An Analogy for Faith in Light of My Weekend Installing Floors

As I was laying floors this past weekend I thought of a helpful analogy for putting our faith in God even when we can’t see everything God is doing.

When you are laying floors it is helpful to have someone troweling glue, someone laying wood into the glue and someone outside cutting. I think our relationship with God is a lot like the guy measuring/installing the wood and the guy outside cutting the boards. The guy inside measures the boards to make sure they fit just right. He measures and marks the boards for cutting and takes the board out to the cut guy (that’s us). I am not sure who the glue guy is yet (Jesus or the Spirit?) but let’s not stretch this analogy too far now!

Our job is to find the mark on the board for reference and cut it as best we can. We give it back to him and he goes in and installs the board. We cut board after board after board. Some we cut on the mark while other times we miss. When we miss, he goes in and figures out how to make it fit the plan in order for the floor to be complete, just as he intended it. We don’t see this all come together. All we see is one board after the next that gives us a glimpse of what is going on inside and an idea of how the floor will look. But it is not until the whole floor is laid just right that the installer comes out and gets us. He turns off the saw, puts his arm around our shoulders and walks us inside to see the finished masterpiece.

I think our faith is a lot like that. We don’t always get to see everything God is doing but he is giving us reference points to try to follow. When we follow them everything fits his plan. When we don’t, he makes up the difference and works it out anyway. What is amazing is he keeps handing us boards even though we haven’t cut them all perfectly! All we have to do is keep cutting and keep believing that He is going to make the pieces fit the way he planned. Then one day we actually get to step inside with him and see how it all came together.

Tie in Scriptures…

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” – Romans 8:23-25

“”Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” – John 14:1-4


What would you consider the non-negotiables of our faith?

I am curious what this group of people would consider the non-negotiables of our faith. One of the problems dealing with post-modernism is it is really easy to get swept up in a sea of doubt as things get deconstructed and our foundations get questioned. We certainly do have our traditions and one of the problems in the past is that our traditions were made non-negotiables (seems like Jesus had something to say about that to the Pharisees a time or two). So with a cordial spirit and without bashing our traditions let’s talk about which things our so foundational to our faith that we cannot be willing to give an inch on them. I will toss out an easy one and see where it goes from there.

The Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Gospel of Mark – From Fear to Faith (4:35-5:43)

The NIV chapter break between 4 and 5 is in an unfortunate place. 4:1-34 is a distinct unit and 4:35-41 clearly fits together better with the miracles in chapter 5. There is a common theme in the four miracles in these verses. In each one people are afraid and each time Jesus points to the importance of moving from fear to faith.

Jesus Calms the Storm (Mark 4:35-41):
What’s the big deal…Jesus calms one storm on one sea to save one boat full of people. Out of all the storms, seas, and people who have needed saved why is this one such a big deal? Ben Witherington (Mark, 174) points out the first big picture item that is happening in this series of stories. What three forces in the ancient world can you name that would be outside your control?

1 – Nature
2 – Spiritual powers
3 – Death

In these stories Jesus confronts these head on, commands them into submission, and wins. Notice what Jesus says to the storm, “Quiet! Be still!” He commands it. He speaks to it. He is re-creating and subduing nature. In the very beginning God separated the waters above from the waters below (Gen 1:7). In Mark 1:27 Jesus rebuked an evil spirit and it obeyed. In the next story Jesus rebukes a legion of demons and they obey. Jesus is not just calming one storm. He is demonstrating a far greater power through this one representative act. The kingdom of God is breaking in and people are going to need new wineskins in order to accept this new wine because what happens next is even more inconceivable. But first notice the reaction of the disciples – they were afraid and Jesus calls them to faith.

Jesus Triumphs in Gentile territory (Mark 5:1-20):
In 4:35 Jesus said, “Let us go over to the other side.” Other side of what? The Sea of Galilee. What was on the “other side?” Gentile country. We tend to read the Gospels very flat with one miracle being just as astounding as the next but that is not how they would have heard this. Jesus is crossing into enemy territory. On the way in they go through a storm, which he stills. When they get there they dock the boat at a cemetery, next to a field of pigs, and a bleeding man filled with not just one demon (like in Galilee) but a legion of 2000 demons. In the words of Three Dog Night, this is the place “mama told me not to come.” Just like with the storm, Jesus commands the demons out of the man and they obey.

From this point on we get a back and forth parallel between Jesus ministry in Galilee and his ministry in Gentile country across the Sea of Galilee. Each time they enter Gentile country they encounter a storm (BWIII, 174). The order of Jesus’ miracles in Gentile/pagan country mirrors the ministry he did in Galilee (Jewish country). Ever wonder why Jesus fed 5000 and 4000? It was not 9000 Jews he fed. It was 5000 Jews the first time and 4000 Gentiles the second. What was Jesus very first miracle in Mark? He exorcised a demon in the synagogue in Galilee (Mark 1:21-28). After that crowds of sick Jews were put before Jesus for him to heal. What was the first miracle Jesus did on Gentile soil? He exorcised a demon (Mark 5:1-20). After that crowds of sick Gentiles were put before Jesus for him to heal. By the way, I give Witherington credit for bringing most of this to my attention.

