Tuesday, December 13, 2005


True faith is hard work!

One of the things that attracted me to the charismatic movement was its emphasis on the present-day miraculous working of the Holy Spirit. No matter what my affliction, I was told that I could get it taken care of in no time by speaking the name of Jesus, rebuking the devil, or naming and claiming whatever I desired. Lazy guy that I was, all this sounded very appealing to me: I could get all the goodies I wanted handed to me on a silver platter with little or no effort on my part. Sadly, the fruit of this type of teaching wasn't very good. Oh, it worked well enough when my affliction was the common cold (I always got over 'em in no more than a week :-) ) or a temporary financial deficit (my next twice-monthly paycheck was always enough to carry me through), but once I started to encounter greater difficulties, I found that I'd somehow failed to learn anything about the true walk of faith. Far from being a walk in the park, I started to learn that Christianity is a life-long battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and it's not easy.

The fact of the matter is this: "faith" that depends upon instant gratification of my every felt need isn't true faith. No, true faith trusts God and takes Him at His Word even when circumstances are screaming out, "Where is my hope of deliverance? Is there any way of escaping this affliction?" True faith takes God at His Word regardless of whether circumstances are pleasant or devastating. Moreover, true faith is prepared to wait on the Lord until He sees fit to bring deliverance, whether that deliverance comes in this life or in that which is to come. In fact, the object of true faith isn't deliverance from trouble: instead, it's Christ Himself. Although we free to cry out to the Lord for deliverance--we ought to do so for He is our only hope!--we ought to look upon our trials not so much as troubles to be escaped as soon as possible, but instead as opportunities to learn to trust ourselves less and trust God more.

None of this is easy. There are few, if any, quick fixes in the walk of faith. Although God often delivers speedily, He often takes His time in granting that speedy deliverance. We're so inclined to get things over with quickly. We tend to crave temporal comfort and peace, so it's natural that we'd do so. God, on the other hand, is in no hurry. He has all eternity ahead in which to work out His sovereign will, so He has no need to rush. This is very hard for us to understand. We are weak, emotional creatures who don't cope well with ongoing troubles.

So what are we to do when we find ourselves in terrible trouble but yet receive only silence when we call earnestly upon the Lord? Should we give up on the Lord and turn to man for help? God forbid! What help is the arm of the flesh? No, we have no better choice than one: to call the things which be not as though they were, or, in other words, to take God at His Word--the Scriptures--even when circumstances are as bad as we can possibly imagine. Of course, we ought not engage in the Christian Science or Word of Faith madness of denying the symptoms. If Christ treated man's afflictions as being real, we ought to emulate his example. Also, we ought not refuse the help of our fellow creatures when it's right and prudent to accept it, for God usually chooses to work through ordinary means, but yet we must reject any notion of pinning our hopes on the help of mere creatures. God alone is the object of true faith.

When I was a charismatic, I was a mere spiritual babe at best or an unbeliever at worst, but once I began to put aside the charismatic crutch of prompt and total deliverance from every problem, I began to learn just how difficult the walk of faith really is. In fact, it's so difficult that I couldn't walk the walk in my own strength. I needed the twin helps of Scripture and the Holy Spirit: the first to give me knowledge, the second to give me grace and wisdom to use that knowledge. It wasn't enough to cry out to the Lord in earnest prayer for a day or two. Having put aside my supersitious ways, I had to learn how to walk as a mature believer, trusting the Word even when God had seen fit to allow my afflictions to go on without apparent relief. This walk of faith is often difficult, but through it I've grown in maturity to a far greater extent than I would have had God always answered my prayers as quickly as I would like. Answered prayer is a blessing to be sure, but I'm learning that waiting for the answer to my prayer is a blessing just as great!

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