who I’m going to marry (or that I’m going to get married!). If I only knew that my kids would turn out okay; if I only knew that I’d be looked after when I’m old. If only … If only I knew, God, what you have planned for me, that would make things so much easier. God, just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. Show me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.
If you’d told me in 1999, when I was at boarding school in Surrey, England, applying to go to university in London to study law, that twelve years later, I’d be working at a church in Washington, D.C., I would laugh at you. If you told me in 2004, when I was studying music and playing in a rock band, that I would end up preaching more than performing, I would think you’re crazy. If you told me even a few years ago, when I was immersed in the world of politics and advocacy, that God wanted me to be a pastor …
If you’d told me that my path would include leaving good friends—best friends—and family behind while I moved across oceans and countries, that it would mean seeing my nieces and nephews only once every few years because we all live in different places, that it would mean almost getting married … and then not, and then enduring several relationships that would be better characterized as “false starts,” that it would mean deep feelings of rootlessness, struggling through the issue of my own self-worth, and learning many, many lessons the hard way, I’d say, “Thanks, but no, thanks. God, would you mind designing something a little less tortuous, something a little cleaner, something a little more to my preference?”
On the journey of life, we all come up against things in life as Daniel did at the end of his–things that we just can’t get our minds around, things we just don’t get–and we say as Daniel did, “I don’t understand. God, what shall be the outcome of all this?”
Sometimes, God tells us; sometimes, we get an explanation. Sometimes things are revealed to us; sometimes we catch a glimpse of what God is doing.
But more often than not, we get the response that God gives Daniel. This is how Eugene Peterson translates it in the Message, from verses 9 and 13:
Go on about your business, Daniel. … Go about your business without fretting or worrying. Relax. When it’s all over, you will be on your feet to receive your reward.
And we can imagine Daniel’s response (as ours often is): “You didn’t answer the question. You didn’t tell me what I wanted to know. You haven’t told me what to do.”
But that’s where the book ends–with God’s answer.
Throughout the story, even leading up to this moment, we’ve seen Daniel “going about his business.” And that doesn’t mean living however he pleases, with no reference to God. That means living according to what he does know, what has been revealed, and with what understanding he does have.
In doing this, Daniel shows us what it means to have faith. He doesn’t have to know it all before acting. He doesn’t have to have the assurance that things are going to work out how he thinks they ought to work out. He trusts.
You see, the point that Jesus is actually making is this, and I said this a few weeks ago, but it bears restating: it’s not about how hard you try, it’s not about how much faith you’re eking out; what’s important isn’t the size of your faith, it’s the God in whom you have faith.
Have faith in God, just a little bit. Trust in him, just a little bit. Put your life in his hands, just a little bit. And see what happens.
Because God has given us plenty to go on already. We are very capable of “going about our business” as Daniel did; God’s given us much of what we already need. Listen to this:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
- Love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
- Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
- Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
- Preach and live out the good news of Jesus Christ, make disciples of all nations, teaching them to do as Christ commands. (Matthew 28:19-20)
- Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy. (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:15-16)
- Pray to your heavenly Father that his kingdom would come and his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10)
That’s all in the Bible already, and if we think about the implications of each of these, that’s plenty to get on with. If we even sought to live out one of these fully, we’d begin to see how much God has already said to us.
God has already shown us and given us his grace and his peace and his love in the person and life of Jesus Christ, and he says, “I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you. And I give you my Spirit.” And as the Apostle Paul reminds the church in Rome, this is “the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead [who] lives in you.”
The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you.
When you begin to grasp that, when you begin to tap into the truth of that, when you begin to get your sin and self and pride out of the way and truly let the Spirit live and speak and love through you, your life will somehow seem fuller, more exciting, more pregnant with possibilities.
Elton Trueblood, former chaplain at both Harvard and Stanford, said, “The deepest conviction of the Christian is that Christ was not wrong.” And John Ortberg writes, “At its core, faith is trusting a person.”
Trust that Jesus means what he says:
If you have just a little bit of faith in me—just a mustard seed’s worth—even when you don’t understand, even when you’re questioning what’s going on, even when you can’t see the whole picture, even then, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will be so, and nothing will be impossible for you.
Don’t let your fear of the unknown, your clinging to the concept of certainty, your confusion in the midst of chaos, keep you from living life to the full, from loving God and loving people with everything you’ve got. God has things in store that we can’t even imagine, a story so grand that we can’t even conceive.
So … go about your business. And have a little faith.