The Threat…[maybe not]….

This is going to sound like a threat.

I write this knowing that some may read this and just stop.  You won’t finish this post.

“Someday all Christians will stand before Jesus Christ to give an account of the works they have done since conversion.  We will be judged not on the basis of how successful we were in the eyes of the world, but on how faithful we were in the place God put us…faithfulness will be the basis on which God renders judgement” [Billy Graham*, 272].

Get right with faithfulness or be damned…

Quite a threat [that is the way some may read these words].

Of all the fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness may be the most vague fruit.  What does faithfulness mean?  What do I have to do to be faithful?  How can I face Jesus and get a positive evaluation based on this concept “faithfulness”?

Here are some answers.

First of all, the reason faithfulness is a “vague” fruit is it is based on our being faithful.  Other fruit of the Spirit may have some outward quality that people can point to but faithfulness is an inner quality.  Paul writes of the inward quality of faithfulness in Philippians 2:13 and 1:6 “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” And “He who began a work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  Faithfulness is a concentration on being what we can be on the inside, with the idea if you are right with God on the inside, you will be able to produce more fruit on the outside.

Some may question what fruit?  I am weak of body or weak in spirit.  I don’t have what it takes to evangelize like Pastor Graham.  What can I do?  I can’t do God’s work.  I can’t bring people to Christ.  It is not about quantity; it is about quality.  God knows your situation and knows what you are capable of.  For example, I have a friend who is totally blind.  Some would look at his life and say, he can do very little…poor man.  Truly if you make a list of all the things he cannot do, the list would be long.

But he can pray.

He is a faithful intercessor at our church’s Tuesday prayer group.  He prays.

He never complains about what he cannot do.  He just does what he can do.  God gives all of us talents that we can use to further His kingdom.  We either are too busy to use them, or we downplay them or we refuse to use them.  Faithfulness in our Christian walk is what we do with our talents.  In Matthew 25:21 we find the story of the men who are in charge of “talents” and it says if “you are faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.”  Graham writes “Morality is not so much a matter of magnitude, but of quality.  Right is right, and wrong is wrong, in small things as well as in big things” [269].  Do what you can do to further God’s kingdom; we can all be more faithful. 

We all get frustrated from time to time as we grow at a much slower rate than we wish we could.  God sent His son Jesus to show us how to live a Christian life, and as a professed Christian we are supposed to become as Christ like as we can be.  Faithful obedience can be a very slow process as we wait for the Holy Spirit to remove any “vile habit or developing infection” that our sinful nature inflicts on us.  We should be patient and faithful, because waiting to become like Jesus is worth it, even though mature Christians know that we can’t achieve Christlikeness in our own power and no one can claim perfection in this life anyway.  Running the race is worth it; it is a race fueled by faithfulness and when we stand with God in eternity, we know we will be glorified with Him anyhow.  All we have to do is say “yes” when the Holy Spirit says act.

Lack of faithfulness is actually a sign of spiritual immaturity.  Graham uses an industrial expression to explain how we are supposed to react to God’s calling.  You may have heard of “turn-around time.”  That refers to the time that elapses between the order and the filling of that order.  Many Christians will regret one day the time lag between the point when God showed them His plan for them and their ability to take action.  We must take responsibility for the label Christian.  Some of us want all the privileges of the label but none of the work.  When we are disobedient and refuse to accept the responsibility of being Christian, we are unfaithful.

Being faithful means accepting responsibility; it is a sign that we are spiritually mature and Pastor Graham calls it “one of the most important fruits the Spirit brings to our lives” [270].

Some Christians think about their judgement day and see the threat.  I am not good enough.  I am sure I am going to be eternally damned.  Others see their judgement day in very different light.  My life is my race and I [like Apostle Paul] want to fight the good fight and finish my race.

For “there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge shall give me at that day.”*

Hallelujah!

From his book  The Holy Spirit

From   2 Timothy 4:7, 8

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The Spiritual Fruit of Faithfulness

When you become a Christian, you may sometimes begin to change certain aspects of your life [at least that is expected].  One thing you might do is begin to hang out with other Christians.  You may begin to pick up their expressions and wonder what they mean. 

