Obstacles and Opportunities: The Tug-Of-War For Our Faith (Part I)

In our lives, our faith is constantly pulled in one direction or another. It reminds me of a game of tug-of-war! One of the most grueling sporting events must be the tug-of-war. Any time you get strong, determined men together to pull the day-lights out of each other using a rope has to be one of the most intense feats of strength around. During these competitions, the men will strain their muscles in order to pull with grit and determination. Such focus and rigor is required if they are to pull the central flag over to their side. As I watch a tug-of-war, I can’t help but consider the similarities between this event and the war that rages around us. Spiritual influences are constantly vying for our attention, and we face choices daily to determine who wins our focus. You can choose to yield and succumb to the obstacles to your faith, or you will decide to direct your steps toward the opportunities to enhance your faith. Such decisions are found in the story of Jairus:

And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him. – Luke 8:41-42

Let’s paint the picture: Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, and his wife watch over his young daughter. Perhaps she is lying on a bed, sweating from a fever. Imagine that this very bed – her death bed – was once the bed where her mom and dad would dream of the future together.  This was once the bed where they would tell her a bedtime story.  Yet now, she lay on that bed with her eyes are closed as her stillness frightened these worried parents. Mourners and hired musicians gather outside their home. The mother is on the verge of tears while Jairus tries to remain strong in spirit. His mind rushes to find answers. What will I do? What can I do? What can anyone do?

What kind of man would Jairus have been? As the ruler of the synagogue, he would have held a chief seat in the room and practiced a sort of man-devised worship mixing the traditions of Old Testament with rabbinical teachings of his day. His religion had no answers for his present situation. Although Messiah expectations were high, they were mostly for political and nationalistic reasons, not for grace for salvation.

Yet, God was seeking to work in the life of Jairus. He had a deep need that he couldn’t sense yet. Along the journey to faith, Jairus will face obstacles, which could derail him, and opportunities to encourage him. God arranged circumstances to reveal his need of faith by using someone very close to his heart – his little girl. Just like Jairus, our faith will face both obstacles and opportunities in a spiritual tug-of-war, yet God is working in your life as well!

The first obstacle was the very city in which Jairus lived. Capernaum was largely a faithless culture despite being a site for much of Jesus’ ministry. The people there knew Him and His family from his youth (John 6:42; Matthew 9:1). This was the location of many of the stories we read about in the Bible (Matthew 9; Luke 7; John 6). There was only one synagogue in town, and it tended to be antagonistic to the Lord. They murmured against Jesus, argued against his preaching, and viewed him only as another common “teacher”. Their scorn was backed by a powerful religious group called the Sanhedrin, who were forcing Christians to leave the synagogues (John 9:22). All combined, the culture of the very place Jairus lived was an obstacle to the development of his faith.

In our lives, sometimes where we live can become a hindrance to the development of our faith as well. The culture, or the spiritual environment, of your home plays a powerful role in our lives. In your home, are you creating an environment that is Christian? Have you developed or allowed an attitude that goes against the spirit of Christ? Take a look at some of your at-home activities. Are you critical of your pastor or other people in the church? Do you respond to your wife in anger? Are you easily annoyed by your children? Do your desires come before those of your family? It is critical to remember that the home is the center of Christian learning because the home is the center of Christian living. I envision that one day my children will tell others that they were raised in a Christian home. I want that declaration to have significance and meaning. A Christian home should be exactly what it sounds like: a loving place where Christ in welcomed on the part of all members of the family. Does this definition summarize the spirit of your home?

Culturally, the town of Capernaum was against Christ, but Jairus was going to be influenced by someone very close to him…his daughter.

I believe his first opportunity to develop his faith came at the urging of his daughter, a believer in Christ. In Luke 8:52 (skipping ahead a bit in our story), The Lord uses terminology to describe the girl which is only used elsewhere in the Bible to describe Christians (I Thessalonians 5:10 – she is not “dead” – subject to hell; she is one who sleeps as one who “should live together with him”). I believe that at some point in Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum this little girl accepted Christ as her Saviour. It was common for children to flock to the Savior as the faith of children is often quite strong.

Imagine the daughter faithfully urging her father to trust Christ. I’ve experienced something similar with my own daughter. A couple months ago, I was working on a project on my computer when it suddenly shut down. I scrabbled to bring the system back online and worried that my work was lost. As the computer turned on, I discovered that all the work was lost. I poured my heart into that project, and I was very discouraged. My daughter, a new believer in Christ for not even a year yet, said, “Daddy, I want to tell you something.” I turned to her, skeptically, to hear what she had to say. Sophia said, “Daddy, if you pray and trust the Lord, He can help you. That’s all I wanted to say.” Of course, she was right. In that moment, I decided that I better pray. When I got back to the project a moment later, I pulled up the file again and it was restored. I am not sure how it could be gone one moment and back the next, other than to say that “if you pray and trust the Lord, He can help you.”

Parents, sometimes we may find ourselves on the receiving end of a child’s faith. Even as Jairus’ daughter lay dying, I can imagine her faithfully urging her father to trust Christ. Imagine the mix of emotions and influences upon him as he was making his decision. The culture of the synagogue that he oversaw was antagonistic to Christ. Reaching out to Christ would risk his family’s stability if he was put out of the synagogue.

Imagine the mix of emotions and influences upon Jairus as he was making his decision. The culture of the synagogue was antagonistic to Christ. Reaching out to Christ would risk his family’s stability if he was put out of the synagogue. His own heart was telling him to let go of his daughter. Jairus fully expected his daughter to die (the minstrels were already hired). There was really no earthly reason to leave his daughter’s side. Imagine the pain of not being able to “say goodbye” to your loved one before they pass. Imagine not being present to comfort your sorrowful spouse Imagine your own heartache as you walk the long, lonely path to find a solution.

What situation are you facing that is pointing you to Christ? There are times when problems become so large and so hard that we realize that we cannot face them on our own. It is in these times that you must listen to the urging of those pointing you to Christ. God is using the testimony of others, the preaching of the pastor, the teaching in Sunday school to direct your steps toward Him.

Jairus concluded that this problem was beyond the scope of his ability. In the 11th hour, Jairus departed to find Christ.

Though all the world seems to be against you, the Lord wants to help you. Turn to Him today in faith with prayer for the grace to help in your time of need.

How does this story end? Check out Part II to discover how to win the tug-of-war for your faith!

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