Paul’s Heavenly Perspective

Heavenly Perspective in Paul’s writings.

Bible scholars enjoy investigating and dissecting the writings of the Apostle Paul. Paul’s epistles are rich in theology and at times quite complex in thought, so they provide a simulating challenge for the enquiring mind.

However scholarship can amuse itself with analysis for analysis sake. Knowledge can feed the notion that the student holds some special place or privilege since “knowledge puffs up”. Human analysis of spiritual truth can weave its own intricate pretence of insight, while missing the very heartbeat of what Paul is saying.

This is not to say that scholarship and analysis are of no value, but they need to be subservient to the spirit and intent of the spiritual transaction which Paul intended, rather than to push us into the place of bystanders who can testify in a witness box of what we have seen, but who are observers rather than participants of the truth on offer.

Now that I have that off my chest let me direct your attention to some interesting considerations that Paul’s life deserves.

Paul stands in a unique place as a contributor to the New Testament. Specifically I refer to the fact that all of his encounters with Christ were with the risen, glorified Christ of all eternity, not with the human personality the disciples dealt with.

The human Jesus, fully God and fully man, had laid aside His glory, holding the place of a servant. So those who met Christ in that capacity were denied the immediate and compelling impact of the eternal Son of God, eternal Lamb of God, eternal Creator God, that Christ is.

Paul, on the other hand, met Christ as the glorious resurrected Lord of Glory speaking from heaven itself.
Paul went on to meet with Christ in heaven and to receive revelation directly from the glorified Christ (1Cor 11:23, 2Cor 12:3,4).

Paul’s conception of spiritual truth, then, was first and foremost from the heavenly perspective. He knew things too wonderful to be allowed to put in words (2Cor 12:3,4) and so impressive were his spiritual experiences that a messenger from satan was assigned the special task of keeping Paul humble (2Cor 12:7).

Paul writes from that rich context of spiritual insight.

The great Apostle Peter held Paul’s writings in great respect but admitted that Paul’s insights were hard to understand and were misinterpreted by unlearned and unstable people (2Peter 3:15,16).

Paul’s ministry was to the minds and hearts of men and women who did not hold the depth of revelation he enjoyed. He therefore had to input into them spiritual truths that they were at times resistant to, as babes unable to handle the stronger revelation of God’s Word but needing to be grounded in the first principles. He also had to deal with their tendency to be distracted by baser, fleshly urges that competed with their spiritual health, such as being drawn into factions, being impressed by charlatans intent on exploiting them, and so on.

Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth, able to function in full-time ministry for at least part of that time, thanks to the support from outside Corinth.

After Paul left Corinth he settled into a longer stint of ministry is Ephesus and it is believed that from there he wrote at least his first epistle back to the church at Corinth.

PAUL in 2 Corinthians and his focus on suffering, death and resurrection.

It is suggested that Paul had a strong focus on the resurrection of Christ and that focus prompted his frequent references to death and resurrection in his second letter to the Corinthians.

I disagree. Paul’s focus is not on Christ’s death and resurrection specifically, nor in comparing his own or other’s experiences with those of Christ, but simply to argue for a posture of abandonment on God, disregarding personal hardship in order to serve Christ.

Christ exemplifies this posture of abandonment in enduring the cross to save sinners.

Paul anticipates and lives a life of constant tribulation, but that is of no concern since he also lives in constant consolation.

There is a dichotomy of constant tribulation made irrelevant by constant consolation. This is Paul’s reality and it is the one he repeatedly confronts the Corinthian believers with.

2Corinthians 1:3-5 “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ.”

Paul’s picture of Christian life is of a life of blessing and comfort compensating for a life of tribulation.

Consider Paul’s repeated advice to Timothy that Christians will suffer persecution.
2Timothy 3:12 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

(See also Peter’s reference to “fiery trial” in 1Peter 4:12, and
Christ’s predictions that His followers would be persecuted, Matt 24:9, John 15:20)

Paul clearly identified himself and his peers as targets for tribulation.
1Thessalonians 3:4 “For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.”

