Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

Do not fear the Unexpected

Again, today I offer a distillation of sermons heard, books read, and songs sung. Read with an open heart, please. Reflect upon personal experiences.

We are often so beset by things happening in rapid succession that we are completely unable to set a course for the life we are trying to live. The press of events piles on, while spirits dampen. Stress takes hold. We try less and less to get control. Failure looms. We, not God, are in charge. Much of life is reactionary.

There is another way, a better way. It takes faith to bring it about. If one steeps oneself in the rich resources of the holy word, one learns to accept a plethora of happenstances without reacting or responding. The stronger one’s faith, the less one is blown off course.

I sincerely recommend finding a Bible translation that soothes and challenges one’s own heart. Mostly, I use The Good News Bible, first published as a New Testament under the name Good News for Modern Man, 1966. Mine was a June 1979 gift from my paternal aunt, Mary Gertrude Farmer Cartier (1912-1984). Eventually, that Bible became so worn that my sweet Hazel had it renovated and rebound in 2013 on the occasion of my 70th birthday, my 38th ministerial anniversary.

Much of what comes our way can simply earn a shrug of the shoulders. A person of mature faith can brush off disappointment. The secret to such faith is to be rooted in Scripture. God will be in charge.

In the book of Hebrews (11:1) we read that, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We let the Biblical mandate set the tone for living. We trust God. We accept that which he sends our way. 

We also recognize when we are faced with evil. Therefore, we do not let it occupy our hearts, minds and souls. We are free to invest our lives in the goodness of God. We are able to relate to the expected and unexpected, with relish. 

Successful living is a matter of priorities. Putting God first, others next, and self last, is an ordering of priorities that enables us to weather storms. That was a lesson often taught us by the late Reverend Herbert Hall (d. 12/14/2010). It also gives great joy to be free to invest our time in God’s other creations.

We need to survey our Book knowledge. If God loves humankind best of all he created, we ought to look anew at how we feel about each other. His love for us is without prejudice, without restriction. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, there is an encouragement to faith-living: “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”

Being thankful to God for others around us is an exercise that depends on our perspective. Since God loves us so unconditionally that he would require Christ’s death on the cross to secure our salvation, He might also appreciate our trying to love others.

Whom we love is almost predictable. Our close circle of friends, our family—especially children and spouses—are easy to love. Oops, they are also easy to hate. Passion prevails. Strong emotions fuel strong responses. It is a good thing that we are able to forgive. Better still that others can forgive us.

Beyond the ripples of water in our particular pond lie the oceans of faceless persons, sick babies, and ethnic groups of this and that persuasion. Hair, skin color, height and weight, all play into our evaluation of each other. The balance to the scale comes when we force our minds to recite words of faith. Jesus loves us. We must love one another.

No matter how enthusiastically we seek to serve Christ by investing ourselves in the lives of those about us, we will receive unexpected results. At times, we will be overwhelmed by how easy it was. Further, we will be buoyed upward because we might be surprised at a gracious response when we expected a put-down—or at least a let-down. We might be underwhelmed.

Back and back again, we must come to faith. Faith-living requires book support. We need to all become people of the book. It is the map by which we travel the peaks and valleys of life. It sets the course for us. It prepares us for the unexpected.

God, who is so quick to forgive, is equally quick to anger. In Job 34:24, we read of the message of Eli’hu admonishing that, “Without inquiry He scatters the mighty and sets up others in their place.” We miss many a blessing because God bestows them on those to whom He has sent us to love. We failed to represent God. He found another to reward.

Around most corners lies the unexpected. The way to turn the corner without fear is to send God ahead. We might next offer ourselves to shield other persons (even unknown) from danger. We won’t even think of ourselves. We instantly spring free our mortal selves. We have accepted the call of the Divine. We experience a glimpse of heaven. What could be better?

A deep faith in God prepares us for whatever circumstance of life looms, on whatever horizon. Those who trust in God need not fear. 

When faced with the unexpected: we have to trust God, love one another, and tell others…