FINDING JOY IN AFFLICTION
A blog series on navigating through the challenges of life with purpose
The Difficulty of A Faith that is Lacking
While participating in a Bible study with an amazing group of women, we were asked a question that resonated with me:
“While faith and reason are not opposites, expressing faith in God invites us to move beyond our own finite levels of human comprehension and control. Can you describe a time when your experience with God invited you to move beyond your own capacity? (The Chosen Bible Study)
This question puzzled me a bit when I first read it and truthfully it kept me awake that night after the study pondering the answer for my own life. In my own words, Faith in God is believing and trusting in Him and His perfect plan even when we do not understand it and certainly when it does not make sense. It is believing that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). Does that mean that our lives will be happy, good, and lacking all struggles? No, it means that even in the suffering and trials that we endure, He can make those tough times work together for His good and ours as well. Faith is trusting in His plan even when it seems impossible, difficult, or challenging. And more importantly, we must have faith even when we cannot see the ending. Faith allows us to know, trust and believe whole-heartedly, that He is sovereign in anything and everything.
Reason on the other hand is trying to use our own thoughts and logic to make some aspect of our lives make sense. It can involve critical thinking which allows us to form judgments on the possible outcome of any given event, situation, or decision. Using reason to make decisions is not only based on logic but, quite often, we find that we reason out these moments based on our own emotions. And, well –we all know that emotions are ever-changing and are a result of a variety of factors. With reason, there must be “a reason.” We must be able to give cause for it as well as possess an understanding of it. In other words, reason is a rational way of thinking intelligently to make wise decisions. It puts the ball in our court to make decisions on what we think is best for our lives.
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” Exodus 3:7-8
In the verses above, God is speaking to Moses. Do you know where and how he was speaking to Him? The Bible tells us that Moses was taking care of his father-in-law’s flock. More than likely this was his job or occupation. While taking the sheep to a desolate mountain, Moses looks over and sees a bush on fire. I would guess that a burning bush would not be completely unlikely in this kind of dry heat, but this burning bush was different. “the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.” Ex. 3:2) This bush was on fire, yet it was unchanged. I do not know about you, but this would cause me to give it a second look too. Why? Because it is not logical and certainly does not make sense. What God had to tell Moses in the verses above was so important that He needed Moses to stop, listen and pay close attention. Moses did just that.
You see, the Israelites had been so mistreated by the Egyptians that God’s plan was to take them out of that harsh and very cruel environment. Because remember that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. God did just as he told Moses he would, He removed His people from the bonds of Egyptian slavery and proved His strength, power, and might to all of Egypt by a series of plagues. (That is going to have to be a whole separate blog post.)
One might think that after witnessing the outcome of the plagues that the Israelites would march towards the lands flowing with milk and honey in total trust and reliance. They had seen the evidence and proof time after time. The sovereign God of the Universe had revealed himself and his majesty in more ways than one. You would also like to think that they would journey with a content heart and a joyful spirit. But the years were filled with grumbling and complaining from the people that had just been saved from slavery.
“When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink? And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” Exodus 15:23-25
This first complaint from the Israelites came only a few days after they had been rescued and set free. Their reasoning was that they were thirsty, they needed water and they did not see any around that was safe to drink. But their Faith should have assured them that God had made a promise to them and that He would provide. Over the next forty years, every time that things did not go according to their plans, purpose, or comfort; they griped, complained, and even said they would have been better off in Egypt being mistreated slaves. They had been promised a land flowing with milk and honey, yet because they could not see this place at that moment, all they could focus on was the cause of their current distress.
You can imagine that not only water would be of their concern, but food would be also. In Exodus 16:4, The Lord told Moses that He was going to rain bread down from Heaven for them to eat. I can only imagine the sight of that. The condition of this gift was that they should gather only as much as they can eat and leave nothing left over. But as you would expect, they did not listen and gathered enough to have leftovers for the next morning. Their decisions were made based on reason instead of faith. They had put limitations on God and what He could do even after seeing His goodness. The result was that extra food that they collected spoiled and smelled horrendous. God gave one exception to the first command. On the sixth day, they would gather as much as they needed for that day and the next because the following day was the Sabbath. But reason had told them that it had rained down bread for six days so it would be there on the seventh as well. Their faith should have led them to the obedience of what He had commanded. Yet they still went out to collect bread on the seventh day.