This is particularly poignant for Paul since his very calling from Christ identified him as set aside to suffer persecution.
Acts 9:16 “For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

Note also in 2Corinthians that Paul speaks of vicarious suffering, such that his own sufferings result in blessing to those he cares for. (2Cor 1:6,7, 4:12)

Paul shares with the Corinthians how terribly he was persecuted, to the point of despairing of life, but the consolation, deliverance and protection he always relies on came through. The key issue for Paul is not that of death and resurrection but of constancy of faith, being confident that even in his extremity God will remain faithful, as he proved to be.

Note the focus on where Paul’s ‘trust’ was placed in 2Corinthians 1:9,10, “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raises the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us:”

I repeat, Paul’s focus is not in Christ as a model of death and resurrection, but on the Christian’s challenge to trust God in the reality of a Christian life where tribulation is the turf, but consolation is guaranteed to triumph over it.

Paul’s ‘affliction list’ in 2Corinthians 4:7-12 is Paul’s assertion that tribulation fails to be a problem, thanks to God’s constant care. Rather than Paul providing a litany of evils he makes a declaration of triumph, rejoicing in ‘the excellency of the power’, being ‘not distressed’, ‘not in despair’, ‘not forsaken’, ‘not destroyed’, ‘that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body’.

This is a wonderful take on suffering and dispels the fleshly, self-preservation, narcissism of natural man, pointing to a life of victorious service to our Lord, immersed in opposition and trial, so it can be constantly triumphant over all trials right down to death itself.

The Corinthian church had been taught this perspective but quickly distracted themselves with their own carnality, dropping their moral standards, engaging in factions, celebrating their own indulgence without regard for fellow believers.

Paul not only contended with them about their fleshly distractions, but he pressed upon them the model he doubtless taught them in their presence, that Christian life is not about self, but about yielding to Christ, entering into the most dangerous and oppressive challenges, and living in triumph and effectiveness in that most undesirable context, as living proof of the gospel.

Hedonism says:
It’s My Life;
I Do What I Want;
My Comfort is Paramount;
If I suffer it must be for my good (eg: pain for health, budgeting to buy better things).

Compare this with Paul’s concept of his calling by Christ:
My life is no longer mine, but Christ’s;
I do not do what I want;
My comfort is irrelevant, and I enter a life of suffering;
I do not suffer for myself but for the benefit of others.

Paul drives home this radical view of a life of trial as a high calling with great reward, pointing the Corinthians away from appearances and to eternal riches.
2Corinthians 4:16-18 “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

PAUL IN 2 CORINTHIANS

The claim is made that Paul in 2Corinthians is defending his apostleship.

I challenge that perspective as distracting the student from the bigger picture of what Paul is saying in that letter.

Paul clearly has undisputed authority in the Corinthian church and has expressed that in previous demands made and in his demands related to his planned visit. There is no reason to believe Paul’s apostleship and his role as primary authority in the Corinthian church is in jeopardy.

So the suggestion that 2 Corinthians is written in defence of Paul’s apostleship necessarily detracts from the apostolic message Paul conveys.

Primary in Paul’s apostolic message is challenge of the carnality and sinfulness of the Corinthians, which Paul challenged in several ways in 1 Corinthians (babes 1Cor 3:1, carnality 1Cor 3:3,4, drunkeness and self-indulgence 1Cor 11:21) and which he bluntly confronted at the end of 2 Corinthians (2Cor 12:20,21, 2Cor 13:5).

Another resounding message of 2 Corinthians is Paul’s description of a spiritual life, compared with a selfish fleshly life focus, of willingly and happily enduring suffering so that the promise and proof of the gospel triumphing over those trials can be lived out, as it is by Paul and his companions.

Paul embarrasses the Corinthians by pointing out that they, in their flesh, have fawned over men who exploit them (2Cor 11:20) and who were nothing more than “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2Cor 11:13), while Paul is as worthy a hero as anyone else (2Cor 12:11). This addiction to people who impress them reflects the factional spirit at Corinth that Paul challenged in 1Corinthians 3.

Finally, Paul calls them on their inherent sinfulness and challenges them to be sure they are actually saved (2Cor 13:5).

All of this is relegated to subsidiary status if the reader has been beguiled by the widely promoted idea that Paul is principally writing to defend his apostleship.

