200: A Culture of Faith – Both/And Faith

Faith is complicated, isn’t it? Is it a gift we receive when we welcome the Holy Spirit? Is it a fruit we need to grow? The more we mature as followers of Christ, the more we know following Jesus is holding things in tension: grace and works, faith as a fruit and as a gift…

Words for the Week

1 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)
To another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

Galatians 5:22 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness

Proverbs 4:23
Mark 4:1-20
Matthew 18:3

Writer’s Thoughts

When I was 17, I got some prayer, unsure of what I thought of God. I left church a different person. All of a sudden I knew God was real, Jesus was good and I was saved.

Forward a few years ahead: I was working in mission for 18 months and needed financial support. I had never experienced God’s perfect provision before but I knew from reading the Bible that God promises to look after us. I simply told him (and no one else) what I needed. The very next day I received the exact amount I was missing from someone I didn’t know all that well. In my 12 years or so of being a Christian, I have had times where faith seemed to be graced onto me, where my heart knew deep down that God was about to move.

I have also had seasons where faith was enduring, not because of a powerful emotion but because it had grown strong enough to resist difficult times and questions I might face. Based on my experience, I’ve come to realise that faith requires of me to both welcome the gift and tend to the seed.

Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.
Romans 10:17 The Message.

Tend to the seed

Reading the Bible feeds us with examples of what our walk with God can be like. I used to be turned off by the idea of discipline and regularly reading the Bible. I thought I was forcing myself to love God and, surely, He didn’t want me to pretend to love Him, right? I would only read the Bible when I felt like it (which wasn’t that often).

It was all good fun until I faced some important unanswered prayers, causing me to doubt and question. This is when I realised that tending to our faith by reading Scriptures and listening to God, was like couples who schedule quality time. It’s not because they have fallen out of the honeymoon phase and now need to use some elbow grease to make their relationship work. They have simply understood that they should make each other a priority.

Once we realise this we can make a point to start our day with God, to both feed our faith and know His character. Whatever stage of life we are in, we must tend to the seed of our faith. Let’s make time in our daily life to nourish our faith in a mighty and loving God by regularly letting Him speak to us through His word.

Welcome the gift

Though reading the Bible daily is important, being open to God’s Spirit is part of our journey of faith. When I consider the days when I was younger and full of fresh faith, I can find myself thinking that these were the times… when I was little and unaware of life’s challenges. I tell myself it was easy then, because I hadn’t faced any challenges. When I think that way, I close my heart to the gift of faith, I grieve the Holy Spirit since I’m telling Him He’s closer to a fairy tale than to reality.

A few months ago I went to a Christian conference, full of hand-raising believers, excited and expectant. I found myself deep in cynicism, but I knew that a big part of me was simply envying these people for having what I used to have. During a time of worship, I stood there wanting to run away and forget that feeling of being at a party I hadn’t been invited to. As I was standing still and silent, I simply prayed ‘God, say something’. And there, in the noise, I heard His voice ask ‘Why are you so quiet?’

I was quiet because I had made faith all about my doing, I had let cynicism and so-called maturity pour a bucket of cold water on the fire of my spiritual hunger. I hadn’t protected my heart and I stopped welcoming the gift of faith. But that day, when I opened up, God stepped in. It wasn’t a grand entrance or a baptism of fire. He came in and cleansed my heart of unbelief. Welcoming the Holy Spirit who gives us faith should be a daily choice, even when it seems hard.

At the end of the day faith is something we receive from the Spirit and that we grow in our hearts. Once given, take care of it. Let’s stay open to God, His word, His work. Let us not be people who think in a ‘either or…’ manner but in a ‘both and…’ way. Let’s be aware that our knowledge of God and our openness to Him are equally important in His sight and instead of being mutually exclusive, indeed complete each other.

Own it personally…

  1. Make a point to read scripture every day. If you are finding it hard at the moment, look into a devotional (there are some great apps, such as She/He Reads Truth, Bible App, etc…  If you don’t like techy things, there are some great books out there to facilitate devotional time). There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, which is one for every day of each month… Give them a read!
  2. Ask God to raise up your faith. Allow Him, with words, to come in and change your perspective, help you get rid of cynicism or the side effect of disappointment.
  3. Take Communion more often. We do it to remember. The more we remember the more we are grateful for what He has done. As we dwell on it, we feed our souls with worship and gratefulness and it leads to being full of faith.
  4. Do something that feels challenging. It might be praying for someone to be healed, speaking to a stranger, asking God for something whilst you worry you’ll be disappointed. We are not meant to be restricted by fear, worry or disappointment. Look at your challenges and walk in the opposite direction.

Speak it Out – Pray and Prophesy

Lord help us see in your word the source of wisdom and of our knowledge of you.
Help us read Scriptures with Spiritual insight.
Let us not be cynical and let disappointment choke our faith.
Speak words of truth to our dry hearts and teach us how to be childlike and welcome your gift of faith in us.
Thank you that you are the God of hope, life, love and faith,
That our past cannot limit you.
Thank you for your love. 
Awaken us to your Spirit and your Truth,
Make us aware, daily, of Who you are and what You have to say.
Turn us into good soil that we might grow in your gifts and bear fruit.
Amen.

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