Compassionate Christian Answers to Doubt

Help When Doubt Knocks

Doubting

How to Grow in Faith

Triumph in the Face of Doubt!


By Grantley Morris

This webpage in German






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Christian
Answers

Heroism is not the absence of fear, but plowing on regardless. Likewise, faith – spiritual heroism – is not the absence of doubt. In fact, doubt serves us as our personal spiritual trainer, enabling us to build spiritual muscle, and thus empowering us for eternal greatness.

One might expect that muscles would thrive in the perfect ease of weightlessness, but instead they waste away. The Bible says we have reason to rejoice when hit by trials because trials do us good spiritually (Romans 5:3; James 1:2-4). Likewise, we can rejoice when hit by doubts because our faith needs doubt like our muscles need gravity to grow strong.

Just as someone with a nagging toothache is more conscious of the little weakness in his tooth than of all the strengths in his body, so we are usually highly aware of a nagging doubt and oblivious to there being many areas of life in which we have above average faith. In different people, doubt targets different areas. So a role of this webpage is to direct you to other webpages that deal more specifically with the area of life where, for you, most of the fiery darts of doubt are targeted.

I have scoured my hundreds of webpages to bring together those snippets most likely to inspire you to soar in the midst of doubt, and to this I have added original material.

It is a well-established medical fact that many people suffer a chemical imbalance – sometimes it’s as simple as a vitamin or mineral deficiency – that induces continual anxiety, which has the surprising effect of filling these people with doubts. Although it affects only a small percentage of people, the number totals many millions worldwide and, alarmingly often, it goes undiagnosed.

I will move on to other doubt-related issues, but this medical condition is so torturous, confusing and rarely understood outside of medical circles that I feel obligated to give priority to briefly mentioning it. Unless you are one of the few who already understand it (in which case, feel free to skip it) this information could radically change your life, or that of someone close to you.

interpreting bible truth

The Doubting Disease

Anxiety acts as an alarm that goes off within us indicating that something is seriously wrong and causing our brain to keep seeking the reason, so that it can be corrected. Medically induced anxiety, however, means that the anxiety is driven not by a rational reason for concern but by a chemical imbalance.

When, for example, a fire alarm goes off, it sounds the same regardless of whether it was triggered by an actual fire or by a technical malfunction. Since a false alarm sounds exactly the same as when it is triggered by genuine danger, it is very tempting to feel disturbed about the alarm continuing, even when you have checked and confirmed that there is no danger. So it is with your anxiety. Unfortunately, for as long as you suffer from this anxiety you will just have to keep reminding yourself that it is a false alarm and get used to it blaring and being unpleasant and refuse to treat it as if it were real.

When anxiety is a false alarm it is not only disturbingly unpleasant, it can confuse us spiritually. Anxiety feels like a torturously guilty conscience that keeps nagging away no matter how utterly we are divinely forgiven, cleansed of all sin and made holy by faith in Jesus. Since anxiety is far too incessant to be ignored, however, it is hard not to slip into believing the persistent, overwhelmingly strong feeling, rather than keep stubbornly believing God’s promise to forgive all who put their faith in Jesus. Add to this the fact that anxiety keeps telling us that something is seriously wrong when everything is actually fine, and the foundation to our entire relationship with God – believing that through Jesus our past failings no longer hinder our relationship with God – is under attack. The spiritual confusion can be serious, if we cave in to believing our powerfully deceptive feelings rather than resolutely clinging to raw faith in both Christ’s eagerness to secure our full forgiveness and his ability to do so.

For those with Clinical Anxiety, living by raw faith is much harder to do than for other people, but it is like a coach making his star athlete engage in much heavier training than others – it will end up making him stronger than others, even though during tough training sessions he will seem much weaker than those who are lazing around. It is like a runner lugging heavy weights on his back – it feels as if it is weakening him but it will actually make him stronger as he keeps struggling on.

As I explain in my webpages, here’s what I have ready to paste into the emails of people who, due to this condition, keep seeking assurance or keep finding new doubts or new Scriptures to worry about. It will help you understand how the mind of someone suffering anxiety acts:

I am desperate to help you, dear friend, but despite what one might expect, my very many years of experience with hundreds of Christians asking such questions has proved over and over that answering your questions will not end up helping you.

Your questions will end up being literally endless. This is the nature of the tricks your mind is playing on you. You will never feel sure, no matter what experiences you have (angel visitations or whatever) and no matter how well you know God. It is obvious from your questions that you suffer from excess anxiety – a medical condition – and this anxiety will remain no matter what I say or anyone else says. So, unfortunately, the unavoidable fact is that I would be wasting your time and mine answering your questions. You will feel sure that an answer will give you peace – and it might for a day or so – but the doubts will then start up again. So what you need is not answers to your questions but an understanding of the real source of your anxiety – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is called the doubting disease and it goes to absolutely ridiculous lengths. Your OCD takes a religious form but to understand it, consider someone who checks locks over and over because of OCD. He locks the door and is sure it is locked. Then in just a couple of minutes’ time he begins wondering if he really locked it. The doubt grows until, rather than put up with the doubt, he decides to “put his mind at rest” by checking. Phew! It’s locked. He is now at peace and can get on with life. But then in a couple more minutes he begins to wonder if maybe the door had not been correctly locked. He puts up with that nagging thought for a while but the worry grows stronger and stronger until he is again convinced that the only hope he has of finding peace is to check all the locks. It would only take one check and then he would be really sure and will never have to check again that night. He checks and feels so much better. Then a couple of minutes later . . .

What feeds this ridiculous addiction to checking is that checking temporarily feels good because it relieves all the anxiety. But like all addictions, the good feeling is short lived and it just inflames the yearning for more. The only way to break this addiction – and any other addiction – is to stop feeding the habit – refusing to ease the anxiety by seeking reassurance that everything is okay.

When people keep writing to me about this, I am forced to tell them, “Like everyone else with OCD, you will never be able to ask enough people or get answers that satisfy you. No one should keep pandering to your OCD. It will not only wear them out but in the long term it will not only end up achieving nothing for you, it will actually make your OCD worse.”

To reassure someone with OCD is like buying drugs for an addict when what is needed is for the addict to simply endure the craving for drugs because giving him the drug will give no more than temporary relief and it will then end up increasing the craving. You simply have to accept as a fact of life that you will be repeatedly harassed by doubts, fears, anxiety, guilt feelings, etc, and learn not to believe them, no matter how convincing they feel.

The only permanent help is to seek medical help (in itself this will not be a complete cure but it can help) plus break the addiction to seeking assurance. Like the breaking of any addiction, this will be agonizingly tough and there will be severe withdrawal symptoms – anxiety – but every time you give in, it will strengthen the addiction. You simply have to hold out, putting up with anxiety and refusing to relieve it. Eventually – after days or weeks – the anxiety will begin to fade, but do not expect it to disappear.