Further, the idea that Paul has to prove anything is demeaning of this man of immense spiritual stature and unique spiritual privilege (see 2Cor 12:1-7).

Let us free 2Corinthians from the shackles of misdirection and enjoy the rich spiritual food of a great man of God, completely secure in his place of authority within the Corinthian church, who did nothing less than escort them further on their struggling spiritual journey, with truth that we each need to imbibe as we make our own spiritual journey.

Note Paul’s focus on the sinfulness of the Corinthians.

“For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not:lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.” 2Cor 12:20,21

2Cor 13:2 “I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare”.

2Cor 13:5 “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”

Corinth and Laodicea Compared

The Corinthian church, as reflected by the correction Paul has to give them in his epistles, resembles the condition of the Laodicean church of John’s Revelation (Revelation 3:14-22).
That church failed to comprehend that it was “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” but rather thought itself to be “rich, and increased with goods, and (to) have need of nothing” (Rev 3:17).
While the Corinthian church may not be in a severe a state at the Laodiceans its members display a vain concept of themselves as able to indulge their passions, tolerate immorality and identify with competing factions, all to their detriment.
Something in the culture of Corinth entangled the local church in issues that needed Paul’s continued pastoral correction, as the Laodiceans needed Christ’s pastoral correction.
Local culture was recognised by Paul as deleterious to spiritual progress, as seen in his acceptance of the cultural stereotype applied to the residents of Crete (Titus 1:12,13).
Paul also recognised that external spiritual influences can subvert the faith of a whole congregation, as seen in Galatia (Galatians 3:1).
Rather than give up on such people Paul persisted in contending with them to have the truth established in their hearts.
Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth display his faithful and persistent care for the souls of the members, contending with them and even challenging them bluntly, in order to dispel from their minds ideas and practices that have a negative effect on their faith.

Enough said. Check it out for yourself and enjoy the glorious vision of Christian life that carried this great apostle through the toughest of treatment to the most glorious of achievements for Christ’s Kingdom.

Why I Expect God to Bless Me

Why should God bless you or me?  We look to God for His blessings and when we do others may question our right to do so.

That’s why I like to remind myself from time to time of where I stand before God and on what basis I look to Him for His blessing in my life.

You may find the following summary of those thoughts helpful as you struggle with your own worthiness to receive from God throughout your Christian life.

Totally Unqualified for Blessings

I do not deserve any blessing or favours from God.

My lack of discipline, selfishness, fleshly weaknesses, compromise, lack of spiritual commitment and so much more completely disqualify me for any blessings from God.

I have not fasted enough, prayed enough, given enough, sacrificed enough, died to self enough, served God enough, or done anything else enough to gain one iota of favour or blessing from God.

I am unqualified for on-going grace from God.

Saving Grace

I am as unqualified for on-going grace from God as I was to receive the sacrificial grace of Jesus Christ that brought me salvation, forgiveness of my sins, adoption into God’s family as a Son of God, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, grace to be useful in God’s kingdom, victory over Satan and eternal spiritual blessings.

Yet despite my total lack of any qualification for that grace, as a sinner with nothing to recommend me for the total abolition of my sin and the complete cleansing and newness that Christ gives, my hopelessness did not prohibit me from receiving that wonderful grace.

And so too in this situation, my uselessness, weakness, fleshly compromise, lack of discipline, etc, fail to disqualify me for the amazing and abundant blessings of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

I Ask for Miracles

So I ask for miracles and I expect miraculous blessings others would not dare ask for.  I do so, not on the basis of any capacity I have to deserve them or qualify for them, but on the basis of God’s desire to give them to me and His provision of them through the sacrifice of Christ.

When I reach out for them, on the basis of faith alone, I touch the very heart of God’s plan for my salvation, that I would receive all He has provided for me through faith in Christ.

Testing Your Troubles and where they came from

Are you troubled by anxieties, doubts, despair, being offended with others and similar inner struggles?

Many people fight with such things and do not stop to test those troubles using the standard that Jesus taught them.

As I assist people working through faith challenges I notice in them, and in myself as well, that trials stretch us and show up our inner vulnerabilities.  Under pressure we are all much more likely to be troubled, titchy, touchy and trantrummy (I made that word up so I’d have another ‘t’ word).

