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:
I think you ask excellent questions, and I may have something to share along those regards.
It definitely IS tiring to continually battle in our minds, to keep the truth before us when the enemy tries to flood us with lies. I guess all I can say is that, with time, as we mature in our faith, that process grows easier. I would also say that i feel your pain about trying to “muster up” your faith, and agree that there is no such thing. I come by that thought process from the charismatic circles I used to run in. It was really a bad thing to “not have enough faith”, and it wasn’t acceptable. As such, I grew up trying just that, to “muster up” my faith, either by reading the word, listening to praise and worship or teaching tapes, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t think those things work! I think our faith is where our faith is, and nothing we can do will immediately increase it. We have to continue living life, and patiently wait for it to grow as we continue seeking HIm and continue walking in what level of faith we do have. In my current situation, for example, it seems that I didn’t have the faith to accomplish what needed to be done, when I wanted it to be done. That was okay! The Lord called me to walk on the water, I stepped out, and I sank down until my nose was right above water! Now, He is leading me through, keeping my head above water, all the while my faith gradually increases as I continue to stand. Initially I tried the whole “muster up” thing, you know, praying fervently and loudly, as if that will move heaven more than more quiet prayers! I later understood that this thing is a process, and it is a fight! The Lord will not let me stumble, but along the way there may be some things occur that look as if they are not in my favor. As long as I continue to stand, I will overcome, and I will see His victory.
I like to think of the Kingdom in military terms, although I am not a militant Christian! The Kingdom of heaven came to earth when Jesus came to earth, and the bible says that the growth of that kingdom will never cease. The Kingdom of God is overtaking the kingdom of this world, and the enemy doesn’t like that. So, when he sees God’s children beginning to take God seriously, and beginning to walk in their God-given power and authority, He fights against that. I see our walk of faith as fighting for new territory. I have never walked in the manner in which I am attempting to walk, and the enemy fights to keep me from securing that ground. The beautiful thing is that, as long as I have trust in the Lord and stand, even if my faith is not complete for the task, I will ultimately prevail.
For me the key to maintaining sanity in this process was learning to let go. I am so good at worrying, and ironically there is a certain level of comfort in keeping that worry before me. It is discomforting to decide “I am not going to worry about this thing”, and my natural reaction is to want to pick it back up. It is as if my worrying about it will change something and help me figure out the answer. The answer, of course, is to do what we can in the natural, address it in prayer, and then move on! We have to catch sight of God as our Father, who will not give a rock when his child asks for bread. For me, I’ve had to stop seeing the heavenly Father as my earthly father, because that was a barrier for me. It helps me to go back and read the Old Testament stories, about how God moved mightily in the lives of His people, and then say to myself “Will God not do the same for me?” We certainly have plenty of promises, and I find myself quoting them often, especially when fear tries to rise up. I love Hebrews 4, as I mentioned previously, because it speaks of the rest we can, and should, have in Christ. To say it all another way, I sometimes just have to refuse to pick that worry back up!
This is where the kingdom comes in, like Matthew 6:26 talks about. I have to do what it takes to address my issues (in this case finances) in prayer, and beyond that I have to purposefully endeavor to seek Christ, and seek His Kingdom. What is His kingdom? It is us, His body, His people fulfilling His purposes in the earth. For me I have to make sure I am devoting time to read and pray, above and beyond all else. After that, I am ever mindful of the fact that He has a specific purpose for me, right now, and I pray into that, seeking more understanding of what the next move is, as we feel that God is using us to establish the visible manifestation of His kingdom in our community, and we are kind of at a transition point in that. I also now realize that seeking the Kingdom means taking time to write the things that He has placed on my heart, whether it is an e-mail to a brother, or a blog post, or whatever. I believe He is developing a gift in me, and I have to be sure and exercise it. So, that is what the Kingdom is to me!
I think one of the hardest obstacles I’ve had to overcome in my life is my, and my own sense of self-adequacy. It’s actually ironic because to a large degree I’ve spent much of my life feeling wholly INADEQUATE, but there is that part of me that trusted in my intellect, and I tried to approach God with that intellect. One thing He did as I transitioned out of organized church was to forbid me to read and study, until that piece of me had been removed. I still have to remind myself, however, to find His strength for the task, and not rely on my own. Even if my own would seem sufficient, I fail if I succeed in my own strength! Stephanie pointed me to Psalm 127, and I love the first few verses, and the emphasis on our reliance on Him. “Unless the Lord build the house, the laborers build in vain…” I’ve also recently read part of Joshua, and am amazed at how easily the Children of Israel succeeded with His help, and how utterly they failed when His hand was removed from them due to sin (when they went against the kingdom of Ai). It just reinforces to me how we have to fully give ourselves to Him, and again, let Him take the lead and let Him supply. To this regard I love Romans 11:36, “For by Him through Him and to Him are all things”. We do what we do for Him, but it is only by His strength that we can even do it!