Monday, June 13, 2016

A Disruptive Faith {Guest Post}

In Romans 12:3 the Bible tells us that “God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Faith is something that everybody has and uses every day. We, by faith, expect that the sun will rise each morning and set each evening. By faith, we expect that the bridge we are driving over will hold us up. By faith we submit to the doctor’s orders when we are sick. By faith, we go to school and learn, expecting that our efforts will result in a good living later in life. By faith we go to work every week, expecting a pay cheque at the end of the month. So we all use faith on a daily basis. This faith is a confidence or expectation of an immediate or future outcome, based either upon previous experience (the sun has never not risen, and so we have no reason to doubt that it will tomorrow), or upon our knowledge of the character and ability of the person in whom we are trusting (as in the case of the doctor, teacher or employer). Therefore, all that is needed for a person to have faith is at least one of two things: past experience, and/or knowledge of a trustworthy person.

When we come to now deal with faith in God and His Word, it is no different. We need to have either past experience of seeing how God or God’s Word has worked in our life or another’s (and here we see the importance of sharing our personal testimony of salvation with others), or we need to have personal knowledge of the trustworthy character of God and His abilities.

Of course, the best definition of faith as it pertains to religion is God’s own definition, found in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In other words, faith is the spiritual eye by which we can see beyond the visible, physical and temporal to the invisible, spiritual and eternal reality, which is God Himself. And so, by this definition we learn that faith is not the ultimate goal, it is the means by which we may attain to the ultimate goal, which is to know God firstly as our Saviour, and after that as our Father and Lord.

Now that we have seen what faith is and what its purpose is, we can come to the subject of its nature, which is really what this blog post is about. Faith—true faith in God and His Word—is disruptive. It is inconvenient. To many it is perturbing.

The first and most common disruption that we see nowadays is when an unsaved person becomes offended by the faith of a saved person. John 3:19-20 says: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” Probably all of us who are saved have at least one friend or family member who has gotten angry at us or become agitated just because we mention Jesus, God or church. Maybe even you were like this yourself before you trusted Christ. Unbelievers are often offended by a Christian’s faith because it disrupts their lives—it confronts them with their own lack of faith and holiness. They can no longer do some of their sinful habits or think sinful thoughts or speak sinful words or worship their idols without having their conscience pricked. Their so-called inner peace has been disturbed. Now there is conflict. And sometimes this inner conflict can even be manifested outwardly through expressions of anger and resentment. This is what Jesus was talking about when He said in Matt.10:34-36: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.”

Some unbelievers aren’t necessarily offended by the Gospel or the faith of a believer, but they are perturbed by the many paradoxes in the Bible. They cannot understand living through dying, receiving through giving, exaltation through humility, strength through weakness, freedom through servitude, gaining through loss etc. Actually, these paradoxes are perturbing even for believers oftentimes.