So for me to feed your OCD by answering your questions would be for me to act like a drug pusher. And don’t you dare feed it – and hence inflame it – by, for example, asking other people, going to other websites etc.

All of this and much more is carefully explained in my website and it is most important that you keep prayerfully reading it until you fully grasp this concept because I know of nothing more I can say or do to help you understand than what is fully expounded in those webpages. Start at Scrupulosity and then keep following for very many pages the main link towards the bottom of each page.

cure for guilt

Doubting God’s Goodness

In links we will explore rational answers to intellectual doubts about Christianity but, as one of the links explains, even intellectual doubts usually mask deeper, spiritual issues. In fact, it might surprise you to discover that despite the variety of doubts, most doubts can be tracked back to doubting the goodness of God.

The first temptation was to doubt God’s goodness. The deceiver fooled Eve into thinking that God, by telling her not to eat from one tree, was selfishly keeping something good from her. Had she resisted the temptation to doubt God’s goodness, Eve would have realized that God was restricting her only to protect her from harm, and would never have fallen. Ever since, most temptations – including temptations to doubt – question God’s goodness.

Every second of every day, everyone on this planet depends on Almighty God to uphold the laws of the physical universe. If the Lord is as morally good as the Bible claims, he is dependable not only in the sense of having astounding power but because he is mind-bogglingly unselfish and a God of impeccable faithfulness and integrity. No matter how extreme the provocation, he keeps his word and remains steadfastly devoted to you. Because he is good, he tenderly, passionately loves you. As proved by Christ’s torturous death, your eternal joy is of such priority to him that there is no extreme he wouldn’t go to in order to give you his best.

    Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

We are simply not used to relating to anyone marginally as trustworthy as God. He is so staggeringly moral – so incomparably, incomprehensibly and impeccably good – that Jesus declared that only God is good (Mark 10:18). The fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – reveal his heart. God is delightfully, passionately, breathtakingly warm. Search all of humanity for the finest examples of character traits that are exquisitely lovable and fill you with deepest admiration, add them all together, subtract every imperfection, then multiply them by infinity, and the result is beginning to approximate the wonder and beauty of the most exciting person in the universe – God.

Since God is good, he is no hypocrite. He didn’t tell us to forgive seventy times seven if there were a limit to his eagerness to forgive you whenever you repent. The deceiver, however, longs to trick you into thinking that God frowns on you when you fall into sin. Yes, God is disappointed, but when a little child falls, what’s the first thing he does? He runs to mommy or daddy for comfort. You, too, can run to a patient, gentle, kind, loving, forgiving Daddy, who longs to take you in his arms and dry your tears whenever you fall. Satan, however, longing to rob you of the comfort you deserve and the divine strength that is your Christ-bought right, wants to make you feel bad about running to God. He knows we instinctively recoil from anyone we fear might be unforgiving, and hence angry or displeased with us. The deceiver is desperate to fill you with false feelings of condemnation because he longs for you to be standoffish from the only One who can truly deliver you, and defeat Satan in your life. He doesn’t want you to rejoice in God’s goodness and forgiveness but to feel miserable and keep God at arm’s length.

Doubting

Faith Despite Evil

If the mess this world is in causes you to question God’s goodness: think again. We aren’t in heaven yet. On the contrary, we live in a world in which the dominant species – humanity – is in rebellion against the good Lord. If acting contrary to God’s will produced something good, then God’s will could not be good. Of logical necessity, a world rebelling against a good God must be filled with pain, suffering, injustice and despair.

You cannot fervently love someone without aching for that person to love you – especially if you know that person desperately needs you in his/her life. To deeply love someone means you could have everything else in the universe, and yet without that person’s love you would still be heartbroken. To love is to make oneself so vulnerable that even having unlimited power could not help. Omnipotence could easily force someone to obey you. Or it could produce something like a ‘love’ potion, causing a person to be under the illusion of loving you. But genuine love can never be compelled. If ateempts to induce it involves force or chemicals or deceit or bribery, it is a sham and can never satisfy your yearning for that person’s love.

There are things that not even omnipotence can achieve. It cannot, for example, produce a square circle. It can easily turn a circle into a square, but the instant it has straight sides it is not a circle. Likewise, if someone is forced to act in love, it is not genuine love. Even with unlimited power, there is little anyone could do to induce genuine love in a person, other than be loving and wait for a response.

We would be appalled if a man kidnapped a woman and raped and enslaved her because he claims he loves her, wants her as his wife and is convinced he can make her happy. It would be an immoral abuse of power, regardless of whether he used physical force or threats – in which case she would be conscious of the violation of her rights – or if he used drugs or hypnotism so that she is unaware that what is happening is against her will. Real love respects the desires of the beloved, no matter how much it clashes with the lover’s personal longings, and no matter how certain he is that the person would benefit from a lifelong intimacy with him.

God wants a relationship with us more intimate, more permanent and more exclusive than the most wonderful marriage any human couple could ever experience. When we learn that he wants us to love, honor and obey him, we back off in horror before discovering that in every way we benefit from this relationship and that it is God, not us, who gets the raw end. He loves you more than you love yourself and has your best interests at heart even more than you do. He alone has infinite understanding and – as demonstrated by Jesus suffering on the cross for you – he is utterly unselfish and would sacrifice anything for your eternal happiness. To disregard the advice of someone of infinite intelligence who wants only your best, makes as much sense as deliberately harming yourself. Any time we fail to love, honor and obey the God who is devoted to our welfare, we ruin that part of our lives, relative to what we would otherwise have enjoyed and achieved.

Should you start looking for reasons to doubt God’s goodness, the stench will attract demons from every direction. If, for example, you are willing to let one or two Scriptures sabotage your faith in God’s integrity, slimy hordes will rush to your assistance in finding Bible verses to bolster your doubts, just as Satan quoted Scripture to tempt Jesus (Luke 4:9-12).

Rather than wrestle incessantly with the Scripture Satan cited, Christ considered it sufficient simply to quote another Scripture and cling to it. In contrast, the way to send demons into a frenzy of malicious delight is to refuse to accept the rest of the Bible as sufficient and focus on an inadequate understanding of one or two Scriptures; arrogantly demanding a full explanation of obscure Scriptures before conceding the truth of all the other Scriptures that unambiguously insist on God’s goodness, selflessness, dependability, love of justice, and so on.

Once demons see that just one or two doubts is all it takes to undermine your faith, they will delight in you as a soft target and pour their united effort into keeping you focused on doubts and the arrogant stupidity of demanding full understanding of every Scripture and circumstance before you will put your faith in Christ.

