Mature Faith in the Time of Adversity

By Nick Westbrooks

As interpreted by Rev. Peggy Fields

Habakkuk 3:16-19

In the book of Habakkuk, the writer talks to God on behalf of the people of Judah. The prophet Habakkuk questions God and wonders why He allows righteous people to suffer and endure so much evil throughout the land (Chp 1:2-4).

God responds to Habakkuk by telling him that the individuals engaged in the evil activity will eventually be judged. Meanwhile, the people of faith will await the “revelation” to be fulfilled as the earth becomes filled “with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord…” He encourages Habakkuk as well as his followers to be patient and trust Him.

Just like the people of Judah, many of us now tend to question God and wonder why He allows righteous people to suffer and those who practice evil appear to be prosperous. We question why we can have “three college degrees and be unemployed,” why a couple “can divorce after 25 years of marriage,” how adults can get away with abusing children and how a gunmen can kill 12 people in a movie theater.

Instead of asking why, we should remind ourselves of who God is. We must be like the people of Judah and be patient and trust the Lord. Trust God even when we don’t understand what He’s doing. God’s plans are often different from our own, and quite frankly, better than ours.

Don’t worry about the evil in the world for God has everything under control. With the Lord’s strength, we will survive these trying times. “When you don’t understand God, rest in it. Don’t rebel. Your arms are too short to box with God.”

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Celebrating the Foundations of the Future: Florida Avenue Baptist Church’s 100-Year Anniversary

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” –Isaiah 58:12

This week, the historic Florida Avenue Baptist Church of Washington, D.C. celebrates its centennial anniversary. During my summer stay in the District, I’ve had the privilege of visiting the church and being a part of the momentous occasion under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Earl Trent, Jr. Many institutions observe anniversaries, but very few can say they’ve been around for 100 years, especially those established by the hands, heads and hearts of African Americans.

FABC was founded approximately four decades after Reconstruction, a time of illicit racism and segregation all over the United States. Already facing the problem of the “color line” in addition to scores of other challenges, the faith of the founders and members allowed the holy institution to thrive in the midst of those trials.

The 1919 Red Summer gruesomely afflicted Blacks across the country, including the nation’s capital. An exorbitant number of Blacks were violently attacked and killed at the heels of arguably America’s bloodiest race riots circa post-World War I. Despite the riots and the youth of the newly founded establishment, FABC survived the unrest.

In the late 1960s, FABC would also survive the riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination. Some of the church’s congregants would faithfully serve and bravely fight in each of America’s conflicts overseas. Through all of the major events–positive and negative—in America’s history, FABC is still standing strong.

It’s a blessing to see three and four generations of families congregating the pews and completing the Lord’s work at FABC. Members rearing their children and their children’s children in the church teaches them to love Jesus and live righteous lives, but it also maintains the church’s rich legacy.

As the Rev. Jeremiah Wright noted when he delivered the centennial Sunday service message on July 8, African Americans are the only group of people that doesn’t document its history or revolution, which is detrimental to our livelihood.

“Failure to write down your revolution means it will die when we die.”

One of the key points Wright had for the FABC family was that people have to teach their history to the youth, because they don’t know it. This isn’t necessarily the church’s history, but Black history in general. Unfortunately, Black children learn distorted and destroyed history from their oppressor; HIStory instead of OUR story. In turn, this disempowers Black children and negatively affects their perceptions of themselves.

With teaching the youth our story, both the good and the bad must be taught. Wright calls this repentance. Despite our achievements, there are many things that we are ashamed of as a people. On many occasions, we’ve turned our backs on our African past, but we have to tell all sides of our story.

Most importantly, the 100-year anniversary is a moment of celebration. It’s a time for the church to rejoice at its wealthy history and the faith that has brought it this far as it optimistically looks toward the future.  The centennial also serves as a reminder that much work remains to be done, and more laborers are needed now more than ever to spread the Gospel and tackle the many issues facing Washington, D.C.’s Black community.

Congratulations to Florida Avenue Baptist Church on achieving 100 years of stewardship, evangelism, missions, social justice and education. You’ve come this far by faith feeling no ways tired. And with that steadfast faith, there’s no limit to where you can go. I wish you 100 more years of continued blessings and success.

Faith of Our Mothers Part 2: From Pain to Power

At the beginning of our Mother’s Day service at Calvary Baptist, we had a special alter prayer for the mothers and their children. Sons, daughters and grandchildren stood next to each other, touching and agreeing while the pastor prayed for their faithfulness, unity and encouragement. After the alter prayer, everyone returned to their seats and had a moment of silence for the mothers who were not among us anymore.

The assistant pastor also suggested that we pray for those mothers who may be going through painful times. I prayed for the mothers who passed and for the mothers enduring pain. In particular, I lifted up the mothers who lost children, and that time of meditation reminded me of a recent story in The Final Call.

The article told the stories of mothers who lost children to violence and how they are turning that pain into power; using their faith to remain hopeful while leading the movement to prevent other mothers from feeling that pain.

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, lost her son in February when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman. She has dealt with the pain by reminding herself that “God is still in control.” She said she would tell mothers who lost children to “read their Bible, remain prayerful and keep pushing forward.”

Dealing with the pain of losing a child is unimaginable and has to be increasingly overwhelming on Mother’s Day, a day that is suppose to be a joyous time where children show their appreciation towards their mothers. But the faith of Ms. Fulton and the many other mothers is the catalyst that transforms their pain into power.

