“Before the rain . . . before the rain.” I first heard this aphorism in one my favorite Robert Redford movies, Spy Game. He quoted it to his secretary near the beginning of the film as he began to make preparations for some of the foreseen obstactles and conflicts that he was about to face. Most certainly, there is much more to the story of Noah and the Flood in Genesis than merely extracting this principle, but still, it is a simple, witty way of communicating the great need to be ready for the anything in the Christian life.
While Kim and I were at my parents’ house in Waynesville, NC, we pulled out some old family videos. On one of them, Mom had recorded numerous newscasts from 1989 that showed the damage that Hurricane Hugo had inflicted on South Carolina. At that time, we lived in Camden, SC and were heavily devastated by Hugo’s aftermath. I remember waking up the next morning after listening to the howling winds and snapping trees throughout the night and seeing the incalcuable amount of wreckage including the sight of tall pine tree laying in the middle of our GMC Jimmy (like a Chevy Blazer), causing the car to resemble a smashed coke can.
We tried to be ready, but it seems that one can hardly be prepared enough for something as powerful and dominating as a hurricane bent for destruction. However, the other week when I taught Sunday School at Redeemer Church, we looked at John 14:1 where Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” Here, Jesus gives us comfort that ought to enable us to stand firm in the faith now, instead of waiting until the trials and hardships come to pray that he will strengthen our hearts. It seems that these words are conveyed to the disciples with the understanding that if followed, then a metaphorical Hugo will have little lasting effect.
This verse is commonly known as a standard funeral service Scripture text. However, Jesus is not submitting words of encouragement to his disciples by the bedside of a dying mother or at the graveside of a lost child. Rather, Jesus speaks these words to the eleven (in John 13, Judas had left to betray Jesus) in what seems to be the calm before the storm. If you’ve ever sat through a bad storm, you know that those few moments before it hits can be the quietest, but also the eeriest. In fact, not long ago, Jesus had just finished washing their feet and eating with them secluded from the crowds and the busyness of outside life. These words from the Savior were uttered probably in the warmth of fellowship and brotherhood. It seems that only Jesus, the Devil, and Judas really understood the immenance of what was about to take place.
In light of Jesus’ disclosed departure, he gives them a simple command. Believe. But, this belief was not characterized by just believing that everything would turn out alright; instead, Jesus exhorts the disciples to believe in God and also in himself. What a comforting picture. Jesus, the soon to be crushed Son of God, is so sure and at rest under the divine plan and purpose of his Father that he does not hesitate from commending them just to believe in him. Now, do not be led into thinking that I am promoting some existential belief system here, devoid of substantial theological and contextual content. To remedy that misguided idea, just move on to verse 2. Still though, Jn 14:1 contains no extra explanation of this plea. It seems that sometimes we just need to be told to believe in God.
But, this is not only belief in his existence. Jesus has revealed God the Father all throughout John’s gospel in many different ways and it would be foolishness to think that when he speaks these words to them that he expects them not to take the Father’s disclosed person and identity into account as the intended object of belief. Therefore, the God who is to be believed in is the one who was in the beginning (Jn 1:1), the one who sent John the Baptist (Jn 1:6), the one who sent Jesus (3:16), the one from whom the Son takes all his cues (5:19), the one whose will Jesus does (6:38-40), the one who is greater than all thieves and robbers and from whose hand no one can be snatched (10:29), the one whose works the Son does (10:37), the one who has given all things to Jesus (13:2), the one for whose glory the Son of Man will be glorified (17:1-2), and, of course, the God who is Father.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, I hope it gives you an idea of what ought to come to mind as you stand now in the faith believing in God. Thus, long before tragedies and tribulations strike, you will already be found steadfastly believing in the God whose will is perfect and purpose is sure. You will already be resting in full assurance in the God who resurrected his only Son on the third day, but knew from before the world began that in order to do so, Jesus had to suffer and be crucified. So, believe now in God! Pray that he will strengthen your faith in the present in the knowledge and wisdom that you have already from his Word.
Work hard at your faith now even though you may have seen little or no rain in your life. Others may look and laugh, but when the heavens open and your world is drowned all about you, belief in the Triune God will be the ark what keeps you safe and at peace with the Lord and others, secure above the flood and ready for the waters to subside so that you may make an altar of praise to him for the great things he has done.