Os Guinness tells the story of a Chinese Pastor who told him: “My people are just two unanswered prayers away from looking at other religions”. Why? They lack understanding of the truth on which to build their lives with a solid foundation.
The 3-step pattern goes like this: I have a need. I hear that Jesus is the answer to my need. I believe. At the end of this process, all goes well for a while as my fresh experiences of my new faith bolster what I have said I believe.
However, to build in a way that will cope with the storms of life requires four, rather than three, elements in the progression: Do I have a need? Is Jesus the answer? Do I believe? AND, How can I be sure? Faith needs to be grounded in the certainty of facts rather than left suspended in the nebulous realm of feelings. Too many Christians have both feet firmly planted in mid-air, to use a phrase of Francis Schaeffer. But faith must be rooted in the Truth. Jesus said that the seed that genuinely bears fruit is the seed that is planted in good soil. This represents, as Jesus put it, “the one who hears the word AND understands it” (Mt 13:23).
This is the calling of the church: as Paul describes it, she is to be “a pillar and buttress of truth” (1Tim 3:15). It is people who are grounded in this way who will stand secure in the storm. Even in the storms of those apparently unanswered prayers, God’s mysterious decisions to not do all that we ask him to do, when we ask, or in the way that we ask.