How much I need my faith to know His limits!

“Why do you think I have to know limits?” He said last night.

“I am God and plan under My own volition; no one tells Me what I must do. So why should anything but Me be able to determine what you are or what you have? I know not limits (they are not capable of holding Me back), but you shall know Mine — they are not.”

I know God is good and that He loves me — finally, I’m getting this! — but infinite and unchanging? I don’t know. How much I need my faith to grow!

The two “I”s critical to Ministry

Have you ever tried to work for God and felt like you weren’t getting very far? Not that it was God’s fault really, you just kept noticing how inadequate you are.

I find myself taking account of myself and my service to God a lot. Too much.

But, I don’t think that’s really what God had in mind when He called us into relationship with Him. I believe that serving and sharing the hope that we have with others was meant to spring from the heart. Yet, at the same time, it is often these very opportunities to do “God’s work” that make us most aware of how devoid our hearts are of love and holiness.

But with God as the One Who has called us into a work of His holiness — that has been going on since before we came on the scene — we must conclude that these realizations of our weakness were deliberately provided for us by God Himself. For, isn’t our usefulness in our humility, our Spirit-dominated predisposition to see Him and His glory before our own?

If working for God produced any other, more self-exalting consciousness in us, would it not surely become a false mission that would live according to us, while still boasting movement for Him?

The more God moves me ahead in the work He has provided for me to do in Him, the more crucial that last phrase “in Him” becomes. I am doing a work that I can’t lead, for results that I can’t produce. Where is there room in this activity for anything but faith?

Faith enables me to come to know God in such a way that His ways are known and enacted in me to the advancement of His pleasure.

Faith reminds me that the whole scheme of my life and legacy is no longer wholly contingent on me because Jesus Christ already did the very best thing that could be boasted of in these areas.

He took the crown for accomplishments and heroism with such a flare of substance and transcendence that I cannot compete. Rather, I die so that He might live. There is no longer any such thing as what I do, but what He does in and through me. I wait on Him, I delight in Him, and I desire above all things that He would so satisfy my soul — as I hold it up to Him — that others would be drawn to the One Who wells up within me. That is ministry.

Faith is Feeding Me

I have thought a lot about living by faith in the last year. What does that mean? Is it possible? If so, what does it look like? And, of course, the implication that most consumes me, What will it cost me?

Faith is a wonderful idea. On paper it sounds beautiful, intriguing and highly inspiring. I consider a person putting everything on the line to trust in something that can’t be seen or personally manipulated, and I applaud.  I can easily recognize that the worth of what is to be known is worth far more than all that may be sacrificed for it’s sake.

But, when we bring this faith-experience closer to home, it can be a little scary.

You come to your first real trial to “take by faith” and you have no idea what you are supposed to be doing. Okay, you say to yourself, I’ve heard that we’re supposed to believe in God, but what does that mean? Do I stand around shouting, “God I believe in You!” or should I lock myself in my room and pray all day? Maybe it would make everything better if I just pretended the problem didn’t exist.

Perhaps, like me you have rehearsed each one of these alternatives, and yet you don’t feel any better for it; in fact, everything may have just been made worse by the reproaches you’ve recently adopted. You wonder, Is this how faith is supposed to be — something that doesn’t work, or makes a mess?

No, you were not deceived when you were first attracted to faith; it is true and it is what you need — it just may not work out like you thought. In fact, faith is a learning experience. If you hadn’t counted on that when you first “signed on,” then let me gently correct your misunderstanding.

A faith that is advantageous to its possessor must first be active. Now, before your minds overdoses on graphic images of yourself engaged in mental and physical labor for the sake of prospering your faith, lets review what it means for our faith to be active.

Dictionary.com provides two definitions of our adjective that should be very helpful. First, active gives the idea of something that is:

1. engaged in action;  characterized by energetic work, participation, etc.; busy: an active life

We understand this one perfectly well, it witnesses an energy and accomplishment that we can see and substantiate. But, the second one goes a little deeper, makes us think a little more:

2.being in a state of existence, progress, or motion: active hostilities.

Though it is harder to picture, I believe definition number two is a more fitting description of what it means to have faith that works in every circumstance.

