Purifying and Refining Faith
I want to be clear: this has not been a time of abandoning faith, or even doubting, but of purifying and refining…a type of clarifying borne through the instrument of pain and bringing me to a greater understanding of my own mortality.
Contrast Between Being and Doing
So what have I been learning? The contrast between being and doing in my walk with God.
When you have been in ministry for a long time, it is easy to evaluate your worthiness by what you do. That mental checklist of ways that you serve God, others and your community can be the measure of personal spirituality.
But as we all know, these ‘things’ can be done with absolutely no heart for God. A poignant reminder of this type of ‘doing’ is illustrated in Matthew 7:22. These people who have done many wonderful works are not even genuine believers!
‘Be’ Before ‘Do”
When the ability to ‘do’ much has been removed because of illness, we are forced to look at how important that aspect of our Christian lives really is. Yes, it’s important to be doing what God directs us to do, but it’s most important to ‘be’ what God wants us to be BEFORE we do.
The most striking biblical example of this for me is the interaction of Christ with Mary and Martha. Martha stayed busy preparing the meal while Mary sat quietly at Jesus’ feet listening to the Master. Jesus commended Mary as taking care of the most important thing, even though what Martha was doing was necessary.
What Does It Mean to ‘Be’?
So what does it mean, practically, to ‘be’? It means taking time to read God’s Word and let the thoughts roll around in your mind throughout the day. Sometimes in our weakened state we can only grasp a word or a phrase to meditate on throughout the day. How much better it is to think about on of God’s attributes than focus on our own weakness!
Rehearsing hymn texts – the ones full of biblical doctrine – helps us to focus on the Lord throughout the day. My childhood pastor used to distinguish between good doctrinal hymns and the 7-11 variety – seven words repeated eleven times with no substance to the song! I try and avoid the ‘junk food’ texts and fasten on the spiritually uplifting ones.
God has been teaching me that as long as I have mental capacity I can be praying – praying for peace, grace and contentment in my pain, praying for the needs and salvation of others, praying for God to strengthen and bless my family – and more. I find as I go throughout the day that I comment to the Lord about situations and concerns much more than I used to.
Struggles Have Lead to Spiritual Growth
All of this is helping to grow me as a believer. As Christians we have a relationship with a person – a personal relationship with Christ. Sometimes in our busyness we can become robotic – dragging our eyeballs across the page as my former pastor’s wife used to say – in order to check off a list of spiritual duties. Learning to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ has helped put those priorities in order.
Next time I’ll share more of what God has been teaching me through my struggles.