The great temptation is to rely on our intellect to battle such attacks but the weapons of our warfare are not human but spiritual (Several Scriptures). The way to win is not through argument but to rebuke the spirits behind the lies, stubbornly refuse to cave in to the doubts that incessantly scream at you, and keep clinging to the fact that God is so much more righteous than us that, as Jesus indicated, no one but God is truly good (Mark 10:18).

It is proper to seek God for deeper understanding but we must not make our determination to love and serve God conditional upon receiving instant answers that our finite minds can grasp. If all God’s ways were intelligible to us he would not be God but an imposter. God – not our puny intellect – must be our God.

Doubt

God’s Love for You

Let me explain what makes belief in God’s goodness critical to faith. Few of us doubt that God can do amazing things. We can easily believe that the atom-holding, earth-spinning, galaxy-sustaining, life-giving Source of everything wonderful can do whatever he likes. Even the devil believes God’s power. My difficulty is believing that God’s special love for me makes him long to use that power for ordinary, inconsequential me. And most likely you share my problem. We suspect we are not sufficiently special in the Almighty’s eyes to warrant such attention. Oh yes, ‘God loves everyone,’ but we have a hunch that by the time that love reaches us, it has spread pretty thin. ‘I’m just one of millions. Why would God want to focus his omnipotence on me?’ we secretly tell ourselves.

I used to think yeah, yeah, God loves me, but he loves everyone. To him, I’m just one of millions of Christians. God has his favorites and I’m not one of them. I thought I was being humble thinking this way. But what I was really doing was accusing God of imperfect love – of not being good in the highest possible sense of the word, but subject to prejudices like fickle, selfish humans. In fact, I was being arrogant. To believe that you or I are of only minor importance to God is to believe his love is a sham. That makes God a liar. There is nothing humble about calling the holy Lord a liar!

If we could grasp the enormity of God’s love for us, our faith would sky-rocket. Pray for a revelation. Ephesians 3:17-19 highlights the necessity of such prayer:

    I pray that you . . . may have power . . . to . . . know this love that surpasses knowledge . . . (Emphasis mine.)

Awareness of how much we are loved is forever slipping from our consciousness. Partially in sight for a few days, it begins to fade again. There are important links at the end of this page to help you nurture your awareness of how special you are in God’s eyes.

doubt

The Amazing Power of Wavering Faith

Even among dynamic people of God with earth-shaking ministries, weak, wavering, doubt-plagued faith is the norm. It’s all we need to achieve great things in God. Take heart from the man whom Scripture exalts as the supreme example of faith (Romans 4; Galatians 3:6-9; Hebrew 11:8-19; James 2:21-23). In an early chapter of Genesis, God tells Abraham on two separate occasions that he will give him the land and descendants (Genesis 12:2,7). Just four verses later we find Abraham humiliating Sarah, denying that she is his wife. In cowardly deceit, he stands dumbly by as Pharaoh marries Sarah and takes her into his harem (Genesis 12:10-16).

Next chapter, God yet again details the promise of land and descendants (Genesis 13:14-17). Nevertheless, two chapters on, we find Abraham expecting to die childless. For a fourth time God insists he will give Abraham descendants. At last the old fossil believes. The Lord, thrilled with Abraham’s re-found faith, repeats his vow to give him the land. In disbelief, Abraham asks for a sign (Genesis 15:2-8). With divine patience God dramatically shows the mighty man of faith not only his future descendants, but what will happen to them.

In the next chapter we find our faith model throwing away any hope of a miracle from God. He resorts to highly dubious natural means to forcibly accomplish what God seems unwilling to do. He bypasses his wife and turns to her maid for a baby (Genesis 16:1-3).

Years later, the Lord yet again reaffirms his promise to Abraham and declares that Sarah would conceive. Abraham laughs. He is sure his wife has more potential as an Egyptian mummy than as a Hebrew one. ‘She’s too old. Just bless Ishmael,’ is the crux of his reply (Genesis 17:17-18). Yet the Lord persists. One more time our hero gropes for that slippery fish called faith.

Before long, he is again passing off Sarah as his sister, showing more faith in his powers of deception than in God’s integrity. This time it is King Abimelech who almost has a go at impregnating Sarah (Genesis 20:2-3). Just weeks later, (assuming Genesis 18:10 to 21:2 are in chronological order) she conceived Abraham’s baby.

Faith is not a non-stop flight above reality; it’s a fight. What distinguishes people of faith is not how rarely they hit the dirt, but how often they get up again. To be perpetually positive is impossible. The mere attempt embroils us in prayer battles and Abrahamic effort. The enemy often flees to his corner, only to prepare for the next round. You might even have climbed out of the ring, but the reward for getting back in exceeds anything anyone could offer.

doubts?

The Faith You’re Given is All You Need

People are putting money in the offering. You see varying amounts go in. A well-dressed man pulls out a huge wad of notes. Your eyes nearly pop. There must be thousands of dollars in his fist as he drops them in. Then it’s the turn of a withered, shabbily dressed woman. In her time-ravished hand are two five cent coins – a miserable total of ten cents. Why does she even bother? you ask yourself, What good . . . ? Suddenly you notice that Jesus’ eyes have lit up. Excitedly, he gathers his disciples around him and proudly declares, ‘This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on’ (Mark 12:43-44). It was the one who seemed to be giving the least, whom he exalted as giving the most.

Jesus makes visible the very heart of God. What matters to God is not how much we give but how deep we had to dig to give it; not the actual value of our contribution to the kingdom, but how much of what we have that we give. This divine principle applies to every aspect of life. If, for instance, we have almost no faith but we give God ninety percent of the little we have, the all-knowing Lord sees this as being more commendable than those who display much greater faith but are actually using only eighty percent of all the faith that they could muster. A person filled with doubts and fears and suppressed anger at God, but still doing the little he or she can to hold on to God, could easily be seen by the Lord as having more faith than someone used to raise the dead.

Depending on their past experiences beyond their control, animals vary greatly as to how trusting they are of people. So it is with how trusting people are of God. Faith belongs to that long list of things – wealth, health, intelligence, beauty, status, fame, and so on – that is distributed very unequally among humanity, and often for reasons largely beyond the recipients’ control. This inequality is reflected in Jesus’ parable in which different servants were entrusted with different amounts of money (Matthew 25:15). Although each servant was responsible for what he did with what was loaned to him, none had the slightest control over the original size of the loan.

There was a time when I did not realize that this applies to faith as well as everything else in life. My many years of counseling people, however, have affirmed over and over that experiences beyond people’s personal control – such as whether their trust was violated by adults during their tender, impressionable years – makes not just faith in people but faith in God much harder for some people than for others. Likewise, there are psychological afflictions and illnesses, such as religious obsessive-compulsive disorder, that make faith devastatingly difficult. You might not understand this, but humanity’s Judge certainly does, and he takes it very much into account in rewarding us, just as Jesus did in assessing people’s generosity. If you demand biblical proof, I’ll give it.

