I often tell this story, not as a means of convincing people that they will always get what they pray for, but as an illustration of what faith looks like: Faith in God, not faith in a specific, pre-calculated outcome. John Martin trusted God – his life was a testament to that fact – whether the rains had come on that Saturday afternoon or not.
This is reminiscent of an even older story found in the ancient book of Daniel, the story of the “Three Hebrew Children,” known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These three Jewish boys were ordered to bow and worship a god that was not their own, not the God that they knew and trusted. Such an act of false worship, for them, was beyond the pale, so they refused.
For their noncompliance, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were to be cast into a fiery furnace and burned alive. But before the sentence was carried out they were given a final opportunity to acquiesce. Their response might be the greatest statement of defiant faith in religious history.
They said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power…But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you that we will never bow and serve your gods.”
Here is mature faith: It is far more than a cheerful outcome contrived within our imaginations, or a “happily ever after” post-scripted to every story we tell. It is trust in the God behind all outcomes; it is hope in the God who is writing our stories. Enough of this faith that professes only the ability to change our circumstances; such faith is little more than a lucky rabbit’s foot.