Lately, I have been struck with, well, a lot of things, come to think of it. I would like to say life is simple, solvable, and serendipitous; but the truth remains: life is not simple; it is not an equation to be manipulated and accounted for; and it is certainly not a walk in the park or a lucky clover on the ground. The truth is: life is messy, complicated, vigorous, and surprising. There are many corners to turn in life, which accounts for the plethora of plot twists and uncertainties.
These last few weeks/months (it’s hard to identify the origin of a lesson learned) I’ve been captured by a hunger for confidence. It started out selfishly, as a wish for my own adequacy to increase, as well as my self-worth. Miraculously, it is (presently) transforming into a yearning and simultaneous grasping of God’s faithfulness, grace, and ability. What I mean by that last jumbled sentence is: If I am utterly incapable, why would I want more confidence in myself? That’s only setting me up for additional disappointment. Rather, God is entirely capable, His plans cannot be thwarted. I can grow in confidence as I grow in understanding and belief of God’s indisputable power and sovereign tenderness. I am able to rest only to the degree that I trust. I can have peace only to the degree to which I perceive and am preoccupied with God’s power.
Here’s another side of the coin: I am wrapped in security in correlation with how I understand God’s person (who He is), God’s purpose (what He does), and God’s power (what He CAN do).
Trusting God’s person:
I am realizing something I should’ve grasped a long time ago: my faith in Christ CANNOT be based only on what Christ DOES FOR ME, but rather must be based on who Christ is, save only for what Christ DID for me on the cross. My point in saying this is to develop an unshakable faith.
Even though faith based on God’s benefits is strong (since it is experienced/felt/visible/tangible/etc) it’s inevitably weak (since it is circumstantial, coming and going, potentially NOT felt/experienced/tangible/etc at any given moment). If my faith is based on what blessings God gives me, I am at risk for spiritual bipolar disorder (spiritual highs and lows) as I journey through life. On the other hand, faith based simply on who God is stands up to the raging storms and ever-changing circumstances of life. As I mentioned earlier, the one deed, blessing, and gift of Christ on which my faith may be built concretely is the Gospel. When I need something tangible to cling to, I can look to the cross; when I’m asking God to show me a demonstration of His character (say His love or faithfulness) in order to bolster my faith, I need only pause and peruse the Gospel story.
In short, “God is who He is,” not “God is because He does.”
Understanding God’s Purpose:
Of course, it is naive to say I believe in God apart from what I’ve seen Him do. With the foundation developed in the last few paragraphs, I am ready to season my faith with the taste of God’s character demonstrated by His actions. Like me, I’m sure you can call to mind various times you’ve “seen God work” in your life or someone else’s. I’m grateful God allows me to step into His purpose periodically to catch a glimpse of His sovereignty. As much as I need a faith based on who God is, I am thankful for a God who does. I have to caution myself not to stray too far into experiential faith, however, especially because (with this view) my faith tends to steep in personal resources received or taken during the experience. God’s actions should be the honey added to the tea of His character, rather than His actions being the validation of His character. I say this because from a human perspective, God’s actions do not always “jive” with His character. The key to this last sentence is “from a human persecutive.” As Isaiah reminds us, God’s ways our not ours, and His thoughts outreach our own (55:8). I don’t mean to use this verse fatalistically, as if we are excused from seeking God’s ways and can follow our own until He redirects us (since we can’t understand His ways anyway, how could we follow them?). Rather, I would simply like to point out that because our understanding of God’s ways is likely skewed, it is dangerous to consider His actions as a diagnostic tool when determining His character.
For example, people often ask and seek the answer to “why does a good God let bad things happen?” With this dilemma (which I won’t even get into) we are getting ourselves into the net of thinking God cannot be good when we or others are experiencing bad. Meaning, God cannot be good if He does bad. Now, I’m not saying God does bad things, causes suffering, etc. I’m just pointing out that who we know He IS must outweigh our experience of what happens to us (what He does, what is under His control, or however you look at it).
In short, my faith can grow as I experience what God does, if it is first grounded in who He is.
Trusting God’s Power:
Finally, I can rest securely as I realize God’s in control. God is not only in control, but is capable. It’s not like when I am given a leadership role and am floundering in fear of failure. God is perfectly able to accomplish the task at hand.
In short, my peace is perfected as I place my ability under God’s, acknowledging that my best can’t even match His worst (see 1 Corinthians 1:25) .
I don’t really know how else to develop that one…. I’m sure if I sat on it more, I could present it in kaleidoscope. However, I do not have the luxury of philosophical thinking anymore. Yet, I have the blessing of responsibilities requiring my attention.