I have a new insight into faith that may appear so trite that this will never be published. It starts where I always start, loitering discontentedly around the edges of the land of unbelief, peeking over the hedges of my Father's garden to see if it's not better on the other side after all.
I generally begin with a few complaints: Why aren't things clearer in Your Word? Seems to me a few carefully worded verses would dispel a lot of the controversies around here-like baptism, like the gift of healing, like the end times, like when divorce is permitted, like what kind of music you want to hear on Sunday mornings.
But those are just the corporate churchy questions-others are close to my gut. I don't understand why little kids suffer day after day and You don't do anything about it. I don't get why You aren't forthcoming when I beg for guidance-guidance to live for You! When I beg for a specific answer to a specific problem, I wonder why there is silence. How much do You think we can handle here? Don't You remember we are dust?
I admit-and am duly grateful-that some things in the Word are clear. For example, "love your enemy," "be slow to speak"-stuff like that. Helpful. Yes, one can go a long way with the handful of marching orders that are not opaque: If we get busy on those we will have a lot to do. (See how conciliatory I am being-lest You thought I was a troublemaker.)
I also recognize concentric circles of applicability. Some commands in Scripture are applicable only once: "Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing" (Titus 3:13). Some commands have limited, situational spheres of application: "Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust" (1 Peter 2:18).
But one command is so broad that rather than apply it to all situations, some of us have applied it to none. A simple Bible concordance study of "believe" will drive a stake through your heart. Listen to Jesus say "Do not fear, only believe" (Mark 5:36). You can tell He is saying that for the hundredth time and has had a long day ("O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?"-Mark 9:19). How often, and in how many ways, can He say it before we stop living like lost lambs moaning "Been there, done that. Give me something new to do"?
Time for more complaints. I have made some bad decisions lately-and how could He let me do that when I prayed like gangbusters? Doesn't He love me? What's the deal with prayer? Blah blah blah. And so the tangled web I weave, tying myself in my own string with postmortems and second-guessing on last week's mistakes. Soon it's back down the path of the "higher critical method," which is most pleasing to the Enemy.
But like a steady ocean breeze abides the ubiquitous command, of all commands the biggest underachiever in my life: "Do not fear, only believe."
Sometimes I mess up again and cannot show my face at the throne of grace-so I excommunicate myself for a season. All the while He says still, "Do not fear, only believe."
Sometimes I have an unconquerable mountain-to-climb week (I say it's unconquerable; He didn't say that) and my joy is sapped. He says I can have that joy-on one condition: "Do not fear, only believe."
So here's my trite observation: Placing your total faith in Jesus relieves strife and tension. If that isn't happening, your faith is an abstraction and useless.
If you haven't yet fine-tuned the particulars of what you should believe about those messy controversies cited in paragraph two-let that not waylay you. I think He settles for us just believing in His Person.
Remind me in another minute when I forget it all again.