Faith & Understanding

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  -John 13:7

I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. -John 13:19

His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. -John 13:22

But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. -John 13:28

In this post, I would like to point something out that becomes quite obvious as you read the Gospel accounts, but is much more difficult for us to accept in our own lives. Notice how many times just in the verses above from ONE chapter, Jesus’ closest followers struggled with understanding what Jesus was doing or saying to them. Jesus even stated that while they didn’t get what he was doing or understand the significance of what was taking place, they would understand later.

Here’s the problem however for us: we want to understand with perfect clarity in the present what often only makes sense looking back on it as a past event.

As followers of Jesus, it is helpful to come to a place of understanding that we won’t always understand everything right away…and that is ok! Part of what it means to follow Jesus is to submit to an authority higher than own, to One who sees a picture bigger than we see, who knows the end from the beginning, and whose ways are not our ways and thoughts not our thoughts.

Can you think of any situations in your life that only make sense looking back on it now? I bet you can think of multiple examples, just as I can. I also bet there are current situations in your life that don’t seem to make sense right now. You wonder what God is doing, trying to teach you or show you. You may be confused and feeling quite vulnerable. You could even be thinking there must be something wrong with you or your faith because you feel weak, insecure or unsure.

But this is far from the truth! Following Jesus is humbling. It strips us of our pride and illusion of control. We may feel helpless and uncertain, but often, this is evidence that Jesus is doing something particularly significant that will only make sense in hindsight. When God works, it is beyond our current comprehension and this is part of what makes it the work of God!

But notice Jesus’ promise to his disciples in the first verses above from John 13. He told them that while they didn’t realize what was happening in the moment, they would understand later. As one of my professors (Wayne Cordero) put it just this last week to us, faith is living in advance what you will only understand in reverse. Think about that order. First, you live it. Only later do you come to understand it. We want the opposite though don’t we? But that would not be trust in God. It would be trust in our own understanding. God wants us to trust him in the present especially when we don’t understand.

Let me just share a quick snapshot of my life to perhaps encourage you. When I was 18, I went on a mission trip with some friends, where I rededicated my life to Jesus, along with a friend of mine on my baseball team. He and I became very close due to this event, although we went to separate colleges. However, during my first semester of college, I sensed the Lord tell me three things while worshipping one evening; go back home, go to bible college and start a bible study with youth my age.

So, I went home, enrolled in the bible college nearby the next semester, and this friend and I started a bible study with youth our age. The first week of bible college was a mission conference where the theme was “Living in Light of Eternity.” I was captivated by the reality of heaven and what it meant to live my life with an eternal perspective.

Three months later however, this close friend of mine was killed in a motorcycle accident suddenly and tragically. But because we were so close, I was asked to speak at his funeral. There were many people touched by the Lord through his testimony and our bible study exploded in growth for a season. My now wife was one of those. We ended up getting married and now have four children as a result! Additionally, people began recognizing a speaking/teaching gift in me, so I began speaking at various churches, leading bible studies, teaching, going on mission trips and changed my major to pastoral ministry.

That eventually opened a door for me to pastor a church in New Jersey for six years where we saw lives transformed and disciples made. That door (along with a connection to my wife’s family) eventually led to another door being opened to lead an international mission organization out of Colorado where lives are now being transformed all around the world! I also just started pursuing my masters degree in Formational Leadership, which I have been uncertain about, until I actually began (just last week!) and realized a focus on the “leader” and “character” is part of what is so needed in our culture where “leadership skills” is more of a focus than “integrity of heart” and a moral crisis of fallen leaders is leaving a wake of destruction all around us.

God’s hand and preparation through all those seasons is obvious looking back. But I can tell you there were MANY seasons and still are MANY times and situations, where things don’t make sense in the moment. There is also in the midst of it all, pain, hurt, disappointment, challenges, confusion, insecurity and many nights of wondering what God was doing. There have been (and still are) MANY moments of great uncertainty, lack of clarity and not understanding fully what God was doing or trying to reveal.

But God has not called us to master understanding prior to living by faith. Rather, it is as we live by faith that we gain understanding over time and usually looking back. God is calling us to trust him, especially when it doesn’t make sense or we don’t fully understand. This is the place where faith gets fleshed out and becomes trust. And this is deeply pleasing to Jesus. Keep going! Heaven is cheering you on and God is doing something significant that you will look back on in amazement!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. -Provers 3:5-6