February 25, 2011

The Good Fight

The fight of faith is something I’ve been pondering.  What is it?  How does it work?  I have snippets of reflections spread all over pages of random days… I’ve tried in vain to push away distractions and get down to pasting them together into a coherent understanding but this project is eluding me.  Grandbabies are nearby—sleeping, wiggling, making little dream smiles…posing for pictures, wanting to see Grandmom’s pictures, ready to read a book…how is a Grandmom to concentrate, or even want to? 

And there are the ongoing conversations with skeptics that actually fuel my motivation to put faith in coherent words—these ones who are pawns in the battle without knowing it, who are defenseless against the evil one’s darts.  These conversations too have drawn me away from organizing my notes…So today I will submit to you the snippets I have gleaned, a mosaic of thoughts on the fight of faith.  And I welcome your gleanings on the subject.  How involved are we in this fight?  How can we be better warriors?  How do you fight the good fight of faith?

Here are some of the verses I’ve been pondering:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph.6:12)

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (IICor.10:3-5)

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” (I Tim.6:12)
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one:” (Eph.6:16)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, (I Pet.5:8,9)

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:13)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Ja.4:7)
So we’re in a battle, unseen though it be.  The objective?  To lay hold of LIFE--that eternal abundant sort of life of which we are heirs!  What’s going to deter us?  Fiery darts seeking to implant… Unbelief. Fear. Worry. Doubt.  They come like flaming suggestions to our minds at the worst of moments: “Oh no! What am I going to do?!” …Did God really say…?  Is He really good?  Can you trust Him for this situation? Where is He in this anyway?!  Don’t you think you’d better ‘do’ something! …and on and on.  What is one to do?

How to deflect them?

By lifting up the shield of faith.

How’s that?  Well, how about if I respond by taking captive my run-away thoughts and making them submit to this truth:  ‘I know whom I have believed and that He is able…to keep, to rescue, to provide, to heal, to do whatever is best in and through my life in this very moment.’  This is a declaration of faith.  I belie my unbelief when I am wracked with worry, fear or guilt.  As a favorite writer of mine puts it: “Every time fear freezes and worry writhes, every time I surrender to stress, aren’t I advertising the unreliability of God?  That I really don’t believe?” (Ann Voskamp)

Her recommendation is to start by giving thanks for every evidence of God in this moment.  That makes a great faith-starter.  Giving thanks too for a million moments of God’s faithfulness in the past increases my trust for the future.  [These thoughts are from her first book, hot off the press: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are]

I was just reading a negative example of this in the adventure of the disciples at sea with Jesus when the big storm blew up. (Luke 8)  Their reaction: Panic!  “We’re gonna die!”  After all, Jesus was asleep and the storm was a doozer.  They knew boats and water but apparently not too much about their Master.  Jesus woke, calmed the seas and asked bluntly: “Where is your faith?” What would I have done?  Likely the same thing.  But what sort of response was Jesus looking for?  What would have been the indicators of a stalwart faith in the middle of a terrifying storm? Whether the temptation is to fear, to worry or to panic how do I combat it?  Yes, they were in real danger and yet, the Lord of all creation was with them in the boat!  Easy to think they were pretty silly and short-sighted but then again…that same Lord who possesses all authority in heaven and earth and sends me out to represent him to the world with the unending  promise of  “and behold, I am with you always, right to the end of the age”…that same Jesus is with me.  Unseen, maybe. But as I learn to look for the evidences of His presence, with thanksgiving, and declare His words to be true, my focus will change and faith will rise to ward off fear.

It’s all comfortably theoretical when I see it in someone else’s story. The ‘proof of the pudding’ will be in the storm.  Or maybe just in the day-to-day thought patterns that crisscross my mind?