So, under pressure we are able to test our troubles and get insights into what is going on inside us.

Inner Struggle

When you step out in faith in God two things will be tested inside you.  Your faith will be tested, to see if it is genuine or just a sentimental notion or some attempt to manipulate God.  And your “flesh” will also be tested.

Your flesh is your natural self that existed before God brought salvation to your heart and life.  When you become a Christian your spirit man comes alive, eager and willing to love and trust God and to relate with God as God’s child.

However, your natural “flesh” self is also still alive within you, with all its selfishness, jealousies, pride, lust and self-reliance.  And the inner struggle within you is your ‘natural flesh self’ resisting the spirit man within you.

This is not some psychological notion, but a truth revealed in the Holy Bible, by the great Christian leader Paul, writing to the Christians in Galatia, in Asia Minor, nearly 2,000 years ago.

“The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you choose.” Galatians 5:17

Rebellious Flesh

Your natural man is a real stinker.  I don’t say to offend, since we all have natural flesh inside us.  But the Bible tells us that our natural man is rebellious against God and is a barrier to our walking with God.  Note these words of Paul written to the Christians at Rome, nearly 2,000 years ago.

“They that are fleshly pay attention to the things of the flesh; but they that focus on the Spirit attend to the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded (following our natural fleshly ideas) is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal (natural) mind is hostile against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So those that live out of their natural flesh perspective cannot please God.” Romans 8:5-8

When Paul said the natural mind is hostile to God and can’t submit to God’s law the original Greek wording suggests a soldier who simply refuses to follow orders.  When he is told to wheel right he wheels left.  When he is told to run he stands still.  That’s the picture of your rebellious, stroppy flesh man inside you, intent on resisting God.

That Voice in Your Head

When you move to step out in faith you will likely find your head filling with voices and thoughts that tell you not to do it, or to be careful, and so on.  Those thoughts are likely the rebellious voice of your flesh.

The thoughts are your own thoughts, coming from a part of you that refuses to submit to God.

Your mind will come up with a million excuses, doubts, insecurities, sound reasons for not rushing ahead, reminders of past failures, feelings of offence toward God or others, and so on.

You may even be tempted to think you are hearing the voice of wisdom and wise caution.  You may well feel great relief when you decide not to step out in faith.  But that could still be the voice of your rebellious flesh in your head.

Testing the Voice

So, if your head is full of doubts, concerns, aroused feelings, disquiet, despair or whatever, you need a mechanism to test the voice to see if it is God giving you caution and protection or whether it is just the voice of your flesh rebelling against what God wants you to do and what your spirit man on the inside wants to do in faith toward God.

Would you like to have a ready test on hand for those times?

I can give you a test that comes from the highest authority. This is a test that was given to us by Jesus Christ Himself.

Check the Fruit

The test is to check the “fruit” of the voice inside you.  Jesus told us that we will know what we are dealing with when we look at the fruit.

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits you will know them.”  Matthew 7:16-20

What is the fruit of the voices inside your head that try to stop you stepping out in faith?  Is it the fruit of the Spirit of God?  We are told what that fruit is and it is good fruit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23

Practical Example

To give you a practical application think of someone prompted to forgive a relative.  The relative had offended them and they now feel impressed to forgive and show that forgiveness by giving the relative some needed financial assistance.

At first the Christian is excited by the idea.  It is a bold and daring thing to do and consistent with some Bible verse or message they heard preached.

A while later, however, they are filled with concerns.  An inner battle is going on.

The range of cautioning thoughts could include: “They don’t deserve it”; “They may completely misunderstand what I am doing”; “This could stir up strife between us”; “I really don’t have the money spare at the moment”; “When I think about what they did to me they will never deserve my forgiveness”; “Other people don’t have to do something like this”; “God is so unfair to expect me to do something this ridiculous”; “My family won’t approve”; “Doing this will make me look so arrogant and I don’t want to be rejected”; “I’ve had thoughts like this before but how do I know this is really God leading me?”; “I always get caught in this kind of anxiety. Why doesn’t God speak more clearly to me? Being a Christian is just too hard”; “I’m just a lousy Christian because I shouldn’t be having this inner struggle”.

