The Bible commands the Christian to live by faith. According to the Bible, without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God.
The Christian is saved by faith, through grace. Ephesians 2:8, 9 says:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
According to Christian doctrine no human being deserves salvation. God, a gracious, kind, loving and just being, purposes to save some sinners out the mass of sinners called the human race. God doesn’t have to save anyone, but he does. We all deserve judgment and hell, or so goes the Christian gospel.
Those who are saved by the wondrous grace of God become a new creation in Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Since the Christian is a new creation in Christ, he is commanded to live a life of faith. The Holy Spirit indwells (comes to live inside of) every Christian, teaching them everything that pertains to life and godliness. The Christian doesn’t have to go to church to find God, God is with him 24/7.
Romans 1:17 makes it clear that the just (the justified) shall live by faith.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Romans 5:1,2 says:
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian Church that we walk by faith, not by sight.
The Christian life is a life of faith, beginning to end. There is no work a Christian can do to gain favor with God. Note what the Bible says in Galatians 2:16:
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
The Bible is clear that the Christian is called to live a life of faith, a life totally dependent on God. To live a life according to the flesh, according to the philosophies of this world is to deny that Jesus is your Lord and Savior.
Let me repeat, the Bible makes it clear that without faith it is impossible to please God. IMPOSSIBLE!
How does this life of faith work out in the day to day life of the Christian?
The Christian is taught to tune into God’s radio channel. Through prayer and reading the Scriptures, along with regular attendance at public worship, the Christian can divine the will of God.
God has a perfect will for everyone. Since God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent he knows exactly how the Christian should live their life. The Christian is called on to live a life of self-denial, a life where the only thing that matters is God’s will.
The Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and through prayer and reading the Scriptures, is able to determine exactly what God wants him to do.
It would seem that, if the premise above is correct, all Christians would believe the same thing and live their lives in similar fashion. But, as anyone knows, the Christian Church is hopelessly fractured. Sectarian splits and internecine wars are quite common as various denominations and churches slug it out to see who has THE truth. It seems that God has a hard time making up his mind about what the “faith once delivered to the saints” is. It seems God is uncertain about how the Christian should live the life of faith. One Christian says X is a sin and another Christian says no it is not. Both appeal to the Bible as the authority for their belief and practice.
I have sat through countless church business meetings, filled with people who had prayed about the matters that were going to be discussed. One would think that everyone in the business meeting would come to the same conclusion. I have yet to see a business meeting where everyone was in agreement. I’ve seen plenty of business meetings where everyone seemed to be in agreement but two or three weeks later, after the church gossip line has run its course, I found out that there were people not in favor of what we voted to do. It seems that the Holy Spirit changes his mind quite often.
I spent most of my adult life intimately involved with the Christian church. As I’ve said many times before I know what really goes on behind closed doors and I know where the bodies are buried. While Christianity likes to paint itself as a unified body of people who are in love with Jesus and follow him wherever he leads the truth is there is little or no unity, and quite often, if Jesus is headed one way they are headed in the opposite direction.
Christians who are serious about their faith work very hard at trying to know what God wants them to do with their life. They listen intently to the pastor’s preaching hoping to hear and feel that little nudge from God. They diligently read their Bible hoping that one of the verses will jump out at them, and with blaring sirens, alert them to what it is God wants them to do. The Christian will spend a significant amount of time in prayer. Prayer is where the Christian communicates with God and hopefully God communicates back with him.
I have heard countless Christians say, and I have said it many times myself, God has laid ____________ on my heart. How does the Christian know that God has laid something on their heart? They just know it. It’s that sense, that feeling that one gets when all is well and everything is at peace. It is not uncommon to hear Christians say “I have peace about this matter. God laid it on my heart.‘’Of course there is no way to know for certain that it’s God. How does the Christian prove God is laying something on their heart?
Christians themselves realize the danger of living a life solely dictated by faith. They read their Bible, pray, seek the counsel of other people, yet they still have nagging doubts about what God has asked them to do. Sometimes, the Christian cannot bring themselves to do what they believe God wants them to do, and at that moment they become a person that is commonly known in the church as a person “out of the will of God.”
