Are We There Yet?
I'm a longtime Christian, baptized in the Holy Ghost, and yet sometimes I get that "Are we there yet- nothing is happening feeling?" Shouldn't my faith be easier by now? Shouldn't I be all healed up? What's up with this? Weary Pilgrim.
April 2010, Dear Weary:
I'm glad you wrote- you could have just gone to another conferance, and called it all good, but perhaps you have done that already.
We carry the treasures of salvation in earthen vessels (Isaiah 45,9) and even the most faithful folks grow weary at times in their faith walk. Think of the life of the Apostle Paul. He became a new creation, yet after only three years of ministry in Arabia-Nabatea after he saw the Light (Galatians 1,17-18), he aparently was sent back by God to Tarsus in Cilicia (Galatians 1,21) to make tents for thirteen-fourteen years (Gal. 2,1). Thirteen years of toiling again, apparently doing nothing much mission wise for God, but then he was sent to Jerusalem again on a faith course that changed world history (Gal.2,1).
And when Paul was wracked and wearied by his thorn in the flesh (gout? back Pain? lonliness?), he asked God three times to take it away, 2Cor.12,8-9: "but he answered me, 'My grace is enough for you: for power is at full stretch in weakness.' It is, then, about my weaknesses that I am happiest of all to boast, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me;"
How long it took for Paul to make this lesson of weakness and weariness his own, not an imposition to be fought and bemoaned, I have no solid idea. I would quess it took a long preparation time, perhaps as he was dinging his knuckles tying tents for thirteen years at home in Tarsus.
His level of faith about accepting weakness still amazes: Verse 10 "and that is why I am glad of weaknesses, insults, constraints, persecutions and distress for Christ's sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong." Oh what beautiful faith.
The bible tells us there is strength in weariness, at least if we don't freak out about it. Our bad emotional reactions to things always make them worse. Or perhaps weary pilgrim you feel worse by comparison to some "rah rah" Christian telling you something is wrong with you, if you are not always chirpier than a song bird. Many of us have met "rah rah" church folks, and they have their place, but perhaps their witness hasn't lasted. "Rah rah" isn't God's only criteria for fitting faith expression.
Whatever the case, the key is not to stop trusting on God, praising God, thanking God, asking him questions and hearing back from Him. Oh that we would keep hearing back from him, which is prayer. "Though I walk through the valley of darkness.. the Lord is right beside me." And perhaps I haven't realized he's right beside me, a presence right beside me, talking to me, and I haven't realized it.
Learn God's Daily Provision in the Desert
The Israelites had enjoyed a great deliverance out of Egypt. They had heard the promise from God of their land and left in hasty faith at his command. They had seen Pharoah rendered powerless. But after only forty five days (Exodus 16,1) they got weary in the desert. All of God's promises before them, and they got weary in the daily grind of faith and complained:
"And the whole community of Israelites began complaining about Moses and Aaron in the desert and said to them, 'Why did we ever not die at Yahweh's hand in Egypt, where we used to sit round the flesh pots and could eat to our hearts content! As it is, you have led us into the desert to starve the entire assembly to death!" (Exodus 16,2-3)
Thinking too far ahead can make us weary with worry.
Blessed are those who are hungry... for God has a chance to bring us very close to him when we are hungry, daily bread close. Not storehouse- I've got all I need for the future close- but no more than one extra day provisions for the day set aside to honor me.
vv. 4-5: "Each day the people must go out and collect their ration for the day; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not. On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they have brought in, this must be twice as much as they collect on ordinary days."
God has to teach us not to get too far ahead of ourselves, for it wearies us, makes us complain and disobey, and depend on ourselves. He had provided for 45 days, was He going to stop now? Dear weary pilgrim he has provided for you for perhaps 45 years, is he going to stop now?
No. God showed them and shows us manna in the morning and quail at night, how to let him give them rest and sustenance and guidance, day by day. No need to get weary, if you trust God day by day. This is a lesson that must be learned or we may not make it into the promised land.
Challenges Are Part of the Faith Deal
We can be baptized in Water and by the Spirit, and enjoy all manner of God's great and varied blessings yet there are still ebbs and flows in our faith walks. There are still challenges of sickness and disease, of family and friendships, not to mention economic stresses, or changing churches. And as you have gathered, life just keeps coming at us. And our faith, though as real and as big as a mustard seed, has to be applied, has to get up to speed, by an occasional bit of our own faith-elbow grease. But perhaps your god does your dishes.