One such expression I often heard in the beginning of my walk was “I am not as good as I want to be, but I am better than I was yesterday.”

Over the years I have begun to understand what that means.

It refers to the faithfulness that God expects of us when we become one of His children. 

Billy Graham calls faithfulness an inward fruit of the Spirit.  “The Spirit works in us that He might work through us.”

When a person becomes a Christian, God expects us to change…inwardly.

Sadly, becoming a Christian is “it” for many.  They have a moment when they make the decision to become a follower and they feel they don’t need to worry about anything beyond that.   That is “the moment” in their lives when they feel the most connected to God and beyond that, they ride [so to speak] on that moment.  They love to say things like “once saved, always saved.”  They don’t realize that God has so much more for them if they would just continue on in their growth; God expects them to be faithful from the point of conversion to the time of death. In short, they don’t understand God’s expectation of Christian growth [i.e. working toward spiritual maturity].

Becoming a Christian also means yielding your life to Christ.  Faithfulness means fidelity according to Pastor Graham* and fidelity means being true to someone or something; of course, in this context it means being true to Jesus.  I have myself experienced the “partial yielding” of my life to Christ.   It is almost as if I am holding out certain aspects of my life that I really want to indulge in but I know down deep in my heart that God is not happy that I have not given those aspects up for Him.  In truth, He wants all of me and it is the most important job of my life to learn how to yield as much of me to Him as I can.  All I can do is wrestle with this and learn how to give more of me in the future.

Graham says “faithfulness is not a faith exercised by the Christian, but rather to faithfulness or fidelity produced by the Holy Spirit in a yielded Christian life.”  If a person grows beyond their conversion or I can yield more of my life to Christ, it will be because the Holy Spirit is working through me to develop the fruit of faithfulness. It is not me having faith as much as me experiencing faith in my walk with Christ.

Where do we get the idea that this is a growing fruit?  Matthew 25:21 says “You were faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”  Graham writes “Morality is not so much a matter of magnitude, but of quality.   Right is right, and wrong is wrong, in small things as well as big things.”  The Disciple Peter has harsh words for Christians who cannot turn from the “world’s ways” in 2 Peter 2: 21, 22:  “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than after they had known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.  But it happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that washed to her wallowing in the mire.”  I read this as Peter admonishing us to get right with Jesus and turn from our old ways; don’t return to the bad habits that we have had.  He is advocating for our growth.

Now I have already admitted that I have a ways to go.  We all do.   Pastor Graham says “even if we could become totally mature Christians I am not sure that we would be conscious of it. Who of us can claim total perfection in this life?”That is a good point.  None of us will ever be able to claim total perfection because we don’t have what it takes to reach that.  All we can do as Christians is try to live better lives.  We know we will fall, but when we do, don’t listen to the voices that say “you don’t have to worry about it; you are saved and that is good enough.”  Don’t listen to those voices that say “You don’t have to yield everything to Him.  You can hold some back.”

Listen to this voice…

Get back up and walk with God again. 

How many times? 

As many times as it takes…

Until you are free…

from Billy Graham’s book The Holy Spirit

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The Purest Water I Have Ever Found…

The Greek word translated “goodness,” agathosune, is defined as “uprightness of heart and life.” Agathosune is goodness for the benefit of others, not goodness simply for the sake of being virtuous.  This sounds pretty “high and mighty” but when you turn to the word ‘good’ in the language of Scripture, it literally means ‘to be like God’” [Graham, 266].

Yes, it means to be like God…

Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit and you might think of it as an ordinary word but in the context of Jesus’ teaching and the working of the Holy Spirit, we should not  take it for granted. 

Many might think that of course a Christian should be good, that goodness should be second nature for a follower of Jesus Christ.    “Where we had harbored selfishness, cruelty, rebelliousness, and spite, we now possess love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Everything in the list reflects the character of God, and goodness is one that relates directly to morality.”* In fact, goodness according to Pastor Graham represents the highest in moral and ethical values.

The Apostle Paul writes “For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth” [Ephesians 5:9].  He also writes “To the end also we pray for you always for that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you” [2 Thessalonians 1:11, 12].