Wanda Johnson’s son, Oscar Grant, was shot and killed in 2008 on a train station platform by a former Bay Area Rapid Transit District officer. Johnson attributes her strength to endure and remain hopeful to her faith.

“Had I not had a relationship with the Lord, I probably would have fallen into depression.”

She also said that prayer not only gave her power through God but it gave her the strength to encourage others. The article entitled “Mother Love Conquers Adversity” also told the stories of Theresa Williamson, Valerie Bell, Enola Causey and Wanda Hawkins, all mothers who lost their children to violence but found power in their faith.

As I reflect on this subject, I think of Nardyne Jefferies, the mother of 16-year-old Brishell Jones who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in southeast Washington, D.C. in 2010. I met Ms. Jefferies a couple of months ago when she spoke to the male students in the chapel at Howard University on the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. We prayed with her, and it was evident that her faith was keeping her grounded during those trying times.

I also think of the mothers of Tylik Pugh, Saahron Jones, Shakur Prince, Sha’Ron Jackson, Jonathan Paraison and the several other names from around my way who are gone but never forgotten. My prayer is that those mothers find the faith and peace to turn their pain into power on this Mother’s Day.

My heart goes out to all mothers who may be experiencing the pain of lost. Lord willing they keep pushing forward, remain faithful and keep the memory of their children alive so another mother will not have to experience the same pain.

Happy Mother’s Day

Peace

Faith of Our Mothers: Part One

Last year, I stayed on campus for Mother’s Day, but this year I made sure I was home to sit next to my mother and grandmother in church on Sunday. Along with sitting next to two of my favorite girls, I was highly anticipating the Mother’s Day word from my dear pastor, the Rev. Dr. Dwight C. Northington.

Referencing 2 Timothy, the preacher focused on the first chapter and the fifth verse in which Jesus remembers the “unfeigned faith” of Timothy’s mother, Eunice and grandmother, Lois. The “unfeigned faith” of the two biblical mothers is the faith that our mothers should strive to achieve. This is the same faith that is sung about in that classic congregational hymn that churches sing every year at this time, “Faith of Our Mothers.”

We were encouraged to pray for our mothers, for they “go through many things men wouldn’t go through.” The biggest task of them all, the pastor said, is carrying a child for nearly a year and giving birth: “Lord have mercy, I know brothers couldn’t deal with that nine months of kicking and moving.” I know I could not deal with it. Women are especially blessed with the God-given ability to bring forth life.

There was a word of encouragement for our mothers who face unfortunate circumstances with their children. Whether the child is not doing right or the child’s father is not doing right, the preacher man urged those mothers to not let the negative hand they have been dealt to interfere with the love of their children.

In order to survive those troubling times, mothers “must have unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that is deeply grounded in the word of God.” Also in the words of the reverend,

“Don’t hit the panic button, hit the prayer button.”

Having that steadfast faith, that faith of Eunice and Lois, means mothers should bring their children to the house of the Lord so they may learn about Jesus and learn that “God is good.” Not only should mothers bring their children to church and Sunday school, but they should come and learn WITH their children. In this manner, mothers adhere to Proverbs 22:6 which instructs parents to “train up a child in the way that he should go…”

Every day should be Mother’s Day. On this day, we should pray for their continued strength and be thankful for their faithfulness and nurturing love. Most importantly, we should honor our mothers just as the Word says. I pray that all mothers be encouraged and continue to have genuine faith.

Look out for part two.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Fear is Preparation

Earlier this week, I briefly conversed with an OG (original gentleman). He asked me about school and when I’m supposed to graduate. I told him I would be graduating in December, which is not a long time from now. He then asked that dreaded question that many prospective graduates hate to hear: “What are your plans after graduation?” I have some idea of what I want to do, but my goals are not specific, so I simply responded, “I don’t know.”

His response to me was “I bet that’s scary.” With less than eight months until graduation, I undoubtedly agreed with him. At this point, he shared with me a jewel about dealing with fear. He started out by asking, “When an animal becomes afraid, what does it do? It tenses up.” The OG explained that when an animal tenses up, it means that it is either preparing itself to either attack or run away. Furthermore, he said that when you are experiencing fear, it only means that you are in preparation. Therefore, fear is something to embrace, not to be afraid of.

I believe my fear lies in the uncertainty of the future and the unknown. I have somewhat overcome the fear of failure, but I have struggled with not knowing what I specifically want to do with my life, or rather what God’s will is for my life. While time was passing me by, I have not been making the moves I need to in order to establish a career where I am earning a living while changing the world.

The words from the OG reminded me of a sermon that I heard sometime last year. The preacher stressed the importance of distinguishing between concern and worry. I have to learn how to eliminate the worry from my mind and only allow he spirit of concern to dwell in me. I cannot allow myself to be become worried about the future. With concern and no worry, I maintain the faith that God will supply my needs and provide guidance while using the power He has given me to take steps towards doing His will.

I agree with the famous quote from President FDR’s inaugural speech: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” My attitude towards fear may hinder me from reaching my fullest potential. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” In accordance with this scripture, I am not embracing fear as an acceptable emotion, but I am embracing it as a feeling that can be transformed from something negative into something positive.

As I attempt to transform the spirit of fear into a spirit of power and rely on the success of my faith, I recognize that fear should be received rather than rejected, and I remind myself that I am preparing to make major moves, and God is preparing me for those moves. All I have to do is stay prayed up, educate my mind, leave everything in the God’s hands and simply be cool like I know how to do.