February 16, 2009

Reckless Faith or Ruthless Trust?

I've been contemplating the topic for this blog for a while. Should I address my mounting frustration with emotional faith... the sort that constantly seeks experiential evidences to affirm God's presence... Or should I avoid personal remarks and stick with a bland book review of John MacArthur's book: Reckless Faith, in which he addresses what he sees as the hazards of modern Evangelicalism. He sees a trend in which emotional experiences trump doctrinal soundness. He says our churches have lost their ability to discern truth from error. Even 'discernment' has become a mystical, feeling-oriented commodity available to the special few...I found the book a refreshing slap of cold doctrine that sets straight a lot of silliness that goes on in the name of ‘faith’.

Then I glanced at the title of another book I’m currently reading…and that was it, I had my seed thought--their titles. Ironically enough they are: Reckless Faith (MacArthur) and Ruthless Trust (Manning). And one is the perfect complement to the other (though I’m not sure the authors would themselves agree!)

As I see it, there is a problem with a 'reckless' faith that demands God to act. Is it faith that is at work when I seek an experience in order to validate my faith? This is an incomplete faith. Trust is the missing component. Trust is faith coupled with that childlike hope in the Father’s love that makes no demands but rests in what the Father chooses for my life. It does not demand that He intervene in my every discomfort. It is a faith that trusts Him to ‘call the shots’. It is the stuff of the Hebrews 11 Hall of Fame—who clung to God’s promises though they did not receive what they waited for. They died in hope, trusting God’s grace to carry them through. They did not shake His promises in His face as though He were obligated to ‘come through for me now!’

The underlying premise of Ruthless Trust is that the splendor of a human heart which trusts that it is loved gives God more pleasure than the most magnificent cathedral, symphony or work of art. Such a heart brings Him more delight than ‘the sight of ten thousand butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom.’ (2)

This ‘ruthless trust’ stands in sharp contrast to a ‘reckless faith’ which bases its validity in ‘powerful’ (often emotional) experiences. Such ‘faith’ is reckless because it is easily duped and its gaze easily turned away from its Author and Finisher. It may claim to be Spirit-led but the Spirit’s role is to point us to Jesus, not to draw attention to Himself!

What then is to be the plumb line by which I measure an experience, a book, a testimony? From my experience, there must be some criterion beyond my own experience! It can’t be all about what God seems to be saying to you or to me or what I’m feeling. This makes for a queasy quagmire, a subjective soup! God is Spirit and Truth. This is the very reason God has given us His written and authoritative, infallible Word, and yes, His Spirit to guide us in it. And His Spirit will never lead us contrary to what is written. Nor will He add to its content. The written Word of God is our trustworthy foundation. Here I can stake a ruthless trust.

And when my faith quavers and I want to experience more of God, or hear His voice more certainly or discover the secret of spiritual power…. what do I do then? How do I resist the urge to seek an experience? And on those days when feelings threaten to overpower reality, what then?
I guess we all want these things, and there are a LOT of voices out there with answers, but none so safe, so good, so sure as God’s own Word.
It is our life—we dare not try to live by bread alone.

The Israelites cried "Is God among us or not?!" They put God to the test. God was not honored or impressed. He called them hard-hearted and said they had not known His ways! (Ps. 95; Numbers 11)

How much better for me to take Him at His Word and rest in ruthless abandon in His trustworthy goodness poured out on my life continually!

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You; in God whose Word I praise, in God I put my trust…” Ps. 56:4


[Thank-you for hearing me out. I’d love to know your thoughts…LS]


Anonymous said...

Have you ever read "Evidence Not Seen" by Darlene Deibler Rose? When I read your post, I thought of this book - a missionary during WWII in New Guinea. She had the radical faith to act and speak boldly even in prison camp and the radical trust to walk with God in the darkest of places, even when she couldn't feel his prescence. It is a very challenging book for a scaredy cat like myself.

A Daughter of the King said...

Faith! The most crucial topic of my life! Before I was born into the Kingdom of God, I was entirely lacking faith - a testimony to God's power in itself, since I needed faith for the re-birth to occur.

Trust! One day, early in my Christian journey God spoke to my heart; it was UNMISTAKABLY GOD. It was his still, small voice and it came without comdemnation. I was driving down Orange Grove Road and he said, "Do you know that you trust the people coming at you in those cars more than you trust me?" Days after, I was launched onto a trail of faith. It was a year-long sojourn. It went like this: something I "needed" was taken away...it was always too big to fix or resupply myself and though the temptation was to fear, he gave me the faith to believe him at his Word, trusting his plan, followed by the joy of witnessing him at work in my life teaching me his truth and supplying my need. On that journey, I enjoyed the child like trust I lacked before, and I emerged with a born again husband and many other tangible skills and perks.

Now, 24 years later... I can look back at 53 years of personal experience of God's RELENTLESS faithfulness. And I still fret, worry and fear! Why?

I am ashamed to answer.

I have the tendency to choose to be the god of my own little sub-kingdom, relying on the evidence and the resources that I can "see" available for use in the tasks and plans that I make. Rather than choosing childlike trust in my Father the King, the author of my faith, the creator of the universe in which I reside with his permission and at his sacrificial expense.

It is a reckless lack of faith in his presence and a ruthless lack of trust in his plan that I must confess today.

God, please restore me to the comfortable peace of being a child in your Kingdom, rather than the god in mine. I repent.

Thanks Linda for the reminder.

Linda said...

This from Manning:
"The illusion of control is truly pathetic, but it is also hilarious. Deciding what I most need out of life, carefully calculating my next move, and generally allowing my autonomous self to run amuck inflates my sense of self-importance and reduces the God of my incredible journey to the role of spectator on the sidelines. It is only the wisdom and perspective gleaned from an hour of silent prayer each morning that prevents me from running for CEO of the universe." (115)
"One of the most arduous spiritual tasks is that of giving up control and allowing the Spirit of God to lead our lives."

Linda said...

Thank-you for that recommendation Maelee. I always love a good life story. I think that book may be in our library!

Linda said...

Becky, Thank-you! What a wonderful testimony. Why do I think I'm in charge of growing my faith? He is indeed its author and finisher!

This quote is for us both:
Manning (129,130) in Ruthless Trust :
"The spiritual woman does not fret and flap over opportunities missed, does not hammer herself for not working hard enough, and does not have a panic attack wondering whether she has received grace in vain. She lives in quiet confidence that God is working in her by day and by night. Like the farmer, she is not totally passive or presumptuous. The woman knows that she has her full measure of work to do, but she realized that the outcome rests with God and that the decisive factor is unearned grace. Thus, she works as if everything depends on God and prays as if everything depends on her..."
I see this reality embodied in your quiet life. You bless my heart. Thank you so much for sharing your words of life.