Faith is a dependence of the heart on God. Though He can’t be seen by the body, we know that He has made the body, and is capable of directing its actions and behavior. With a spirit that desires to learn and carry out the ultimate in dependence upon God, we seek God, determined to know Him.

2 Corinthians 5:7 describes it this way:

For we walk by faith [we regulate our lives and conduct ourselves by our conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, with trust and holy fervor; thus we walk] not by sight or appearance.        [Amplified Bible]

We walk by faith as we continually communicate to God that we want to set our dependence on Him, and are willing to be instructed in His ways of living, that we may love Him in every way we can.

Having faith in God is believing that He is who He says He is — all wise, all knowing, all loving, and all sovereign. He knows how life is best lived: He belongs at the center, and out of that all things will spring forth.We trust that He will lovingly instruct us and patiently understand us and creatively direct us.

So, when we face our trials or our mundane weeks, we look to God and cry, “I love You, and I will choose to walk closer to You, because Your words and Your presence and Your ways feed me.”

And it is in this posture that we find that faith is so much more than what we can see. Faith is not an amenity to be purchased for its utility or popular appeal. Faith is a life-source, a way of life, an anchor to the soul.

It is a gift given to us by God that enables us to draw close to God and set our sights eternally upon Him. While we accept it freely, we cannot hold it with apathetic hopes or lethargic intent. Faith requires invested interest and practical dependence upon God to develop a broadening of our souls.We must invest all that we have into it, that we may receive on God’s return scale.

When we initially take hold of faith, we are surprised at its simplicity and relative emptiness. We question our rationality in choosing to take hold of it, and insist that it is impossible for a man with such worldly pressures upon him to live by this weak diversion.

But we forget that faith is not about us and what we do, but about God and what He means to us, how he changes everything about us from the inside out.

When maintaining and strengthening faith gets hard, we need to seek the object of our faith with greater abandon. The more we put ourselves in claim to God, the more our faith grows and we blossom in hope. The reality of living based on who God is instead of who we are is the most liberating thing we will experience this side of heaven.

Yet, if we never get this close to God, we will never get full of life.  Our hearts will be empty, and we will wonder why; that is, until we place our faith-investment in the mystery of His great significance.

For a long time I couldn’t even think about this type of surrender. The very sound of it was like death.

When I thought about it, words like painful, agonizing, deprivation, unsuitable and absolutely unrewarding came to mind. I had no other way of thinking of it. That is, until I put faith to the test. Or, maybe I should say that faith put me to the test. I came to a point in my life in which everything I once believed I believed was called into question.

It was not that what I thought I was to believe had suddenly become unsure, but that my demonstrations of those beliefs were being challenged. I had been failing to represent any convictions in my beliefs; my behaviors in testimony of them were but weak and fickle. The truth I espoused was failing me, because I was not standing solidly on it. My faith was a casualty of casual faith. I was trying to hold onto several contradictory beliefs at the same time.

I divided my soul with warring worldviews. I wanted to talk trust in God while living trust in myself. I thought I would be safe enough admitting God is good but paying attention to how good I was. I imagined the possibility of God always taking care of me, yet daily predicted that He would indefinitely fail me.

Does any of this sound familiar? If so, consider this: God is not necessarily subject to what we subject Him. Our expectations cannot be considered authoritative on God’s character or the probability of His behaviors. They are not. The only Person whose expectations of God were ever consistent with the outcome He experienced was His Son, the Word.

Only God’s personal revelation of Himself is accurate and reliably informed. To believe in Him at all, we must know Him. And knowing God is impossible without committing yourself to His Word.

So, how much do you want to live by faith? Are you willing to lay aside everything else in order to establish your heart upon the One everlastingly important reality?

It is only when we bring everything to God, with a spirit willing for His preeminence, that we find out for ourselves why God is everything we really want, and nothing we can live without.

If I would ask, “What needs to change in me?” instead of “What do You think You’re doing with me?”

Sometimes I want to know exactly where God is and what He is doing. How do I feel so full of joy some days, and others — though He is still as faithful to me as ever — wonder where I am and what could be the point God has in letting me have a lull here?

Yet, would I be concerned with my Rock if I did not experience storms, or feel what it is like to be left behind by what is going on around me?