God’s Word declares that the gifts of the Spirit are divinely apportioned unequally. God ensures that people differ in their spiritual gifts because people differ in their function in Christ’s body. One of the gifts specifically mentioned in that passage is faith (1 Corinthians 12). Ponder also the implications of these Scriptures:

    Romans 12:3  . . . think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

    Romans 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.

    Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. (Emphasis mine.)

Taken together, the above Scriptures suggest that although we have each been given (it is a gift, not something that is self-generated) a degree of faith, the size of the gift varies from person to person. As in the parable of the talents, we have the potential and responsibity to increase that gift, but our Master is acutely aware that some have been given far more than others.

God is never impressed by the size of our original gift. After all, it is something we are given, not what we have achieved. Just as a good father is as proud of a helpless new born baby as he is of its toddler brother and teenaged sister, the Omnipotent Lord thinks no higher of someone who has been gifted with great faith. The sole thing that moves the Almighty is the extent to which we seek to maximize however much or little he has entrusted to us. And Jesus is emphatic that God expects much more from those who have been given more (Luke 12:48).

If our eternal reward hinged on earthly advantages we might have reason to question God’s fairness, but the Judge is not like that. None of us knows our true potential. God alone knows how we have fared, relative to that potential, and it is on this basis that Christians are rewarded.

God is Judge, and everyone knows that a judge must be impartial. ‘Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ asked Abraham (Genesis 18:25), with as much confidence as if he had asked, ‘Will not the sun rise tomorrow?’ Our conviction that a judge must be fair comes from God himself (Scriptures). Of course, there is such a thing as a corrupt judge, but wherever you go in the Bible it shouts that God is righteous.

Life is full of injustices, and the ultimate injustice was when the Son of God – in the absolute sense, humanity’s only Innocent – was crucified. But one day all injustices will be righted and we will be eternally compensated for every temporary unfairness. We will then discover that what matters for all eternity is not how much faith (or anything else) we were given on earth, but how well we used it. Many who have had only tiny faith to work with will receive far higher eternal rewards than those who were given much greater faith. This thrilling truth is expounded further in a link at the end of this page.

faith

We Rarely Know When We’re Showing Great Faith

We often get things so terribly confused that what we suppose to be great faith, is actually weak faith, and what we think is almost no faith is great faith. For this reason I’ve written elsewhere:

    Faith grows best in the dark. Life in the sunshine is so exhilarating that we seldom notice our faith beginning to droop. It’s when things are dim, that spiritual life mushrooms. When it’s sunny we want to run off and play. It’s when it’s darkest that we hold Father’s hand the tightest. In the gloom, qualities like faith, grit, and dedication, are stretched to limits we have never before reached. Yet life seems so oppressive we are oblivious to our triumphs.

    In pristine conditions eyes of faith can see forever. When storms close in, it is a mammoth task for those same eyes to even slightly pierce the swirling murk. It is the conditions, not you, that have deteriorated. Contrary to every feeling, you are not regressing.

    Though offered with the best intentions, much sentimental waffle is sometimes uttered about returning to one’s ‘first love’, as if the starry-eyed euphoria of new Christians is greater than the mature depths of your average older Christian. Poppycock! Most spiritual honeymooners are radiant primarily because they think they have entered a blissful world of near-perfect Christians, instant answers to selfish prayers and a life forever free from pain, heartache and trials. Theirs is most likely mere puppy love, relative to the ardor moving you to tough it out.

    It’s pain endured in the valley, not gooey feelings in the afterglow of mountaintop ecstasy, that validates love. By all means, passionately seek the face of God, but don’t assume that emotional deadness – a normal phase of anyone’s spiritual life – implies spiritual deadness. We march by faith, not by warm fuzzies.

    An athlete, in the midst of a record-breaking run, has never in his life been so fit and strong. Yet his pain-racked body may have never felt so weak. Likewise, in the midst of a spiritual trial, it is not uncommon to be stronger and yet feel weaker than ever before. And to fellow Christians you might seem hopeless. An ultra-marathon champion staggering up the final hill looks pathetic. A child could do better. Anyone not understanding what this man has gone through would shrink from him in disgust. Only someone with all the facts would be awed by his stamina as he stumbles on.

Miracles and signs of God’s favor and positive feelings give only an illusion of faith. Real faith is what is left after all this is stripped away and the only feelings left are unpleasant ones. Often when people seem to have great faith, it is merely God compensating for their lack of faith, until he is sufficiently confident in their spiritual maturity to strip away the props so that their faith may at last begin to develop.

Precious metals dug from the ground are of little use until they are refined. Removing signs and feelings is like removing the dross from faith and so that at last it becomes useful and of great value. The process whereby our faith is made of great value is often so painful and can seem so cruel that it is almost like being thrown alive into a furnace and this imagery is common in the Bible. Look especially, however, at these Scriptures:

    1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

    Psalms 66:10-12 For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.

    Zechariah 13:9 This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’

    James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (Emphasis mine.)

Over a couple of years, a very intelligent friend of mine had read the following few paragraphs several times, and yet she was still struggling with faith. I decided to risk her annoyance by reading it to her yet another time. To my surprise, this time it really impacted her. You, too, might need to prayerfully read not just the following but the entire webpage many times to receive full benefit, but let’s see what finally helped her:

    In what was perhaps my most painful trial, I was convinced I desperately needed personal indications of God’s presence, and I felt badly treated by God when he left me to stagger though life devoid of any tangible proof that I was important to him, even though he gave people all around me the signs I craved. The more I sought God, the more he seemed to leave me floundering. Crushing disappointments and devastating blows dragged on for years, despite fervently seeking God. Eventually I remembered Thomas, who was granted perhaps the greatest of all such experiences – the opportunity to physically handle the risen Lord. How blessed he was! And yet the astounding thing is that Jesus told Thomas that the person who is really blessed is the one who is not granted an experience like him. The best is reserved for the person compelled to hold on by faith alone (John 20:29).

    Finally I understood how I had forced my Lord into the position where he either had to deny me the experience I was hankering for, or deny me the greater blessing he had planned for me – the chance to gain glory by finding faith without experiencing anything dramatic and, by doing so, grow in faith, that exquisite commodity more valuable than gold. The Lord had lovingly risked my wrath so that he could give me the greater blessing. And instead of being grateful, I was annoyed at him!

    How often we must unknowingly put God in such a situation. Seeing only one possible solution, we demand it of God, convinced that he must either act the only way we can figure, or God cannot be loving. We force God into either denying us what is best or acting in a manner that we have fooled ourselves into thinking is unloving. We repeatedly find ourselves in such situations because God is so intellectually superior to us.

