Category: Faith

Spiritual Muscle Development for Stronger Faith

We’ve all been asked (or more likely told) by God to wait on Him. Any of you who know my story, you know God has had me here all too often…and if you don’t know, suffice it to say I know a thing or two about waiting on God.

I know several people right now who are in this situation and I’m constantly torn between the pain I feel for them as they wait in the hottest part of Gods refining fire (Malachi 3:2) and the joy I know they will experience as they push through in faith as He refines, purifies and glorifies Himself through them. It is a double edged sword of hope on one side and pain on the other.

And that is why I wanted to share Paul Tripp’s latest post…in the hopes that those who find themselves waiting on God in one form or another would be encouraged and strengthened by these truths from the bible.

So, what happens inside of you when you are asked to wait? Is waiting, for you, a time of stengthening or weakening? Have you ever stopped to consider why God asks you to wait? Let me point you to one of his purposes.
Waiting Is Giving You Time

When God asks you to wait, what happens to your spiritual muscles? While you wait, do your spiritual muscles grow bigger and stronger or do they grow flaccid and atrophied? Waiting for the Lord isn’t about God forgetting you, forsaking you, or being unfaithful to his promises. It’s actually God giving you time to consider his glory and to grow stronger in faith. Remember, waiting isn’t just about what you are hoping for at the end of the wait, but also about what you will become as you wait.

Waiting always presents me with a spiritual choice-point. Will I allow myself to question God’s goodness and progressively grow weaker in faith, or will I embrace the opportunity of faith that God is giving me and build my spiritual muscles? (see Psalm 27:4)

It’s so easy to question your belief system when you are not sure what God is doing. It’s so easy to give way to doubt when you are being called to wait. It’s so easy to forsake good habits and to take up habits of unfaith that weaken the muscles of the heart. Let me suggest some habits of unfaith that cause waiting to be a time of increasing weakness rather than of building strength. These are bad habits that all of us are tempted to give way to.
Habits of Unfaith

Giving way to doubt. There’s a fine line between the struggle to wait and giving way to doubt. When you are called to wait, you are being called to do something that wasn’t part of your plan and is therefore something that you struggle to see as good. Because you are naturally convinced that what you want is right and good, it doesn’t seem loving that you are being asked to wait. You can see how tempting it is then to begin to consider questions of God’s wisdom, goodness, and love. It is tempting, in the frustration of waiting, to actually begin to believe that you are smarter than God.

Giving way to anger. It’s very easy to look around and begin to think that the bad guys are being blessed and the good guys are getting hammered (see Psalm 73). There will be times when it simply doesn’t seem right that you have to wait for something that seems so obviously good to you. It will feel that you are being wronged, and when it does, it seems right to be angry. Because of this, it’s important to understand that the anger you feel in these moments is more than anger with the people or circumstances that are the visible cause for your waiting. No, your anger is actually anger with the One who is in control of those people and those circumstances. You are actually giving way to thinking that you have been wronged by God.

Giving way to discouragement. This is where I begin to let my heart run away with the “If only_____,” the “What if_____,” and the “What will happen if_____.” I begin to give my mind to thinking about what will happen if my request isn’t answered soon, or what in the world will happen if it’s not answered at all. This kind of meditation makes me feel that my life is out of control. And I am able to think my life is out of control because I have forgotten God’s wise and gracious contol over very part of my existence. Rather than my heart being filled with joy, my heart gets flooded with worry and dread. Free mental time is spent considering my dark future, with all the resulting discouragement that will always follow.

Giving way to envy. When I am waiting, it’s very tempting to look over the fence and wish for the life of someone who doesn’t appear to have been called to wait. It’s very easy to take on an “I wish I were that guy” way of living. You can’t give way to envy without questioning God’s wisdom and his love. Here is the logic: if God really loves you as much as he loves that other guy, you would have what the other guy has. Envy is about feeling forgotten and forsaken, coupled with a craving to have what your neighbor enjoys.

Giving way to inactivity. The result of giving way to all of these things is inactivity. If God isn’t as good and wise as I once thought he was, if he withholds good things from his children, and if he plays favorites, then why would I continue to pursue him? Maybe all those habits of faith aren’t helping me after all; maybe I’ve been kidding myself.

Sadly, this is the course that many people take as they wait. Rather than growing in faith, their motivation for spiritual exercise is destroyed by doubt, anger, discouragement, and envy, and the muscles of faith that were once robust and strong are now atrophied and weak.
One of His Primary Shaping Tools

The reality of waiting is that it’s an expression of God’s goodness not empirical evidence against it. He is wise and loving. His timing is always right, and his focus isn’t so much on what you will experience and enjoy, but on what you will become. He is committed to using every tool at his disposal to rescue you from yourself and to shape you into the likeness of his Son. The fact is that waiting is one of his primary shaping tools.