But don’t take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God’s covenants and promises in Israel, hadn’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.

Ephesians 2:11-13

These are the words that I need to hear. My prayers have been too consumed with me, too interested in what I’m thinking and feeling, too disinterested in how God overrides what I see and know.

Who is He who these moments of my emptiness-without-enough-greatness-to-keep-my-attention are meant to point out? I go nowhere and find nothing when I ask “God, why?” but, I find Who I was meant to discover in all this nothingness when I ask instead, “God, who are you, and what am I supposed to be seeking after today? What am I NOT seeing of You that is making me feel so disillusioned?”

Let me not try to hold onto what made me feel happy and full of hope yesterday, let me look for more in You, God, than I knew I needed yesterday.

I’m discovering Full is Emptiness that seeks out God

My life is full. Not because I have everything I would like to have in this life or too much on my plate, but because God is able — by a power I do not really comprehend — to satisfy my soul to a point which nothing in heaven or on earth can even come close. I was made for God, not goods; I grow when I quit complaining about what is missing and instead ask to see and experience what He had in mind.

Full is emptiness that asks to know the Father even if it be at the expense of everything I classify as riches.

Reviewing “The Science of Happiness”

I was reading the above titled article on happiness in an old Time magazine today — something I don’t often do — when I realized just how faithful God has been to me in all the many ways He has given me, both biologically and through spiritual growth, to be able to deal with ongoing realities of life that make me feel unhappy, and sometimes deflated.

I truly have so much to be thankful for, not because my life is wonderful or because I have reached that point of being fully satisfied with myself, but because of HIM. He really is the thing in all this that makes life worth living and continuing — for me, and also for you. Don’t believe me? Then try Him for yourself.

I do not promise that your life will become perfect, or your entire personality will be made still, but He will increase your life, and make you know what it was really meant to be.

I’m determined to watch steps and tongue so they won’t land me in trouble.
I decided to hold my tongue
as long as Wicked is in the room.
“Mum’s the word,” I said, and kept quiet.
But the longer I kept silence
The worse it got—
my insides got hotter and hotter.
My thoughts boiled over;
I spilled my guts.

“Tell me, what’s going on, God?
How long do I have to live?
Give me the bad news!
You’ve kept me on pretty short rations;
my life is string too short to be saved.
Oh! we’re all puffs of air.
Oh! we’re all shadows in a campfire.
Oh! we’re just spit in the wind.
We make our pile, and then we leave it.

“What am I doing in the meantime, Lord?
Hoping, that’s what I’m doing—hoping
You’ll save me from a rebel life,
save me from the contempt of dunces.
I’ll say no more, I’ll shut my mouth,
since you, Lord, are behind all this.
But I can’t take it much longer.
When you put us through the fire
to purge us from our sin,
our dearest idols go up in smoke.
Are we also nothing but smoke?

“Ah, God, listen to my prayer, my
cry—open your ears.
Don’t be callous;
just look at these tears of mine.
I’m a stranger here. I don’t know my way—
a migrant like my whole family.
Give me a break, cut me some slack
before it’s too late and I’m out of here.”

Psalm 39

Faith in Relationships

Faith in relationships…what does that look like? For me, it is being able to trust God that He is working out all the big and small details that I can’t handle on my own — details that concern more than me, and what’s going on in my heart, but someone I love who seems to see things so entirely different than myself.

That’s what it starts with at least, but from there God consistently leads me into the next stage, pointing out the lessons He has set up for me in this misunderstanding or apparent distance between me and another.

There is always so much to learn through the daily dynamics of our interactions with the people we share this life with. The experiences we have together are what pushes us to work on more than just what will improve ourselves, but will make us more focused on the interests of others.

It can be easy to pursue growth that makes us look good, serving as personal accessories, to trump up what already makes for a wonderful person. It is far harder to choose to see ourselves in the light that others see us, accepting their observations as being capable of being legitimate representations of us.

No, what others think of us will not ever tell the whole story, and their sentiments should not discourage us with the idea that we are not worth anything unless we live up to someone’s expectations of us, but we should not dismiss them either. We should take the  assessments we receive from others to our Father, who is faithful to present to us our true identity along with all the flaws that He is not lax to confront and correct.