The third kind of disruption in an unbeliever’s life can be seen in the example of Moses. Moses was born in Egypt, but he was not an Egyptian. He was an Hebrew, a descendant of Abraham. God had promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, but Moses was not in Canaan. He was in Egypt. He was born at a time when for fear of the Hebrews out-populating the Egyptians, the Pharaoh had commanded that all male babies be killed, but when Moses was born, his mother hid him 3 months and then sent him down the Nile in a basket, to be found by Pharaoh’s daughter. He was raised from the time he was weaned in the courts of Pharaoh. He was treated and lived like a prince. He daily conversed with royalty, and knew no want. He was living a life of luxury in the most powerful, wealthy family in the known world. He knew nothing else. And he could have very easily kept on living in the lap of luxury and die an old, fat man. But for some reason unbeknownst to himself, when Moses was grown, “he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens” (Ex.2:11). And he had a spiritual awakening that Hebrews 11:24-26 attributes to faith:  “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” All of a sudden his life of luxury and ease was disrupted by the belief that he wasn’t where he should be and he wasn’t who he could be. He was a prince in Egypt, but he could be a child of God in the Land of Promise. He had the wealth of Egypt, but he could have the greater riches of the reproach of Christ and eternal rewards. Faith worked a spiritual awakening in Moses’ life, and faith still works that way today. Maybe faith is working like this in your heart today. Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not where I should be, and I’m not who I could be.” Maybe you, like Moses, are thinking, “I could be a child of God on my way to heaven,” or maybe you’re thinking, “I have material things here, but I want the eternal riches that are in Christ.” Maybe your heart is saying today, “I know God from a distance, but I want to know Him personally as my Father.” If you are thinking like Moses did, that is God trying to do a work of faith in your heart. Harden not your heart, dear reader, “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (II Cor.6:2)
The fourth way that faith disrupts the life and thoughts of an unsaved person can be seen in the example of the rich, young ruler in Matt. 19:16-22: “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?  And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.  He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,  Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?  Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” The rich, young ruler was a religious man, a devout man, an orthodox Jew. He was not one to go to Temple only on the holy days. He went to synagogue every time the doors were open. He kept the 10 commandments and all the ceremonial laws as well. He told Jesus that he had kept all these laws from a child until now, and Jesus did not contradict him. This young ruler was confident that he had always done the right thing for the right reasons--  and yet-- look at what he asked Jesus: “What lack I yet?” God had given this man a measure of faith, and that faith brought him to the disturbing realisation that keeping the law and doing good works were not enough to secure eternal life. There was still something lacking. This measure of faith that he had, disquieted his heart and he had no peace or assurance about where he would spend eternity. Sadly, when Jesus told him how he could find that peace and eternal security, he “went away sorrowful,” because he chose to place his measure of faith in his good works and his riches, instead of in Christ. But that need not be true in your case, dear reader. If the measure of faith that God has given you is telling you today that despite your best efforts to live a good life, there is still something missing, you can choose to accept Jesus’ advice and leave your old ways behind and follow Him. You can find peace and eternal life in Christ today.

Faith does not only disrupt or disturb the lives of unbelievers, though. Faith is not only at work to bring people to salvation, but after that, also works in our sanctification, suffering, self-discipline, sacrifice and service. I John 5:4-5 talks about faith being that which overcomes the world: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” So, faith works in the life of a Christian, weaning her from the world and preparing her for heaven. That’s sanctification. How does it do that? As faith’s eye enables us to see more and more of the beauty of the invisible God’s holiness, all that is unholy and worldy gradually loses its lustre in our eyes. As our faith grows and matures, so does our love and appreciation for all things holy and heavenly. And as our love for the holy grows, so does our disdain for all that is unholy and worldly, until we will no longer tolerate ungodliness or worldliness in our own lives either, and we are sanctified. (This thought was borrowed from A.W. Tozer)

The second way that faith disrupts the Christian is by creating a sense of discomfort in this world, and causes us to look for another world. This is what happened in the life of Abraham when faith began to operate. Heb.11:8-10 says: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” What does that look like in the life of a modern-day believer? It looks like a person who is always talking about the Lord and about heaven, and is always busily laying up treasures there (Matt.6:19-21).

Thirdly, faith is extremely disruptive to our lives and minds when it requires that we suffer or endure trials. Nobody enjoys these things, and so even the dreaded thought of suffering disquiets our heart. Sometimes we must suffer for our faith as did Daniel and his 3 friends, the prophets and the martyrs. Other times we must endure trials to grow our faith, like young David, when he was a shepherd boy. He had to fight off a lion and a bear in order to grow his faith enough to later face Goliath (I Sam.17:37).