The kind of goodness that is the fruit of the Spirit is a special goodness.  Graham uses an example in his book that means a lot to me.  I had an experience as a country kid growing up in a small school [grades 1 through 8 in the same building].  I rode to my school in a little panel bus with about seven other kids.   Every day we went over country roads and we passed by a freshwater spring.  Today this would never happen, but when I was a kid, things were a bit more relaxed I guess.  Often the bus driver would stop the bus in the afternoon and all of us would share a dipper and we would get a drink from the spring.  In Graham’s example in his book, he writes of spring water that was on his property; he had a technician come and test the water.  The technician said “it’s the purest water I’ve ever found.”  In my recollection, the water we drank from the spring on our bus route had a special taste, maybe the purest tasting water I have ever tasted.

The “good” Christian exhibiting good fruit pours out goodness, like pure drinking water from a freshwater spring. 

This goodness goes far deeper than just the normal acts that happen from time to time in our lives.  What we are talking about here is love in action.   Goodness springs from a righteous heart and a righteous heart is not acting to please others.  These “good” Christians are acting to please God.   They don’t expect recognition.  They don’t expect rewards.  They don’t desire medals.  This is the kind of good that Christ expects from all Christians and guess what? Many of us fall short. 

In reality, we actually have no other choice than performing good in our lives if we are bona fide Christians.  God and His Son Jesus Christ command it.  

What is the end result of all this.  The end result is the powerful witness that we can have as we do good.  People notice people who do good, especially good that comes from what appears to be a pure heart.  When people notice people doing good, it preaches a strong message to all of us.  Just yesterday, my pastor prayed in her benediction for the people of the church to live lives that exhibit the love of Christ.  She went further and said that our lives may be the only Bible that some people will ever see. I have been reading a book lately entitled Faith and Doubt, by John Ortberg. I think Ortberg may explain best what I am trying to say. When Jesus appeared to His disciples He lived a new kind of life, a life that not only preached goodness but a life where He lived goodness. The more Jesus’ disciples stayed around Him, the more they began to believe that what Jesus offered was attractive. Eventually they began to think, I like His life. I wish I could live like that. “The growth of the disciples looked something like this; first they had faith in Jesus; they began to have the faith of Jesus” [Ortberg, 50].

Will people doubt the good that a Christian does?   Yes.  Some people cannot just accept things at face value.  What is your ulterior motive?  Are you trying to manipulate me?  I guess you are putting a mark in your little black book; I will owe you in the future.  You have an agenda.  Graham writes “Satan can take any human effort and twist it to serve his own purpose, but he cannot touch the spirit that is covered by the blood of Christ and rooted deep in the Holy Spirit.  Only the Spirit can produce the goodness that can stand up under the test” [267].

If goodness is a fruit of the Spirit, our efforts to achieve it with our own strength can never succeed.  This goodness is born of our righteousness, our response to the urgings within us to do the work that God has for us to do here on earth.  It is much deeper than trying to do something for the sake of being virtuous.

When you are in the presence of a truly good Christian, you are in the presence of someone special.  They are not God, but when you receive what they are giving to you, you may feel like they are. They are doing God’s work, and yes some unbelievers may be so impressed that they wonder about your action. They may copy your actions. They may even develop a faith they never had before.

The fruit of goodness is a Christian being like God. 

Graham summarizes by saying patience, kindness and goodness all go together, and “all were beautifully manifested in the life of the One who is the perfect prototype of what you and I should be.  By the power of the Holy Spirit these traits of character become part of our lives that we might remind others of Him” [267].

*From the website gotquestions.org  “What is Goodness?

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BE KIND

There it is…

Every time I go down the street…

Just a simple sign that says so much…   

BE  KIND

Someone has felt the need to remind us that being kind today is an important thing.  They feel so strongly that they made a sign and placed it in their front yard.

Maybe it is because our world today is rife with examples of people who are not kind; they are downright cruel.   It seems that every nightly news show has at least one video of someone behaving badly.  Examples are everywhere now since every cell phone has video capability and every cell phone user knows how to upload videos to social media platforms.  Go to those platforms [for example, Facebook] and you will see numerous examples of unkind behavior every day.   It seems that many of us must like the entertainment of watching people exhibit hurtful behavior.

Why make such a big deal about this?

