Bear witness

Black bear roams Yellowstone-July 1963

Black bear roams Yellowstone-July 1963

“Anyone can perform good deeds for an audience; the best among us do their greatest work when no one is present to bear witness.”- Ken Poirot

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may be glorified with Him.”- Romans 8:16-17

The summer following Vicki’s completion of 6th grade at Emmaus Lutheran School (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), the Miller family traveled out west to visit her sister Grace and brother-in-law Bob, a naval officer stationed in Idaho.  On the way, they toured Yellowstone National Park.  Encountering some “tame” bears on the road, Vicki’s father Victor stopped the car so she could get out and feed the bears.  Oblivious to any danger, Vicki fed the bear whatever junk food her parents had available.

Blindsided and overwhelmed by the devastation of vocation loss, fear encamps around our heart, consciously or subconsciously controlling our convictions.  As a result, fear gives way to doubt.  John Ortberg (Know Doubt, 2008) describes three fear responses to doubt:

  • The Skeptic- fears disappointment; questioning
  • The Cynic- fears accepting responsibility; suspicious
  • The Rebel- fears surrendering to God; defiant

Pastor Ortberg underscores that your actions are the best indicator of your true beliefs and true purposes.  Most noteworthy, deception can be displayed in what you say as well as think about what you believe.  Therefore, our actions reveal what we really believe, as John explains:

“But I never violate my idea about the way things are.  I always live in a way that reflects my mental map.  I live at the mercy of my ideas about the way things are.  Always.  And so do you.”

We choose the convictions we build our lives upon.  Do your convictions bear witness to the hope within you?  Timothy Keller (Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, 2013) observes that when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace, their confidence was actually in God- rather than in their limited, finite understanding of what God could do.  Pastor Keller writes the three men believed “all the way down to God.”  Spiritually fire-proofed, they were able to bear witness that God is God.

Corazon Aquino (1933-2009), 11th President of the Philippines, noted the relationship between faith and hope:

“Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past.  Rather, it is a spirit that bears things- with resignation, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope.”

About the author

Dave Henning

  • Avatar Ruth says:

    Thanks for sharing, David. Vicki’s story reminds me of when Sylvia was a toddler in daycare and there were turkeys and other fowl in the play area. For a time she was enamored of the turkeys and would gobble at them. Similar to Vicki’s ignorance of the bear danger, we thought it was cute when the daycare teachers took a photo of Sylvia standing nose to beak with a turkey. Thank God the bear and turkey took no offense!


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