I’ve been contemplating the topic for this blog for a while. Should I address my mounting frustration with emotional faith… the sort that constantly seeks experiential evidences to affirm God’s presence… Or should I avoid personal remarks and stick with a bland book review of John MacArthur’s book: Reckless Faith, in which he addresses what he sees as the hazards of modern Evangelicalism. He sees a trend in which emotional experiences trump doctrinal soundness. He says our churches have lost their ability to discern truth from error. Even ‘discernment’ has become a mystical, feeling-oriented commodity available to the special few…I found the book a refreshing slap of cold doctrine that sets straight a lot of silliness that goes on in the name of ‘faith’.
Then I glanced at the title of another book I’m currently reading…and that was it, I had my seed thought–their titles. Ironically enough they are: Reckless Faith (MacArthur) and Ruthless Trust (Manning). And one is the perfect complement to the other (though I’m not sure the authors would themselves agree!)
As I see it, there is a problem with a ‘reckless’ faith that demands God to act. Is it faith that is at work when I seek an experience in order to validate my faith? This is an incomplete faith. Trust is the missing component. Trust is faith coupled with that childlike hope in the Father’s love that makes no demands but rests in what the Father chooses for my life. It does not demand that He intervene in my every discomfort. It is a faith that trusts Him to ‘call the shots’. It is the stuff of the Hebrews 11 Hall of Fame—who clung to God’s promises though they did not receive what they waited for. They died in hope, trusting God’s grace to carry them through. They did not shake His promises in His face as though He were obligated to ‘come through for me now!’
The underlying premise of Ruthless Trust is that the splendor of a human heart which trusts that it is loved gives God more pleasure than the most magnificent cathedral, symphony or work of art. Such a heart brings Him more delight than ‘the sight of ten thousand butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom.’ (2)
This ‘ruthless trust’ stands in sharp contrast to a ‘reckless faith’ which bases its validity in ‘powerful’ (often emotional) experiences. Such ‘faith’ is reckless because it is easily duped and its gaze easily turned away from its Author and Finisher. It may claim to be Spirit-led but the Spirit’s role is to point us to Jesus, not to draw attention to Himself!
What then is to be the plumb line by which I measure an experience, a book, a testimony? From my experience, there must be some criterion beyond my own experience! It can’t be all about what God seems to be saying to you or to me or what I’m feeling. This makes for a queasy quagmire, a subjective soup! God is Spirit and Truth. This is the very reason God has given us His written and authoritative, infallible Word, and yes, His Spirit to guide us in it. And His Spirit will never lead us contrary to what is written. Nor will He add to its content. The written Word of God is our trustworthy foundation. Here I can stake a ruthless trust.
And when my faith quavers and I want to experience more of God, or hear His voice more certainly or discover the secret of spiritual power…. what do I do then? How do I resist the urge to seek an experience? And on those days when feelings threaten to overpower reality, what then?
I guess we all want these things, and there are a LOT of voices out there with answers, but none so safe, so good, so sure as God’s own Word.
It is our life—we dare not try to live by bread alone.
The Israelites cried “Is God among us or not?!” They put God to the test. God was not honored or impressed. He called them hard-hearted and said they had not known His ways! (Ps. 95; Numbers 11)
How much better for me to take Him at His Word and rest in ruthless abandon in His trustworthy goodness poured out on my life continually!
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You; in God whose Word I praise, in God I put my trust…” Ps. 56:4
[Thank-you for hearing me out. I’d love to know your thoughts…LS]