Because the fruit of the Spirit includes the fruit of kindness or gentleness. 

Here’s the deal; if you profess to be a Christian, the fruit of kindness should show in your life.  If it doesn’t, you know you should be working on learning how to show it in the future.  This kind or gentle behavior overcomes what Pastor Graham* calls the “harsh and austere.” Graham states “indeed, gentleness is love enduring.”   

No Christian should be surprised by this because Jesus Christ was truly a gentle person.  Look at the timeframe of His life.  There were no institutions in Jesus’ time that were merciful.  There were no hospitals, no mental institutions, no places for the poor, and no homes for orphans.  We think we live in a cruel world today but today’s world at least has entities that care for those that society labels “the forsaken.”

Think about it; in the middle of a truly unkind world over two thousand years ago, a man was born, a man who performed countless acts of gentleness and kindness.  And that Man said “follow Me.”  That to me means “do as I do”.

Let’s be frank.  People who have some success in their life sometimes seem to find it easy to be hard on those who have had trouble.  There is some deep-seated need to be superior that is at the root of lots of unkind behavior.  It is even less difficult to be unkind to those who are hateful to us but what does Jesus say about those situations?   “Peter [said to Jesus] Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” [Matthew 18: 21-22].  But it also seems to be difficult to be kind to those who are less fortunate, people whose only problem is that they are downtrodden:  “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.”  Many don’t seem to have the heart for helping the poor: “For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me” [from Matthew 25].

In the Bible, Jesus was kind to the people who had the hardest lot in life.  He dealt harshly with hypocritical religious leaders but to everyone else He showed a wonderful, loving kindness. 

Think about the people today who are on the outside of the Christian faith looking in.  They see Christians who cannot summon gentleness in regard to those who need it most.  Maybe an observer of Christianity is a sinner and on the verge of repentance: imagine how turned off they would be when a Christian turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to people who need simple honest, loving compassion. 

At the heart of this problem is the Christian who is judgmental.  At the heart of this problem is the Christian who is legalistic.  At the heart of this problem is the Christian who is cruel…and yet, they still see themselves as a “good” follower of Jesus Christ. 

Then think of the model of Jesus Christ, who was tender, gentle and kind to everyone.  That kind of person is the best recruiter for the faith.  Even little children felt they could approach Jesus without fear.

Today the language of cruelty is everywhere.  In fact, many feel that gentleness is a sign of weakness, but Graham says “they are wrong!”   Graham quotes Charles Hembree who says “In our age of guided missiles and misguided men there is a desperate need for us to learn how to show gentleness.  It seems strange that in an age when men can reach the moon, bounce signals off of far planets, and receive pictures from whirling satellites we have great difficulty communicating tenderness to those about us.”

Graham sees the power of kindness as the greatest tool in the toolkit of the preacher.  A preacher can preach eloquent sermons but if he or she can be kind to people in the congregation, they can really lead the people to Jesus Christ.  “The gentle heart is the broken heart—the heart that weeps over the sins of the bad as well as the sacrifices of the good.”

It is not good to underestimate the power of kindness in a harsh world.  When all around us we see people who are capable of hateful behavior, it speaks volumes when one single person remembers to simply…

BE KIND.

*Pastor Billy Graham from his book The Holy Spirit

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Don’t Pray for Patience?

Image result for I will wait

All people need patience, don’t they?

But do we really want to do what we have to do in order to get it?

One of the first things I heard when I was a new “born again” Christian was “don’t pray for patience.   God will put you in situations where you will need to have it and you might not like those situations.”

What is this warning all about?

Testing…“Patience is closely related to testings or trials in the Bible, and that is only logical.  We may be patient in ordinary life, but how do we react when trials come?  It is then that we especially need the fruit of the Spirit—patience” [ Graham*, 259-60].

There you have it…the reason why Christians should think twice about praying for the Holy Spirit fruit of patience.  Patience seems to grow most in hard times.

But let’s think a bit more about those testings or trials.  Can those times be good for us?  What does James mean when he writes “Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”  Yes, testing or trials can reap good results.  We can have stronger faith, we can find ourselves drawing closer to God, we can be more active Christians, able to help others who are going through trials.

