by Eddie McDonald
In last week’s post, Tim began our 7 week Successful Life Series by establishing the reality that God defines success differently from the world. In fact, salvation is the gateway for success as God defines it. Be sure to read last week’s blog by clicking here if you missed it.
Now, once this first rung of success is reached, you’re ready to wrestle with the second. “What do you mean?” you ask.
We think that, having now been reconciled to God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that all will be footloose and fancy-free. Nothing shakes our faith more than this fact: that not only is the world a mess due to sin (yes, even our own) – but that mess oftentimes seems aimed at us!
But Surely God’s plan is not for us to be dashed upon the rocks of doubt and despair once we’ve placed out trust in Jesus and repented of our sin, is it? I’m here to say, unequivocally, “No!” Why? Because God’s matrix of success not only begins with Salvation, but also includes “Unyielding Faith”.
Various things cause us to struggle with faith. In his book, The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel identifies what he calls “The Big 8” – objections to Christianity that Christians, at various times, wrestle with. Let me list a few, and see if there are any of these with which you can resonate:
- Since Evil and Suffering Exist, a Loving God Cannot.
- Since Miracles Contradict Science, They Cannot Be True
- It’s offensive to Claim Jesus Is the only way to God.
Any one of these can keep us up at night, can’t they? They force us to recon with the reality of a fallen world and reconcile that with the God whom the apostle John declares “is Love” (1 John 4:7-8). So how do we do it? How do maintain an unyielding faith in the midst of a fallen world?
Let me point out what unyielding faith is not first, then look at what it is.
WHAT UNYIELDING FAITH IS NOT
Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt is a miraculous story of God’s grace. God led the nation to the border of the land He had promised to them hundreds of years before. However, in Numbers 13-14 we read the account of twelve spies going in to the land to scout it out. All praised the location, only two believed it could be taken – Caleb was one of those.
You may know the rest of the story – after forty years wandering through the desert because of their rebellion, a new generation enters into the Promised Land with the faith their parents and grandparents lacked – and among them: Caleb!
Stu Weber in his book Tender Warrior highlights Caleb’s faith as a model for men to emulate, but clearly this is for all God’s people. Read Joshua 14:6-12. In it we see, through the life of Caleb, three things unyielding faith is not.
- Unyielding Faith is never separated from God’s Word. Caleb wasn’t speaking out of his head or (as pop culture will tell us) from the heart (definitely a bad idea – see Jeremiah 17:9-10). He was basing his faith on the word God spoke. That is huge! Unyielding faith is rooted in the Word of the Lord – the Bible – not emotionalism or one’s best guess.
- Unyielding faith is not limited by age or circumstances. Again, Caleb was no longer 40 years old – yet the faith of his youth had only increased – that’s what we should be busy about. Also, Caleb’s faith remained regardless of the odds.
- Unyielding faith never dictates, it always submits. Now, please understand that the hill country that he is requesting is the hardest terrain and filled with the very giants that freaked out the people 45 years ago…and the dude is now 85! But the key phrase to this last point of what unyielding faith is not is in the phrase “It may be…”, or in some of your translations “Perhaps”. Stu Weber writes the following:
“That ‘perhaps’ is full of wisdom. Caleb knows he has no corner on the future. God is neither his pawn nor his errand boy. Caleb is simply God’s servant… As a wise and mature believer, Caleb is not into any ‘name it and claim it’ theology. He understands he could very well get the slats kicked out of his life in that hill country…But, he also knows God, and he’s able, even eager, to invest himself in God’s intentions – even at the cost of his own life, if it should prove to be so.”
Mick Yoder, a friend of Stu’s said after burying his 10 year old son after a plane accident, “Life wouldn’t be so hard if we didn’t expect it to be so easy.” So true!
WHAT UNYIELDING FAITH IS
In the conclusion of Strobel’s The Case for Faith, he summarizes his findings to shoring up a wavering faith in the midst of seemingly unanswerable questions. Three additional things to remember for us as we seek to have an unyielding faith:
- Find Perspective. Often we focus on the problem (whatever it is) and it looms large and in charge, sneering at us and seeming to claim victory in the midst of our doubts. What we need is perspective. In other words, there are so many other pieces of evidence beyond the problem itself that point to a God with answers which, when taken with the whole, though we may not have all the answers at that very moment, we can rest assured that the God of the Bible does! Simply put, evidence abounds in the 21st Century and is at our fingertips, allowing us to give an account for the hope that lies within us. (Yes, you heard right – evidence. Christianity is a reasoned faith, regardless of what the skeptics say.)
- Making a Choice. The second key to unwavering faith is determining in your heart that you will choose God, no matter what comes. Consider the traditional marriage vows given at a wedding. Isn’t it interesting that we expect God to remain faithful to our “worse” but at times we’re tempted and are ready to throw in the towel and the hint of tough times? You see, it’s a predetermined choice (which, of course, is rooted in God’s grace). Strobel states, “Faith is about a choice, a step of the will, a decision to want to know God personally. It’s saying, ‘I believe – please help my unbelief!’”
- Changing a Life. This one is the evidence in the mirror, as well as the brothers and sisters who surround you. I say it a lot: The grace that saved you is the grace that sustains you. This is why, in this third step to maintaining an unyielding faith, it’s key to go back to the foundation: go back to the Gospel. You see, no matter how small a time-span, all Christians have a “B.C.”, that period of time of living for self before embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ. The question for us is, “Has there been a change?” People can argue about all sorts of evidence, but nobody can argue with the change in your heart and life that God has wrought! That’s where He gets the glory, because left to our own devices…well, some of us might even be dead. James said “Faith without works is dead”, right? If there is truth faith, then we’re going to see fruit in your life as a result of having the Holy Spirit indwelling you, guiding you, teaching you, convicting you.
The matrix of unyielding faith: Being grounded in the Word; remember age nor circumstances are obstacles but opportunities; humbly submit to God’s divine and perfect will; find perspective; make a choice; and reflect on your changed life. With this matrix in place, by God’s grace, you, too, can have an unyielding faith!
To begin your faith journey, please click here.