Saturday, June 30, 2007

Enough and Never Enough

Sometimes I find it easy to become discouraged with myself. I strive to live by faith, and then in a moment of faithlessness I take it all back and worry or live in fear or question what God’s up to or try to control the outcome of a situation. Some days I’m a faith-filled woman, a powerful witness to the refining work of God. Other days I’m a sniveling coward, angry with myself for wondering where in the world God disappeared to.

We’re all like that, aren’t we? We want to operate out of faith, but we just can’t seem to sustain it to the extent we think we’re supposed to. We become uncertain, confused, bewildered, impatient, frustrated.

But let me tell you, from my vantage point, that’s nothing to beat ourselves up about, and here’s why: most of us don’t consider that God is always offering us progressively more challenging faith tests. We’ll never “arrive.” But each test causes our faith to grow, each failure teaches us the intended lesson. And every effort on our part is valued by God.

Some people, in their attempts to encourage us toward faith, would have us believe we barely live by faith at all. That we’re constantly disappointing God. They imply that if we were really pillars of the faith community, we’d never doubt. Never question. Never have a moment of dullness in our lives. Never need a nap or cry or yell at our kids or take antidepressants.

I don’t believe it. Some of the most extraordinary examples of faith come from people who struggled the most to live by it.

Remember those “heroes of the faith” in Hebrews 11? Abraham, for example, gets a whopping six verses dedicated to his faith, but think of all the times he didn't live by it. Like when he lied about Sarah being his wife because he was afraid someone would kill him in order to have her. Or when he impregnated his slave girl instead of waiting for God to open Sarah’s barren womb.

Good grief, the Israelites are lauded as examples of faith when we know full well that most of those who passed through the Red Sea by faith never entered the Promised Land because of their unbelief.

Don’t even get me started on the apostles who left everything to follow Jesus then spent the next three years arguing with him about what his ministry should look like, who he should talk to at Samaritan wells, and how in the world could they possibly feed all those people with five loaves and two fish.

The point is that for every step of faith we take, there are six more ahead that would not be steps of faith if they didn’t require . . . well, more faith than we have now. Praise God that we will encounter faith challenges at every turn, for it is through them that we are being transformed into the image of Jesus. And faith isn’t faith unless it involves the potential for doubt.

My friend Jerome Daley sent out a great newsletter today that touches on what I’m saying (you can sign up for Jerome's newsletter at http://www.purposecoach.net/wb/pages/coaching-column.php). He wrote, “God's deep yearning is for us to live in utter reliance upon and unprecedented partnership with Him. Yet despite this mind-boggling invitation, we hesitate. Our craving for control pulls at us relentlessly. And into this quandary, the gift He extends is . . . uncertainty.”

Uncertainty is a gift?

Absolutely! It’s only our enemy when we allow it to rule our faith-walk. And even then, God can redeem it. C.S. Lewis, in the Screwtape Letters, writes as the demon Screwtape: “He [God] wants them [believers] to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.”

The faith we have today is likely not sufficient for tomorrow. But God is. And He is able to challenge and nurture our faith if only we do not grow weary or discouraged and give up on ourselves. Because He doesn’t.

To Him, our faith is enough, but never enough that He will stop providing opportunities to grow in it.

And that’s the beauty of this journey.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

What a great post, my friend. I have never thought of it this way. You have really opened my eyes. I guess I always assumed that each test was just a repeat of the one before, so if I lost faith then I just didn't really learn the last time.
Great job!
Love, Michelle