Sunday, October 19, 2014

Faith or Faithfulness: You need both.

During my past four-plus years of major trials through illness, I've learned a thing or two about faith. It only makes sense that I did: our faith is refined through trials. Only. Our salvation and assurance of eternal life is achieve through faith, ONLY.

[You who believe] are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last  time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now  for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations. That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. Whom having not seen, ye love: in whom, though now ye see him not,  yet believing, ye rejoice with  joy unspeakable  and full of glory. Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you. 

I learned pretty quickly that I had faithfulness, but not faith.  My first year of trial and illness (10 months fighting an autoimmune disorder called chronic ITP until we got it into remission), you may recall I shared I was able to sit calmly and at peace in a chemotherapy chair, getting my infusion with grace and sharing encouraging words with other sick people nearby.   It was my faithfulness, and half of the definition of faith. Let me clarify.

I was faithful. I had faithfulness. I studied continually. Went to church and or listened to sermons at church and on TV and  on CDs and on DVDs. I sang, prayed, worshipped, read my Bible, went to Bible studies,  did my own Bible studies, and did my best to obey God and learn more how to please Him.  That is faithfulness.  But... that is not faith. Through my faithfulness I had collected a mass of phrases and beliefs and thoughts about God that enabled me to be "strong" through my trial and even exhort others, but something was missing. I was to find that out in  my next trial, when death came knocking a little louder at the door.

The Bible gives us the clear definition of faith.

Now faith is the substance (realization) of things hoped for, the evidence (conviction) of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.  Hebrews 11:1,3 (in other words, the scientific rule that says you can never make something out of nothing--which is why when it comes down to it, you need faith, either to believe God made everything, or to believe stuff made itself somehow). 

The part of of this definition of faith I did have was hope. I hoped that everything I had  been believing in  was true:  that God was good,  and Jesus died for my sins, and I was going to live eternally in peace and pefection with Him in Heaven for all eternity after I died. I had images of the pearly gates, and  had heard stories retold by pastors and preachers of the end times and their take on the book of Revelation and how we would all live happily ever after.  But this was just hope that these things were true.

I didn't have a sure realization that they were true. How could I have that? I've never met God. I've never been to Heaven. I have no idea what it will actually be like after death. Neither does anyone living on this earth. The Bible even tells us so:

For since the beginning of the world, men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he (Jesus) hath prepareth for him that waiteth for him. Isaiah 64:4.

The night came almost  exactly  two years ago during year-long fight with spinal meningitis that I thought I wasn't going to make it. I felt I had to call my family in and let them know. And I panicked. Who was this God? What was it really  going to be like to meet Him?  I really had no idea, and suddenly realized I knew nobody who had any idea. Was I ready? What was right? I was just downright terrified.  That's just not right for a faithful "Christian" like  me.  What was wrong? Where was my faith?  

So, I begged God, "Please! I'm not ready! I don't understand!"  I was terrified. My  sweet husband tried to assure me there was nothing to worry about, to just  trust  God. But my heart  was in agony. Something was missing. I couldn't find peace about it that sure faith in God is supposed to bring.

So, I moved on from the meningitis, and thought my trials were behind me. Ha. I had asked God for help, and to help me understand.  And the help was that I needed faith. And faith comes how? Through trials. Sigh.

This summer I spent 76 days in the hospital, most of that in ICU. I nearly died. Most of you know the story. Many of you followed it all on Facebook and read my last blog post.  But, it finally dawned on me that faith is the gift of God.  I can't get it by myself.  I need God to give it to me. 

For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that (faith is) not of yourselves: It is the gift of God, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8

It was a gift. And I needed it from God, and I didn't have enough of it yet... nope, not even as much  as a grain of mustard seed.  I was still afraid of what was "unseen" and unsure about what I was "hoping for."  And I also found out that the disciples themselves asked God for faith, because they understood this:

And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith, and the  Lord said, If  ye  had faith  as a mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be  thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. Luke 17:5-6

And Jesus answering saith unto them, have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart; but shall believe those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall  have whatever he saith.

And, haven't you ever wondered why you haven't seen more "mountains being  removed?" Faith is what is needed for this.  Sounds like the disciples as well as anyone else should be asking for their faith to be increased!

So this time, in this hospital, 76 days of tears and crying to God, "Help!"  I finally realized, I need Him to give me faith as a GIFT. It is the gift of God.  And He helped me.  Like I shared in the last post, God suddenly spoke to my heart, surprising me, but He knew it was time.  He asked me, like He  did with  King  Solomon, "If you could ask me for just  one thing, what would  it be."   And I was taken aback at  first because it was unexpected and  ridiculously asked  God if "I could get back to  Him on  that one."   Why didn't I just ask for healing of this body?  Four years of illness and seven children to raise... Surely I've had enough.  But there was that little nudge that told me to think, and then it all came together... all these scriptures, learned through my faithfulness, connecting, and revealing to me where I needed refining.

I asked for faith.

I ask for  it  every time I pray now.  I will ask for it  every time  until the day I die, to believe fully in things  unseen by any man who is alive here to tell me.  The faith to believe that God is who He says He is, and nothing else.  I can only get this faith from Him, by the grace of God. It's a gift.

Remember this parable in  Luke 16:19-31 about  the   rich man and Lazarus?

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

This parable shows us we cannot fully receive faith not just from the writings of Moses and the prophets  (teachings from  the Bible and  its teachers), but even if someone came back from the dead to tell us.

Faith is the gift of God.  And it is not the same as your faithfulness.  Just do a self-check, and ask for some faith.  The greatest gift of God, given by His grace.  And the only way to please Him, when all is said and done, and your life is over with, is through faith.

But without faith, it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh  to God must believe that he is, and that he is a  rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6

I am at peace with  dying now. I know how to get faith and where to get it from, and what it really is, and not confuse it with faithfulness.  It's truly  a feeling of peace like a river  in my soul.

A blog friend of mine recently commented on the above verse: In a way,  faith is so much easier than believing that stuff just popped out of nowhere. Besides, how can someone look into the face of a baby and not know without any doubt that God is for REAL."

You know, for a long time in my life I had faithfulness in believing that there was wonder and amazement in God's creation. I was told that all the time. But I never personally saw it until the past few years, these harder years of trial.  That is where our free will comes into play. We choose to believe that stuff created itself out of absolute nothingness, or we choose that there is a Creator that made all this amazing stuff that is mind boggling--everywhere you look . I see it now, with absolute wonder and amazement, especially with  every science lesson I teach my boys. I made my choice. I asked for faith, and with faith comes "sight." I chose to believe in God the Creator, and all my hope lies in Him.  To me, the choice came down to God, or nothingness. Because I just can't fathom how something can make itself out of nothing. And the choice is made solely by faith.

Some come by it more naturally than others. God gives the measure of faith in different amounts to different people at different times for His reasons. I've had to learn and I've had to ask for it. For His reasons. And I have faith in whatever those reasons are.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (because of your faithfulness), but to think according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.  Romans 12:3

So, all along maybe I had a measure of faith the size of one speck of a ground mustard seed.  Through my faithfulness that grew to a few more specks, and now maybe it's nearly half of a whole mustard seed! I'm just going to keep on asking for it! Deal unto me, Lord, the measure of faith that is mine according to Your perfect will.  I was blind, but now I see... and have the joy and peace that comes with that type of healing to the soul!

Blessings  and  prayers for you all, dear  readers.

And  P.S.  Thank you for your continued prayers and support of our family. I am truly grateful.


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