June 20, 2010

Active Faith

I awoke this am with another headache -- sinus of course! How I detest pressure changes!!

It is 6:30 and I am blogging and drinking my coffee. My boys (all three) decided to run an obstacle course over my bed this morning. Now with the baby kitten, they all seem to enjoy this "game" each morning! UGH! After months of getting the big boys to stop, we are back at it with the new little one. Oh, the joys of kitten rearing.

I am also sitting here trying to figure out what the Lord is up to in my life. I have had some major breakthroughs this week, and some major setbacks. Nothing earth shattering, mind you, just enough to cause me to stir and wonder if He is up to something.

I have prayed this one through, turned it upside down and inside out. My new attitude of due diligence is paying off good dividends. I am trying very much to be serious and sober-minded, as the Word suggests. I am being cautious with my decisions -- from how to spend the money I have to making choices that will impact my future. My goal is to make sure I do not make any decisions without careful evaluation. I want to live from this day on without regret (so much as it is possible).

Some decisions still unmade include:
  • Should I remain in my current home?
  • Should I enroll my son in classes at the JC or wait to find out if he can go to Southwestern College?

Both of these decisions are critical for me and my son. I need to know what to do, and then I need to be resolved one way or another. The time is running short, and I cannot wait much longer.

Both of these decisions are predicated on my employment, so part of the reason for the delay is that I am still unemployed. I mean, I cannot move anywhere without financial support to do so. And, I cannot enroll my son for classes without the financial resources on hand. So either way, I am stuck in this long-term "wait and see" mode.

I have been in this place for almost one full year; but, if I am truthful, I have been waiting for change for my entire life. I have wanted to pursue certain things since I was in high school, and instead of doing them, making the choice and then doing them, I chose to allow "fate" to determine my path. By not making careful choices, and allowing the default to happen, I, in essence, allowed decisions to be made passively, not actively which is what the Word of God tells us to do.

"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, [1] and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." ~ 1 Peter 1:13 (ESV)

The Word in this passage from 1 Peter says to "prepare your minds for action." This means that we are to be actively engaged in what is happening, and not passively sitting by, allowing life and circumstances to rule over us. Yes, life will do this at times, but how we react to that life change or event, is supposed to be with an active, engaged mind, and not with a passive intent (come si, come ca -- or whatever?)

Often we get into this mindset of "OK, whatever comes my way will be the Lord's will," which is actually true in philosophy (meaning that it is good to be willing to allow the Lord's will to be done); but, it is not true when taken in the context of how we are to believe. If we look at this same passage but in a different translation (KJV), we find this:

"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,"

This phrase, "gird up the loins of your mind," simply means to take protection, to use extra caution, to place a security system around your mind. The point being that we are to strengthen our minds through diligence, not taking a passive approach. I consider it this way:

It is like leaving your front door unlocked when you leave the house. Now, this happens sometimes, and not always is there a break-in. However, let's just say that it has been made known to you that there is a burglar in your neighborhood, a known person who has been victimizing your neighbor's homes. You leave your house unprotected EVEN when you know that other homes have been vandalized and your neighbors injured.

This is passive security -- on the one hand, you ARE trusting that God will protect your home (which He will, of course), but on the other hand, you fail to USE the security measures God has given you to do just that. In short, God has given you the lock and key and said "Use these because there is a burglar about in your neighborhood." God has given you the tools He intended for you to use to safe-guard your home, and you failed to use them. Therefore, you were trusting that God, in His Sovereignty would protect your home from a far, without the use of these tools. I guess it is like you are saying, "No, Lord, I will just trust in you, and not in the things you provide to me." It is a weird thing, I cannot really explain it, because it is Faith apart from Works. Part of me wants to do everything in Faith (just believe it), even though James 2:14-26 (NKJV) repeats in my head:

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without yourworks, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

The issue is this: we can believe in God, we can believe God. This is faith. Faith, according to James is dead UNLESS we actually use it. Passive faith is what James says the demons have -- they believe that God exists, they know He is. Active faith is what we as Christians are called to live out -- a faith that actually puts our words of belief into practice. It is Faith and Works together.

