My Woman of Faith

Last week I wrote how dependent wives can find it easier to be a ‘woman of faith’ than their husbands do in being a man of faith. A dependent person must look to God to protect them against the weaknesses or vagaries of those who have responsibility or power over them. In Colossians 3:20 we learn that obedience in children involves ‘faith’, since it pleases God and only faith does that (see Hebrews 11:6).

When a wife, child or dependent person happily submits to the leadership of someone who could possibly disadvantage them, they are likely doing so because they really trust God to protect them and provide for them.  This predisposition to trust God is an advantage in prompting a wife to be a woman of faith. Often men struggle to trust God because they are more likely to correlate their own physical efforts with the income and provision that comes in.

Here are two examples that have come to mind from my life journey, where my wife, Susan, has been my woman of faith, while I have been a man of fear. On one occasion I had stepped out, as a young married man, attempting to start my own business. I had worked out exactly how much money we needed each week and we were right on the line. Then, just a few days later our landlord arrived to advise that he was putting the rent up nearly 50%. As I walked back into the house, after farewelling the landlord, my head was spinning with the news and the new challenge. I had no idea how we were going to make ends meet. Susan, met me at the door, fairly dancing on the spot. She was just SO excited. She praised the Lord and exulted in how exciting this was. I was stunned! How could she be so delighted when we had just received such bad news? Yet she was right. It turned out to be an exciting and wonderful time for us and we didn’t get swept away into bankruptcy. God was good and still is today.

On a later occasion I was at Bible College in New Zealand and had arrived with very little money in the bank. Susan and I had three children by then and the youngest, Matthew, needed new shoes because he was growing fast. Susan asked me several times for funds to buy new shoes and I kept putting her off. I was afraid to use up a large chunk of what little money we had. There was no visible source of further funds and this money was to keep us going for many months yet.

Finally, when I tried to duck the question yet again, Susan challenged me point-blank. “You don’t trust the Lord to provide, do you?” The surprise and rebuke in her tone humbled me, because she was right. She chided me that God would provide. We were in Bible College, learning to be ministering people, so we should be the first to trust God. Here I was in fear and holding tightly to the little that we had, rather than trusting God. Suitably challenged I decided to give some of the money away – as well as releasing funds for the shoes. In very short order we received a much larger gift from friends in Australia. God was good to us, but He needed my woman of faith to shake me out of my fear.

I am hardly qualified tell others to be men and women of faith, when I have been so prone to doubt. But allow me to encourage you, whether you are a dependent wife or child, or an income earning person. Please become a man or woman of faith. It’s the best way to live.

The Holy Spirit as a Dove

The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus Christ in the form of a Dove. And so the humble dove has become a perennial symbol of the Holy Spirit and peace. It is with that connection in mind that I share the following simple thought with you.

Two weeks ago I was in a staff meeting where one of my fellow pastors brought out a guitar and led us in a few worshipful songs. The experience was sweet and it prompted a couple of images to tumble through my mind. One of those thoughts was about releasing the Holy Spirit within me.

It is wonderful to worship God with abandon, such as David did as he welcomed the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem about 3,000 years ago. David readily put his own decorum aside and did not care if he looked foolish as he praised God. A word which David frequently used in his psalms, telling us to praise the Lord, means to be ‘clamorously foolish’ – so abandoned in adoration that we seem to be ‘over the top’ to others.

In practice, however, most of us are self-conscious and tend to adjust our own worship activity to match that expected or expressed by those around us. In a quiet setting everyone becomes quiet. In a noisy prayer meeting everyone tends to make more noise. If others are being restrained we tend to be restrained too.

During the morning devotion I am talking about there was a sweetness but also a level of polite restraint. As I pondered that I realised that many Christians restrain the work of the Holy Spirit in their life. The ‘dove’ of the Spirit settles in their chest and stirs them from time to time. The Spirit gives us witness and various stirrings that make us sensitive to God’s presence and work. When we worship we can even feel a sense of the dove wanting to spread its wings and soar. But to really let the Spirit soar we must cast off more of our decorum and social restraint.

As these thoughts trickled through my mind an image formed of what could happen when someone allowed the dove out of the cage. I imagined a person abandoning themself in worship and flowing with the impulse of that heavenly dove stirring within them. My imagination observed as the dove, powering upward into the heavenlies, was transformed into a majestic eagle. The verse about mounting up on eagle’s wings jumped into mind as I imagined a person, free in their worship, rising out of their restraint and into the lofty realms to which the Spirit of God could carry them.

