What does it mean to live in testing faith?
The weather was bright and cheerful. The rays of a New Guinea sun burned down on a village normally occupied by the Tifalmin natives, but they were out in the field working on their farms and gathering firewood. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. No one dreamed disaster was about to strike. Walt and Vonnie Steinkraus, a dedicated Wyclifffe missionary couple were at home resting alongside their daughters Kerry and Kathy.
At precisely 3:00 p.m., a freak of nature occurred as a huge section of the 3,000 feet mountain on the opposite side of the river from the Steinkraus’ house suddenly broke loose. With a deafening roar and incredible force, a half-mile-wide, one hundred feet deep section plunged downward, scooping out sandbanks and crossing the river with lightning-like speed. It drove through the opposite bank and covered the village with rock, mud, and debris ten feet deep. The missionary family was buried in the landslide. Death was instantaneous. Two eyewitnesses ran three miles to a mining camp and reported the scene. A Western Union telegram bore bleak news:
March 21/71 Urgent! Walt and Vonnie Steinkraus and children buried in village by landslide Sunday 21st. Stop. Please notify next of kin. Stop. Vonnie’s father has heart condition.
The news stung deep. A numbing disbelief gripped relatives and friends across America. The Wycliff family was stunned, even though many were seasoned veterans, tempered for years in the fires of hardship and affliction. How wrong it seemed, how unfair! Why? With a world full of reprobates and rebels, why a missionary family? With a thousand other vacant hillsides many miles from a living soul, what that mountain at that time? With pockets of people all over the island not half as strategic as the Steinkraus family, why them? Engaged in the painstaking process of translating the Bible into the Tisalmin tongue, Walt and Vonnie were taken before the project was complete.
It was not fair, but it happened. And now all that was left was the task of facing life in the reality of testing faith that hopes in the power of God’s resurrecting love in Jesus.
Testing faith – living in the resurrecting hope of Jesus when a 7.8 earthquake strikes southern and central Turkey and northern and western Syria on February 6 resulting in the deaths of at least 56,000 people and displacing at least 2.5 million people. Testing faith – living in the resurrected hope of Jesus as The United Methodist Committee on Relief partnered with local relief ministries to provide tents, heaters, blankets, warm clothes, ready to eat meals and first aid kits to those who were displaced.
Testing faith – living in the resurrected hope of Jesus in Rolling Fork, Mississippi after a tornado destroyed the local United Methodist Church building, and the congregation gathered on the following Sunday to worship on the front steps of the church. Witnessing to resurrecting hope as expressed by the church’s pastor, Mary Stewart, who said, “I’m grateful that we can spend this time together on the Lord’s Day.”
Testing faith – living in resurrecting hope as we confess our belief and trust in Jesus who was raised from the dead. This is the faith Peter was writing about almost 2,000 years ago. It is the faith that still speaks to Jesus’ followers today. To appreciate the testing faith Peter was writing about, it is important to understand that I Peter was a pastoral letter written to house churches that were scattered across 5 Roman provinces. Persons in these house churches were among the first generation of Christians to believe in Jesus based on what they had heard about Jesus. This is why Peter wrote in I Peter 1:8:
“Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him.”
Writing to the first generation of Christians who had heard about Jesus and who believed in Jesus, Peter encouraged them as they were being persecuted for their belief in Jesus.
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Testing faith – resurrecting hope in Jesus whom we have not seen, but in whom we still believe. This is the faith we are called to live as Christians in this present generation of faith.
Testing faith – believing in Jesus as we are born into living hope.
Madelyn Hildreth was a Christian who knew about living in testing faith. She writes about her life and being stricken with polio as a child. “When I was three years old, I was one of the first nine people to have the disease diagnosed as polio in New York state, and I was nearly sixteen before a series of long hospital stays and endless operations enabled me to put my feet on the floor, and walk with the aid of heavy braces and crutches, to begin to walk. I’ve never been able to walk across an open field or play a game of tennis, or go to a dance.
I know the meaning of frustration. I’ve had to work hard on my attitudes. I could not permit myself to be eaten up by the virus of self-pity – or jealousy for those who possess something without any effort that I have worked my head off to gain – and know now I will never have. I have lived in a prison cell, in a body that I could not control. What am I to do? How am I to respond? The Christian answer is to move forward!”
Testing faith – may God bless you with living hope through Jesus.
by Pastor Marc Brown
April 16, 2023
Accompanying Scriptures: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for April 16, 2023
Scripture Lesson 1 Peter 1:3-9
The Good News “Testing Faith”
Music “Morning Has Broken”
Closing Music “How Sweet the Name of Jesus” by Mark Weston