Monday, November 12, 2012

What Does Faith Look Like - Maturing in Faith

I'd like to think I've matured.  I'd like to think I'm getting better with age.  I'd like to think the near-decade I've been walking with Christ has produced the fruit for the Kingdom of God.  Yet, there are moments I still throw toddler-like rage fits.  You read about one of those a few weeks back when I wrote about experiencing grace.  To be honest, with what is happening with our overseas move today, I'd like to have one RIGHT NOW.

Snafus and hiccups happen, but I'm over being a mushroom.  My hopes were set on something solid but that "solid" turned out to be more like jello.  I'm somewhere between bawling my eyes out and punching my hand through the wall because what I thought would happen may not.  Not very mature responses, but there you have it.  This after confessing in prayer in front of others, just this morning, that I was ok with whatever happened.  3 hours later, I'm ready to throw in the towel, beyond terrified to ask God to show up big for me because what happens if He doesn't?

I've been there before.  Even knowing what I know, knowing what He has done, I still harbor the fear that I will be disappointed again. 

It's not a good place to be when you think you have to be strong and secure in your faith.  I can just imagine being in Thomas' place as Jesus rebukes him for having so little faith, for needing to see the truth and the proof of what I have put my faith in.

Blessed are those who don't see but still believe, right?

Let me step back a moment.  What if finding out I am not as "mature" as I thought I was, is a good thing?  What if God is not sitting there on His throne, wagging His finger at me for claiming to be this really strong Christian, when my circumstances just showed me to be otherwise? What if my need, my desperation for God to work this out is exactly what He wants from me?

I take heart from the story in Mark 9 where Jesus heals the demon-possessed boy.  The famous verse 24, spoken by the boy's father should be my life theme:

I believe, Lord!  Help me with my unbelief!

I have often thought that when I was mature enough in my faith, I would no longer doubt.  I would always rest in the confidence of my God; constantly moving forward, never again in a situation where I struggled to believe. That is a form of religious elitism, a spiritual version of the prosperity gosel, if you will, and I know God hates it.  It's bright-red, Scarlet Letter-type pride.

When I do an inventory of my spiritual past, it turns out all the times I've gone to a new level of faith is because I've been broken before God.  When I reach a point of desperation, with no-where-else-to-go; God meets me there and proves His love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, providence - you name it. 

In Scripture, at least from this scenario in Mark, I find the symbols of a maturing faith.  It isn't someone who can do all things from a point of strength, but the broken-heart of a father, not completely uncertain but willing to trust God.  There are other times for rebuking, but when I'm broken, past the point my of enduring, I find no condemnation.  There is only healing.

One of my favorite commentators, David Guzik, makes this statement about Mark 9:24:
In this case, the man’s unbelief was not a rebellion against or a rejection of God’s promise. He did not deny God’s promise; he desired it. However, it just seemed too good to be true....Help my unbelief is something a man can only say by faith
Another great man of God, Charles Spurgeon, said this:
While men have no faith, they are unconscious of their unbelief; but, as soon as they get a little faith, then they begin to be conscious of the greatness of their unbelief.
The desperation I have for God is not a marker of how bad a Christian I am.  It is the Holy Spirit working out my sanctification in real time.  Maturity must no longer be about how much I can believe, or how much I believe compared to others.  Rather, it is recognizing the constant need for God's continual presence.  The hunger I have in this moment tells me God is making me more like His Son.

Maturity is the clear vision of a dependent child - one who can see that no one is like God; no one is capable to do all that He will do for me, and I can come to Him with anything.  He will meet me in my need and fill in the gaps of my swiss-cheesed soul.

Today's example, given by my present circumstances, teaches me to stop measuring how mature I am in my faith by how much I believe or how much I can endure on my own.  Instead, the yard stick to live by is how I live out of my dependence on Christ, in every moment of every day.

No comments: