Saturday, April 7, 2012

Two More Messages about How God Works with His People to which I should have Paid More Attention

I wrote Believing What God Says Is More Real Than What I See in 2001, and it has since been mildly rewritten and improved by my friend Jonathan Brickman. This page deals with the definition of “faith” and starts with an explanation of much of Hebrews 11. At the center of the article is the observation:

Thus, it is by faith that we understand that the world we see was made by (or, "through," or "from") God's words, so that God's invisible Word is the reality behind what we see. Compare verse 3 with Col. 1:16-17 and John 1:1-3. For the same reason, it is impossible to please God without faith -- if we are so captivated by our own needs and by what we see around us that we can't see God as the reality behind it, we can't believe God (who tells us that He, not what we see, is real) or believe that He rewards us in a reality we can't yet see. Verse 6. And as verse 2 says, it is by faith, faith that God and His unseen reward are more real than what we see, that the ancients obtained approval.
It goes on from this to observe that our faith in God and His yet-invisible reward may lead us into a place of great abundance and protection from harm, as much of the Church (at least in America) now routinely expects. On the other hand, faith may also lead us into trials and dangers through which God will deliver us. Or it may lead us into privation, persecution or martyrdom. Any of these paths, followed because we believe God and His reward are realities higher than any reality we can see, please God. (Thus, the point of this is identical to that derived from consideration of the persecuted Coptic and Assyrian Christians in my previous posting, of many of whom it could no doubt be said that “the world was not worthy.”) But without faith it is impossible to please God.

If I know that God is pleased with my faith, I can walk with Him, citing the example of Enoch, who walked with God, “and had this testimony, that he pleased God.” It is a walk, and it starts with believing that God and His promises to me are a higher reality than the problems I see around me. No matter what I see, no matter what frightens me in my world, ultimately He is bigger and will work it out. It’s not about me, it’s about Him. He is reality.

Following on from this, in 2003 I wrote, When God's Provision Seems Too Slow, Remember. This was originally written mostly as an answer to “Name-it Claim-it” preaching. However, for purposes of this public confession, the most important parts of my conclusion were these:

Here, then, is the explanation of our common observation that God usually seems slow and somewhat inadequate in meeting our "needs." God has committed Himself to provide what we need only as we seek His kingdom. Everything He is doing is directed toward building that Kingdom, within us individually and among us as His Body. None of the good things God does for us are intended to make it easier or more convenient to live our own lives as we choose. All of God's work in our lives is directed at making us dependent on Him and obedient to His voice as King…

Likewise, in John 15:7, the promise is that "if you remain in me and my words remain in you" — this showing the need for a living relationship with Jesus and dependence on Him — we may then "ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." But if we live in Christ and His words live in us, His wishes will be our wishes. We will be asking Him for what He wants, because we want it, too. And He has promised to give us what we ask, because we have made Him King by asking it. It all works together, and it is all about God being King. We can't expect to receive if our purpose in asking is to make our rebellion more comfortable.
Unfortunately, oftentimes I have been expecting God to make things work my way. I have gotten some idea of what He wants, and then made my own plans to do it in a way that seems to work well for me, to appear “responsible” or “prudent,” or to be likely to be inoffensive to others I think have claims of ownership on my life. Instead, I must be willing to do things His way, even if it is His will that I crash and burn in this world. He is reality. His unseen Kingdom will one day be seen, and it will eventually be obvious to everyone that His reward is more real than anything in this world. This is how the ancients obtained approval by faith.

This point will be amplified in the next two posts, which are expositions of two of the Beatitudes that I wrote for a series of small study meetings last year.