There are two labels that no Christian wants attached to their life. Out of the will of God and backslidden. Preachers spend a significant amount of time preaching to those who are considered out of the will of God, to those who are backslidden. The subpar Christians are blamed for a lot of things. The church would have revival, or the blessing of God, or have their financial or spiritual needs met, if only backslidden Christians would get right with God. It is a tremendous weight to feel that you are not right with God and that you are the blame for all the bad things that are happening.
I spent the first fifty years of my life in the Christian church. I was a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. I was intent on following the lamb (Jesus Christ) wherever he went. I attempted to live my life according to the premise “what would Jesus do?” Every day I purposed to deny myself, and take up my cross, and follow Jesus. Most every day I failed at this impossible standard but I kept trying, trying, trying.
I was taught, and I taught others, that every Christian has a cross to bear. Every Christian has a weight in their life that weighs them down, a burden they must carry. In my life I thought my weight was living in poverty. As an act of self-denial I believed God wanted me to live a life of poverty and he wanted my wife and kids (collateral damage) to do the same.
Of course pastoring poor churches made it a lot easier to live a life of poverty. I spent eleven years in one church where the highest paid man in the church made $21,000 a year. The biggest salary I ever drew from the church was $12,000. Most years my salary was in the $6-$8000 range. This church was not a small church. For several years we ran close to 200 people, but it was a church filled with members who were classified as the working poor.
During the eleven years I spent at this church my family and I never had church provided medical insurance. We took one vacation during our time there. Every week was a financial battle for us. Will the offering be big enough to pay my salary? If it wasn’t how were we going to pay our bills?
We learned a lot about ourselves during this time. We learned to do without and we learned what it really meant to be poor. I am thankful for the experience but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.
Every week seemed to be a crisis. We spent a lot of time trying to discern the will of God. What does God want us to do? I knew we had to have faith,we had to trust that God was going to see us through. It’s funny what God will lead you to do during difficult times.
God led us to get food stamps. God led us to sign up for Medicaid insurance. God led us to stand in line at the food bank.(actually my wife stood in line I was too embarrassed to do so) For two of the eleven years we were at this church God led us to deliver newspapers. The other nine years God made it clear that he wanted us to live by faith, that he wanted us to do without. I rarely doubted God and his wonderful plan for my life. I just considered it all part of the whole living by faith package.
As I look back on this time in our life I realize how foolish it all was. Good intentions perhaps, but nonetheless very foolish. I was so focused on the work of the ministry and getting sinners saved that nothing else mattered. Retirement? I had no plans to retire. I planned to die with my boots on. Savings? Why save money when you can give it away to the church and those in need. Disability insurance? Who needs that? God will protect me and give me the strength that I need.
My children did without, my wife did without, and so did I, so that the work of God could prosper and God would be pleased. Church members found great pleasure in telling other people about how their pastor and his family lived a simple life, unencumbered by material things. Of course these same church members that praised us rarely had any desire to live the same life we were living. While they saved, planned for retirement, bought their home, and had insurance, my family and I lived in poverty.
I’m sure by this point someone is going to suggest that I should have done things differently. Family and financial security come first. I certainly believe that now, but at the time I believed I was doing the will of God living the way I did. 25+ years in the ministry and I only pastored one church that paid me a living wage. ( and this church didn’t provide for medical insurance) Baptist churches are notorious for not paying their pastor’s well.
I now realize that I made a lot of mistakes. My college professors taught me that my wife and family had to come second to the ministry God called me to. If I had to make a choice between family and the church, God wanted me to choose the church. I wrote a post about this a good while ago detailing my love affair with the church.
I now know my family comes first. I now know that the first priority must be to provide for the material well-being of my wife and family. I wish I had come to this revelation while I still had strength of body, but now it is too late. My body is wracked with pain and I have found it quite impossible to find gainful employment. I realize there are no do overs so I must move forward with what I have. Fortunately my wife has a good job, and through careful planning and budgeting we can live a decent life.
Four years ago we bought our first home. We had owned a couple of mobile homes that always sat on someone else’s property. Now we own not only the house but the ground underneath it. It still thrills us knowing that we own our own place.