Faith also makes itself inconvenient by requiring self-discipline and sacrifice. Heb.12:1-2 says: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The writer of Hebrews uses a strong metaphor here to describe the life of faith. He describes the born-again believer as a runner in a marathon, as shown by the word, “patience.” The Christian life is no sprint, it’s a marathon, and the Bible’s advice for believers who want to win the prize for finishing the race well, must “lay aside” every hindrance and the sin that holds them back. That little word, “and” is so interesting here, because it indicates that there are weights and there are sins. The weights can be, but are not necessarily sins. The life of faith is a call to sacrifice; to remove from our lives and our thoughts every thing-- whether it is sinful or not—that is hindering our spiritual growth or our ability to serve the Lord.  It could be a sin, a habit, a leisure activity that consumes too much of our time, a job that prevents us from going to church…it could even be a person, a friend that discourages you from being the Christian you should be. When we are called to lay aside things that give us pleasure or things that give us security, then faith becomes very disruptive to our minds and lives, doesn’t it? The flesh doesn’t want us to sacrifice our time, our money, our pleasures, in order to serve God, even when those sacrifices don’t really cause us any hardship. Much less do we want to sacrifice something, endure something, when it hurts us or makes things difficult. But that is the life that faith calls us to. It calls us to less sleep so that we can stay up all night in prayer. It calls us to less rest on the weekend so that we can hand out tracts on Saturday mornings. It calls us to dressing modestly and femininely, even though it may mean we are not fashionable. It calls us to consistent church attendance, even when we have a cold, or a headache, or our period, or we’re depressed. It calls us to a life of abstinence from alcohol, drugs, and pre- or extra-marital sexual relationships. It calls us to refuse that invitation to a family picnic on Sunday afternoon so that we can be in church on Sunday evening. It calls us to tithing, giving to missions and to the church building fund. It calls us sometimes (as it did in my family’s life), to leaving home and country to serve in another one. Sometimes it calls us to giving our children and grandchildren to God for the ministry. For some, the life of faith is a call to celibacy. The list could go on, but in short, the life of faith is a life of sacrifice, self-denial, and self-discipline. And we ought not to shy away from it, for there are many athletes who willingly sacrifice all these things for a reward that will perish with them. Shouldn’t we be willing to sacrifice for a reward that is eternal?

Finally, faith makes itself particularly disruptive and inconvenient in the area of service. Without a doubt, the best example of this in the Bible must be the Good Samaritan: “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” Here we have a man who, through no fault of his own is robbed and beaten and left for dead on the road. “By chance,” (but was it really by chance?), a priest came that way. But this opportunity to minister to another’s needs came at an inconvenient time for him, and he kept walking. Then along came a Levite, but he had better things to do also. Then a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey (ie. He also was busy with other things) came and had compassion on the injured man. He took care of his wounds, and even spent his own money to ensure that the stranger was well cared for.

Two of the men in this story did not have an ounce of true faith, even though one was a priest!! Faith is disruptive and inconvenient at times. The opportunity for service or ministry perhaps won’t come at a convenient time, but a person of faith will allow God to interrupt her life, her day, her schedule, her plans, with opportunities to serve Him and others, just like the Good Samaritan did.

There are certainly many other ways that faith is disruptive. I have highlighted only a few in order that we may realise that real faith in God, in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Bible, is by nature disruptive, perturbing and inconvenient. If your beliefs have not disrupted your life, inconvenienced you, or changed the way you think and live, then your faith is either dead or misplaced. Perhaps you are like Moses. You’ve had an awakening to your spiritual need, but you haven’t yet taken that step to becoming a child of God on her way to heaven. Or maybe you’re like the rich, young ruler. You know that there’s still something lacking, despite your best efforts to please God. If these two scenarios describe you today, dear reader, don’t go away from this blog sorrowful as the young ruler left Jesus’ presence. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, asking Him to cleanse you and make you a new creature, a child of God. Give Him your life right now.

Maybe you’re already saved, but God has been speaking to you about how faith needs to work in your sanctification, suffering, sacrifice and service. Perhaps your faith is small, weak, immature or not growing. May I encourage you to pray that God would increase your faith? Will you resolve to read and study and meditate on God’s Word, and to be at church whenever the doors are open? We usually use the verse “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” in the context of saving faith, and that’s not wrong. But we mustn’t forget that faith for Christian living after we’re saved comes the same way—by hearing the Word of God preached and taught. If you read, study, meditate and listen, God’s Word will grow your faith.

O, how we need faith, dear reader! For without it we cannot see or know the Immortal, Invisible, Only Wise God, neither can we please Him! (Heb.11:6)

Suzy Crocket and her family are missionaries in Romania.

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