Nevertheless, just because we are among the faithful does not mean we are immune from such challenges. In times of weariness may we not forget that we follow the one who told us to pick up our cross daily, and follow him. Sometimes following Him, and living according to his word, doesn't immediatly bring us feelings of great prosperity or strength. But we don't live by our feelings, but every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Speaking of feelings and weariness and faith elbow grease, I recall attending a Sunday night service at a Pentecostal church after preaching one Sunday morning, and the pastor's wife had just come back into the sanctuary to sing for the first time after suffering a minor stroke.
I suppose she had ably led this ministry for thirty years, and yet now she was a bit weary and could not immediatly remember the tunes and the words right off. Oh she could have gone to tears and led the whole congregation there. But when she started to play a couple of cords, the music and the words came back to her. When her faith met the Spirit of God, she grew strong. It was marvellous, wonderful, and suddenly I couldn't think of anything that bothered me too greatly.
Yet all the while we are contending for the faith, the wordly church is attempting to sell us a quick and easy faith, as if the entire faith race of salvation is won at the begining. And this makes folks all across the body of Christ wonder if we are doing something wrong if we feel the least bit weary or tempted, or go through struggles. Why? "because I'm told at church it should be so much easier!"
Whereas, I'm told by the word that I "haven't suffered to the point of blood" so who am I to complain (Hebrews 12,4).
Salvation Won In The End
Yes there is a relief right away from repenting and professing Christ. Yes there is a faith covenant that is begun at the moment of repentance-profession (by taking the cup Matthew 26,28 and Exodus 24,8, by doing all Lord commanded; cf also. 2Kings 11,17; Psalm 50,5). Yes the healing of mind and body and soul starts as God's Holy Spirit begins to work on us (Paul's conversion, Acts 9,3ff). Yes Holy Ghost baptism is better than any earthly consolation we could ever imagine (John 3,3-5). But hey wait, our pattern in life-faith is Jesus Christ and his handpicked apostles. They lived lives of great faith, grew in wisdom and favor, had great gifts, yet still faced trials and temptations, and even grew weary at times.
But they persevered and finished the race.
Even Jesus had times of weariness (desert fasting) and trial and temptation ("Father let this cup pass"), but he finished the race. Paul took pains to make clear that despite his stature as a great apostle, he could have been "disqualified" (1Cor.9,27).
Feelings of weakness and weariness are no disqualification, but immorality and faithless complaining are (1Cor.10,8-10). So is apostasy- losing the full and right faith- especially regarding Jesus' incarnation, a sin that leads to spiritual death according to 1John5,16.
So is refusing to obey the truth and being led astray by legalists (Galatians 5,7). So is taking the mark of the beast, compromising our faith, and letting it be corrupted and made into an ideological, Babylonian pragmatism which refuses to call sin sin anymore. (Rev.13,16-17)
Our heavenly salvation is something that fully comes at the end of our individual race. 1Peter1,8-9:
"You have not seen him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him you believe in him and so are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described; and you are sure of the goal of your faith, that is, the salvation of your souls."
This salvation of our souls, in the end, explains the whole faith drama of the new testament bible: who will hang on and who will let go, and thus be led astray. Hang on dear friend. Through the times of weariness. Hang on.
At Some Point God Brings Relief
God will relieve your weariness. This is what the great prophet Isaiah said from chapter 40 to 55, known as the Book of the Consolation of Israel. Tired of exile, guilt, shame and punishment, Isaiah declares that Israel's weariness will end at 40,28d-31:
"He [God] does not grow tired or weary, his understanding is beyond fathoming. He gives strength to the weary, he strengthens the powerless. Youths grow tired and weary, the young stumble and fall, but those who hope in Yahweh will regain their strength, they will spout wings like eagles, though they run they will not grow weary, though they walk they will never tire."
He doesn't mean that weary folks will no longer need sleep at night, or will literally "fly" like eagles, although Phillip did something like this after baptizing the Ethiopian. He means dear weary pilgrim, that your soul will be strengthened, will soar again, so hang on.
Yet We do Our Part To Stay Healthy: Phillipians 2,12-13:
"work out your salvation with fear and trembling, [greek: phobias and traumas], for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work for the sake of his good pleasure."
This verse applies in context to the church as a whole working out it's personality conflicts, and for that to happen leading individuals had to work through their weak spots, their contentiousness, their minor areas of nagging soul-mind sickness, all of which wearied the church as well as the individuals involved.
