Continuity in Faith
By Belinda Fontanez, PhD
Learning through Faith
James 1: 12 states, “blessed is the one who perseveres under trail because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
When I survey my life, I look back at my early adulthood and note that the road was often lined with potholes, boulders, and mudslides that would have prevented any clear-minded person to traverse another path. However, as knowledge was independently attained over the last twenty five years, I chose to be led by the Holy Spirit, and continue to plant my feet on a superior path.
However, it was never easy, and it was not always pleasant. When we permit “self” to die and put on the robes of righteousness as we are called by our Father to walk in His precepts, we need to first acknowledge our fragile state before we can comprehend or proclaim victory.
I was raised in a family that was Christ centered and I learned that the label of being a “preachers’ kid” was in itself, a burden to carry. There were trials and missed opportunities, for when you digress from the “LivingWord”, the entanglements of life will pursue you to construct an amphitheater of defeat.
As a youth, the pillars of my faith were tested throughout the years as I choose to stay on the fringes of assurance, the mind set to achieve and conquer the material world was more troubling then rewarding.
The Storms that Test
The first of many trails began when the schedule of work and education took a physical toll on my body. The symptoms were erratic and difficult to identify. I struggled for many months losing weight, chronic pain, and loss of appetite without any reprieve or diagnosis. It was by the premeditated grace of God that a family friend recommended a physician in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
I was assured that through further testing, an answer would be provided within a week’s time. Again, you must comprehend that up to this point, no physician had the ability to identify the cause of this mysterious illness. For the consideration of brevity, the diagnosis was that cancer cells were discovered in a blocked area and surgical removal of the bile duct was highly recommended. To this day, I am still amazed that I was snatched out of the grasps of death.
There was no need for chemotherapy or radiation treatments, unheard of for the medical profession. Prior to the surgery several doctors had indicated that the end result would be a slow and painful death.
However, I serve a loving and life giving God. He is Jehovah Nissi, my Banner, and it was his declaration over my life that sealed my destiny with healing virtue and power. There is not a day that goes by when I do not recall and bask in His mercy for me, the hope of my Redeemer was and continues to be fulfilled.
Since that time in 1995, I have been challenged with a stroke, mini-strokes, a pulmonary embolism, and open-heart surgery. All of this occurred from 1999 to 2006. My trials were examined and I remain in conformance to the written word of God, that although I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he has remained with me, gently reminding me of the message of the cross, the Lord’s desire for relationship, and yes, his desire that those who seek and follow him would walk in faith that defies all understanding.
As a pastor, educator, research author, and leader in the community, when I preach or teach, the question I am often asked pertains to the strength of trusting in a God who allows such pain and personal devastation. I often find myself smiling at the question. How many times did the apostles and disciples suffer for their faith? I am no different.
I have probed the questions through the carnal mind; however, the perfect response has and continues to be formed in the spirit. This journey is not easy nor is it to be framed around our own concepts of obedience. I would not miss out on the lessons of faith learned through the darkest days, or bypass the Lord’s mercy for the sake of personal practicality in my service to him. There is an extent of tranquility in the promises that are experienced in each day, a comprehension which no longer challenges the mind, but fortifies the spirit.
Belinda Fontanez, PhD
Dr. Fontanez is co-leader of Beth Hallel Fellowship in Hamilton, New Jersey. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Her research and authorship focus is based on organizational language and institutional logics in hybrid nonprofit organizations, as well as organizational leadership. Dr. Fontanez is currently writing a book on differentiation strategy within organizations..