I am not a weight lifter, but I understand the theory behind resistance training.  It is all about the development of strength.   You have to lift weights and tear down your muscles in order for them to recover and grow stronger.  Patience development works the same way.  The more we have regular challenges and recover from those challenges, the more we can have strong faith development.  Regular patience trials help in the day to day frustrations we face and when the major battles come [and they will] we will have enough Holy Spirit God power to endure.

It does not have to work this way; all of this can go the opposite direction.  Trials and testings can erode a person’s heart.  Graham says what many suspect; that sometimes people are attacked by Satan.  Some don’t know enough to recognize this or maybe they refuse to believe that Satan is real.  Some don’t have enough faith to call on God. 

There is a remedy for these attacks.  You can call on God instantly when you feel you are being assaulted.  I have a habit of praying when things go wrong because I know God can handle any situation by giving me strength that I do not have, wisdom that I have never considered, and protection from barbs that come from Satan.  For Pastor Graham, “the best time to pray is the very moment a tense situation or an unspiritual attitude overtakes me.  God the Holy Spirit is always there, ready to help me gain victory in the spiritual battles I face—big or small.”

Don’t wait to pray; do it instantly and spontaneously; do it voluntarily and consciously.  It needs to be a part of your life, an integral part of who you are as a Christian. 

This brings up situations that are so negative that we wonder why they happen.  It has been my experience that searching for a reason for a trial in the midst of a trial is not very helpful.  Graham quotes Charles Hembree about affliction and the fairness of God: “In the full face of affliction it is hard to see any sense to things that befall us and we want to question the fairness of a faithful God.  However, these moments can be the most meaningful in our lives” [261].   When things go a negative direction, it would be best for the Christian to take the words of the Psalmist to heart “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning [Psalm 30:5]. 

It sounds like Godly help in times of weeping will come quickly, but many will tell you that it may not.  At times in my life, it has seemed like God comes to help very slowly, certainly not the next morning when a trial comes at night.  At times like this there is a concept called longsuffering.  Longsuffering is hard to endure but people who can endure for long periods of time and maintain a strong faith in God show the world an awesome witness as they continually turn to God to help them through their time of trouble.  They don’t give up.  Jesus told His disciples “By your perseverance you will win your souls.”  Longsuffering wins souls as people see firsthand the power that blesses the Christian. 

Pastor Graham says that we need to be careful about this kind of witness, because some may misunderstand it as failure to take action.  Instead of suffering for a length of time, critics think the afflicted person should take action.   Of course there are certainly times when we need to speak out, act out, to have righteous indignation.  Jesus drove out all those who were using the temple for buying and selling.  He should have taken action against the long-standing practice of worldly commerce in a sacred location.   People who actually suffer for a long time don’t choose to suffer; they just endure their pain and keep their faith.

Think about it; all people need patience.  Sometimes life just does not respond to our immediate requests. Life can be complicated and stressful and we find ourselves in many trials and tribulations.  Should we pray for patience?  Why not?  We really won’t be asking for God to send hard times our way like the opening quotation says.   We don’t need to worry about trying times coming because we pray for patience.  Difficult times come for the believer as well as the unbeliever regardless of our prayers.

What good is the Holy Spirit fruit of patience? 

When those hard times come, we will be able to handle them…

Praise God!

*from his book The Holy Spirit

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I will wait…

You leave the house a little late and as you travel down the road, you get behind a postal vehicle, making multiple stops on a busy street.  You suddenly get even more behind schedule.

You are tired and you just want to go home and eat dinner but you know you don’t have what you want to eat in the refrigerator.   You stop at the local market for a couple of items and when you get to the check-out line there are five customers in front of you. 

Your wife has a nagging health concern and it worries you a lot.  You pray every day for her to get relief.  Every day you pray the same prayer that she would heal but the answer from God seems to be no.  Her health concern is not going away.

What are we talking about here?  Of course, you know…patience waiting for what we want.

Pastor Billy Graham writes that the spiritual fruit of love, joy and peace speaks to our “Godward” relationship.  The next cluster of fruit [patience, kindness and goodness] has to do with outward relationships.   He opens his discussion with the words “if we are short-tempered, unkind and rude, we lack the second cluster of fruit of the Spirit.  But when the Spirit controls us, He works to transform us so that the buds of patience, kindness and goodness begin to blossom and then to be fruitful” [Graham, 258].