So, how do you build your spiritual muscles during the wait? Well, you must commit yourself to resisting those habits of unfaith and with discipline pursue a rigorous routine of spiritual exercise.

What is the equipment in God’s gym of faith? Here are the things that he has designed for you to build the muscles of your heart and strengthen your resolve: the regular study of his Word; consistent godly fellowship; looking for God’s glory in creation every day; putting yourself under excellent preaching and teaching of Scripture; investing your quiet mental time in meditating on the goodness of God (e.g., as you are going off to sleep); reading excellent Christian books; and spending ample time in prayer. All of these things will result in spiritual strength and vitality.

Is God asking you to wait? So, what is happening to your muscles?

Just in case you’re ready to worship after that I thought I’d share one of my favorite songs on worshiping and waiting…

Where’s Your Faith In Tough Times

I subscribe to only a handful of blogs and I think that one of the most valuable for me and my walk with Jesus is the DesiringGod blog updates that I get every day.  They are almost always great.  Almost always meaty and almost always insightful.  But there is one particular style of post that they put out that particularly moves me.  And that is what I like to call the “story” post.  In essence they look at passages or stories in scripture and using historical and cultural knowledge about that particular story, time, people and place, they elaborate a bit and tell a dramatic and captivating tale about the scriptures in question.

Last week, they sent one of these about faith and the storms in life.  For several people I know this is a right now word from God and I imagine for a lot of readers of this blog and people in general, you’ll also need to hear this.  It’s tough to have this kind of faith, but it’s worth pursuing until we do.  He commands it.

So courtesy of DesiringGod.org, examine your own faith in this situation…

Why did Jesus still the storm? Imagine what the disciples might have been thinking a half-hour later.

*          *          *

The sea was quiet now. And there was just breeze enough to push the boat along.

The disciples were quiet too. Andrew was steering. He had taken over for Peter, who sat wrapped in a cloak, exhausted and lost in thought. He had been soaked to the skin. Others were bailing out the remaining water.

Jesus was sleeping again.

James leaned on the bow gunwale watching reflections dance on benign waves. He was trying to absorb what he had just seen.

James knew this sea. He and John had spent most of their lives on or in it. His father was a fisherman. So were most of his male kin and friends. His mind flashed the faces of some of them who had drowned in unpredictable Galilean windstorms like the one that had pummeled them barely a half-hour ago.

A seasoned boatman, James was not alarmed easily. But he knew a man-eater when he saw it. This storm had opened its mouth to swallow them all into the abyss.

Terror had been in John’s eyes when he grabbed James and yelled, “We have to tell the Master!” They stumbled to the stern. How Jesus had remained sleeping while the angry surf tossed the boat around was itself a wonder. They woke him screaming, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”1

James would never forget the way Jesus looked at him. His eyes were at once potent and tranquil. Not a trace of fear. Laying aside the blanket, Jesus rose to full height on the rear deck. James, fearing Jesus was about to be pitched overboard, reached to grab him just as Jesus shouted, “Peace! Be still!”2

No sooner had those words left his mouth than the wind was completely gone! The sudden hush of the howling was otherworldly. The waves immediately began to abate. Each disciple stood where he was, looking dumbfounded at the water and sky and each other.

Jesus’ gaze lingered for a moment on the steep hills along the western shore. Then he looked around at the Twelve and said, “Where is your faith?”3

He had looked right at James when he said “faith.”

Now, as James leaned on the bow, he turned Jesus’ question over and over in his mind.

“Where is your faith?” When Jesus first said it, James felt its intended rebuke. Didn’t he trust God? Wasn’t the Father with Jesus? He had thought he believed this. But the storm proved that all the confidence he felt when the pressure was off was fair-weather faith. The Galilean westerlies had swept it away. He felt chastened and humbled.

But the more James thought about the question, the more profound it became. “Where is your faith?” Where is it, James? When the storm hit, what did you trust? I trusted what my eyes saw. I trusted what my skin felt. I trusted the violent force that was tossing the boat like a toy and would have rolled us over any minute. I trusted the stories told by my father. I trusted the tragedies I remember. I trusted the power of the storm because storms kill people.

Up until a few minutes before, this would have merely seemed like common sense. But Jesus had changed everything.

As James looked back to the sleeping Jesus, the Psalmist’s words came to mind:

For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the deeps.
He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
Who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.4

Who then is this?5 Someone who can command a killer storm to die when he pleases. Holy fear washed over him again. However, this fear didn’t produce panic, but a deep, unnerving, reverent joy.

*          *          *

When the storm was raging and Jesus was sleeping, which looked more powerful?

This is an important picture to remember, because when the storms of life hit they almost always appear stronger to us than God’s word. And the important question to ask at that moment is, where is your faith?

Notes

1 Matthew 8:25

2 Mark 4:39

3 Luke 8:25

4 Psalm 135:5-7

5 Luke 8:25