Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
Heb. 11:1 & 2
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2 & 3
The people served YHWH throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things YHWH had done for Israel.
Why does someone going into the military have to go through boot camp? It's so that the person that they are can be torn away and replaced by someone new...someone who can fight and survive in a very hostile environment.
We had our men's bible study last night. We were studying through Chapter 7 of "The Story," and it's the section where Joshua is going to bring Israel into the promised land and conquer it. The entire lot of us found ourselves giggling over the various sections where the Israelites promised to be faithful to Joshua and to God. In particular, there was one section where the people uttered the phrase; "Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you."
This caused a couple of us to laugh quite a bit, because the Israelites had been anything BUT faithful. In fact, one common characteristic of the people Moses brought out of Egypt is that is that they knew instinctively how to squeal like pre-teen girls at a Justin Bieber concert at the first glimpse of any hardship.
But then we stopped and talked about this. THESE people that were saying this to Joshua were NOT the same people that Moses brought out of Egypt. At best, this group of folks had been kids and young adults. Their parents had been the ones to fuss non-stop. These folks were different. Why?
Something about living in the wilderness, being truly dependent upon God for 40 years did a number on this group. They still struggled with sin. They had the same law that Moses had given their parents. But they had much more than that. They had experienced God first hand.
It is soooooooo easy & tempting to reduce the God of the bible to a theological formula, something that can be grasped and "Understood" by our finite, little minds. I've come to see that this way of seeing God is pretty comforting in the immediate sense, but doesn't hold much water when things get tough. It's even worse when simplistic platitudes are offered. Worse still when some Health & Wealth moron yanks the bible out of context and says it's all your fault because you lack faith.
In a way, you DO lack faith. You lack faith in the REAL God of scripture. A God who was not meant to be reduced and easily understood. This God was meant to be experienced. And a mutually experienced episode of trial, difficulty, testing, whatever, produces a relationship that cannot be defined or explained in mere words.
I've been going through a frustrating, yet beautiful season for some time now. Money is tight. Job & career options are scarce. While none of that has dissipated or eased, God has been revealing stuff to me over these past months as to how he has been faithful. I can't say that this had made things much easier. But I can say that they have made things quite a bit more bearable.
What I learned last night was how much I am not alone in this. The body I attend is called Living Waters. http://www.livingwaterslakeville.com/ As church bodies go, were not all that large. But I have found that the people there really do have big hearts, and they want those hearts full of Jesus. They also, for the most part, all seem to be going through a lot of trials at the moment. So we talked about this last night.
Most of us have begun thinking and dreaming about trying to find some land to make a permanent home for us. None of us want to build a "Church." We ARE the church. We would just like a base where we can come together and then move out and be the gospel to the local community and society. (BTW: If you are one who believes that the body of Christ has to be about either the "Social Gospel" or purely the "Salvation Gospel", instead of being about the WHOLE Gospel to the whole person, who might get a bit itchy hanging out with us.) Anyway, the thing we desire the most is that whatever we end up doing will actually be God's doing, and not just wishful thinking and willful imposing.
My own take is that the "Sin of Presumption" is a huge problem in the American church. I hear people talk about knowing God's will all the time. Generally, I am left with the impression that this was merely their breakfast burrito speaking.
So last night we began to wonder if all of the various trials that members are wrestling with is sort of a large group participation in God's refining process. Is God allowing all sorts of difficulties to hit us as individuals, and as a group, so as to teach a greater dependence and reliance upon him? Can we, should we, have "Faith" in these circumstances?
Is it worth it?
Faith is hard. It is. Those who tell you otherwise are either very shallow, or merely lying to get your money. Being sure of what you do not see is not the most logical attitude to have.
Is it worth it?
I knew a guy who was a type of commando in the Air Force back in the first Gulf War. He told me about one of the tortures/training things he had to go through. Suffice it to say, it involved walking across the bottom width of an Olympic sized swimming pool with weights and a rope tied to you. (The rope was for when you would pass out...which everyone did repeatedly.)
Was it worth it?
Well, by the time my friend was done with his training, his lung capacity was such that he could run around the mountains like a goat, where as you & I would would most likely cry for our mommies.
Was it worth it for Israel?
40 years in the wilderness had produced a people who knew their God. They made their mistakes, to be sure. However, they KNEW their God. They knew how faithful he was, and what he was capable of. Head knowledge is no substitute for actual experience, and that generation had it in spades.
Is it worth it for Living Waters?
One of the worst things to happen to a church body is to be successful. (A certain irony in that.) Seriously, it is so easy to think that your church growth, or some successful ministry is because God is/was on your side. (If Joshua 5:13 & 14 is to be believed, the only side God is on is his own.) It's easy to become prideful. It's also easy for a church body to become a church fortress. When they really want to give Jesus a black eye, "Churches" can become social clubs and cults of personality.
I get the sneaking suspicion, and I am not the only one to feel it, that God is working to help us avoid these dangers. The temptations will still be there. However, if as a body we not only suffer together, but persevere together...bearing each other along the way, we may find it a bit easier to avoid these temptations.
The biggest hurdle will be how to pass this along to the next generation. The generation of Israelites that succeeded Joshua and the elders were a disaster. But I think it's worth the risk.
Is it worth it for me?
I'm a messy person at the best of times. I went years before I was finally diagnosed with a type of depression. It does not define me by any stretch, but it does inform me. So I have the joys of dealing with external and internal issues. Some of my issues I have done to myself. Some of my issues have been life, society, and the world "doing unto me." Now, throw in the frustrations of the job & career stuff. YAY!!!!!!
But I have to honestly say that struggling with all of it really is worth it to me. God has closed many doors for me. At this point, he is kind of the only option I have left. I'll be the first to admit that it does not make everything easy, or less confusing and frustrating. But I also have to admit how much better my circumstances are than so many, many other people in this world. I should never stop giving thanks for that. All of the stuff that comes my way, both good and bad, should cause me to lean into God. All of it.
In the end, it is worth it to me if I get to experience the God of scripture. He is not the safest being to hang out with. He snuck up on Jacob in the dark and had a wrestling match with him, after all. But I want that. (Watch me eat those words at a later date.) I want to experience him so that my faith is made stronger, and deeper than words can explain. I want IT!
Is it worth it?
Yeah, it is.
It's difficult. It's scary.
In fact, quite often it's nerve-wracking.
But in the end, what else really matters?
It's worth it.
Sorry, this one was just way too easy. :)