I’ve been having a great conversation via email with my good friend Mark from Called Out in Kansas. He has taken the time to write some great stuff that God has put on his heart about the topic. It was stuff that has been very encouraging to Stephanie and me. I asked Mark if I could share our correspondence and, as you may assume since I am now sharing it, he said it was fine with him. I hope you find his thoughts as encouraging as I did. Thanks Mark!
Mark to me on 01.06.11:
I have pondered your comment about feeling spiritually exhausted, and went back and read Stephanie’s second post, where she describes her similar feelings. The end-result of the process seems to have been an understanding of how unfaithful you both were in the midst of the trial. I wonder, is there a perceived failure in your mind that could be at the root of your “lack of interest”? Could it be that you thought you were on one level in your walk with God, but then through this experience realized how weak you really are, and thus find it difficult to re-engage at the level that you had before? Please forgive my internal counselor and fix-it man, but I just couldn’t help myself, and I hope you will indulge me an opportunity to share a thought or two concerning this.
What does it mean to walk by faith, or to have faith, or to be faithful? Does the presence of doubt imply that we have no faith, or that we are not faithful? In my opinion it does not. To me, faith is simply believing that God will do what He said He will do. I like to think of Hebrews 11:6
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him”
So, faith is believing that He is a rewarder, that He will care for us like He said He would. Promises come to mind like (paraphrased): “He has given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness”, “He has supplied all our needs according to His riches in glory” and “for by Him, through Him and to Him are all things”.
So, with our hearts we believe that what He said is truth. In fact, we have to believe that His truth is greater than what we see with our physical/natural eyes. Our flesh, however, is still the playground of the enemy, and he uses our mind as the battlefield to try to dissuade us from what we have believed in our hearts. Faith is a process of continuing to refocus our minds on the truth of scripture, and not giving up our stance. Ephesians 6:13 says “having done all, stand therefore…” We certainly are responsible to do what we can in the natural in any given situation, after that, we have to just stand, refusing to be dissuaded from the truth in scripture.
I want to give an example from my own life. I’ll give a bit of history first. In 2008 I quit my job at a hospital-owned clinic and started my own practice. Since I don’t draw a salary from that clinic I have worked in the ER to pay bills, working every Thursday and one weekend per month. This fall my wife and I felt that it was time for the weekends to be over. We both felt as if that season of our lives would continue until we were ready for it to end, as in the Lord’s mind it was already time. The only thing keeping us in that phase was our own decision. Now, I was still not (and still am not) drawing a salary from my clinic, and in the natural I could not afford to lose that income. There were obligations to meet that I couldn’t meet, in the natural, without that income. However, we both KNEW that we were to step out in faith and quit working weekends. Now, I know this sounds ludicrous, and in the natural it is. However, like scripture says, the wisdom of God is foolishness to men, and this all comes down to walking in faith.
Initially the walk was easy, because my income hadn’t changed until my last full paycheck came and went. In December reality hit. I had lots of bills, and not near enough money to pay it. This was where it hit the fan, so to speak! At that time I began to pray fervently, waiting for that big monetary gift to come, and pay off all these bills. I knew I had made the right decision, but in the natural things looked bad. Over the next several weeks I came to realize that walking in faith is a process. Through a friend, who is going through the same process I am, came the words that “you do not have a money problem, you have a faith problem”. So, I find myself on a journey. In my heart I know His words, and I know that I am walking the path He intends. With my eyes I see lack and need, even though in my heart I know that there is no lack in the Kingdom. So, I continue focusing on what I know to be true, I continue to pray and seek Him, and most importantly I seek to not allow my finances to distract me from the real work of His Kingdom. As per Matthew 6:26, I want to seek first the kingdom, and let “all these things” be added to me. I know that He will not let me fail, and I also know that until my faith reaches a level to move heaven I will continue this walk. The truth is, though, that we are to always be walking in faith, and that tells me that there will always be battles as our faith is tested more and more.
So, how does this apply to your situation? You were faced with an obstacle. You knew the Lord’s will regarding that obstacle, and you did all you could to stand in your faith. Did you have doubt? Of course, who among us doesn’t have some degree of doubt. I am always reminded of the story in Mark 9, where a father asks Jesus to heal his demon-possessed son. Jesus says “all things are possible to him who believes”, to which the father says “I believe, help me with my unbelief!”. Jesus goes on to heal his son. You see, when we first begin walking in faith, we will have the most doubt. The longer we walk in faith the less we will doubt. So, just the fact that you experienced what you experienced says you are maturing beyond where most churched believers get. The enemy knows the power of God’s people walking in faith, and therefore does all he can to discourage us. I would like to encourage you, that you are strong in the Lord! You are not where you’d like to be in your faith, but will you ever be? Will any of us ever actually “arrive”? There is no disappointment in God’s eyes in how you fared through this situation. You could have given up entirely and cursed Him! That would be the ultimate show of lacking faith. All He asks is that we stand, and if we do, He’ll honor us. You both stood, through the doubts, and He rewarded you with the outcome you desired, and that you believed was His will.
So, the underlying message is, be encouraged! You have overcome! You faced the giant, you fought, you stood, and you overcame! You exhausted yourself in the process, and that leads to my next point, but you DID overcome!
OK, my second point, and then I will be quiet. Is it possible that the fight you described was fought with your own strength? One thing I have learned in walking out this process is that I HAVE to rest in my faith, like Hebrews 4 describes. No amount of mental machinations will get me where I want to be. I have to do what I can in the natural, and beyond that I can only believe, pray and praise. When my mind begins to worry, I have to make it cease, and continue quoting scripture, so that I can rest in His ability. I can imagine that a battle that fierce, in which someone relied on their own strength, would bring exhaustion. I encourage you to find His strength for the task, as our strength will never be sufficient for the tasks He has called us to.