Faith and Consistency

Do you believe in gravity? Do you believe in electricity?

Of course you do. So do I. And we prove our belief every time we take a step or turn on a light.

But when it comes to biblical truth and spiritual matters, our beliefs don’t always translate into actions. And I confess to being as guilty of this as anyone else.

The reality is that I often fail to live in accordance with what I claim to believe.

  • I claim I trust God as my heavenly Father…then I worry.
  • I say God is worthy of sacrificial service…then I pick and choose the most convenient way to serve Him.
  • Or I declare my gratitude for forgiveness found in Jesus Christ…then I withhold forgiveness from those who have offended me.

Funny thing is, many who claim to not believe in God sometimes live as if they do!

  • They ask for prayer when tragedy strikes, even though they claim to not believe.
  • They express gratitude for the good things in life, but refuse to thank the Giver.
  • Or they hold to a moral code of right and wrong (e.g. stealing and lying are both wrong), while denying the Source of that moral code.

Many Christians often surrender to fear that keeps us from living what we claim to believe. For example, we say we trust God, but we’re afraid when He works in our life for our good, the “good” will be like medicine: helpful, but it tastes terrible.

We worry God’s definition of good differs from ours. We define “good” as pleasant, comfortable, and convenient. But God defines good as that which accomplishes His purposes for us. And His purposes are usually related to stretching us out of our comfort zone and growing us beyond our convenience.

We say we want an eternal focus, but we’re consumed with making this temporary life as comfortable as possible.

So what’s the key to consistent living?

1. Start with prayer:

  • Sometimes we want to change, but need the Holy Spirit’s help to do it. Other times we need the Holy Spirit’s help to give us even the desire to change! Ask the Lord to give you the desire and the ability to live consistent with what you claim to believe.

2. Maintain an eternal focus:

  • Our broken world aches from the consequences of sin. And just as creation groans under the burden of sin (Romans 8:22), we also groan. But I wonder if part of our groaning is because our focus causes us to behave as if this world is all there is.
  • There’s a better world coming. Our best life is not now. Our best life is yet to come. This world is nothing more than a glorified bus station…and we’re all in transit.

3. Take a step of faith:

  • Just as we manifest faith when we flip a light switch, we manifest our faith in God by placing our full confidence in Him and His promises. I can claim a chair will hold me, but never actually sit in it. Or I can place my full weight in the chair as a demonstration of faith in what I claimed.
  • What “chair” is waiting for you to demonstrate your faith? Is it the chair of trust? Sacrificial giving? Service? In what area do you need to step out in faith, knowing God has already proven Himself trustworthy?

4. Do it again:

  • Don’t stop with one step. Take another. And another. Studies confirm it takes more than two months to form a new habit. It could take even longer, depending on the old habit you’re trying to replace (Philippians 4:9).

The key is not doing it in our own strength. This is not about trying harder, working smarter, and doing better. This is about depending on the Holy Spirit for the power to say no—or yes—as the situation requires. And to do it day by day, hour by hour, and sometimes even minute by minute.

Do you desire to live consistent with the faith you claim to have? It’s rarely convenient. But you’ll find yourself on a faith journey that will exceed your greatest expectations.

What Does the Future Hold?

Ahhh…new year, clean slate, new beginning. Twelve months of potential.

But not everyone is optimistic about the future. Some say that if the past is any indication, we’re in for big trouble in 2016.

Newspaper headlines from 2015 brimmed with accounts of disasters. We witnessed man-made disasters and natural disasters. Weather occurrences ushered in record heat waves and mudslides. Middle East tensions continue to escalate. The U.S. domestic picture is gloomy, too. U.S. politics have become more divisive than ever. We have an unwieldy national deficit. Many are still recovering from the foreclosure crisis. Racial tensions appear to be getting worse instead of better.

All in all, the baby new year has its work cut out for it.

With all the uncertainty, it’s no wonder there is a growing interest in end-times prophecy and Bible studies of the Book of Revelation. People want to know, What does the future hold?

A study of the end-times will give us a broad-brush picture of events, but day-to-day details remain out of reach. Still, God does not want His children to obsess about the future. He wants us to live in such a way that we will be prepared for the future by having dealt with our past. The only way to do this is to accept that our sin has been paid for by the one sacrifice God deems suitable: His Son, Jesus Christ. If we don’t, the future will continue to be a source of fear.

For Christians, however, fear is cancelled out by faith. Faith in the One we belong to. Faith in the One who laid down His life for us. Faith in the One who not only created this world, He continues to sovereignly sustain it.

No one knows the details of what the future holds.
But we do know who holds the future…and who holds us.
And that’s enough for me.

What helps you face the uncertainty of 2016?

Blind Faith?

I hate the phrase “blind faith.” All too often, those who don’t share my faith in Christ are quick to dismiss it as blind.

