Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weakness: Faith Makes It Harder

“Faith, alive in our weakness, looks like a war,” writes Michael Spencer in Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. “It’s an impossible war waged against an untiring adversary: our sinful, fallen nature. Faith fights this battle.”

That’s about as un-American statement as you can make. The way this is supposed to work is – gain faith, grow, be victorious – just like the whole self-improvement thing tells you. And America is not anything unless it’s the “land of opportunity” for self-improvement.

America is that. Or it has been that for most of its history. That idea is a very powerful part of our national DNA (and one reason why the Tea Party has been upending established politicians of both major parties).

But self-improvement – always getting better – always reaching newer and higher and better – is not exactly how faith works. That a lot of us think that way is an example of how culture can infiltrate faith. What we face with faith is decidedly different. Like Spencer says, “What does this fight look like? It’s a bloody mess. There’s a lot of failure in it. It is a battle where we are brought down again and again.”

Nobody tells you this when you become a believer. Often, you’re told just the opposite. You might be told about the process of sanctification lasting a lifetime – but it is usually described in terms of progress as opposed to process.

What no one tells you is that life will often become more difficult. “If anything,” he writes, “it’s a life that is far more uncomfortable than one’s life before encountering Christ.”

And what Spencer describes here has been precisely my own experience.

You study, you pray, you learn, you start doing things differently and thinking things differently, and one day without realizing it you’re suddenly doing what you always did. Bad habits. Addictions. Anger. Holding grudges. Teaching your children to do the same stupid things you do.


It often seems easier to chuck the whole thing because it always seems so hard.

And then someone comes alongside and gives some encouragement, or you’ll read about others struggling the same way, or someone will come to you and ask for help and guidance. And you realize that all of us are broken, the mending will take our entire lifetimes, and it will never be completed.

So why bother?

Because the alternative is brokenness without hope.

Nancy Rosback over at Bend the Page has been leading us in a discussion of Mere Churchianity. Last week she discussed Chapter 11; this week she writes on Chapter 12. Also see Fatha Frank’s postings at Public Christianity, and his post last week entitled “Label Me, I’ll Label You.”


Ted M. Gossard said...

Great great thoughts here, Glynn. I like your words of process instead of progress.

That being said I do think there is a kingdom of God (not of this world) growth in grace which realizes that it is all about God's grace made perfect in our weakness through Jesus.

But we will continue to sin and need confession, a part of going on in the light in Jesus.

Of course you agree with my simple words, I'm sure (even though everyone states things differently which is why we need each other), and I like the point you make in this post. Thanks.

S. Etole said...

Isn't part of the "bothering" about love for Him and for others as well, no matter how difficult the journey?

MTJ said...

Hi Glynn,

I've been examining this aspect of faith and I do believe it's a constant battle, a life and death struggle for spiritual survival. I'm not sure whether I'm ready to concede that, "It's an impossible war...", but I'm realizing that my faith isn't predicated upon my expected outcome.

I realize that God is sovereign and that means that the outcome of the circumstances I face is in His hands, and I must trust that outcome is best for me.

Our culture has that mentality that we Americans will always be victorious in our endeavors; this attitude has infiltrated the church. The truth is that this attitude sets me up for frustration when things don't occur the way I anticipate/expect them to.

As a follower of Christ, I must trust God with my life and all the occurrences which pertain to me.

Blessings and peace.


Anonymous said...

And then someone comes alongside...
or you'll read about others struggling...

to me, it is has been good to realize that everyone is broken, and that we all need Jesus.
Knowing that i live with brokenness and weakness has helped me to understand my need for Jesus , and why this hope is a gift.

Fatha Frank said...

Not much to add but, "yup." It is bloody, it isn't perfect, but it is necessary.