    Puzzling things that God does, or omits to do, sometimes make us secretly wish God had our intelligence! When all is revealed, however, these are the very things that will fill us with eternal praise that God does not have our intelligence.

      Isaiah 55:8-9 ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’

    And yet the power of an infinite intellect finds its match in infinite love.

      Psalms 103:11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.

Faith Boost

Faith Boost Fizzlers

We so often think, ‘If only God did so and so, then I’d have great faith.’ The benefits are so obvious to us that we get annoyed that God doesn’t do it. Looking at Thomas has inspired us to consider that God might happen to know best after all. Let’s look at this from another angle:

    If Gideon had somehow misheard God, the results would not just be terrifying for him but catastrophic for the entire nation. He needed a faith boost, so he asked the angel for a sign that he was truly hearing from God. He got an astounding one. The angel touched the offering. It exploded into flames and then the angel vanished into thin air. Wow!

    Soon afterwards, Gideon started worrying about the same thing again. He felt the need for yet another sign that would pump up his flagging faith. This time, he reasoned, he would leave nothing to doubt. The sign would be of his own choosing. He pondered the matter and decided to formulate a sign so ingenious that he knew it would annihilate all his doubts. He would put a fleece outside and if in the morning it was wet and the ground around was dry it would be such a miracle that he could be at peace, knowing for sure that God was with him and that all would be well.

    It happened just as he had asked. Then something totally unexpected occurred: his mind went into overdrive. What if there were some natural explanation? What if it had rained lightly early in the night and then evaporated from everywhere except where it was protected by the fleece’s fibers? Could an animal have been attracted to the fleece and urinated on it? What if . . . ? (Judges 6).

    He had been so sure that this was the sign he needed but soon what he had fully expected to be sky-high faith was plummeting so alarmingly that soon an ant wouldn’t trip over it.

    If what he was certain would be the ultimate faith-boost, giving him the peace he craved, had fizzled to nothing in minutes, we can expect the same. Surprisingly many spiritual experiences that we imagine would be dramatic enough to boost our faith if they happened to us turn out to be more subtle that we expect and in the cold light of day take faith to believe they were actually supernatural. Divine peace is no exception.

    We imagine we crave some experience that boosts our faith but by that we really mean we want to experience something that is so compelling that we don’t need faith. Faith grows only when everything within us screams the opposite. Faith is spiritual muscle. It must be exercised if it is to grow or even be maintained.

faith or doubt

Increase Your Faith

Faith is fundamental to all Christian service (Mark 11:24; John 14:12; Galatians 3:2-3; Hebrews 4:2; 11:6; James 1:6-7; 1 John 5:4). Like a seedling, it should constantly grow (2 Corinthians 10:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:2).

‘Lord, increase our faith,’ pleaded the disciples.

‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed . . .’ came the reply (Luke 17:5-6).

Perhaps our greatest need is not huge faith, but to fully use our small faith. Perhaps we miss out because we devalue our faith, not using it to the fullest because we wrongly imagine that tiny faith is too insignificant to move the hand of God. If faith is more valuable than gold (1 Peter 1:7), the merest speck is too precious to despise. Do not let feelings of inadequacy strangle your faith. Just keep pressing on. Past greats achieved much with floundering faith. So can you.

Although weak, wavering faith is standard, we should nevertheless work hard on increasing it.

We earlier noted that doubt is nothing to be feared. Indeed, faith needs doubt like muscles need gravity. This doesn’t mean doubt should be encouraged, any more than a physical trainer would encourage laziness. It is by regularly resisting gravity that muscles remain healthy and grow strong. Likewise, it is by regularly resisting doubt that we flourish spiritually.

It is easier on ourselves if we start exercising faith now, in minor things, than to expect to pluck out of the air mountain-moving faith when critically needed in a crisis.

Like everyone, my faith levels fluctuate. Usually I am aware that a few moments dwelling on faith-building truths or squashing negative thoughts would boost my faith a little, but I foolishly let myself remain at a lower faith level than I know I am capable of. I have failed to take faith as seriously as Scripture does. If it is as valuable as Scripture affirms, then only a fool would pass up an opportunity to slightly increase it. If our Lord valued faith at a dollar, then a one percent increase is not worth bothering about. What can you do with a cent? If common faith is of immense value, however, everything changes. On a million dollars, one percent is $10,000 – well worth a little effort!

Faith's Enemy

False Humility: Faith’s Deadly Enemy

To explain a serious threat to my faith, I will have to quote myself again:

    For most of my life, scriptures like ‘God opposes the proud’ (James 4:6) have filled me with such dread of the dangerous trap of pride that I felt driven to avoid it at all costs. Tragically, this commendable attitude got me nowhere. My godly intentions were sabotaged by such a mistaken understanding of pride that all I managed was to fall into false humility. I wrongly thought I could foster humility by thinking negatively about myself. To my horror, I eventually discovered that false humility is itself a form of pride.

    I correctly understood that if I thought I could achieve anything of lasting value without God’s help, or if I thought I were moral enough to gain God’s approval outside of Christ’s forgiveness, then humbling myself involved lowering my opinion of myself. My mistake was in wrongly concluding from this truth that the basic ingredient of humility is having a low opinion of oneself.

    Godly humility flows not from thinking lowly of oneself but from seeing things through God’s eyes. Pride is having the audacity to disagree with God. It is saying I know more than the God of the universe; my puny intellect knows better than the Almighty; the God of truth is wrong and I am right.

    Since the God of love sees you as lovable, and true humility involves taking God’s assessment of everything as gospel, humility requires you to see yourself as lovable. If God sees you through eyes of love, how dare you see yourself in a different light, as if your perspective is right and your Creator and Savior is wrong? If God forgives you, to refuse to forgive yourself is to have the audacity to imply that you have higher moral standards than the Judge of all the earth; that you are holier than the Holy Lord. Isn’t that the very pinnacle of pride? Please avoid this deadly trap.

    Make God your God by agreeing with him. He says you are the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Dare you exalt yourself above God by disagreeing with him? Stop wounding yourself by squandering your faith on a lie, thus robbing God of faith that should be invested in him. Refuse the sinful, pride-filled path that deceptively seems humble but is actually implying that you know better than the Almighty. Set yourself free. Embrace God’s truth.

So true humility centers around believing what God believes. If he says you can do something, to believe you cannot do it is to choose to disagree with Almighty God. That is audacious pride.

blind faith?

Faith is Stubborn Persistence

Among the lessons to be learnt through Abraham becoming a father is not that we should do nothing and leave it all to God. Had this been Abraham’s attitude, the miracle would never have happened. The key lay not in doing nothing, but in doing the right thing – trying yet again to fill a barren womb.

