Back to the Source

Here I go again with another analogy on the subject of our ‘source’. You can see that it is an itch in my thinking that I keep scratching. I think that’s because God wants me to articulate this theme for your benefit (as well as my own). So let me take you into yet another imaginary scenario, where we can better see how choosing our source impacts our whole life.

Two men are church friends and they often share together. They both have high hopes for their future and they both profess faith in Jesus Christ. In time both men face a challenge where they must wait on God for provision. This is quite trying for both men and their families.

Both men are introduced to a business opportunity which could make them the funds they need. However the deal has a shady quality about it. It may be that money is made at the expense of unsuspecting people. One of the men steps away from the deal. The other goes into the deal.

Some time later, when the man who entered the deal is doing financially well, he calls on the other, who is still struggling. He reveals how well he is doing and exhorts his needy friend to join in the deal too. The friend questions the integrity of the deal and confirms that it does involve exploitation of others. He challenges his wealthy friend about the moral compromise he has entered into, encouraging him to trust in the Lord.

The wealthy man says that he has tried trusting the Lord and it did nothing for him, pointing out that his poor friend still trusts the Lord and it has done nothing for him. He pats his wallet and says, “This is what works. I am secure now and I don’t need the Lord. Money is what is going to get me out of trouble.”

The men part and don’t catch up for many years. In that time the poor man has found his feet financially and established the things he needs for his family. The man who loves money has gone on to greater heights of financial success, although his faith is now just a religious façade.

Then their nation entered a time of immense upheaval. Law and order crumbled. Factions fought violently to take control of the country. Banks collapsed, industry stood still and commerce crumbled. The assets of the rich were taken from them and many people died in the civil strife and mob rule which erupted in the land.

The men met again by chance. The lover of money was being herded into the back of a truck, to be taken away by mercenaries, possibly to his death. He called to his friend and said, “Do something!” The friend replied, “What can I do? Why don’t you use some of your money?”

The richer man replied with despair, “It’s worthless! I’ve lost everything!” Then he called to his friend as the truck pulled away, “Pray for me!” “You can pray too!” His friend called back. The rich man shook his head, “No I don’t think I can.”

The Bible warns us not to place our trust in ‘uncertain riches’.
“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” 1Timothy 6:17

This does not mean that some riches are sure and others are unreliable. It means that monetary riches and physical assets are in and of themselves ‘uncertain”. They are subject to theft, decay, destruction and devaluation. Some riches mean great things in the right circles, but nothing at all in another context. Whole currencies have been scrapped, making the money worthless. Can you imagine how a priceless Ming Dynasty vase would be used in a refugee camp?

The wonderful thing about having God as our source, rather than wealth, is that He is not subject to devaluation or inflation – He changes not. He has always been priceless. He is equally and supremely relevant in every economy and in every place across the planet. He cannot be stolen from you, nor will He decay. You cannot be swindled out of God. There is no currency collapse which makes your connection to God of no consequence. You don’t need an ATM, traveller’s cheques or a stable economy in which to access your Creator.

When you make God your source you are vastly better off than everyone who looks to anything else. Make God your source! Don’t be beguiled by uncertain things, even job security, the promises of men, material assets, or the privilege of your birth or national heritage. God is your only truly reliable asset in all of eternity. Be vitally connected to Him, first of all and above all else.

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.

Faith – Living in the Substance

Faith is something I give attention to and from time to time I reflect on the practical issues of faith as a lifestyle. This reflection is a fresh way to communicate what “living by faith” is all about. But before I get to that, let me back track with you and give you a couple of headlines on why faith is a big deal for me.

Faith is the only way to please God! That’s what Hebrews 11:6 says. “Now, without faith it is impossible to please Him” (meaning God). That means that “faith” has to be a primary quality in every person’s life. If we do not have faith we do not please God. This does not mean we have to blindly believe crazy things. We can have a reasoned understanding of the things we believe. But when all is said and done “faith” must be the essential ingredient. Otherwise we have completely failed to please God.

Christians, therefore, are not to simply apply faith as some initiation rite into the fold. Faith must be an on-going element of the Christian life and lifestyle. It is no use saying, “I had faith 35 years ago when I put my trust in Jesus.” In order to “please” God we must have an ongoing experience of faith. The Bible refers to that as “living by faith”. The concept is given in the Old Testament (Habakkuk 2:4) and quoted several times by New Testament writers (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38). “Righteous people will live by faith”.

Living by faith can involve two broad expressions – the pro-active faith that presses in to win battles and make gain; and the passive lifestyle of faithfulness that maintains commitment and direction over time and against obstacles. The Greek word translated ‘faith’ in the New Testament can equally be translated as ‘faithfulness’. So, faith does not have to be demonstrative to be real and to please God.

