“If God would only test my faith like the heroes of Scripture…”
Will you finish the sentence out loud, underneath your breath, or not at all? Those words have a scary feel don’t they? As if even their utterance might enlist God’s hammer, chisel and Shop-Vac. And something we love or need, such as our family, finances or good health, will end up diminished, demolished, or completely sucked from our lives. It’s an idea that may make us flinch, but if it’s avoided entirely may also keep us from reaching our kingdom potential.
Certainly, it’s difficult to plug in our own family and imagine the type of testing encountered by Job, or to consider our own child while contemplating the lonely steps of Abraham leading Isaac to the altar. And it is nearly as difficult to consider the daily routines of Joseph’s undeserved imprisonment as though they were our own. But as veteran believers shouldn’t we make the attempt?
In other words, if the entirety of Scripture is chocked full of human failures, injustices, and difficult trials – along with the heroes and heroin who suffered through them – shouldn’t we expose our minds and hearts to it in way that it becomes a deeply personal experience – at least momentarily?
I’m not suggesting we imagine all the terrible things that can happen to us personally as a means of deeper study, but only that we take the Word –the entire Word – into our inmost parts as if it were food, in a way that we can actually feel it, and carry it with us into the trials of modern life – which are ultimately not so different.
If this all sounds weird consider this: Remember how it felt to experience The Passion of The Christ for the very first time? As it filled our minds with the sights and sounds of tragedy, it also lifted our spirits to a new level of thanksgiving and humility, and perhaps a more honest form of repentance. So why do the passages of Scripture have any less effect? Why are we are willing to accept a visual download about the goodness of God from a movie, but not from its very source?
Is it because we’ve made caution an idol by relegating deep meditation to the spookier side of Christianity, where visualizing deeply as we study (as if watching a movie) was an evil practice to avoid? Or is that we’ve become so affectionately familiar with the stories and characters of scripture, that we’ve gradually forgotten how important they are? Or how literally we should take them?
It’s perplexing indeed how we as believers are willing to fully employ the senses, imaginations and emotional connections with the world in order to feel it – whether admittedly on a good thing such as The Passion movie, or secretly on a bad thing such as pornography. Yet when it comes to going deeper into scripture, we consider the use of these God given faculties as mystical or new-age-like and ultimately hold the Word captive to its familiar surface – where its characters are easy to quote, but difficult to emulate.
Alright, since it’s unlikely that we would ever disengage from something so moving as The Passion, perhaps the better idea is to disengage the moderation we’ve inadvertently applied to our faith (the foundation of all that pleases Him), and go after Him and His word with everything we possess, including our senses and imagination to the point that we can begin to truly feel the Word. (As if it were a movie)
Why not take a few moments while studying the Exodus, to close your eyes and imagine standing with Moses on the banks of an undivided Red Sea? Picture his posture of humility as the two million souls who’ve followed him are left with no escape. Or push your way through their wearied masses as screams of dissent multiply on the hot desert floor, and dissipate beneath the sound of hoof beats and thundering advance of Pharaoh’s army. Or why not jump into the capsizing boat where Jesus is sleeping? And allow yourself to feel the overwhelming brutality of wind and sea churning against you – lifting and submerging, drenching and howling as the cries of fear are muffled against it.
The point is to momentarily forget what you know, and to watch the Word unfold, imagining the sights, sounds, and feeling the emotions of every event; because only when we learn to emotionally connect with the suffering and faith of our heroes, will we ever be able to carry on their heritage. And whether God splits us like a log, prunes us by a thousand tiny cuts, or leads us gently by the hand, our own lives might finally become “living epistles” where true freedom and contentment matter more than comfort.
The truth is, it will always be easier to simply agree that faith comes by the hearing of the Word than to give that faith a welcome invitation through a willingness to be tested. So, God help us to begin by deeply connecting with the testing of those who came before us, and continue by testing our own faith that Your Glory might touch the earth a little more, and Your full intention for this life will be realized.
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His new release from Zondervan, is available now. The Extravagant Fool: A Faith Journey That Begins Where Common Sense Ends