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.

 

Thirsty yet?

Ho! Every one that thirsts! Come to the waters . . . Drink!

New Year’s Resolution #2,019: Drink more water.

Have you ever noticed that you can systematically drink less and less water, way less than your body needs, without feeling thirsty? Counterintuitive, I know. But that thirst mechanism behind your throat sort of atrophies or something. Continue reading “Thirsty yet?”

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?”

If you were harmed, does that mean you’ll blame God? And other questions for John MacArthur

John MacArthur a long time ago

John MacArthur recently spoke against social justice as one of the most dangerous current threats to the gospel. There have been three sermons as well as some blog posts, but the quotations in this post here are all taken from sermon #3, which is here. Continue reading “If you were harmed, does that mean you’ll blame God? And other questions for John MacArthur”

No “digging up the past” allowed: a response to nouthetic (“Biblical”) counseling

Sometimes I talk with people who want healing and help from the Lord but are hesitant to “dig up the past” or who have counselors who don’t want them to “dig up the past.” For a while now, maybe over a year, I’ve been mulling over that pejorative expression.

“Digging up the past” to me conjures a picture of going to a graveyard to dig up the bones or even the rotting corpse of something that needed to be left underground to decompose the way it’s supposed to. A perverted and possibly very harmful activity. Continue reading “No “digging up the past” allowed: a response to nouthetic (“Biblical”) counseling”

Reflections on my 61st birthday: “Why don’t I ever meet those people?”

In the early- to mid-1990s, we sat in our first church small group. (We’d been wanting small groups in our previous independent Baptist church, but the pastor wouldn’t allow them.)

This first one for us was at Bean Blossom Mennonite Church—which I’ve blogged about before, here—the church with the “Strangers Expected” sign over the front door, the church where the entire congregation sang in four-part harmony, the first church I joined where the women wore pants, where I couldn’t possibly bring myself or allow my daughter to do the same, a now-embarrassing memory that I can perhaps explore one day in a therapist’s chair. Continue reading “Reflections on my 61st birthday: “Why don’t I ever meet those people?””

Making sense of the church world’s epidemic of abuse

I’m all about making sense of things. If a movie has a gaping plot hole, then no other redeeming qualities can redeem that movie for me. If a song can be interpreted a dozen different ways, then I don’t really want to listen to that song.

Needing to make sense of things is one of my best qualities. It’s also one of my worst qualities. Continue reading “Making sense of the church world’s epidemic of abuse”

Defeat that roaring lion

Blog posts about Scripture studies, I have to acknowledge, don’t get as much action as blog posts about news events . . . or even about wrong teachings.

But there is much to be gleaned from the Scriptures that will help us as we discern what’s true and what’s false in the church world. The quiet hours you spend in the Word as you seek Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit—even if they produce questions you can’t answer right away—will ultimately help you better see who Jesus really is and what God is really doing.

*****

Sometimes when I study a passage of Scripture . . . it reminds me of another . . . and another . . . and then I see how they link together.

The other day I was reminded of a time that happened, when Philippians 2 and First Peter 5 and Psalm 22 all pointed to the same thing, a truth driven home on Passion Week, as I pondered how our Lord Jesus was humbled . . . and then exalted.

And the roaring lion was defeated.

And it’s true for all His children too. Continue reading “Defeat that roaring lion”