It is not uncommon for people to end up in some kind of mental tangle with doubts, misgivings, anxiety and so on.

Applying the Test

So let’s apply Jesus’ ‘Fruit’ Test to this situation.

The person first felt prompted to do something daring; in line with a Bible truth.  Their faith was stirred and their heart responded.

But then they became caught up in a quagmire of cautioning thoughts.  How can they know which thoughts deserve their attention?

We already know that those thoughts can come from their spirit man or from their flesh.  And we also know that the natural flesh thinking is antagonistic to faith in God.  And we know that listening to the Spirit will bring the “fruit of the Spirit” which includes love, joy, peace and faith.

Armed with that information we can then ask, “What is the fruit that comes from the thoughts swirling in your head?”

Do those thoughts prompt doubt, fear, offence, condemnation, insecurity, misgiving, uncertainty, agitation, anxiety, or similar fruit?  If so, then we know it is not the voice of the Spirit, but the voice of the flesh.

If those thoughts prompt joy and peace and arouse faith, then we know it is the voice of the Spirit, not the flesh.

I Will Believe

My encouragement to you is to “choose to believe”.  If you sense a prompting to be bold in faith realise it is your spirit man that produces the fruit of faith.

If your heart and mind then fill with misgivings, doubts, anxieties, fears and the like, take note of the fruit.

Some thoughts keep invading your mind, but they always produce bad fruit.  So why do you keep entertaining them?  Every time you give room to those thoughts you end up in fear, insecurity, doubt, anxiety, offence, shame, misgivings, etc.  There is no joy and peace and no faith.

If a robber steals money out of your hand, would you offer him more?  If you invest money in a fund that crashes would you invest more in that fund?  If you give in to your flesh and your flesh robs you of joy, peace and faith, why would you give in to your flesh again?

The Apostle Paul put in the terms of “You don’t owe anything to your flesh, because your flesh never paid out on any investment you made to it!  Giving in to your flesh kills you!”

“Therefore, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you will die: but if you through the Spirit do kill the deeds of the body, you will live.”  Romans 8:12,13

Only Believe

“Only Believe.”  “Why do you doubt?”  “Do not give in to unbelief.”  “Hold on to your confidence.”

The counsel of Christ and the Bible is to choose to believe.  It may be a tough decision to make while so many stormy thoughts are raging in your head.  But check out the fruit of those thoughts.

Those thoughts rob you or joy, peace and faith.  They are thoughts that do not come from God.  They are thoughts from your flesh, which is at war with God.

So choose to believe and to destroy doubt.  Hold on to your confidence in God.  When you do that you will triumph over your own flesh and you will please God, because only faith can please Him.

It’s not about whether you win or not, but whether you stood in faith.  Faith pleases God.  Whether you get the victory you believe for or end up in the fiery furnace or the lion’s den, God is pleased.  And your spirit man has won out over your flesh.

And your inner troubles have been conquered.

So test your troubles and give them what they deserve.

Taking Ground through Faith, by Ps Chris Field

You are a Christian by faith.

As a Christian you live by faith.

Only faith can please God.

So, have your considered the significance of those statements?

Just Faith

You may have gotten the idea that God can be pleased by your singing, or song writing, or performing, or kneeling with tears of emotion, or preaching, or getting into the wonderful worship session, and so on.

If you watch the Worship Videos released by many big churches around the world today you could easily get the impression that being moved in an orchestrated worship event is the high point of Christianity.

But I am here to burst your bubble.

The ONLY thing that pleases God is your faith.  (See Hebrews 11:6)

Not Your Talent

Since you can only please God with your faith, there is no reason to believe God is pleased by your talent.  Your funky skills on an instrument or with a microphone may have absolutely nothing to do with faith.

Your ability to create poetic lyrics and stirring melody, or create fantastic riffs to accentuate a song, or to play the drum rhythm exactly as they do it on the Hillsong recording, counts for nothing.

ONLY YOUR FAITH pleases God.  Your talent has NOTHING to do with it.

Now I don’t say that to offend those wonderful talented people who I enjoy listening to.  I say that simply to pull down the wrong ideas that get sown in people’s heads.

I want you to hear what the Bible says, and not to let your wrong ideas rob you of the truth.

