Okay, so we can be pretty sure that our faith will have those moments when it just is not there.
Doesn’t matter what God is doing, we either cannot see it or do not want to wait for him. So our faith comes under the strongest examination yet – and you feel like God himself is not even looking your way, he does not want to help, or he is mad at you, or any one of a number of things.
So how does the book of James help us get through that?
The first thing I wrote about in James is about how our faith gets tested, and that the evil in this world hates to see us pass any crisis of belief we may have. You see, at one point, in the best possible terms, I was sure that life sucked, and I was the giant vacuum cleaner at the center of a giant ball of dust that seemed to exist strictly for my misery.
As I prayed during that time, I would still feel led to go to church, of all things. A down and out, beaten down, college dropout, 36 year old who did not have anything to do more challenging than convenience store clerk, would still feel led to go to church.
You see, God calls us to keep going. I am not talking about church; God does not send you a pretty pink letter with perfume and gently encourage to you come pay your tithe, that would be the church secretary doing that. God’s call to keep going can be found in the book of James, and if the first time I wrote about James was just the first dozen or so verses from chapter one, we will be lucky to finish chapter one in this sitting. Here an odd call to continue, in verse 19: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
Question: “How’d you get a call to continue in faith from that verse? Are ya just crazy?”
Answer: The first way you apply God’s word is to your relationship to Him and then you apply it to humans. So, verse 19 pops up in faith prayers by asking you to do those things. But there is another twist here: when you’re down, the first person you beat up on is yourself. So, be quick to listen for God’s encouragement when you pray. And be slow to speak about only yourself when you’re discouraged and you feel led to pray. You’ll need to resist the most evil temptation of all at this dark time: the idea that somehow God does not see you or hear you. So you think if you only knew what God had in store for you, you’d just be better off.
This should be where the giant game show buzzer goes off in your head. No! You see, faith in God does not work on your timetable. God is asking you to put him in charge. It means he doesn’t bow to your expectations, your deadlines, or your demands. It means you should be quick to listen for his voice, slow to speak, lest you drown out his calling, and slow to become angry, if he doesn’t answer or come running when you expect it!
The point is simple: I’ve been upset with God more than once because I wasn’t thinking right about what was going on. So in prayers I’d say how angry I was about how things were going, and he responded by simply showing me one morning that he was still in charge.
You see, He showed me that at no single time in my life had I been able to predict from which direction God Himself would rescue me. He took (and does take still) great delight in surprising me with pleasant things that lift me up when I am thoroughly beaten down.
And with a mind like mine, always ticking away, there are some wonderful rescues indeed. Some things from God were so small, that had I not been looking directly at them, no one else would have seen them or known they existed. I think of one in particular, when I was down and out: It was a cloud in the sky shaped like the Hebrew word for cup. And a verse popped up in my head… you may have guessed the one, “He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies, and anoints my head with oil, and my cup runs over.” Not bad timing for someone who was at the moment going through the horror of losing his family through divorce.
The short version: Quit trying to figure out how God works. All you need to know is that He is already at work in your life. It is arrogant to expect the God of the Universe to jump to your timetable, he will move, and you must have your mind on Him.
And now for the whole point: God is asking you to trust Him. The moment you do trust him, even in the smallest thing, is when faith begins.
Your mind, your intellect, will never stop trying to figure out how God works. Get used to that conflict; it will occur every time God asks you to trust him. You see, intellect is only a condition of the mind. If you search for enlightenment, well, that is a condition of the soul; God has made the way for you to do that.
And so to help you open up that way, we wrap up this part of study in James, with this: do you trust God?