Watch Out for Functional Atheism

Remember Christ

In the midst of storms in your life, have you forgotten who Jesus is? Do you doubt whether or not God intended for you to be in the storm-tossed boat in the first place? Do you understand about the provision of Christ himself as seen in the abundance of the loaves? Do you take courage in the fact that Jesus is who he claims to be? When you remember Jesus, does your fear vanish?

When we understand who Christ is (the sustenance provider and storm controller) we will have peace in the midst of life’s storms. Misunderstanding who Jesus is only brings us fear and distress.

Unfortunately, we follow in the disciples’ footsteps more often than we would like to admit. Our anxiety and distress are often a result of not seeing Jesus clearly. We are blinded to reality and fail to recognize Jesus and his true identity. We sail through life—both on calm seas and rough waters—forgetting who commands the winds and the waves.

James writes in his epistle,

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. —James 4:13-17

Our pain is not an accident. God is in control over every swell of the waves.

God With You

It has always been God himself who dictates whether you and I live or die tomorrow. We do not know what tomorrow holds for us, but he does. Friend, our lives may be a mist, but it’s a mist that God holds in his hands. It’s a mist he knows about and is in control of. Isn’t that reassuring? You are not an accident. Your pain is not out of his control. God oversees your life.

It is easy to go about our days as functional atheists. We believe in Jesus but we live like he does not exist. We go through our days and face our storms forgetting Jesus and what he has done for us. The disciples’ trial on the sea and your trials right now are gifts of grace. You may not think it in the depths of your pain, but your suffering can be a gift.

Focus on Truth

How can this be? Our view of God’s ways is like looking at the ocean from the beach: there’s more of the ocean that you do not see than what you do see.1 There is more to your trial than meets the eye, and it is hard to remember that when we misunderstand or misbelieve who Jesus is. One of the best things you can do for your case of mistaken identity is meditate on truths from Scripture that describe Jesus as the sovereign ruler of the universe.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. —1 Chronicles 29:11-12

The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. —Psalm 103:19

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. —Psalm 115:3

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. —Job 42:2

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. —Matthew 28:18

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. —Ephesians 1:11

When we know the truth of these verses, we know that our pain is not an accident. God is in control over every swell of the waves. He is sovereign over every gust of wind. The answer to our fear, stress, pain, and trials is not to merely get to the other side of the sea, but to guard against a case of mistaking Christ’s identity in the midst of the storm.

1. I heard Paul Tripp say something similar to this in a sermon on Mark chapter 6.

This article is adapted from Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials by Dave Furman.

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