However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8)
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
Some time ago I heard a speaker making a very quick comparison between being faithful and faith-filled. His focus was brief, but I think the Lord deposited something in my heart for me to ponder.
At first glance the words seem similar, but I believe they are not. Let me give you an example from my counseling ministry:
A number of years ago when we lived in Tasmania a married couple came to me for counseling. They came at the encouragement of their oldest daughter, whose own marriage the Lord had breathed new life into through our counseling ministry. She had hopes for her mom and dad.
The couple had been married many years. They were both well respected and very active leaders in their church. And the sad truth was they hated one another. Seriously, I mean real loathing. Ugly, odious stuff. In the safety on my office and the boundaries of confidentiality, their Christian masks dropped away, their spiritual cosmetics were wiped off and their many years of anger and bitterness toward one another quickly came to the surface. Their mutual disgust was deep and wide. When the word “divorce” somehow was mentioned, with great pride and I do mean pride in the worst sense of the word, they said “we would never divorce, that would be a sin(!), we will remain faithful to the end”. I had a thought go through my mind which I shared with them. I asked, “if there was a dead body lying in my office and the Medical Examiner came in and issued a death certificate, did the death certificate kill the person?” They said “no”. I then said “a certificate of divorce would not kill your marriage, it is already dead with hate and bitterness and yet you seem to be taking pride in something that is already dead?” Before you panic I must tell you that is not my typical way of counseling. And I was certainly not recommending a divorce. But, I felt the obvious needed to be stated in such a way that Christian jargon and spiritual gymnastics could not obscure. And yes, they did keep coming.
This couple suffered a pharisaical blindness by hiding behind the letter the law and missing the HEART of the law by a country mile! In the strictest sense of the word they were faithful, there had been no adultery committed with other people, but they were NOT faith-filled. Any sense of love, longing, hope, spontaneity, trust, joy, intimacy, optimism, pleasure, anticipation, peace, comfort, affirmation, acceptance or any other dynamic of a faith-filled life was not evident.
Our journey through life on this fallen planet will always be some combination of wonderful and difficult. I’ve come to believe it is just such an environment that is necessary for genuine faith to grow which can fill our hearts with the mystery of God’s ever-present love and intimate involvement in our lives. The choice is, do we let the difficult times create cynicism, focus on the evil around us, harden our hearts but somehow stay faithful, yet stunted and miserable to the end? Or do we choose to live a faith-filled life by following the beloved disciple’s example and leaning on the Savior and listening to his heart? Being faith-filled is finding the goodness of God in the ordinary and mundane moments of everyday life. How do we find His goodness? We look! While not denying the tough stuff of life we choose by faith to not let the tough stuff be the defining points of our lives and take ownership of our hearts. By faith we ask the Lord to stir hope in our lives. We choose by faith gratitude over an illusion of control. And when the temptation is to shrink back, we choose by faith to press on (Phil. 3:14). When the temptation is to sit on the sidelines we choose by faith to engage in life and to bring the goodness of God into all circumstance and situations. Ultimately we choose to trust HIM, that He is good, He is for us and not against us, and He is intimately involved in our lives (Romans 8:28). Patty, who I get all my good ideas from, recently found this quote:
As long as we are convinced that our problems are due to an abundance of wickedness that we must combat, we are in serious trouble. We need to learn to turn over the problem of the wicked to God and focus on remedying the tragic absence of good. In the absence of good, all efforts to combat evil are doomed to failure. – Bob Ekblad, A New Christian Manifesto