Last year we bought a new car, the first new car we’ve owned since 1984. Between 1984 and 2010 my wife and I have driven everything from cars bought at Buy Here=Pay Here lots to $300 clunkers. There are some cars in the past, that if I brought them home today, my wife would likely do a reenactment of the Burning Bed.
For the first time in thirty-three years of marriage we have a savings account. It’s not much, but we are committed to putting money in it each week until we have enough money to take care of any emergency needs we might have.
In our living by faith days we often lived by MasterCard and Visa faith. Trust God and charge it. God will make sure the minimum payment is always made. Such thinking led us all way to the bankruptcy court and God never showed up to put a good word in for us. We no longer use credit cards. We came to realize that credit cards are temptations sent from Satan (also known as big banks) sent to wreak havoc on those who can’t afford to have credit cards. If I can’t afford to pay for it today what makes me think I can afford to pay for it tomorrow?
Of course I learned in church that if you can’t pay for something today you can trust God to give you the money to pay for it tomorrow. In many Christian circles they practice what is called faith promise giving. It is where the Christian promises to give an amount of money he does not have, believing, by faith, that God will provide the money for him.
Churches routinely do this with their budget for the future. By faith they believe God is going to increase their numbers, and by increasing their numbers increase their offerings. Sadly, such thinking results in churches strangled by debt. It is not uncommon to hear of churches going bankrupt.
If all else fails, the faith living Christian, can practice a well-known bit of Christian magic. This magic act is called putting out the fleece.
The practice comes from Judges 6:36-38:
And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.
The way putting out the fleece works is quite simple. If a Christian is uncertain about what God wants him to do he can put the question to God. “God if you want me to have this job then I ask that you have them call me by 5:00 P.M. on Thursday. If they don’t call I will know that it is not your will for me to have the job.”
I use this method many times when I was faced with making a decision that I was uncertain about. On two occasions I was uncertain about whether or not to accept a job offer. I put out the fleece, setting a deadline for the company to call. In both cases the company did not call by the deadline. Both of them called the day after the deadline. I did not take the jobs because I was certain that God had shown me his will through putting out the fleece.
Another biblical method is “the casting of lots” also known as drawing straws. It is similar to “putting out the fleece.” When God’s will is unclear or multiple “will’s of God” are available, casting lots is a sure way to settle a matter. I never liked casting lots, especially if it went against what I thought was God’s will. I am sure I said in mind more than once “two out of three?”
Fortunately my wife and I taught our children far better than we lived. We taught them to save money and avoid debt. We taught them to put their family first and to provide for the future. We do not want any of our children to walk the same path we did. Our children are much farther ahead at their age than we were at that same age.
I have come to the conclusion that faith was an excuse for irresponsibility; that waiting for God to provide was an excuse for doing without. If I had to do it all over again I would have been a bi-vocational pastor. I would’ve worked a secular job. I would’ve made sure that my family was provided for, that we had insurance, that we had money saved, and that we had adequately planned for the future.
As with all things in the past, it is what it is. All anyone can do is learn from their mistakes and hope that the same mistake is never made again.
The faith choices we made in our 20s and 30s forced upon us a different lifestyle than we would like to have today. The die has been set and we just have to live with the consequences of the choices we have made, Being disabled and unable to find meaningful work plagues me mentally. I wish I had concerned myself in my younger years with taking care of what was called the Temple of God, but at that time I thought God would take care of me physically and financially. After all, I had devoted my entire life to him. Now I understand, that it’s up to me. God is not going to rescue me, bless me,meet my needs, or do anything for me. A lot of Christians, including myself, lived under the delusion that God had a wonderful plan for our lives. Yes, burdens and trials will come, but God would never give us more than we could bear. We just needed to have faith and grind it out for Jesus.
I’ve come to see that God is not in the picture and that life consists of the choices, both good and bad, that we make. We really do have free will, the will to choose, and the will to change our ways. Yes we are influenced by our environment and by outside circumstances, but at the end of the day life is about making choices.
The Bible says to choose this day who you will serve. Joshua 24:15 says:
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
I have made a choice.