Friday, April 19, 2013

"Yes, but . . ."

I think a fair question to ask ourselves as Christians is, "Where does the true emphasis of our thoughts, hope, and expectancy lie?" As one person recently shared at a men's gathering I was at, "You can tell a Marine!" talking about their shaved head, huge stickers on their trucks, and the way they carry themselves. We all laughed but then he asked, "Why is it so hard to tell a Christian man who is supposed to be light and joy against a dark world?" The room got a lot more quiet.

We are supposed to be different. Not Polyanaish or naive but different. People of words of hope and joy and other-focused instead of people of grumbling and complaining and anger and bitterness and self-focus. After all, we have the Creator of the universe loving us, saving us, and living in us sealing us for an eternal relationship with Him in a home He's prepared for us free of all sickness and tears and death and sorrow.

One of the ways I have found in myself and others to see what the true emphasis of our thoughts, hopes, and expectancies is comes from looking at what comes in a sentence after the word "but." (I read something like this some time back and I can't remember where. It struck me at the time and I was reflecting on it again today. I wish I could remember the source so I could credit it, but God knows. I'll share my memory with my reflections included. I am not saying this is in any way hard and fast, but it does bear noting.) What I mean is this: do our sentences contain the structure, "God is so huge, God is so wonderful, God loves me, God is with me, but . . . " and then follow the "but" with a list of all our problems which give the problems the biggest emphasis and leave the problems as the last, trumping thought and memory and focus? Or, do our words follow a structure of, "I am struggling with this and that and facing this or that, but . . . " and then go into praises of God and His faithfulness and love and power, leaving a sense that God is truly the biggest emphasis and focus and final thought?

Maybe you've seen this in yourself or others. I know I have in me. Statements that seem to give the "proper," courtesy theological nod to God but then truly dwell on the problems and obstacles and negative possibilities versus the statements that acknowledge the problems and issues but then put their true weight and expectancy and hope and joy on a deep recognition of who God is and what He promises us. There is a big difference. As Christians we sometimes seem to feel this "obligation" to mention God and His love and control, etc., but too often are really consumed with our problems and simply giving an obligatory nod to God because we, as Christians, are "supposed" to. The weight and emphasis of our words often reveal that. But then you meet that amazing person who has problems and doesn't sugar coat them or pretend they aren't real but whose words reveal that the genuine joy and hope and power of their thoughts and life is their amazing God and His love and power and promises.

Maybe, in a slightly different way, you've experienced the person with major issues who seems to want to talk and talk about them and when you offer to pray for them they let you and are quiet long enough for you to but then, almost before you finish the "amen" they are back into all their problems and horrible expectancies, etc. It is as if they were holding their breath through the whole prayer, letting you pray because as Christians that is the thing to do, but in reality they aren't even hearing or believing in the prayer and are poised to jump in talking about themselves and the problems they face as soon as the prayer is "out of the way" and the Christian "duty" done. I am not trying to be callous in that but if you've experienced it you know what I mean—you pour your heart into praying for someone for their medical or other issues and you believe you are connecting with God and you are appealing to His awesome, star-breathing, love and power and you are barely done and it is as if you just shared the weather or sports score for all the impact your prayer had on their expectancy or attitude. I feel for these Christians, and I've been that Christian, and it is so hard to be in a place where we intellectually nod at God but our heart is overwhelmed with, and consumed by, our problems and life.

Faith has an object, and the object of Christian faith is God. Abraham, Sarah, and others are given in the Bible as examples of people in faith because they considered the One promising faithful. God is the object. God is why we are confident and hopeful and joyous. God. And that is why I think we are encouraged to "be still and know that I am God" by God. Faith as some "thing" we are supposed to have and we intellectually talk about because we feel guilty not talking about it is empty. Faith is not a "thing." It is our confidence and trust in God and His love and power and promises and Word. Our words can be a real clue to the condition of our faith. The same sentence can describe our problems and describe our God, but the placement of the word "but" can reveal a whole lot about the heart.


  1. Excellent evaluation and critique of "our" priorities in life - God focused versus man focused.
    The last paragraph talks of faith...
    (I am not sure if she is the originator but she is the one I heard it from.) My mother defines faith as:
    a BELIEF
    that is EVIDENT
    in CONDUCT...
    In other words FAITH IS ACTION.

    In Christ
    David Collins

    1. Hi David! It is wonderful to hear from you! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it and am blessed by it. I really, really like your mom's definition and will probably share it on Sunday. The more I study faith the more I realize it is that complete trust in God, His Word, His character and nature and promises and love and trustworthiness that expresses itself in our words and deeds. I used to think of faith as some stand alone thing I never had enough of, but have realized that it is truly never alone, it always has an object, and when God is the object of my faith I can have great faith and expectancy! So often I let my situation overpower my faith and my words and emphasis (what I put after the "but") reveal I have slipped into walking by sight and not faith. Again, thanks! Have a blessed day. I am so glad we've reconnected!


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