I could give you many more examples of the faith that the people of Israel lacked during the forty years in the wilderness. Makes you wonder if they had a little less reason and a lot more faith, would their forty years have been much less? Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to that question but I do know this... Faith is not logic and logic is not faith. Do I think that God gifts us the ability to make wise, sound, and logical decisions based on His promises? YES, absolutely. But Faith is trusting regardless of our circumstances.
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
Reason does not explain how God who is actually three persons in one, created the whole entire universe in six days. But Faith tells me it is true because I see perfection and majesty when I look at His spectacular creation. If you have not taken the time to examine all that He created, do it now. Look at the perfect design of every single element. Gaze at the night sky to see the artistic placement of the stars in the sky. Feel the invisible wind blow on your face in the still of the morning hours. Watch the consistent beauty of the sun as it makes its way up into the sky every single day. Look at the patterns of a dandelion, the details of a snowflake, and the colors of a bird’s feathers. Examine the intricate creation of a human being that is fully alive on day one in the womb of a woman. This perfection may not be explained with reason, but with Faith, we know that this was His design from the beginning.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Reason does not come close to explaining why a HOLY GOD would send His only son to be beaten, tortured, and crucified, (who mind you, walked in innocence) to save a wretched sinner like me. It does not explain why that son would willingly say yes to being horrendously punished and killed for a crime that He wasn't even guilty of. I cannot explain it and truthfully my brain cannot comprehend it. But my Faith –well that is a different story. My Faith and trust allow me to step outside of my limited human comprehension and believe that Jesus died on the cross and stood in the gap for me. He took the punishment for my sins and yours too. Because He knew that without that sacrifice we would forever be separated from a Holy God. He made a way for me, and a way for you. We don't deserve it and we would never be able to obtain it on our own. I have Faith in His plan because my heart knows it and the Bible tells me so!
Let us revisit the question we started with. Can you describe a time when your experience with God invited you to move beyond your own capacity? You see, faith does not mean that when we experience God, He will give us everything we could ever want. He knows that sometimes what we think we want is the opposite of what we need. The Israelites wanted the security of enough bread each day, so they collected more than was necessary. What they needed was complete trust in their Creator. That trust would have been obtainable had they just been obedient to what was asked of them. Faith means that we relinquish control and submit to the authority of God alone. Faith means that when your world has been turned upside down due to unforeseen events, your heart looks to the promise of your eternal home. Faith is not dependent upon your circumstances. Faith is just that –it is trusting in the One that created us for His purposes. Whether this life offers you the best or the worst times; when you trust Him, He can use any of it for good for those who are called according to his purpose. We cannot see the ending, but God can. The One that knows the number of hairs on your head has a plan and it is perfect. It may not logical, explainable, or comprehendible, but it is Truth forever and ever. AMEN! When we step outside of our own logical thoughts and reasoning, we get to watch the God of the universe work.
Are there areas of your life where you struggle to step out in faith with obedience and full surrender? Here are some practical tips that I pray will help you along the way.
1. Meditate on these verses:
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Compared to eternity in Heaven with your Maker, this life mist. Are you centered on His purpose here for you, or are you focused on your own comforts and desires that have no eternal weight?
2. Ask God to reveal to you if there are areas of your life that you are not walking in faith towards Him.
3. Be willing to trust Him regardless of what He calls you to. It may be without reason, but not without purpose.
4. Step out in faith and live the life He has called you to live. Do not waste the time He has given you. . You may miss the blessing that He has waiting for you.
5. Remember that reason and logic can never fully explain the majesty, perfection, and sovereignty of a Holy God; but Faith allows us to know Him, trust Him, and surrender our lives to Him –regardless
Our Bible Reading plan this week will take us through the parts of Exodus that the blog discussed so that you can gain a deeper understanding of that part of Scripture. The other days' readings will be based on the power of God all around us, walking in Faith and making the most of each day that we are given for His honor.
If you have questions or things that you don't understand, please email them to me and I will add them to the Q&A section. I can't promise you that I will have all of the answers, but I can promise I will do my best to find them if I don't have them.
Growing in God
Would you like a tool to encourage your growth in God? Check out my newly released 12-month spiritual disciplines book/journal. This journal will give you a brief understanding of 8 tangible spiritual disciplines as well as give you a space to implement these disciplines into your daily walk with God.