Monday, January 19, 2009

I Want That Faith!

So, its been a few days since my last post and I am no longer in a waiting period, unfortunately the decision this time didn't go the way I'd have liked it to but it is a good opportunity for me to trust God in the situation. Anyway on to the topic, last night after church I got into a lengthy discussion with a guy I hadn't met before, we predominantly discussed two things, the first which I may write an article on later was to do with whether certain activities should be taken part in by Christians and the second was faith and exactly what that is, it is that I want to look at here.

Firstly what I want briefly look at is what I think is often a common misinterpretation of faith by many Christians, particularly in my generation, then I want to again briefly look at some reasons as to why these misinterpretations might be occuring and whether it matters. Finally I will look at what faith is and the sort of faith that I think we should be striving for.

The Misinterpreted Faith

There are of course lots of misinterpretations of faith, in this case I'm focusing only on one, that being one that mixes faith and feelings. A common thing I hear these days is about 'feeling God's presence'. Before I go on I should state that I am in no way stating here that people do not feel God's presence or that doing so is a bad thing. My point here is that feeling God's presence is not a sign of strong faith. Put another way, not feeling God's presence is in no way a sign of a lack of faith.

Why The Confusion?

So where has this idea that feelings and faith are somehow intertwined come from? Why do we have this notion that if we're not feeling God our faith is somehow deficient? I think the simplest explanation here is the most likely, that being, we're taught it. It is common in many of our churches these days for people to be taught based on feelings, that God will 'make them happy', that they should be 'feeling God's presence' churches are often intentionally or unintentionally, giving people the impression that unless they are feeling God's presence something is wrong. The implication to those not feeling God's presence is then that there is a problem with them, a problem with their faith. If all these people around me can feel God, why can't I?!

Does this really matter?

I began to touch on this in the previous paragraph, the problem with this is that it leads people to a misunderstanding of one of the most important parts of Christianity, it leads people to despair about the lack of feelings they are experiencing and in the end they either believe they have no faith and blame themselves, or they blame God. The consequences of this can indeed be very serious.

Real Faith and the Faith I Want

Now as I've said that faith is not a feeling, what then is it?

Well, the Bible gives us a definition, Hebrews 11:1 says:

'Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen'

Faith is simply put trusting in God and when is it most difficult to trust? Is it when you have an overwhelming presence of God? No it isn't. The hardest time to trust God is when things are going wrong, when you look around you and all you can see is darkness but still you trust God, still you give thanks to God.

Real faith is like this, where no matter what the situation we still have faith, that even if we are in the most desperate of situations, where all of our strength had gone, we still turn to God. That even in the times where we can't feel God at all, the times where it feels like God has abandoned us, the times when we doubt whether God even exists, it is at those times that when we still turn to God that we'll be demonstrating true faith and that is the faith i'm aiming for.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Waiting on God and Self Focus.

This is a rare post for me, as ordinarily I post at the end of an experience. When I've been through a situation to its conclusion and can look back and assess is when most often I can describe what I've learnt. This time, I'm posting somewhere in the middle.

A few days ago I was told something that was hard to hear, what it was does not matter for the purposes of this but trust me it was important, perhaps harder, I knew and was told that I just had to wait. I don't like waiting. In fact I positively despise waiting. Maybe its my OCD, maybe its just me, its probably a bit of both, either way I knew this was going to be tough.

Its funny how despite knowing what you need to do sometimes its really difficult to put it into practice. As usual and rather unsuprisingly... I couldn't wait it out, I set off and tried to look for a solution despite knowing I couldn't really find one. I spoke to anyone who would listen (I have some incredibly patient friends), I ran it around in my head, I considered all the options, I asked advice of everyone and one of them said (and I forget the exact wording):

'It seems that everything here points to you just having to let it go'

Letting go is something I am NOT good at, letting go means waiting, letting go means it being taken out of my control, letting go stops me being in charge. Oh no, I do not like that idea! I'm far too self-involved for that! However, when my friend said this to me, I knew she was right.

You'd think that since I now knew for sure what I had to do... I'd get on and try to do it right? You'd think I'd leave it in the hands of God, especially since I believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing and always right.... did I do that?... No. You see really it went something like this 'God, you are all-powerful, all-knowing, much better at dealing with this than I am and will get it right... but I better deal with it!' That, is nothing short of complete arrogance, its turning to God and saying 'I know better'. Its also completely dumb.

So where did my dumbness get me? Well, it got me into a complete state, it left me with a focus only on my problems, no solutions, it left me in a mess and worse still, it probably made it more difficult for the situation to actually be resolved as it meant I discussed it with someone involved, rather than just giving them the space they needed.

The reality of this situation was I wasn't trying to sort this problem out as that was what was best... I was trying to get this sorted out as that was what was best for me. Back we are to that self-focused, selfish attitude of mine again.

One of the things I love about God is that whenever I have a situation that is difficult I seem to learn something from it. Its a double for me this time, first I've learnt just how self-focused and selfish I still am and how much I still need to work on drowning that part of the old man in me each day and secondly on waiting.

I said towards the start of this post that I positively despise waiting, whilst I still don't like waiting one thing I now realise is that sometimes all we can do is wait and sometimes all God wants us to do is wait. It is at the point where I began to truly give this situation to God and just wait that I began to get some peace. It is at the point where I began to wait that I began to live by faith and it is at that point where the situation was put in the safest hands it could be. May God help me to continue to wait in this situation and to learn where I should wait in others.