Faith in All It’s Splendor

That error in the title—did it make you wince? Take a minute to focus on it in all its awfulness, that apostrophe that shouldn’t be there.

That’s the way I felt the entire time I was reading this book over the Thanksgiving break I spent at a friend’s house when I was 19. Here is the exact cover.

It was so bad I wanted to put a brown paper grocery-bag cover over it. I cringed every time I looked at it.

But in spite of that, I kept reading . . .

It was a book of sermons on faith by Charles Spurgeon, and I sure needed to learn a thing or two about faith.

Most of the sermons for one reason or another didn’t stick with me. But there was one sermon that made such a profound impact on me that I’m writing about it over 40 years later.

You can read the exact same sermon here (and you don’t need to wince through holding a book with an error in the title on the cover in order to do so). It’s called “Seeing Jesus,” and it’s every bit as pertinent now as it ever was.

At that time in my life, I had never heard faith compared and contrasted with physical sight the way Spurgeon did it. But the truth sank deep into my soul. Faith sees what the physical eyes cannot see.

That isn’t to say that faith is the same thing as imagination—it’s not. It also isn’t the “visionary” thinking of many these days that tells you to think something like, “By the time I’m 40 I’ll have the largest ministry in the entire Southeast. I believe it, and so it will be!”

Or even what some refer to as magical thinking. . . . “I’m envisioning my husband becoming empathetic and caring. According to my faith be it unto me.”

Or even, “I’m going to imagine Jesus here beside me in my pain.”

No, that isn’t what faith really is. True Biblical Christian faith doesn’t cause things to come to be by imagining or “envisioning” them.

Rather, true Biblical Christian faith sees what is already there, but in the spiritual realm. Biblical faith always has an object of spiritual focus, always. Just like physical sight always has an object of focus in the physical realm.

The difference is that faith sees what the physical eyes cannot see.

For one thing, faith sees the spiritual realm.

Now I can’t see the spiritual realm the way some of my friends can, especially some who have experienced, for example, satanic ritual abuse. But faith knows that the spiritual realm is there and doesn’t discount it when encountering great evil or great mystery or when listening to the visions and perceptions and discernments of others.*

Rather, Biblical faith acknowledges that in the spirit realm there is a life-and-death battle going on at all times, and spirit beings are actively engaged in using people in that war. (Especially if you’re involved in abuse recovery or abuse advocacy, this is a very important truth to be aware of.)

For another thing, faith sees Jesus Christ as the Savior every moment instead of simply at one moment, the moment of “salvation.” Faith sees salvation as more than simply a change of destination, but as an ongoing change of heart and life, as we continually look to Him. (I’ve written about that more in many blog posts.)

And also, faith looks beyond the immediate, beyond the crisis, to see that God is bigger and God is good. Faith sees that this crisis is not out of God’s control, and He is still working for good in the lives of His children, no matter what it appears. Faith knows that He is completely capable of defeating evil in His time, and even working miracles.

That looking beyond the immediate? You might say faith has the ability to look beyond one’s life, even. By faith Abraham SAW the city that was to come, that is, the heavenly Jerusalem, which came only with the New Covenant, over two thousand years after Abraham lived. By faith Abraham saw this. That is some pretty impressive faith. (And he didn’t start out like that, by the way. He grew into it.)

Why does the Bible say without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)? Because when we “come to Jesus for salvation” and then proceed to live life in our own strength, perhaps according to a really awesome list of rules, we are no longer truly looking to Him.

We no longer see Him as He really is—in fact, living according to a list of rules (no matter how awesome) almost always carries with it the side effect of seeing our Savior as a fearsome overlord, checking up on us to see if we’re doing it right.

But when we look to Him, see who He is, and trust Him for each step of the way, that is a life lived in fellowship with Him. This is a life that’s pleasing to Him. This is the life of faith.

These days I sometimes feel overwhelmed. When I go to pray my “prayer armor” prayer (which I compiled into a book here), and I come to that list of ways I feel as though I’m being attacked by the enemy, “overwhelm” is one of the ones I circle pretty much every time.

