ARE YOU A PERSON OF FAITH, WRESTLING WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD?
Over the years I’ve thought about the fact that the big events in the Bible make for great stories but are difficult to apply in real life. I don’t see us parting the water in our bathtub any time soon. Most of the stories, while showing the power of God, were “one-off.” There have been many hundreds of quiet years in the history of God’s people.
Because I had some miraculous experiences after the fire does not mean that I see them all of the time. In fact, for years I wondered if I’d ever see something majorly miraculous in my life, or even if God still worked that way.
We cannot expect the dramatic every day. God will do it when He wants.
The other side of it is, he is working in our lives non-stop. God is always on the prowl, redeeming this broken world and our little corner in it. He loves to redeem the little piddly things as well as the big (such as our soul’s salvation). It’s impossible for him not to be working around us. He’s the God of timing, and He loves to show up at just the right moment. Most of the time, that means the last minute! Often, in fact, we don’t realize he “showed up” until after the fact.
In my life, I started to notice the little things. My wife has the gift of hospitality and started to notice that when she spontaneously invited people over, but didn’t have enough food, somehow the food would “stretch.” It was like a small-scale version of Jesus feeding the 5,000. Was that a miracle? Suzy would swear that she really didn’t have enough food.
Only God knows. I’ll let him keep score.
The problem for us is when we let our “felt condition” be our spiritual reality. We think God is close, or that God exists, when we “feel” it. But, feelings come from a lot of different places. Just because we “feel” something does not mean it is a word from God.
In fact, there’s a case to be made that at times God actually distances himself from his people. I read a fascinating devotional book (now in Kansas) called, “When the Well Runs Dry.” The premise of the book is that God shows himself warm and close to the believer at first, but once the believer grows then God moves in-and-out. When the believer is mature, God “disappears” and it feels like one’s spiritual well has gone totally dry. Most of us have had those dry spells.
The reality is that the sovereign, omnipresent God of the universe doesn’t leave your neighborhood and take the bus to Topeka. He’s still there. He’s pulling away in the “felt” sense to prove the depth of our faith. Do we follow him, or think we’re spiritual, when things feel good? Or, do we make the choice to do it all the time? In a way, he’s seeing how badly we want him.
Perhaps we’ve been conditioned by Hollywood to expect dramatic resolutions in a compact amount of time. Take a clue from nature, though: The seed grows under the soil for months before it finally sprouts, and when it sprouts it’s small. Dramatic things such as natural disasters will happen once in a while, but they’re exceptions. The norm is quiet, slow growth.
If you’re wrestling with God, it may be that you need to change your expectations. Expect him to focus on producing in you a slow growth that leads to lasting character. Accept that he will push and pull you to strengthen your faith and your testimony. In baseball terms, he values the singles of your life when you’re looking for Grand Slams.
God values consistency, the kind which comes from daily time in his Word, and prayer. He loves the steady growth of character and the fruit of the Spirit. The growing obedience. The increased sensitivity to how he is working around us. This is why some say we have to “practice” his presence.
Learn to observe the “little” things God is doing in your life: The specific timings, the “divine appointments,” and the small provisions. Thinking small will strengthen the muscles of your faith and set you up to see even bigger things. He entrusts us with the itty bitty first. Rather than waiting for the big miracles, get used to looking at the everyday wonders that God produces.
When major miracles happen, they are for God’s Kingdom purposes, not our entertainment. I have written this book because I thought God did—or allowed—these things in my life so that I would share them with you.
Most of all, remember that you can’t get close to someone if you don’t talk with him or her regularly. We must commune with God every day.
God promises that he is near. Psalm 73:28 says, "But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works." Psalm 34:18 says that, "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit." Often, it's not the proximity that is the issue, it is the timing. His time is different than ours, but He'll come through.
The following quote might be useful to you. Look at your faith as a relationship:
Faith is not so much belief about God as it is total,
personal trust in God, rising to a personal fellowship with God
that is stronger than anxiety and guilt, loneliness and all
manner of disaster. The Christian's faith in Christ is trust in
a Living Person, once crucified, dead, and buried, and now
living forevermore. Call it, if you will, an assumption that
ends as an assurance, or an experiment that ends as an
experience, Christian faith is in fact a commitment that ends
as a communion.
—Frederick Ward Kates