But here is what the commentators miss. The disciples on the sea were afraid and Jesus pointed to faith. The crowds that came to see the healed many named “formerly possessed by Legion” were afraid and Jesus didn’t point to faith. How could he? They didn’t have the Torah, prophets, etc. What did Jesus do? He told him, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” N.T. Wright points out that this man was the first apostle to the Gentiles rather than Paul (Mark for Everyone, 57). Instead of pointing them toward faith, he pointed this freed man to teach them about the Lord and his mercy to build their faith. The two stories that follow also deal with faith.

Jairus’ daughter and a Sick Woman (5:21-43):
Jairus comes to Jesus with a bold statement of faith, “He pleaded earnestly with him, ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’ So Jesus went with him.” (5:23-24). By the way verse 24 makes a great memory verse! Mark departs that story for a moment in one of his classic “Markan sandwiches”. He tells the story of the woman who had been bleeding 12 years who in faith touched Jesus clothes to be healed. Notice what happens next. Jesus asks who touched him. The woman comes forward, “trembling with fear, told the whole truth.” Notice Jesus’ response, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” (5:34). Fear – faith, fear – faith, fear – faith. We see it again in the completion of Jairus’ story. People came and said his daughter had died. At this Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” (5:36). Jesus goes to his house, enters her room, and commands her to “get up.” Even though in the grave, her spirit obeys and she is raised from the dead.

Jesus’ words ring loud and true – Don’t be afraid. Just believe. Are you facing a storm? Why lack faith? Why be terrified if Jesus is in the boat. The message of these four stories is this – Jesus has the power to control what to us is uncontrollable. Because of that we need to put away our fears and believe.

No Longer Ordinary – John 5

In John 5 we have the story of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath. Like we saw in John 4, Jesus does not always do things that fall in line with our expectations. Before we get to that let’s have a look at the conversation with the lame man. It starts with a condition, paralysis that leads to a question, “Do you want to get well?” I think that parallels our relationship with Jesus quite well. The one who has the power to heal comes to us in all of our weakness and asks us the same question. If we respond through faith in the affirmative, he will come and make us whole as well.

Like this lame man, when the initial invitation comes from Christ for spiritual renewal, we probably will not completely understand the offer – we may equate it with things other than Christ. The words of Christ break ground in a life that has formed its opinions by what the contemporary culture has said in the past – try dipping in this pool or that, try to get in first or last, go here or there…these words of Christ give a seed of hope to a life that has heard all of the empty promises before. Faith starts to take shape as this new message competes with all of the old. As the conversation unfolds it becomes clear that healing is not found in pools or by magical or angel empowered water, it comes only through the Son of God. The next thing you know the legs have feeling again and the 38 year perspective of seeing things from three feet off the ground expands as he takes to his feet for the first time in decades and sees the Christ eye-to-eye.
The Jews had a real problem with Jesus healing on the Sabbath. It all boils down to an authority issue. Since they believed Jesus was not the Son of God then he certainly didn’t have any right to work on the Sabbath. The Jews acknowledged that some work was done on the Sabbath, one out of seven circumcisions would have been performed on the Sabbath, but that was an exception because God required that it be done (that is probably part of what Jesus was referencing in 5:17 – “my Father is at work to this very day.”). For Jesus to legitimately do work on the Sabbath was to put himself on level with God. That is precisely what he was doing. The Jews didn’t message the message behind the actions and that is why they wanted to kill him. He could have waited until Sunday or Monday or come a day early and done it on a Friday but he didn’t. He had a point to make – God is not constrained by our presupposition of what he can and cannot do. Neither is Christ, as God in the flesh bound by them. If they were we would have authority over them and they would have to fall in line with our opinions, rules, and regulations. Thank goodness they don’t!

Jesus goes on to talk about life that comes through belief in him and a resurrection that is in store for those who have faith in the Christ. We are reminded that believing in Jesus is not “ho-hum,” “run of the mill,” or “ordinary.” Many of us have believed since our youth that is seems quite ordinary to believe in Jesus. In reality it goes counter to all the messages that the world has to send our way. It is a light in the darkness, truth amongst lies, life in the midst of death. Church is plagued with people who have fallen into “status quo” Christianity, people who believe the message of Christ is quite ordinary. Tell me, when was the last time you saw God die for someone? Is that happening every couple of weeks to make it seem quite ordinary? I sure don’t think so. Let’s live mindful of the fact that the message we have for the world isn’t and never has been ordinary. No, it is extraordinary.