Recently a kind friend expressed concern for me about this—okay, maybe I was freaking out just a little—but in my desire to “give a cup of cold water in Jesus’ Name” I told her I was pretty sure I knew the reason I was experiencing overwhelm.

I saw the “more than I can handle” aspect of ministry as a gift from God to build my faith.

We had to hash that one out a bit, because she saw that statement as too similar to abusive statements along the lines of “God is sending you this suffering for your own good, to sanctify you.” But no, I don’t believe that. I believe that suffering comes as a result of living in a fallen world, or more directly, and perhaps more deeply wounding, at the hands of evildoers. God, in contrast, is good and can bring good even out of the darkest evil, beauty out of ashes and the oil of joy out of mourning. (And it doesn’t sanctify us, since all our sanctification is through Jesus Christ.)

But being overwhelmed in ministry is different. When I experience it, even though it can be seen as an attack from the enemy, it can also serve as a reminder to me, You can’t do this on your own. You can’t say “I’ve got this for now Lord, so no worries, and You can go do something else.” You need Him every moment.

I need Him every single moment.

This is the life of faith. As I sit in the field at The Evangelical Institute for Biblical Training and scan the spring-green leaves shimmering against the blue-blue sky, I remember.

He has got this. Our Lord Jesus will win the battle against evil, no matter how fiercely it rages. I get to do my part, bringing water to the soldiers and waging battle through prayer. But He will defeat the enemy.

This is faith to explore and revel in. This is faith the object of which the depths of whom cannot be fathomed.

And yes, this is faith in all its splendor.

 


* The abusive use of “spiritual perception” and “words of knowledge” by those who want to exercise power and control is a perversion that I hope to write more about eventually.

 

The secret to living a life that pleases God

Some time back when I guest blogged on a friend’s website, I aroused some controversy (which is no news now, but at that time it was unusual). Though the topic was whether or not church attendance is pleasing to God, the underlying question was one I had thought about, pondered, and prayed over many times and much over the past months and years:

How can I please God in my day-to-day life? Continue reading “The secret to living a life that pleases God”

What place does “striving” have in sanctification? A response to Heath Lambert

This is Part 3 of 3. You can read Part 1 here. You can read Part 2 here.

Recap

In yesterday’s post, I quoted Heath Lambert as saying that sanctification involves striving and moral effort (trying to be good). My contention, and that of others, is that our sanctification, godliness, holiness, power over sin, and pleasing God are all taken care of in Jesus (His perfect life, death, resurrection, ascension, and seating), and we have no striving to do to accomplish it; we are only to look to Him in faith for all these things to be accomplished.

But Lambert uses several Bible verses to support his point (laid out in Part 2), so it’s important to look at them all. Here they are, with my commentary. Continue reading “What place does “striving” have in sanctification? A response to Heath Lambert”

Reconciling the “resting” and the “striving,” with some thoughts from Heath Lambert

This is Part 2 of 3. In Part 1, I expressed the consternation I had experienced over Scriptures about “resting” and “striving” that seemed like they didn’t fit with each other.

So what do those “resting” verses really mean?

The Lord used several means to help me in my understanding: my Bible studies—especially Galatians, Romans, and Colossians—a sermon, and some key books. Even though I didn’t understand at that time the importance of asking the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to the Scriptures, still He had mercy on me.

The resting (in case you had as much trouble getting it as I did) is NOT about becoming a couch potato, lol. Continue reading “Reconciling the “resting” and the “striving,” with some thoughts from Heath Lambert”

Struggling with “striving”: When should I strive and when should I rest?

My despair

Back in 1994 when I was studying Leviticus (because it was my wilderness book), I wrote this in the margin at Leviticus chapter 2 (the boldface is added now):

II Peter 1:4 says that we as believers should be “partakers of the divine nature.” This passage shows the priests literally partaking of that which represents the divine nature of our lovely Lord. Then that bread of life becomes a part of us and we are influenced and strengthened by it. In all these ways mentioned, we should be striving to be like Him: the sweet-smelling life, the full anointing by the Holy Spirit, the fellowship of His sufferings. How far, how far I have to go!

Do you hear the wailing in my voice? Continue reading “Struggling with “striving”: When should I strive and when should I rest?”