The diary note I made after that worship time reads as follows: ‘Our spirit is like a dove inside a cage. If we let it out, let it fly and soar – by giving vent to the Spirit within us, rather than restraining our worship style to suit what those around us would prefer – then that dove takes flight and is transformed into an eagle – we rise up on wings as an eagle and soar in the heavenly places, far above all principalities and powers.’

I encourage you to flow with the Spirit of God and yield to the Spirit. I believe there is much that God has for us to enjoy, that is yet untouched while we are locked in stiff restraint. Some of you may well discover that being ‘clamorously foolish’ is as powerful and rewarding for you as it was for King David three millennia ago.  

Psalm or Bucket? A Poem

1Corinthians 14:26 describes Christians arriving at church with something to contribute. Everyone has a psalm, a doctrine, a message in tongues, a revelation or an interpretation of a message in tongues. Yet in today’s church many people stagger in with nothing to give, but keen to make a huge withdrawal. They need the music, atmosphere, message and program to meet their needs, rather than them contributing to others.

This poem speaks to that situation.

When you come please bring a psalm.
Have no bucket in your arm.

Bring a hymn and prophecy.
Let us set each other free.

Let us make a banquet feast
Open even to the least.

Bring along a grace to share.
All contribute to the fare.

But alas the well is dry.
“Give me, give me” is the cry.

People only come to get,
Complaining when no needs are met.

Burned-out leaders walk away.
It’s too hard to serve today.

Where are those who love to give?
Where’s the flow that makes men live?

So when you come please bring a psalm.
Have no bucket in your arm.

Bring a hymn and prophecy.
Let us set each other free.

Chris Field, April 18, 2008 

‘This Holy Estate’ – Real Marriage

There is much fudgy thinking today and marriage is one of the areas where Christians can be as confused as anyone else. Considering that God invented marriage and it finds its greatest fulfilment as a representation of Christ and the Church (see Ephesians 5:32) Christians should be the first to have a good understanding of ‘Real Marriage’. My fourth son’s recent marriage brought to mind this subject yet again and my mind journeyed even further down some tracks it has trudged before. And I think I’m onto something that has fairly sweeping implications.

Before I get to my latest ‘rev’ on marriage I should let you know that my fourth son, Jonathan, married the lovely Katie Gunn a week ago. He, like his father and three of his brothers before him found a ‘treasure’ and made a ‘field’ out of her (which is a pretty lame pun on the man who found a treasure in a field and bought the field to have the treasure – it wasn’t any funnier when I said it at my own wedding over 30 years ago).

Now to the matter at hand. I have met many couples who have lined up with their personally created vows, ready to pledge their troth to one another, as if they are the architect of the relationship they are about to enter into. In the past few generations western culture has shifted from the idea that marriage is an historical reality which each new generation gets to enter into, to the notion that marriage is now malleable, able to be what the couple wants it to be. Since the 1970’s in particular, there have been notable examples of couples having a ‘tricky’ wedding – such as being wed underwater, while bunji-jumping, etc. This trend brought with it the notion that marriage is what ever the couple make it to be. The Australian government, under its previous Prime Minister, John Howard, sought to rein in this self-directed notion and to restore marriage as an institution which it expects its citizens to take seriously.

The idea that marriage is in the mind of the betrothed is strong, at least at a subliminal level. Couples want to have their dream wedding, with their choice of guests, their own vows and even their own idea of what the marriage will be. One couple told me they want a 50:50 marriage. We hear tell of the ‘open marriage’, the ‘trial marriage’ and other evidences that marriage is seen as adjustable, to suit the wishes of the couple.

Ah but here’s the rub ….. Marriage was not created by man. Marriage is not a social invention, nor a relationship of convenience, nor a reflection of past economic realities. Real Marriage, which is the only true marriage, is a ‘holy estate’ created by God. That is why the traditional western wedding ceremony starts with a description of what marriage is and then announces that “into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined” (quoted from the Book of Common Prayer 1928). However this modern wording is simply an updating of ancient lyrics. The wedding ceremony text recorded in the 1549 Prayer Book of King Edward VI states the same theme in ancient verbage and spelling: “Into the whiche holy estate these two presones present come noew to be ioyned.”

Western marriage has always been understood as something instituted by God, not by man. It is ‘This Holy Estate’ – a relationship which man is privileged to access, but which man has no power to dictate. The 1892 Anglican Prayer Book accounts for marriage as Holy Matrimony which is “an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church”. Because of the supreme quality and divine nature of This Holy Estate – Real Marriage, the Prayer Book goes on to warn that it “is not by any to he entered into unadvisedly or lightly ; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.”