So how are faith and works related to making decisions? I think they are integral to the entire process. We can make choices that are passive-based, simply saying "if this happens, so be it." Or we can make choices that are faith-enabled through works whereby we stand in faith and not only say "I believe this is so, but I am willing to work to make this come to pass." I think the key difference is choosing to be actively engaged in the will of God or to take the route of letting the will of God ebb and flow over you. Consider this illustration:

Say you are swimming in a lake and a powerful storm comes up. Do you stop swimming and allow the waves to crash over you or do you swim all the more maddly trying to get to shore?

I would think that you would see the sky, see the events of the day changing, and take heed. You would spiritually speaking, "gird up the loins of your mind" and take action. You would not float passively by hoping for someone to come and rescue you. No, you would swim as best you could, still trusting that God's will is being done and will be done, but you would use what He has given to you (strength, endurance, and mental foritude) to get the job done -- to get to shore safely.

If you decided to stop swimming and simply wait the storm out, more than likely you would drown or be swept out further into the water. The choice actually was easiest to make AS soon as you noticed the events of the day change (the clouds form, the skies turn dark, the rain falling). Often as believers (and I am super guilty of this) we tend to wait until the obvious -- the storm is so far upon us that we have to work extra hard to survive. Had we taken heed, noticed the signs, make provision, began to take stock, we would have been far better off.

This is how I see that we are to make good choices and decisions. I used to believe in passively waiting for God to rescue me all the time. Now, I see that I need to be "girded up" in the sense that I need to use everything God has already given to me to make the best decisions. If he has given me a lock and a key, then I am to use them to protect my home and family. If He has given me a car, then I am to use it to get me to work. If He has given me a home, then I am to live in that home until He tells me otherwise. God has already given so much provision to us, and we are already blessed.

In 1 Corinthians 4:8, Paul writes this:

"You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!"

He is writing to the church at Corinth and reminding them of the rich heritage they have received through the teaching of the Word. If we take his words to heart, we can receive comfort as well. God has already blessed us with every blessing in Christ Jesus. We are rich beyond our means, and full of every gifting of the Holy Spirit. We lack nothing because we have already received everything we need from God through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, we are to recall to mind what we already have, and then use the tools, the giftings, the grace of the Holy Spirit, to be actively pursuing the will of God in our lives. We are not to sit by passively and wait for God to rescue us, as though we were helpless babes. No, we are no longer babes at all. We are grown up, spiritually speaking, mature believers whose faith is now at work in our own lives. Our faith is actively doing the will of God, producing works of righteousness that will be revealed at the revelation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This is good news to those of us who struggle with decision making. We need to consider our position in Christ, our faith in God, and the knowledge that we are functioning now under the authority of His will for our lives. With this in mind, we can take confidence that the decisions and choices we make are good, and solid, and will serve us and our families well. We do not need to be afraid to make these kinds of decisions. We do need to take time to think them through, but once we have done that (the due diligence part) then we must actively pursue the will of God. We must actively take a stance, either one way or another, and make our choice.

I see that in my own life I have done the due diligence well. I am all about the due diligence and can reason with the 'best of them'. I just fail miserably when it comes to choosing a direction, a path, a way to go. I can make decisions, but often I doubt and waver afterwards (not so far as buyers remorse -- well, not often). I don't want to do this anymore. I don't want to keep on sitting by passively waiting for SOMEONE else to decide. I want to be in control of my own future (within the will of God, of course). I want to be decisive, authoratative, and strong. I want to know that I can make good choices, and that once they are made, I can stand by them. This is my prayer, then, for today.

Dear Lord,

I see now how I have been floating in that sea, passively enjoying the peace and calmness of the water. But now there are storms ahead and instead of swimming to safety, I have chosen to continue passively to float. I need to get going, I need to start swimming towards shore. I know your hand is upon me, I know I will be safe, but I must use the tools you have given to me to get me to the sea shore. I realize now that this has been a pattern in my life, not only a habit, but a way of thinking and reacting to events which I believed were not under my control to change. I understand that some were like this, but some were not. I have had the power to choose all along, but instead of choosing rightly, I passively allowed others to choose for me. I am in control now, you have liberated my mind so that I can be an active thinker, someone who can choose to do the right thing based upon your Word. Help now to actively make the choices I need to make, to do the right thing, always remembering that you have enabled me, equipped me, and annointed me for this very work. In Jesus' Name I ask this, Amen. So be it, thy will be done.

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