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Church Message

A Stormy Test of Faith
By Ronald Gallagher

Church message imageChurch sponsors jul17For as long as I can remember, I’ve found the mystery of what goes on inside or beneath the surface of mechanical devices incredibly compelling. One of the early indicators emerged when my grandfather decided to take me on a visit to one of his friends. As he opened the door to his workshop, the expectation of seeing farming stuff was turned upside down. Clocks of every description adorned the walls, and shelves and metered out their "ticktock” chorus from every direction. I had never seen so many clocks — big ones, small ones, cuckoo clocks, grandfather clocks, chiming clocks, and alarm clocks. It was a mesmerizing sight, but the most captivating part was seeing what was beneath their covers. Gazing at all those sprockets and springs felt like looking at the wonder of life itself.

So many different sizes, shapes, and features. . . Some had chimes, some displayed the current month and day, some had alarm bells, and the cuckoo clocks had their little birds. Some were big and heavy, and others could be worn on your wrist or carried in your pocket, and they were powered in different ways. But in spite of their different appearances and variety of applications, they were all measuring devices with one basic function.

. . . And speaking of measurements, we noticed recently that Hurricane Florence was characterized by measurements, too. We heard about wind velocity, depth of storm surge, inches of rain, speed and direction of the storm, property damage, and human suffering. One measurement that did not make the news, but was nonetheless real, was the potential spiritual impact that all storms carry with them, especially in regard to the matter of personal faith. Major crises in our lives send us searching for what faith really is, what it looks like with the religious covering removed. What does faith really mean? How does it really work, and what does it actually do or not do?

Faith is one of those religious words employed by people in almost every demographic, "Christian” or not. But, like so many virtues that we love to talk and sing about, faith can easily slide into the religious cliché category. And like its companion concepts, hope and love, faith is most clearly revealed when the superficial packaging is removed and we find ourselves looking for the substance underneath.

Life-altering challenges can pull our cherished religious words out of the sanctified meeting rooms, stirring musical presentations, and eloquent oratory where we usually view them. Crises cry out for a real life application, and sometimes what we’ve always(??) been taught doesn’t seem to fit.

For instance, faith is sometimes packaged to sound like some kind of spiritual magic wand that we can wave at God and get things we want. Others present faith like a health insurance and disaster prevention program that will protect us from significant loss or damage. The more minimalist view sees faith as little more than an eventual fire escape from hell with few pragmatic benefits here and now. Still others treat it like a spiritual lottery where you close your eyes, repeat some words, and hope you get the winning combination. Storms can bring the ultimate test of what our "faith” really means.

From God’s perspective, faith isn’t a game of chance or the empty recitation of a creed, and it isn’t a means of turning Him into our servant. Like the clocks in the watchmaker’s shop, faith is expressed and applied in ways as individual as each of us, but its primary purpose in every case is to connect us with the priceless grace of God. God may do wondrous things for us, but He may also allow things that are painful and costly. Paul declared faith’s vital role like this: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NKJV)

There’s much to ponder about faith, but another timepiece analogy is worth considering. When my daughter was about four, someone gave her a toy watch. The little replica did nothing to measure time, but she was as proud of that watch as if it had been a Rolex. Her joy in showing it off didn’t change the fact that there was nothing going on underneath.

We don’t have to be in a life-threatening storm to pause, pull the case off our "faith,” and see if there’s anything trustworthy inside. What a tragedy it would be to discover too late that the "faith” we professed was only a religiously approved ornament on our lives.

In addition to being an active writer, speaker, teacher, and blogger, Ron Gallagher serves in a variety of roles as a ministry consultant for local churches. His Biblical insights are coupled with down-to-earth humor, satire, and relevant stories aimed at promoting "Right Side Up Thinking ~ in an Upside Down World.” Ron strives to apply God’s truth in a way that stimulates the mind, encourages the heart, and challenges the cultural norm.  Check out his blog, "Gallagher’s Pen” at

NEW BOOK . . .Ron’s new book, Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth, is now available on Amazon and through Lighthouse Bible Studies. Learn more at


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