OK, so that’s my quick summary of some faith essentials. Now, to the point at hand. Faith functions in the Christian’s life in the same way that ‘substance’ does. That means that a person who has faith for an outcome will feel the same joy, etc as someone who actually already has the outcome. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “Faith is the substance of the things that are hoped for. It is the evidence of things which are unseen” (Hebrews 11:1).

A person who has faith already “has” the substance of what they believe for. Faith does not leave a person in a “hope so” state. It brings an assured confidence in the outcome. Over the years I have met some lovely and well-meaning people who were raised on the “do good” gospel. These sweet people made it their business to be caring, sacrificial servants who did as many good works as they could. Yet they were putting their faith for eternal salvation and God’s favour, in their good works. One such lady said to me, “I hope I get to heaven”. She had no ‘substance’ – because she did not have faith.

Now, let me fuse two of the faith verses together and give you my fresh perception. If Christians are to “live by faith” and “faith is the substance”, then people of faith, are people who are “Living in the Substance”.

Christians are people who live in the substance of salvation, their eternal destiny, God’s blessing, their victory over sin and the devil, their hope of glory and so on.

Another way of putting it is that people of faith are the Possessors of the Unseen. Yet again, people of faith live in the reality that others do not see yet, because people of faith have the substance even before it is outworked in their lives. Which ever way you look at it, living by faith is a radical lifestyle. It is the way millions of people live, right across the globe. It is the privilege that gives eternal and miraculous power to the underprivileged, disadvantaged, inconsequential and overlooked people in the world. It is something that everyone should enjoy.

I recommend living by faith. I recommend “Living in the Substance”.

Building Generations

The individualised concept of life is prevalent in the west today. It robs us of a real appreciation of what we are doing as parents. We are not just caring for children until they can care for themselves. We are not just giving them a valid set of values to take into life. We are not just setting them up for as successful a life journey as they can achieve. We are BUILDING GENERATIONS.

Here’s a way to think about it that might help you get the message.

Imaging a young lady, somebody’s daughter, who has tow potential suitors. One suitor is a fine young man. He is slim, athletic, handsome, articulate, smart, achievement oriented, with good grades, strong personality, good communication skills, a winning smile, animated and caring tones in his speech, and so on. This young man is not only an ideal choice, he is voted so by many of the young ladies and their mothers. He is surely going to be a popular choice and make the young lady the envy of all who know her.

The other suitor is more of a plodder. He is a steady chap from a stable family. He is more retiring and less adventurous, but he is polite, reliable, and genial. While not striking in appearance he could be considered good looking. He is not athletic in build, and may tend toward being overweight, as his father is. What makes this man attractive as a suitor is his expressed affection for the young lady. He seems quite struck on her and he would certainly make a reliable and loving husband.

Telescoping through time we now look two generations ahead and see the generational outcomes of these choices.

The grandchildren of the enviable suitor are a mess. His unfaithfulness and the breakdown of his married caused his children to enter into a range of relationships looking for something to ease their pain. Because he violated the values he taught to his children they lost faith in values and religion and became increasingly cynical of life itself. The children that they bore, in turn, were raised in broken homes, in unsteady relationships with very little anchor in normality.

The grandchildren of the other suitor are lost in materialism. His steady life was lived in self-reliance, in pursuit of human happiness. His children also learned to live to themselves and each chose their best course to achieve that. The grandchildren, then, were born into homes devoid of spiritual reality. They each set out to find fulfillment in the collection of material goods, pursuit of human happiness and quest per personal achievement.

There was no happy choice between these two. For the daughter’s future is not invested in Mr Right. It is not found by a well-suited marriage. It is not achieved by the luck of the draw or the happy choice of someone who will do them proud.

Human happiness and success comes from the Lord. Promotion and good outcomes do not come from the north, south, east or west. They do not come from clever choices, good luck or the reliability of others. They come from the Lord.

To make matters worse, those who look to humans to bring them anything at all are putting their trust in “man”. The prophet Jeremiah warns us that we are cursed if we put out trust in man and look to human resources to provide for us – see Jeremiah 17:5-8).

Generations are built as a result of the matches made. We do not find a bride or a “hubby”. We do not just have some “kids” as part of our own personal journey. We are building generations. The children and the children’s children will be seriously impacted by the choice of spouse.

For further comment on this topic see the posting “Why did you choose HER to be my mother?” at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/family/“why-did-you-choose-her-to-be-my-mother

In summary – recognize that you are BUILDING GENERATIONS, not pursuing your own ends or your own happiness.

But then realize that YOU NEED GOD TO BE IN CHARGE OF THE PROCESS – since you are surely not able to control it yourself. You do not know the end from the beginning – but God does.