The eager young couple fronting up with their carefully re-worded vows and their desire for a wedding that has the stamp of their own individuality all over it, may well fail to realise the awesome significance of what they are about to do. Their notion of having some control over what the wedding is, may tempt them to think they have some control over what marriage. They may think they can excuse their own actions and thoughts, just as readily as they can modify their own wedding program. This is not so.

Whatever vows a couple come up with and whatever personal agreement they make in the form of their own wedding commitment – that couple has no power to alter, by one iota, what they are getting themsevles into. If, for instance, they agree to have an ‘open marriage’ where infidelity is allowed, God will ignore their arrangement and judge them based on what they did with what God created as a reflection of Christ and the Church. If the couple choose, as I know of some that have, that their marriage is not subject to the cultural mores of their family, and they will enter into a secret and peculiar arrangement of their own, including pre-marital sex, God will completely ignore their arrangement and judge them based on what they did with what God created as a reflection of Christ and the Church.

A godly wedding, such as Jonathan and Katie exemplified this past week, is a joy to all who see it. Marriage is a blessed relationship and I encourage all who have opportunity to enjoy it to do so in the fear of God. I am not down on marriage or young people. I am simply recognising one evidence of man’s tendency to become his own Lord and Master, where God does not give him leave to do so.

And, in closing, let me broaden the sweep of my brush. Most westerners live as if their own life were their ‘own’. They act as lords and masters of their own destiny. This is exactly the same disease that afflicts western marriage. The implications of what I am pointing out here sweep across all those places where we disband God’s reality and make up our own. Such behaviour is vile – yet ever so culturally acceptable, in the same way that tinkering with marriage is now seen as the expected thing. Hmmmmm… Methinks this goeth a long way – and methinks I will wax lyrical about it yet again in due course.

Woman of Faith

I was blessed this week by an email from one of my team sharing about her challenges as a wife. She prompted me to realise that women have a possible advantage when it comes to faith. To help you appreciate what I am perceiving let me share with you an observation out of my family teaching.

Children are required to obey their parents. The Bible reveals that this is an act of faith. Children are instructed in Colossians 3:20 to obey their parents. In the same sentence Paul points out that this is “well pleasing” to the Lord. “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” That doesn’t directly say anything about ‘faith’, except when you correlate that with Hebrews 11:6, which says that “without faith it is impossible to please God”. If children’s obedience is ‘well pleasing’ and only faith can ‘please’ God, then children’s obedience is an act of faith.

Faith kicks in when a child has to suppress their own idea of what is good for them, to comply with the requirements of their parents. Many a child has been afraid of missing out, being looked down on by others, or otherwise suffering because their parents make decisions which they would like to change. For a child to happily honour and obey his or her parents in the face of those challenges the child needs to be trusting that God has everything under control.

Similarly, everyone who is under authority must exercise that same kind of faith. This includes wives. So wives are often more in a position of conscious faith than their husbands might be. This is compounded for the men because men are more likely to be in the workforce seeing a direct correlation between their effort and their income. This can block their awareness of God’s provision, and prompt them to think of themselves as the ‘provider’. A wife who is reliant on her husband’s endeavours and the favours he bestows on her must turn to God and look to God’s grace to see her needs and wishes met. Herein is the seed-bed of the ‘woman of faith’.

A dependent wife should find it easier to be a woman of faith. It should be easy for her to take a faith posture. Note, however, that a grasping woman, who wrests control from her husband or who manipulates him to get her way, has missed the special faith posture which other women have. A grasping woman fails to be moving in faith and so fails to please God.

There are many examples of godly women who have been strong in faith, despite their vulnerability, while their husbands have found it hard to trust God. Even when a husband does well financially he can simply lift his expectations, and hoard what he has, rather than trusting God to bless him. This is not to say that all dependent wives are women of faith or that all working men are devoid of faith. But I do recognise that a woman of faith is a precious thing and that the limitation which some women struggle with is seen by others as an advantage – helping them stay reliant on God.

I’ve just remembered a time when I was the man of unbelief and needed my wife to prompt me out of my lack of faith. I will share that incident with you in a future post. I have been blessed over the years by having a woman of faith in my wife, Susan. I commend each woman, child and youth reading this to not resent their place of dependence but to see the advantage it offers them to be a person of faith.