Have you ever gone through a dark period of time in your Christian walk? And by dark, I mean a stretch of time marked by endless trials, barrenness and/or uncertainty about what to do? I came across this picture that I thought captured it so well. As we traverse the Christian walk, we’ll have high times when so much seems to be working. But then we’ll have times when we don’t know what in the world is going on.
Now there’s a sect within Christianity that says you just have to have strong faith. Stand and declare your promises. God won’t bless you unless you’re declaring the victory over your circumstances. Nothing personifies than Hank Hanegraaf’s article on the Osteenification and What it Portends. The premise behind Osteen and his ilk is that in order for stuff to happen in our lives, we need to be positive and strong.
One of my Facebook friends provided this wonderful commentary the other day in response to this article and kind of mentality;
“Osteen is such an easy target that I can debunk him without even using theology, by sheer experience alone. The VERY few times (that I can count on the fingers of one hand) where God spectacularly intervened in my life over the last 30 years, was when I was at the weakest in my faith, doubted him and had no conviction or assurance whatsoever that he would actually DO anything.
Glimmers of hope and desperation was all I had left in the tank and some times not even that. I felt about as strong as a beggar begging for scraps. On one particularly painful season I felt so gutted that I couldn’t even bring myself to pray and ask for anything, so I asked others to do it on my behalf and they obliged. I wish I could be more specific but some of the details are too painful to regurgitate and I am mindful of others who are still waiting on an answer to prayer on some personal and pressing issues.
I always believed that God COULD give me what I needed but was never sure or convinced that he WOULD. So in those moments I never rested on any promises or shouted it from the rooftops, never claimed victory or shouted at the devil as if he had a hearing problem. I was one of the worst Christian specimens on the ‘trusting God’ front you could come across, to the point of shame. If you were to write a book about what NOT TO DO in a crisis as a Christian, I’d be your role model.
Now I figured that my answered-to-unanswered prayers ratio over a 30 year span is about 100:1, namely, for every prayer that God TRULY answered (with indisputable before and after factual evidence) there were 100 that he didn’t. So don’t call me ‘spoilt’ ok? But for those very few times where God intervened on the 11th hour, my faith was at its weakest point. If God was to use my faith and trust in him as a barometer to decide whether to intervene or not, I’d be doomed!
All this makes one thing easy and crystal clear for me to determine when I look back and that is that, it was God’s sheer grace and mercy, nothing more, nothing less. Period!
The moral of the story?
Osteen preaches lies (that he most likely believes himself) and as a good FB friend of mine said, “the food he serves from the pulpit is full of sawdust”. Of course we SHOULD trust God and have faith, we are commanded to. But the truth is that there are times when we don’t, even if we want to, and we get weak in the middle of a crisis. Thank God that his mercy is not dependent on MY faith but HIS faithfulness!”
Right on! I don’t know any maturing Christian who has not encountered times of seemingly faithlessness due to immense burden of trials and uncertainty. The idea that God can only respond to us when we’re strong, claim our victory and speak the right words flies in the face of God’s strength being perfected in our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9-10) and his glory shining through cracked pots (2 Cor. 4:7).
When I look back on times God has intervened in a desperate situation, it wasn’t because I was so strong and declaring my faith but because He knew the right time to intervene and did so according to His faithfulness. In fact, extended trials, dark times and or uncertainty have a way of chipping away at our faith and subsequent ability to stand strong in the midst of them and leave us clinging to Christ. Even that, sometimes by a thread.
Of course Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please God”. But let’s put that in context of what the author is addressing in the entire sermon book. He’s talking to a group of Jewish Christians who want to go back to the old way that they knew. The theme of Hebrews is the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ and what that entails for Christians. The faith in question relates to trusting in the promises of God ultimately fulfilled in Christ. So the application for today is trusting in what God did through his Son, even when it doesn’t look like he’s on our side (ala the discipline of Heb. 12). That doesn’t mean we’re standing strong on what God will do, so much as what He’s already done.
So when your eyes have seen the glory of God working in a way that provides beneficial circumstances, which is now but a distant memory, it is not your strong victorious posture that changes things, but God himself who responds to us out of his kindness and mercy in his providence and good timing. The question then becomes where do we place our hope? In our faith or in God’s promises?