One other thing I noticed in this story was the exchange of fears.  First the disciples feared the storm. Then when Jesus calmed it they were afraid, and they marveled, saying…’Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’”  Could it be that a rightful fear of God, an awe of His power, will help us in this fight of faith to which we’re called?  When the darts come there’s opportunity to let them stick and ignite all the wrong responses—or to turn my attention to the greatness of my God, and His presence with me in everything.  The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and of knowing the Love of God that is without end.  Any other fear is nonsense in the light of who He is

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Rev.1:17,18)

We are blessed to know an unseen reality.  For the skeptic who denies God’s existence or even the theist that acknowledges an uninvolved irrelevant god, there is no shield of faith.  The only reality is what can be seen and measured, reasoned and calculated.  Beyond that is nothing.  So they stand confident where they should tremble.  Their enemy and ours is unseen and no friend of their souls.  But unaware of his wiles, blindfolded to his tactics, they whistle along in the dark, pawns on a battlefield without defense.

I can be a practical atheist, responding to what I see, oblivious to Kingdom interests in my every day matters.  George Herbert put it this way:

"The man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heavens espy.”

That is to say I can get hung up on my circumstances and see the ‘flesh and blood’ around me as the trouble.  I can view the physical aches and pains and storms of life as obstacles to LIFE as intended or I can look through the physical woes, the people and circumstances and discover God at hand, permitting, controlling, fighting my battles as I submit by faith to His rule in my life. I’m convinced that learning to see rightly is a huge part of the battle of faith we are called to fight.

I’m reminded of the meat section of the grocery store where we shopped when I was a child. The glass separating the shopper from the work of the butchers is a mirror on the shoppers’ side.  All the shopper sees is the tidily packaged meat, the fellow shoppers, the groceries to buy.  But behind that mirror lies the source, the crucial activity that stocks the shelves, the blood and the guts.  Mind you, sometimes, if you were standing at just the right angle, you could dimly see through the mirror to this other world your parents said was there…

That’s how the eye of faith sees, believing in the world that lies behind our mirrored glass.

It sees the unseen—the reality of God with us, even when His presence can’t be felt.
It trusts that God is good and in control.when ‘bad’ things happen…

It holds fast the Word of God in an honest and good heart, patient for the fulfillment…(Luke 8:15)

Fenelon was a saint of the 17th century.  I just picked up a modern update of his letters titled:  Let Go.  I like his analysis of faith:

“There are two peculiar characteristics of pure faith.  It sees God behind all the blessings and imperfect works which tend to conceal Him, and it holds the soul in a state of continued suspense.  Faith seems to keep us constantly up in the air, never quite certain of what is going to happen in the future; never quite able to touch a foot to solid ground.  But faith is willing to let God act with the most perfect freedom, knowing that we belong to him and are to be concerned only about being faithful in that which he has given us to do for the moment.” –Fenelon, Let Go,27.
And for this moment, that’s the sum of my ponderings on the fight of faith.  I close with one last word from Fenelon:  “Above all things, be faithful to the present moment, doing one thing at a time, and you will receive all the grace you need.” (p.29 ) 

Must be off to capture the present moment, by faith.



Paula said...

Again, dear Linda, the depths of your insights stir my soul as I am permitted to peak through the window of your eye to see what He has shown you through His Word and World. Thank you for taking the time to share this light breaking through the darkness. The picture of the light breaking through the darkness speaks a thousand words.

Linda said...

You're welcome Paula...it seems a waste to keep it to myself and it becomes so much more real in the process of trying to convey truth that's dawning...

Val said...

This was really good but all my profound thoughts seem to have left me.....faith for unbelievers.....don't know if they can have it without God's intervention....then I also was thinking about spiritual warfare.....I think we have to be like David and inquire of the Lord no matter what is happening, so we know if we should fight or submit to what is happening.....likely I am not making sense, these were random things that hit me as I was reading...but you have made some great points and well written as usual!

FIGHT the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life...sounds aggressive does it not?

Linda said...

Thanks Val. I'm not looking for anything profound. It's nice to know you're there ( : I think you're right about needing to know what our response should be in the fight. There's so much written about duking it out with the Devil that I was struck by our need to submit to God in it all and hold up the shield of faith, which doesn't exactly sound like fighting but...There is of course the sword /the Word too. That's more confrontive... Anyway, big topic. So little experience. Just wanted to get some thoughts out there as I learn to identify the fight I'm in day by day. Thanks again.