Patience or “long suffering” in the King James Version comes from a Greek work that speaks of how we are steadfast while we are being provoked.  Patient people seem to be able to endure ill treatment without anger or thought of retaliation.  It is an outward fruit because this fruit is seen in how we relate to others.  Obviously when we are irritable, vengeful, resentful or malicious, the Holy Spirit fruit of patience is not in control.

How does patience come about?  Reading between the lines of Graham’s book The Holy Spirit, I think it has a lot to do with perspective taking.  People with patience can empathize with others, having the ability to take someone else’s position.  A self-centered person may scream at the postman in my example above but a person with patience may understand that the postman is merely doing their job.  They must stop to deliver the mail. A self-centered person may scowl and tap their toes in frustration in the check-out line, maybe even expressing frustration at the cashier, but the person with patience sees that the five customers in front of them are really just trying to get home too. They don’t intend to make your life miserable.  They just beat you to the cash registers.  The check-out person is probably doing the best they can to get you out of the store; they are not your barrier to peace.

Patience is closely related to perseverance.  Patient people have the ability to wait for results, when others throw up their hands and express frustration, push to get the results they want, or maybe even give up.

Keep in mind that many feel Americans today live in a culture that is often short on patience.  All around us we see role models of people who just don’t have the ability to wait.  Some of the wealthiest people in our society would rather use their riches to buy what they want than wait for it.  Time conscious people commit road rage violence when someone cuts them off as they try to get to their destination.  Some folks have financial trouble based on the overuse of credit cards.   They don’t want to wait until they have the money for an expensive item.  They want it now and they charge it, not thinking about the impending bill that will eventually come in the mail. 

Patience is a key part of taking on the face of Christ. Too often we admire it in other people but we just can’t find a way to exhibit it ourselves.   The Apostle Paul teaches that we can be “strengthened with all might according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” [Colossians 1: 11].  In other words, we can learn patience if we are willing to learn it from God.  Sometimes we might think we are not getting what we want and it is due to God keeping it from us. That is not true.  Sometimes we might even blame Satan for our troubles, putting our feelings of frustration at his doorstep.

Here is the source of our lack of patience, not God, not Satan, but us.  When we get frustrated or angry and our resentment begins to build, we need to recognize that it is our own selfishness that is to blame.  When we feel a lack of patience, it is our old nature that is coming out, rather than that “new person” who was born again with Jesus.    Some of the first steps to growing in the fruit of patience is recognizing the frustration, owning the frustration and repudiating the frustration, asking God to work with us to grow the fruit of patience.

When it comes to prayer, there is the old saying that God always answers prayer.  Yes, my wife has had a health problem that has nagged her recently and I have been praying for her to have a lessening of her pain, a return to normal health.  As a person who is praying for her, I want her healed right now, but that is not to be.  Then I realize that God is answering my pray.  I really want Him to give me a yes, your wife if healed.   I am frustrated that He is telling me no; she is not healed yet. 

Then my patient self kicks in, and I believe that what He is really saying is “wait.”

I will wait…

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We Know Who Made the Rock

“Shalom”… the Jewish word for peace.

We all wish we had it on a daily basis, but often we don’t.  We worry, we lack confidence, and we experience despair, in spite of our faith.  We feel we don’t have any faith or we certainly don’t have much and we certainly don’t have peace.

One of the most common things I sometimes hear from some Christians about their faith in times of crisis is this: “I don’t know why I worry so much.  I believe in God.  Why is this happening to me?  Why can’t I trust God that everything is going to be ok?  Why don’t I have peace, you know that peace that passes all understanding?  Why can’t I get through this and feel good about it?”