Faith is leaving the security of inactivity and deliberately exposing ourselves to the painful possibility of defeat. It is Jonathan and his armor-bearer going out to meet the enemy; not his comrades hiding in holes hoping for a miracle (1 Samuel 14:1-15). It’s Peter saying, ‘If that’s you, Lord, bid me come. . .’ and then stepping out of the boat (Matthew 14:28-29). It’s that same fisherman saying, ‘Lord, we’ve toiled all night and caught nothing. Nevertheless, at your word . . .’ (Luke 5:5). It is Paul, once again facing a hostile crowd. It is you, trying one more time.

I have found much in the Bible that for a long time seemed ludicrous to me – it is more blessed to give than to receive, trials are so beneficial that they are something to rejoice about, those who lose their life will find it, and many more spiritual truths that jar my idea of common sense. As I have tried to act in faith upon these seeming nonsensical principles, I have discovered that faith is about pushing forward into territory in which everything within you screams that it is insane but when you do your best to keep going anyhow, the rewards are immense. As you keep staggering on in faith you will gradually receive more and more confirmation that what you are desperately trying to believe really is the truth. It might take years of stubborn persistence, but eventually you will reach the point where it no longer takes faith because it has become so obvious to you that it is true. Now, for instance, I don’t need to be told that trials are a blessing, I know they are. I have proved it over and over and over in my own life. How did I get that proof? Only by repeatedly stepping out in shaky faith when it seemed unbelievable.

worried and fearful

My Faith Battles

Perhaps the greatest faith challenge I’ve ever faced was spending over twenty years with an almost explosive yearning to serve God despite being kept on ice with close to zero ministry opportunities. In a desperate attempt to keep sane I spent about ten years writing books that only I read, my favorite one being called Waiting for Your Ministry. I had no idea that the book would become the foundation for my entire Internet Ministry. Here’s an extract:

    I was driving home from church, dejected. Prayer had been offered for people who felt any special call upon their lives. Though I longed to respond, God has never spoken to me about future service.

    ‘The Lord gives almost everyone a personal word to cling to while waiting,’ I mused. Abraham may have languished for years, but God had promised him descendants. Young Joseph had a dream. David was anointed with oil. And the names kept coming.

    ‘Lord,’ I complained, ‘you’ve never given me a promise!’

    ‘Except the million in God’s Word,’ came the thought.

    I went to bed, still agitated. As I lay there next morning my mind floated to Ruth, who found God’s blessing by stubbornly resisting the pleas of the most godly woman she knew (Ruth 1:4-17). My thoughts flashed through the centuries to the Canaanite who won her daughter’s healing and Jesus’ praise by persisting, despite being ignored, called a dog, and told her request was improper (Matthew 15:22-28).

    My heart leapt. Maybe God is doing the same to me! Surely, despite heaven’s silence, God’s heart is still open to my cry. I recalled something I placed in an early draft of this book:

      Most biblical teaching on prayer can be summarized thus: God delights in lavishing his blessings upon those too resolute to take ‘No’ for an answer.

    It’s true, and I hate it. Not only does it sound like a grueling endurance test, I loathe arguments. I cringe at the thought of pestering the One I love, or grieving him by not instantly yielding to the slightest indication of his wish. Further, I’m awed by the realization that God’s wisdom is infinite. That makes mine infinitesimal. Who am I to haggle with the greatest Mind in the universe?

    Jacob was blessed because he wrestled with God – and won (Genesis 32:24-30). I thought we scored by letting God win! This side of prayer seems to tear up everything Scripture teaches about love, submission and respect.

    After years of confusion a gleam penetrated in the guise of a startling thought: ‘God is a tease’. I slammed shut my mind. It couldn’t be. God’s not like that! Yet as I dared peek at that mysterious ray, light flooded my understanding. It’s true! God is a beautiful, loving tease! He declares he is the giving God (James 1:5, literal translation) and then lets everything suggest he is a tightwad. ‘You can’t have it! It’s not worth having. You’re not good enough!’ heaven and hell seem to howl. All the while he is hoping we will see through the jest to the heart of God.

    Play-fights with God make us strong. They are not to be taken lightly, however. Eternity holds its breath. Ruth’s sister-in-law surrendered to Naomi’s repeated pleas and returned to her people, turning her back on God’s blessing.

    Elisha wanted a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. The hide of the man! Time and again God’s oracle tried to shrug off that bald-headed upstart, yet Elisha clung to him with the obstinacy of a blood-sucker (2 Kings 2:1-15). That’s what made him grate – er – great.

    Heaven’s strong room is plundered by everyone with the audacity to ask and the tenacity to receive. And God is tickled pink! Look above the stern ‘No’ on God’s lips to the sparkle in his eyes.

That was written about fifteen years ago. Here’s my current definition of faith:

    Faith is being so sure of God’s goodness that you stubbornly refuse to settle for less than God’s best.


Throughout the years and years and years of writing and rewriting and rewriting material that virtually no one read, it was a massive struggle to keep believing that it was not a pathetic waste of effort. Despite having to work full time to support myself I worked on my writings every day and night without allowing myself the slightest vacation. I describe in two sections toward the end of the book what kept me going. I believe the same principles will help you.

    With God as my co-author, I write best sellers. That’s my new self-image. (More accurately, my Lord, Creator of humanity’s creative writers and Author of the world’s best-seller – the Bible – in his exorbitant love dares share his ability with me, and lets me tamper with his perfection. If only I can stifle my tendency to write solo, the result will be stunning.)

    So new is this self-image that the cement hasn’t set. I had hardly finished shaping it when along came some ‘helpful’ criticism. ‘I hope you find these comments encouraging,’ he said. I didn’t. My revamped self-image oozed back into a nebulous blob. It had to be laboriously rebuilt. That meant hours of prayer and dwelling on faith-building truths; constant battles against negative thoughts, when surrender seemed perversely alluring. Without frequent repair and maintenance, my new image would soon be flattened by life’s squalls.

    So far, I have nothing tangible to show for my inner struggles, but whenever I have patched things up and look in the mirror of my mind, the image I see causes less nausea than it used to. I bounce with new zing toward the goal (Compare 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:13-14).

    Too often I think and act as if the darkness of my inadequacy could extinguish the brilliance of Christ. I have seen myself as a failure and I have seen the results of such thinking. Now I endeavor to see myself as a born failure, born again a success. That’s scriptural. Without Christ I am brain-frozen with inadequacy. But I am not without Christ. I am tired of being hauled through the sludge by my former view of myself. I had backed off so far from the monster of pride that I had almost fallen into the ditch of despair, dragging God’s glory with me. Though I hate egotism, I must hate doubt with equal passion.

