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Up and Down Faith


This morning I had a divine moment. A God moment.

Popularly, a "God moment" is defined (via Google) as "that personal encounter one may experience where God's purpose, presence and love is revealed."

This morning–without him knowing my current consternation–another Christian man put my present struggle into words for me.

I have been cycling spiritually for years. But recently the cycles have become extremely short. Highs and lows. Slammed up against each other. Victory; then defeat. Failure; then invigorating success. Effectiveness, then impotence. Vigor after weakness. Clarity after confusion, and then back into a sea of doubt.

Like a man in the ring or in the octagon–delivering and likewise receiving brutal blows–who wins a round and then looses a round, I'm never the spiritual Mike Tyson that I want to be. Moments of glory are offset by moments of shame. Periods of inspired brilliance are tempered by equal periods of shocking foolishness. Areas of my life that are consistent (and glory filled) are polluted by areas that are abysmally intermittent and embarrassingly earthy.

And I know that I'm not alone.

Peter walked on water. Until he didn't. He also graciously accepted the Gentiles, until he didn't. And he was enlightened by the Father, until he wasn't (see *Matthew 16:16-17, 22-23).

Elijah's great faith, courage, and victory on Mt. Carmel was followed by awful despair, fear, hopelessness, and even cowardice. Which–by the way–in turn was followed by a glorious encounter with God and unparalleled blessing.

David's prosperity was punctured by his tryst with Bathsheba.

The peace that came with Solomon's wisdom was dismantled by the foolish pursuit of many godless women (that's 2 strikes in one swing).

John Mark's desertion and rejection didn't prevent him from writing one of the four gospels.

And surely there are many more examples. Noah, Abraham, Samson, Paul; these and others experienced the ebbs and flows of spiritual triumphs and defeats. Hopefully you can see the pattern clearly.

But why?

Why can't every moment in prayer be like the moments when Elijah called down fire (and then rain) from the top of Carmel? Why can't we kill a Goliath every day? Why is it that Satan not only get's through the weak spaces in our armor, but sometimes seems to beat us in the very areas where we are strongest and most aware?

Russ Nash (author of The Divine Purpose of Pain) is the one who put my dilemma into words this morning. He was the instrument in my "God moment." And I'm grateful that God used Him. But awareness and understanding is only the equipping and preparation for the fight. The fight must still be fought.

I feel that I'm at my wits end. I want to stay on top; to live victoriously in Canaan all the time. Yet I have failed (like Israel) to drive out all of the heathen in my own heart. I'm not stuck in Egypt. That's good. I don't think I'm even wandering in the wilderness. Also good. But apparently I'm settling for living in the valleys in Canaan, instead of conquering the enemies in the hills. And those enemies do not leave well enough alone. They descend with merciless efficiency to kill and to destroy.

I'm not speaking of external enemies. In the words of cartoonist Walt Kelly, "We have met the enemy and he is us." It is not really me though, it is sin that dwells in me (Romans 7:17 & 20).

And this is NOT ok. The universality of the condition doesn't excuse it. Perhaps it reminds us that there is hope, but still, the double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). There is no compliment in that description.

According to the Scriptures, the words that should describe us are these: conquerors, triumphant, victorious. Look it up. You know it's in there. This is what we have in Christ. Or at least, this is what we have access to. The potential is there.

Sanctification is indeed a process. It is a journey. Still, we have complete access to full forgiveness and blessing in every moment. As we are growing, we can (by the Spirit) have full victory in each moment every moment. We don't have to wait until some idealistic moment someday when we will finally graduate and be mature and strong.

Oh yes, I know that we will not reflect the glory of Christ perfectly in this life. Our full sanctification will not be complete until we see Christ. Yet the nature of grace and of the Spirit is to give full blessing in the very moment of sincere repentance and faith. God doesn't need us to have a long track record of stellar spirituality before He can move in us. He is not waiting until our resume is sufficiently impressive before He can use us.

This is not to say that we shouldn't care about a holistic evaluation of our spiritual walk. But we must remember that Jesus and Paul both taught a "TODAY" faith. Forgetting those things that are behind. Taking no thought for tomorrow. Each day's battles are enough to keep us sufficiently busy in our spiritual wrestling.

Our testimony is dependent upon the story of God's grace in us continually, but our fellowship and peace is dependent only upon the present sincerity and accuracy of our repentance and faith. It's no more complicated than that.

When I'm defeated, it's because I've returned to my own way. Every time. There are no exceptions. And the route back is always the same: repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ is always ready, willing, and able to grant us grace and blessing. Even when we are running from Him at full throttle and totally out of kilter, He is still gracious toward us. In fact, His grace is even more evident in those moments. But in the rhetorical words of Paul, "Should we continue in sin that grace may abound?" It's not just grace and blessing that we should crave. It is also vital that we crave fellowship. Fellowship with the Savior! THAT is where victory resides.

Ultimately I lose every round I fight. I win every round that Christ fights for me. I'm the weak link on this tag team. He never loses a round. "The Lord rebuke you" is ultimately the only thing I can say to Satan. But I don't say it enough. I tend to wait until I'm way behind in the punch count. Why? Oh, the reasons are endless. Pride, selfishness, fear, etc. The list is long. Because truth is singular and error is a multiverse of bad options.

Two things are sure. You can bet your life on them both. 1. I will fail again. So will you. And, 2. Christ will be there to pick us up again. Like Paul and Peter, the willingness to do good is present with me, but I can't find the performance of it. My flesh is weak to do right. Of course, my only hope is Christ. He has already saved my soul. I pray that He will sanctify my mind today. But then it will need to be saved again tomorrow–or probably later today.

My faith is indeed up and down. So, you could say that my faithfulness is up and down–which incidentally is the very definition of not being faithful. Only God is faithful. Only Christ can be depended upon. The only reason we ever trust each other is because we don't really know each other. The Bible is clear: put no confidence in the flesh (that is, in self) and put no confidence in men (that is, others). And again, look it up.

Soul, mind, & body–Jesus is the Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). He is our only hope of any success in anything at any time ever. He is always up and never down. We MUST look to Him!

* Matthew 16:16-17, 22-23, "And Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus answered and said unto him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Son of Jonah: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in heaven.' ... Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'Be it far from You, Lord: this shall not be unto You.' But He turned, and said unto Peter, 'Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense unto Me: for you savor not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.'"

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