Let’s take a moment and look at the opposite of worry, lack of confidence and despair.  Let’s look at Pastor Billy Graham’s* picture of a Christian who has peace.  “He stands alone on the battlefield, by faith garrisoned round with God’s holy weapons, and in command of the situation.  Such a man is not troubled about the future, for he knows who holds the key to the future.  He does not tremble on the rock, for he knows who made the rock.  He does not doubt, for he knows the One who erases all doubt” [Graham, 253-54]

A pretty high bar, isn’t it…

We need to acknowledge that this faith and resulting peace that we are all supposed to feel is often born from a mountaintop experience.  Some people report that they are ready to commit to faith in God when they hear a truly inspirational sermon.   Maybe they experience something that seems miraculous, for example the birth of a child.  They have prayed for a long, long time and then in a dramatic fashion, their prayers are answered.  Faith could be born from something as simple as the sounds of a beautiful song, a phrase in a book, but for the first time in a person’s life, they know that God is there…and they commit to having faith.  They are a new believer in God and they may have peace that they have never had before.

And then they leave the mountain.  They find themselves in what John Ortberg** calls “the valley of ambiguity”.  It makes ultimate sense that once you begin to believe in God that your belief should be a stable, everyday thing, but it is not.  Ortberg writes that “one of the biggest illusions is that our minds are generally governed by reason.  But our minds are not logic machines.  What seems true to us in one moment can change drastically in the next” [72].  Logical stable belief does not even seem to be what we should expect from human beings.   I wish it was, but it’s not.

Throw in trials and tribulations and you have a recipe for loss of faith and lack of peace.  Throw in sin and you have a person who is at war with himself, doing things that he may not want to do but doing them anyway. This is a far cry from John 14: 27: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, do I give to you.”  Focus on the phrase, not as the world gives; that peace only comes to man and woman from the Holy Spirit.

Yet we are only human…

Why is sin such a problem?  Why does it cause such unrest in our souls? Christ came to earth to save us from ourselves.  He ended the internal war between sinful man and righteous man.  He ended the war between sinful man and a vengeful God.  Jesus’ blood made peace within man and made peace between man and God.  The debt was cancelled and the books were balanced.  Man was set free from his stressful concern about his sin.  Graham writes “For us, peace with God is not simply an armistice; it is a war ended forever.”  Indeed this peace transcends human knowledge; it is a gift we do not deserve but it is ours for the taking.  It is ours for the living.

It makes sense. I believe; I must have peace.

Even though we have this peace, we certainly can relate to Charles Spurgeon when he says “I looked at Christ, and the dove of peace flew into my heart; I looked at the dove of peace and it flew away.” We have it and they it leaves, maybe making us question our faith in God.

What should we do if we want this illusive peace?  We must carefully examine our relationship with God and we must carefully consider how well God really knows us.   He knows us so well that we can turn to Psalms 139 and see that He has searched us, He knows when we sit and rise, He knows our thoughts from afar, He is familiar with all our ways.  Before we speak, He knows what we are about to say.  His knowledge of us is wonderful and from my perspective it is reassuring.  He knows that we will have moments of peace and that we will have moments of worry, lack of confidence and despair and yes folks, we even have moments when we sin.

I don’t mean to be disingenuous, but God knows that we are human.

He knows that we are going to have moments when we have so much lack of peace that the only thing we can do is throw up our hands and ask Him for help.  There is nothing else for us to do.  We know we don’t have the power to have the peace we need, but we know that in God we might have the answer.  He knows we need Him, and He wants to help us.  When He helps us, we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in our weak bodies.  When we most need Him, He is there.  He wants to be there because He saved us that we might bear fruit for Him.  This is our purpose; to bear fruit in our lives through the Holy Spirit.  To bring glory to the Kingdom of God.

Some of the most amazing fruit that we can bear is the fruit of peace in the midst of trying times.  There is not a stronger message that we can deliver about our faith.  Graham knows peace when he sees it and he uses a simple example to illustrate.  He recounts the story of a hijacked airplane and after landing, the passengers disembark, showing horror, terror and fear on their faces, only natural.  But in the middle of all that crisis, a woman disembarked with her small baby in her arms, calmly sleeping through it all.  “Peace in the midst of turmoil.”

The child’s peace speaks volumes.  Our peace speaks too.  When all is falling apart around us, there is it, for others to see. 

It says we know who made the rock, we do not doubt, for we know the One who erases all doubt.

It says it loudly…it says it clearly…

The Holy Spirit fruit of peace…

*from Graham’s book  The Holy Spirit

**parts of this blog are based on John Ortberg’s  Faith and Doubt

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