Wisdom Devotionals

A Stretch of Faith

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

While John Paton was serving as a pioneer missionary to the New Hebrides islanders, one of his primary objectives was to learn their native tongue so that he could write a translation of the Bible for them. 

But upon learning their language, he faced a massive obstacle: they had no word for faith. How could he translate the Bible without it?

The answer came in surprising fashion.  One day, Paton went hunting with one of the native’s and they shot a large deer. After tying its legs together and supporting it on a pole, they laboriously trekked down the mountain back to Paton’s seaside home.  

Exhausted, the two dropped the deer as soon as they arrived and then collapsed in the deck chairs. The native exclaimed with a sigh of relief, “My, it is good to stretch yourself out here and rest!”

Paton jumped to his feet and recorded the phrase. In his final translation of John 3:16, he wrote, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever stretches himself out on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

That is a beautiful analogy for faith, isn’t it? But let me take it a step further as we look at the context of John chapter 3. Faith doesn’t simply mean stretching yourself out on Christ after you finish your work. It means stretching yourself out on Christ while He does all the work! 

Imagine that Paton had hunted, shot, tied and pinned, cleaned, and carried the deer down the mountain, all while supporting the native on his shoulders. That’s faith! That’s the picture Jesus is painting in this passage. 

A Pharisee named Nicodemus has just come to Jesus under the cover of night to question him. Nicodemus is open-minded. But Jesus cuts to the heart of his pride and tells him that in order to have a relationship with God he has to be born again. 

Nicodemus had served the law with zeal. His spiritual resume’ was overflowing at this point. How could he all of a sudden become a baby again? How could he simply throw his life’s work away by trusting Christ? It was just too much to ask.

Sadly, that is often our attitude towards Christ as well. We see our relationship to Him as a business partnership.  We think we can work alongside God, chipping in with our tithes and talents, managing life’s smaller affairs while leaving the bigger affairs to Him.

The truth is Jesus didn’t need Nicodemus’ help and He doesn’t need ours. “The just shall live by faith,” Habakkuk said, and faith starts by being born again, according to Jesus. 

That is a humbling analogy for all of us who have ever raised a newborn! Babies are utterly dependent. They can’t help pay for food. They can’t clean or change themselves. They can’t even communicate. 

So today, picture yourself as an infant stretched out in the sovereign arms of your loving Father. Don’t stand on your degrees and expertise and years of experience; instead, rest on the shoulders of Him who is able to do wonderful, mighty things through you for His glory.