Blind, as in, I believe without any supporting evidence.

Blind, as in, I’m ignorant to believe what they refer to as fairy tales.

However, what really makes me crazy is when I hear Christians brag about having blind faith.

As if blind faith is the only true faith.

As if blind faith somehow makes them more spiritual.

But is blind faith biblical?Faith is a critical component of our salvation, yet it is defined in only one place in the entire Bible. The definition in Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) tells us:

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

From this phrase, it’s easy to conclude our faith must be blind.

But it’s not. We can confidently rely on who God is by what He revealed about Himself in His Word. His names and attributes describe His nature. He is unchanging, which means the God of the Bible is the same  God today.

The descriptions of God’s nature are accompanied by the biblical record of how He works. The Bible is a comprehensive account of how God relates to those who seek Him, those who belong to Him, and those who reject Him.

In addition to the Bible, we have natural evidence of the existence of God. The complexity of our natural world commands belief in a Creator. Remember the illustration of finding a watch on a deserted beach? It’s unreasonable to conclude the inner workings of the watch randomly came together just because we don’t see the watchmaker. As we look around our world, how can we not arrive at the same conclusion about creation?

We also have historical evidence from extra-biblical resources confirming the biblical record of people and events. Historians such as Josephus and Eusebius provide additional information to help us understand ancient cultures.

Finally, we have the reality of personal experience. Added to what we read and observe externally, genuine experience personalizes the truth internally.

So, in light of all this evidence, is faith even necessary? Of course it is. The Bible describes salvation as being initiated by God, but accessed by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Oswald Chambers puts it this way in My Utmost for His Highest:

“Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding or reason—a life of knowing Him who calls us to go.”

The object of our faith is God. Even the ability to have faith is His gift to us. Boldly acting in faith is our response. Then we need to trust God for the results. A life of faith begins and ends with God.

Our faith has strong foundations. It enables us to live confidently while resting in the One who gives us this gift. And it requires trusting Him – the God who has proven Himself trustworthy – for the results.

There’s nothing blind about biblical faith…and that’s a good thing.

How Much Suffering is Enough?

Enough. Have you ever said that to God? Enough suffering, Lord. I’ve had more than my fair share of trouble. When is it going to stop?

Remember the trials and tribulations of Job? His near-perfect life was disrupted by trouble. Lots and lots of trouble. He lost his children, his wealth, and his health in a swift series of events that seemingly defied explanation.

Many of us know someone like Job. Someone who has experienced extraordinary suffering. I have a friend who lost his father, brother, and wife, in separate circumstances all within five months. Another friend and her husband have been unemployed for several years and are more recently suffering from several debilitating illnesses. Still another friend has breast cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy in the hope that surgery will be a later option. (Right about now you may be wondering if it’s safe to be my friend!)

I recently learned of another person who received bad news. Joni Eareckson Tada has breast cancer.

Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni Eareckson Tada

What did you think when you read those words? Did the word enough spring to mind? After all, Joni has been a quadriplegic for more than forty years. Instead of hiding in a corner or throwing herself a life-long pity party, she became an author, speaker, and founder of Joni and Friends, an international disability center. She is an advocate for those with disabilities and the author of forty-eight books and numerous magazine articles. She is also an artist, having learned to paint with a brush between her teeth. Joni does all this and more from her wheelchair. Now she has breast cancer.

Why breast cancer? Why now? Rather than asking these kinds of questions, Joni views her cancer through a different lens. She has often said that “our afflictions come from the hand of our all-wise and sovereign God.” This new diagnosis is no different. In a video clip on her website, Joni noted with her characteristic sense of humor, “Although cancer is something new, I am content to receive from God whatever He deems fit for me – even if it is from His left hand (better from His left hand, than no hand at all, right?!).”

Joni is not asking why because she is already sure of the answer. She goes on to say, “Yes, it’s alarming, but rest assured that Ken and I are utterly convinced that God is going to use this to stretch our faith, brighten our hope, and strengthen our witness to others…”

She adds, “For years I have hoped that my quadriplegia might encourage people struggling with cancer… now I have a chance to truly empathize and journey alongside, affirming that God’s grace is always sufficient for whatever the disease or disability.”

It’s easy for us to quote Scripture when life is pleasant. But when we’re confronted with the diagnosis, or the death of a loved one, or a financial loss, can we say with Joni, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5-6)?

When confronted with suffering, often our first inclination is to ask, Why? Perhaps a better question to ask is, Why not? We live in a sin-sick world. God never promised us a life free from trouble. However, we can choose how we will respond to the uncertainties and difficulties of life. We can teach our children how to choose. We can teach our students the basis for our choices. We can create characters in our books who will make choices dependent on faith that rests on God alone, regardless of the circumstances.

I love how Joni puts it: “Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.”

What next step is God calling you to take today in faith?