Evidence of Faith

So, if faith is the ONLY way you can please God what is the evidence of faith at work in your life?

Faith will lead you to works.  Those works will be expressions of your trust in God.

But if you have all your needs met and have good health, good income, no worries in life and no need to rely on God, you may not have any evidence of faith.

That does not mean you cannot have faith if all your needs are met, but it does put you at risk of cruising along relying on your natural conditions and not living by faith.

Remember what I said at the start, “As a Christian you live by faith”.  That is a truth stated several times in the Bible.

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17 (See also: Habakkuk 2:4, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38)

Take Ground or Hold Ground

Many years ago I realised that if I am not careful I will fall into the pattern or not living by faith.  In the affluent western world we have so many support mechanisms that we often rely on God as a last resort.

We have doctors, specialists, jobs, technology, money, material goods, security systems, ready access to food, running water, gas, electricity, ambulances, and on it goes.

So how do you use faith when you don’t need to?

That’s the challenge.  If you do not need to employ faith how to you “live by faith”?

The answer is that you must use faith to TAKE GROUND or you’ll have to use faith to HOLD GROUND.

Let God be God

If you do not need God in your life you will not exercise your faith in Him.  But if a doctor diagnoses some serious illness your prayer life will probably become more active.

If you lose your job you are more likely to pray for God’s provision or protection than when everything is going fine.

If you decide to take on the enemy and rout him out of your family or culture, then you will be calling on God to be God and to win the battle for you.

In order for you to be keen to find God’s power at work you will either be trying to Take Ground from the enemy, or you will be in one of those situations where you are struggling to Hold Ground against some calamity or challenge.

Choose to Take Ground

If faith is the only way to please God and you must “live” by faith, then you need to choose to Take Ground from the enemy.

That’s why Jesus taught us to pray “Your Kingdom come and Your Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”.  That is a prayer for Taking Ground.  It is a prayer to see evil driven back and God’s Kingdom established in new ways and in new places.

If you are living to take ground for God’s Kingdom you will be living by faith.  You will be employing faith in your prayers and in your actions.  And God will be pleased, because ONLY FAITH pleases God and you will be employing faith.

Use It or Be Forced to Use It

You have heard the saying “Use it or Lose it” but in things of the Spirit it might be better said, “Use it or be Forced to use it!”

If you are a Christian you are to live by faith.  If you don’t live by faith what will God do?  God wants you to live by faith because only your faith pleases Him.

Maybe God will have to force you into a place where you use faith, so you can be living by faith and pleasing Him.  So, how would God force you to live by faith?  Maybe God will have to send a few problems your way.  Maybe God will have to pull the rug out from under your feet.

A sudden loss, health challenge, problem at work, financial crisis, upset in the family, problem neighbour, legal issue, or the like can put you on the back foot and fighting to hold your ground.  Your cosy world can be turned into upheaval in an instant if God chooses to bring a challenge your way.

Taking Ground is Better

If you have the choice of taking ground for God’s Kingdom or being forced to fight to keep what you already have, which would you choose?

I think it is FAR better to be taking ground than struggling to hold the ground I have.  I would much rather be claiming new horizons for God, than struggling to bail out a sinking boat.

Taking Ground is much better than being forced to pray in desperation to get your health back, or to survive a financial disaster, or solve some vexing problem that has attacked you and your family.

When I realised that, many years ago, I decided that I want to be one who takes ground for God’s Kingdom, seeing God’s Kingdom come and God’s Will done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Maybe that’s why I am doing such crazy things as taking on injustice and fraud from the banks and courts.  I am in a place where my daily prayer is for God to be God in my situation and for Him to win for me.  I am staking all I have on my determination to bring new levels of justice to my nation and for my children and grandchildren’s future.

Taking ground is better – because it puts me in a place of living by faith, and that faith pleases God.  And I get to see God work miracles of deliverance and powerful works of transformation on the inside of my life.

I encourage you to do a faith audit and to do whatever you have to do to keep your own faith life active and vital.

Now, to clarity, you don’t need to be in a spiritual storm to be living by faith.  All those pressing in to God for rescue or new ground are engaging their faith.  And once you’ve staked your claim and are standing by it, you are living by faith, even if there is no drama about the matter.  The issue is to be living by faith – engaging your faith so God is delighted with you.

