Writing a series , especially an intellectual one, can run the risk of keeping a person in a dry place of the mind with no emotional expression. It has become so much of a cliché – the idea that our faith is about relationship with God. But it becomes no less true for the repetition. When the relationship is going well we rejoice, and when it is going badly we are unhappy.
In this post, I don’t wish to approach the matter with structure and terminology. We love aphorisms for their starkness, their simplicity, the lack of qualification that haunts all those poor souls burdened by academic and legalistic discourse (yours truly included). This kind of spirit inevitably finds itself baulked by the reality of Biblical language, which refuses to submit to our strict categories.
The people of the Bible give voice to the turmoil within. You can feel in your own eyes the tears of Daniel when you read Daniel 9, or the shame Peter felt when he confessed his imperfect love to Christ, or Paul’s tension and desperation when he wrote, “That which I do not wish to do, that I practice” in Romans. And in the joy of true worship, we can see ourselves in the voices of the Psalms and Revelation, crying “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
I was struck by one of Servus Fidelis’ comments on love recently. Our love is conditioned so much by what we receive or expect to receive from God – both blessing and judgement. John wrote, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” The more I meditate on that verse, the more unhappy I feel.
On the one hand, we are given advice that at times we must make “contrary to feelings” choices, because feelings are a treacherous guide in life. On the other hand, we are advised to give vent to our emotions, lest we explode at some inopportune time. And in the pressures of life, the oil is pressed out of us, and we see what we really are, what we really believe.
In our prayers, as we call out to God, do we really believe He hears us and that He is willing to help us? No one ever gives a sermon on the temptation of apostasy. Occasionally we get sage warnings about false doctrine, and sometimes we are told to persevere. Perhaps we don’t wish to give the Devil a platform. The beauty of Christ should mean that apostasy has no lure, no temptation. But if we do not look on His beauty, what are we left with?
“Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.” Now, more than ever, I see that faith is a commandment, not merely a gift. Even believing in predestination, I am still confronted with the reality of choice, and the command to persevere, to seek the Kingdom of God. We must believe, even if it comes out in tears and sweat – there is nothing for it. Even amidst the screams of the asylum, we must believe.
David at one time found himself between Israel and the Philistines, rejected by both. But he didn’t stay there…the Lord crowned him, and one day he was King in Jerusalem, and from his line Messiah came to sit on his throne. There is hope, perhaps unlooked for, but real nonetheless.