    (I suspect that if I truly knew my Lord, self-image would be a non-issue. I would be so in love with Christ, so captivated with his splendor that I couldn’t bear to wrench my eyes off him long enough either to berate or congratulate myself. I’m not there yet, however.)


    Despite my relentless longing to share these truths, it hurts to let this book be published. The more I work on the book, the more immersed in its truths I become. It’s continually washing away layer after grimy layer of negativity and buoying me ever higher. I hate the thought of this process ever ending, but dour experience affirms that it will – soon after I put the book down. I have had to reread it scores of times to halt my slide back into the bog. And still I need it.

    Though my need is chronic, I doubt if the mildest affliction could be relieved forever through one reading of this book. I expect you to feel better after a single dose but regular doses are essential for a permanent cure. So I urge you to keep this book handy, even after completing it. Long-term problems need long-term solutions. I covet a new life for you, not just a momentary easing of the pain. Experience suggests you will need this book year after year. We never reach the point where temptation leaves us forever.

    Negative thoughts have been roosting in our heads, pecking away at the fruit beginning to form in our lives. We’ve shooed these pests away, but they will stealthily return. That’s our cue to skim through the book again. Highlight the parts that especially speak to you or uplift you. Personalize them. Write them out. Display them. Memorize them. Add to them. Share them. Live them. They will keep the vermin away and bring you to new levels of fruitfulness.

    Find ingenious ways to keep in your consciousness truths you particularly need. At work I must set and use several computer passwords. I might say to myself I will praise the Lord at all times, while typing the first letter of each word. IWPTLAAT then becomes my new password. No one could guess such an apparently random string of letters and I can remember it only by rehearsing in my mind that positive declaration every time I must use it. Perhaps you could put a little heart somewhere to remind you how much you are loved by God. There are thousands of possibilities. Finding some that work for you will be well worth the effort.

    I’d be thrilled if my expressions sometimes help. I have tried to shape them to stick in slippery memories. But don’t be chained to my words. Using your words will help the truths become yours. And don’t be confined to the paltriness of my insight. Hound God with the passion and confidence of a cherished lover until you receive your own Bible-based, Christ-centered revelations.

    No matter how hot it’s served or how much it’s sweetened, second-hand revelation is as insipid as second-hand tea bags unless the Holy Spirit comes upon you, exploding those words within you with such power that it becomes your own divine encounter. A hand-me-down word from God might bring a little refreshment, but a truth super-charged by the Spirit of God percolating through one’s life is so superior that no cost is too high a price to pay for it. Fervent prayer and Bible meditation is the usual price.

    Though I have prayed incessantly that this book bless you as much as it has me, I fear I’m asking God to break one of his principles. Why should he command us to seek and to ask and devote our lives to poring over Scripture unless that’s the way he prefers to reveal his truth? It is truths in the heart, not words in a book, that set us free. And lodging them there takes spiritual and mental effort. I crave the joy of serving you by doing all the prayer and study, but that’s like trying to play tennis for you – I get the healthy exercise and you miss all the fun.

My plea to keep reading the book now applies to my entire website.

Doubting

Look to Jesus, Not to Faith

Even though faith is critical, whenever we look at it we are in danger of losing perspective. To focus on faith is like trying to drive focusing on the windshield rather than looking through the windshield to the road. Even in a webpage in which I’ve got you thinking about how good God is and how we can achieve much with little faith, I worry that I’ve got you thinking too much about your faith rather than the object of your faith.

Faith connects you to God. It is as vital as a phone that connects you to a loved one interstate, but focusing on that phone – thinking about all its features and its electronics – will distract you. When using the phone, you should keep your focus on the person the phone enables you to talk to, rather than focusing on the phone itself.

Suppose I want to fly overseas so I get a dozen birds, tie string to their legs, and tie the other end around my waist. No matter how great my faith, I’m going nowhere, except perhaps to a mental asylum. On the other hand, no matter how petrified I am of airplanes, if I get inside a jumbo jet I’m going to fly – as long as I don’t so cave in to doubt that I bolt out the door before take-off. All that matters is choosing wisely what I put my faith in. Beyond having the sheer willpower to stay in the plane, the size of my faith will not affect how far I soar, but merely how white my knuckles are. Depending on the level of my faith, the journey can range from being torturous to filled with wonder, comfort and fun, but I’ll go just as far, just as quickly.

What is needed to propel us to spiritual greatness is not great faith in a weak God but weak faith in a great God.

Some people who seem to have great faith end up spiritual underachievers – sometimes disastrously so – because much of their faith is in themselves or in good fortune or in positive thinking, rather than in God. Surprisingly, as explained in a link below, self-doubt is an invaluable spiritual asset. By driving us to put our faith in God rather than in ourselves, self-doubt can lock us into the supernatural, empowering us to achieve the humanly impossible and win eternal glory.

What makes praise and worship mind-bogglingly powerful is that it gets our focus off ourselves onto the all-powerful Lord. Praise magnifies our estimation of God. Our faith will grow effortlessly as we let our awareness of God’s greatness and goodness grow.

Another powerful key to true faith is to spend long, not only praising God for who he is, but also praising and thanking him for giving us what we need before we actually receive it. This corrects our focus from begging a stingy God to receiving from a generous God.

    James 1:5 If any of you lacks . . . he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault . . .

Yes, James had wisdom in focus but he was highlighting an important spiritual principle. We see here two vital aspects of God’s goodness: he is generous and he doesn’t find fault. The devil loves condemnation because it sabotages our faith in God by making us erroneously suppose that God finds fault with us. In itself, the feeling of condemnation is just a harmless annoyance but it turns dangerous when it tempts us to suppose that God is displeased with us and it turns even more deadly when it tempts us to erode our belief in God’s goodness even further by thinking that if he is displeased with us he will turn into a tightwad. The glorious truth is twofold: that God loves even his enemies – giving all things to all – and that through Christ we are his friends.

Sin that we are pleased about and intend to keep repeating is serious. In contrast, sin – no matter how gross or repeated – that is genuinely regretted and by faith laid upon our crucified Savior, will never keep us from Christ’s cleansing and God’s generosity.

Answered prayer is always the expression of the infinite generosity of God; never the reward of our ‘holy’ living. I put the word holy in quotes because only God is good. There is no holiness outside of our faith-union with Christ. It is Christ’s holiness, not our dirty imitation of it, that gives us access to all the riches of God. Our faith must always be in the once crucified, now risen, sinless Son of God, not in ourselves. And because our faith is in his moral perfection, our faith can soar.

In my personal walk with God, here is one of the most life-changing Scriptures I have ever encountered:

    Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

This confirms that it is critical to believe that we have received before we get. Prayer is not complete until we move beyond merely believing that God can, to believing that he will.