Faith and Doubt A Lesson by Ps Chris Field

My recent Doubt Dungeon post led to further thoughts about how doubt blocks faith.  So here is a fresh analogy for the place of faith and doubt in our lives.

I pointed out in Doubt Dungeon that doubt blocks our will.  When we have doubts we are afraid to engage our will to make a choice, since we might be making the wrong choice.

So doubt is a terrible force to allow into your life as it destroys your capacity to make choices and move forward.

Biblical Insight

The Bible speaks about how doubt disables our will, so this is not some mere psychological observation, but a principle that we need to be aware of.  When you have doubts about the choice to make you “halt”.  You are blocked from moving forward.  The ancient Hebrew word used for halt speaks of dancing from one foot to the other, unable to step forward.

“And Elijah came to all the people, and said, How long will you halt between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.” 1Kings 18:21

Having doubts leads you to struggle between two opinions, so you become “double minded”.  And that makes you unstable.  You cannot make clear, effective decisions that you will stick to.

“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8

The Springboard

To give practical form to how doubt and faith work in your life I suggest the idea of a Faith Springboard.  Imagine you have a springboard, similar to those used in athletics to launch a person forward.

Faith is a Springboard that launches you forward in the things you are believing for.  With faith you connect with God and receive His blessings.  God is pleased when you use faith.

However, your faith springboard must be plugged in.  While normal springboards don’t need any power source, your faith springboard needs to be plugged into something.  It needs to be plugged into your Will.

Unless you “choose” to believe, your belief machine (springboard) sits idle and gathers dust.  No matter how many times you look at it or talk about it, your faith will not work until you activate it with your will, by choosing to believe.

So, to get the picture clear, you have a springboard of faith that will catapult you forward in the things of God, but your must activate it with your will, by making a choice to believe.

Faith is choosing to believe.  Faith and the will need to work together.  It is “you” who believes God, with your will.

Abraham Believed God

The most famous man of faith in human history is Abraham, who believed what God promised him.  God told Abraham he would have a son by his wife Sarah.  Abraham and Sarah were already too old to be parents, but Abraham made a choice to believe God.

We know from the New Testament that faith is the only thing that pleases God.

Without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that comes to God must believe that God exists, and that God rewards those who diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

When Abraham chose to believe God, God was pleased and God blessed him.

“For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3

Abraham believed God.  He didn’t get carried away in some emotional high, but he chose, with his will, to trust and rely on what God told him.  When Abraham chose to activate faith, by his will choosing to believe God, God credited Abraham with righteousness.

And that is the model for salvation in every generation since then.  We are not made right with God by anything we do, except the choice of our will to believe what God says.  Since Christ’s sacrifice for us 2,000 years ago, we must choose to believe in Christ as our saviour.  Then we are forgiven and made a child of God.

Just as Abraham had to use his will to choose to believe God, we also must use our will to choose to believe God.

Enter Doubt

When doubt comes into the picture it has the effect of pulling the plug on our will.  Faith needs our will to make the choice to believe.  Doubt pulls the plug, so our will is no longer connected to our faith.

When we ‘doubt’ we suddenly have a dead springboard.  It doesn’t work any more.  That’s not because doubt is greater than faith, but because doubt disconnects our will.  When we won’t “choose to believe” our faith lies dormant.

Faith in God is still the most powerful force we can activate.  But it cannot help us until and unless we make a personal choice to believe.  Doubt frightens us off making that choice, and so our faith sits like a broken down machine, unable to do for us what it is designed to do.

Activate Faith

We all need to activate our faith.  We need to choose to believe in God and to trust God’s Word.

If you activate your faith you can keep on springing forward in the things of God.  If you let doubt disable your will, faith will be of no effect to you.

Faith is a choice, not a feeling or some emotional state you get into after hearing a positive message.  It is a choice made in the cold light of day, that you will believe God to be God and believe His Word to be true.  Those who get swept along could easily be swept away, but those who activate their faith, by a choice to believe, squashing their doubts and stepping onto the springboard of faith, will be able to enter into the salvation and blessing God has for them.

So, the lesson is “Choose to Believe”.