But when we each do our faith part to make peace within the church with the help of the Holy Spirit in us, God will further heal us, not with pills and distractions, but with more of his Holy Spirit, his consolation, and all that which quickens our feet yet again to spread the gospel.
Weariness No Excuse To Stop Faithing
What good parent would say "I'm going to stop parenting just because I'm weary of it? What marriage would ever survive if one or both parties stopped loving during a weary stretch? Habbakuk and Paul said "The just will live by faith"- that is through the storm, through the night, through the weariness.
Those who hope in the Lord will regain their strength.
Yearly Faith Check-Up
As a pastor, I sometimes wish I was more like a medical doctor and could require folks to have a yearly faith check up whereby I could ask them a comprehensive set of questions and do a faith investigation. If we are feeling bad physically, a doctor would do blood tests, and take an inventory of vital signs, as part of a basic health inquiry.
Now if we faithers feel weary, it might mean we haven't been taught to trust God daily in the desert. Might be just as Jesus and Paul and the pastor's wife singing after a stroke- part of our walk, our cross. Might be us individually and as a church working out our fleshy issues that weigh us down.
But mayby it's something more, some lack of faith or lack of committment to God, or some sin that we need to clear up.
We have complete physical check ups when we are physically weary, perhaps it's time for a complete faith check ups, every year. Something like this:
1. Are there any idols in your life?
Like money, or greed, or some substance or food or sex, or some leader you have put above the authority of the word.
2. Are you still repentant?
Christ died for our sins, yet some folks go back to knowingly doing wrong.
3. Do you still pray and read your bible?
Garbage into our souls, garbage out of our souls.
4. Is there anyone you haven't forgiven- or are you angry with?
The word has this law "unless you forgive, God won't forgive you..."
All the anger in the world (even righteous anger) doesn't compare to the power and efficacy of the smallest act of faith.
5. Are you willing to learn about spiritual warfare?
Ephesians 6,12: "We wrestle not against flesh and blood..." There are folks who refuse any non dainty Christianity, as if it were beneath them. But this costs us our health in the faith because it often takes faithful spiritual warfare to press into and contend for the blessings of God (see Matthew 11,12).
6. Are you willing to lose the approval of some folks around you by following Christ more closely?
You may be held back because you won't go in faith beyond your family or social circle.
7. Are you doing the things in your life that God is telling you to do?
God likes obedience more than sacrifice. When God tells you to forgive your spouse do you wait six months and Lord it over them? In that case God may be allowing your weariness, so that you would repent and fly right, and learn to do what you already know to do.
8. Do you believe in God for healing? (If Yes-This could be different than getting the healing)
If not- then why run around and spread your news asking for prayer when you haven't got it straight that God can heal you.
9. Are you applying faith to the areas of your stinking thinking?
They may be strongholds to which the word and Spirit of God must be applied. You may be held back because you haven't put on the mind of Christ and are still making too many provisions for the flesh.
10. Would you be willing to get delivered of your fear and anger, or whatever?
Derek Prince said 75% of Pentecostals still had demons. It was the first thing Jesus did, yet most folks have not seriously considered that they may need deliverance. We often go to the doctors for surgery, but to pastors only to hear what we want to hear.
11. Have you done anything today based on a promise of God's word or an inspiration of his Holy Spirit?
Jesus told us to pray for our daily needs- give us this day our daily bread. Yet we sometimes live like the one who lives inside us has nothing to add or nothing to say.
"Weary pilgrim" be encouraged whether your weariness is training in the desert, your cross or some lack of faith or some correction, or your need for more healing. Please know with me that our great and living God is still in the business of blessing and shepherding us.
If what I have presented isn't helping, get to a quiet place in prayer, or while you are studying the word, and ask him what the problem is. If it's his voice it will match up with His word. Oh that we would have the faith to ask God for all that we need and the faith to listen to what he says in return, the faith to bring up difficult subjects and hear his consoling and uplifting answers.
"Be encouraged little flock", our father is pleased to give us the kingdom, if only we had the faith to receive it.
Lord Jesus help us all to hold on and not lose the ground we have gained in faith by succumbing to feelings of unfaith, doubt or complaining. Oh may we all realize that sometimes weariness is just a feeling, and live instead by your every word. Help us all to hold on, and come to know that you strengthen the weary to contend for the gospel again and gain and receive the fullness of your promise of salvation.