Trying to beg God or manipulate God or hoping to impress him by how desperate we are or how worthy we are, is not Christian prayer. It’s heathen. I’ve also found that gritting my teeth, trying to manufacture faith as if I were trying to lay an egg isn’t the way. All I need do is simply keep thanking God for the answer before I hold it in my hand.

    Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Emphasis mine.)

Thanking God for the answer before it arrives is faith in action. It’s delightfully easy. And it’s fun. It lets us party ahead of time.

I don’t know if you believe in love at first sight but here’s a saying I fell in love the moment I first laid eyes on it:

    Quit telling God how big your storm is
    and tell your storm how big your God is.

How different life would be if we’d live that way!

There’s a snag, however:

    Jeremiah 14:11-12 Then the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for the well-being of this people. . . . I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.”

    Jeremiah 15:1 Then the LORD said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. . . .”

    Romans 8:26 . . . We do not know what we ought to pray for . . .

    1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. (Emphasis mine.)

For similar Scriptures Praying For the Wrong Things.

Doubting

Faith or Presumption?

Faith is not about manipulating God to get what we want – that’s what witchcraft tries to do. Biblical faith involves trusting God enough to submit to his loving wisdom.

Christian faith is about dying to self; not about ‘dying’ to get your own selfish way. This is not an endorsement of defeatism – resigning ourselves to never getting our hearts’ desire – but of delighting in the perfection of God’s will and putting more faith in him than in ourselves when it comes to knowing what is best for us.

There’s a vital difference between faith and presumption. Presumption is about seizing some Scripture and rashly claiming it as a promise for ourselves without first seeking God’s heart on the specific situation we face.

Why have so few Christians with supposedly great faith literally walked on water? In this case, the disciple famous for flapping his gums before engaging his brain acted with great wisdom. He walked on water not because he was claiming some Scripture such as “I can do all things through Christ,” or “ . . . if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart . . .” or “Everything is possible for him who believes,” and so on. Peter’s faith was not in some general Word of God, but anchored on God’s specific word to him for that precise situation. He said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water” and then did nothing until Jesus replied, “Come” (Matthew 14:28-29). That’s real faith, because it was based not on treating God as a machine that dispenses goodies when the right buttons are pushed, but based on intimacy and loving submission to God.

Peter was not desperately trying to apply some general promise of Scripture, hoping that it might work in this specific instance; he was stepping out on a personal word from his Lord. Until we receive a personal word from God, so-called faith is often hit-or-miss. What we claim to be faith tends to be more our hope that we have guessed the will of God, than faith in God himself.

I know that God is good – and this inspires me to pray – but I also know that although God has infinite wisdom, I don’t. If I don’t receive a special word from God for a particular situation – and I usually don’t – then a hope that I’ve correctly guessed God’s will is all I’ve got. It’s better than nothing, but the ideal is to keep praying until we truly hear from God and then put our faith in what he says by thanking God for answered prayer before we see it.

    1 John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (Emphasis mine.)

In fact, a deeper look at this matter reveals that unless we take this seriously, we could anger God.

We have no specific Scripture we can claim for walking on water but there is one for, as it were, walking on air:

    Psalms 91:11-16 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Does this mean we can step off a precipice, knowing by faith that God will protect us with his angels? Would this be the height of God-honoring faith? No! Rather than being a daring faith experiment, Scripture portrays such an attempt to ‘name and claim’ as a temptation from the Evil One himself. It is a serious satanic ploy to deceive and corrupt:

    Matthew 4:5-7 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”

Not even the Messiah had the spiritual authority to seize random scriptures as a springboard for ‘faith’. Even though the specific scripture seemed quite appropriate for him to apply to himself, not even the eternal Son of God could ‘name and claim’ it, and remain undefiled.

The Scripture Jesus used to highlight the sin the devil was tempting him with was a reference to how the children of Israel treated God in the wilderness.

    Deuteronomy 6:16 Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah.

Here’s how Psalms describes the consequences of putting God to the test:

    Psalm 78:18,21,31 They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. [prayer]  . . . When the LORD heard them, he was very angry; his fire broke out against Jacob, and his wrath rose against Israel . . . he put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel.

Numbers puts it this way:

    Numbers 11:33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague.

Here’s Paul’s description of the consequences of putting God to the test:

    1 Corinthians 10:9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes.

Whatever way you look at it, putting God to the test is a grave offence and yet this was what Jesus’ retort to Satan implied he would have been guilty of, had he tried using that Scripture as a basis for expecting a miracle.

Do you suppose Christians are granted some sort of divine license to do the very thing Jesus refused to do, or that we have immunity from the serious consequences of committing the grave error of testing God? Then what was Paul doing warning the Corinthian Christians not to fall into it?

Jesus’ response to Satan quoting the Bible highlights how everything must be done in reverent submission to God, including how we use his holy Word.

faith

Danger

Despite having already mentioned the danger of focusing on faith, rather than on God, I still worry that I have might not have made it clear enough. Let me express it this way:

God is love. That renders him highly personal. To put it mildly, God is warm. Above everything, he yearns for intimacy with you. A distorted emphasis on faith has the potential to distract us from this. We can become self-obsessed – infatuated with our faith rather than with our loving Lord, and on us receiving things rather than on companionship with God. We can end up focused on trying to extract from God spiritual trinkets (or even less noble things) rather than on loving God and enjoying him.

Sadly, many of us break God’s heart by treating him like an unfeeling poker machine; hoping that if we feed in enough prayer and faith we will win some goodies. We cannot depersonalize our Maker, however, without dehumanizing ourselves. Anyone treating God like a machine is like someone who turns his heart to stone, refusing to love, and trying instead to claw emotional satisfaction from objects.

Too many of us are like a passionately loved wife who keeps breaking her husband’s heart by her coldness because she married him for his riches. Instead of reveling in the glory of God’s love and the matchless beauty and wonder of who he is, we lust after trinkets that can never fill the God-shaped void within us. The real treasure lies not in his gifts but in the Giver himself.

bible study

The Thrill of Faith

To be human with an earth address makes temptation not just normal but inevitable. Not even the sinless Son of God could avoid it. Temptations to doubt are equally normal, and nothing to be distressed about.

Being hit by doubts need keep you from your destiny no more than bugs hitting a car windshield. Assured that there is no such freak as a Christian who is never buffeted by doubt or temptation, simply doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs (source) and keep going.

Spiritual adventure involves the terrifying excitement of pressing on despite everything within you screaming that it cannot be true or that it is too risky. You were born for achievement and born again for the challenge of living life on the edge. Faith empowers us to soar beyond human limitations into the realm of the divine. Live life to the full!

doubt

For More Help, See The Faith that Gets Results

Not to be sold. © Copyright 1985-1996, 2008, 2012, 2013 Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.net-burst.net  Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.


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