January 25, 2012

Faith Has Limits Either Here or There

If faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), let’s imagine for a moment that your faith is a visible mass. How bulky is it? How tall? How wide? Is it deep or shallow? Is it firm or flimsy? What are it’s boundaries if we measured it? Is it an immovable mass larger than a mountain? Or is it thimble-sized?

How in the world would you begin to take such an account? After all, faith is invisible. It is the fuel which stokes attitudes and behaviors. You cannot see it with the naked eye, but you see the results of its indwelling. Just as you would not know that a woman is pregnant unless her belly expanded and a child was delivered, faith is a productive force at work in the unseen until it becomes seen. It is evidenced in the transformation of the one inhabited as well as in final products of spiritual fruit.

Hebrews 10:38-39 says, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

Even though faith is intangible, it has limits which will be measured either by earthly constraints or Heavenly realities. If man reaches a stopping point where he will progress no further in his faith, then he has allowed earth to limit him. On the other hand, if conditions on earth hold no power over a man’s trust in God, then he will reach Heaven where salvation is realized before his faith can be measured and manifested into substance. I Corinthians 13:13 tells us that faith "remains" after all other spiritual gifts have exceeded their useful lives and faded away. (Hope and love are not technically spiritual "gifts".)  If our faith proves insufficient this side of Heaven, what substance will remain to be manifested inside the pearly gates? 

I read of the man who draws back and can visualize him reaching a line in the sand where his faith cuts off. He faces a situation where his trust in God shrinks in comparison to his obstacle. At that moment his faith can be measured in proportion to the size of his fear, shame or regret which looms larger. As he recoils in doubt, a marker is planted around his faith like a tombstone. Like King Nebuchadnezzar, this man will be weighed in the balances and found wanting. (Daniel 5:27)

Is that you? Can earthly affronts stifle your faith? Or can you say that your faith has no limits, come hell or highwater, come feast or famine, come sickness or health, come life or death?

I ask myself these questions.

I remember a crossroads where I put my faith on pause for a while. I came to learn that faith assumes the worth of that which you forsake to uphold it, and then exceeds it. Think of this.

Grief can put the brakes on faith. I am speaking directly of faith-shattering grief, not Biblical grieving with hope, but the kind of faith that tempts you to question the goodness of God. When you mourn to that extreme, the object of your mourning temporarily assumes a greater value than faith. The loved one or the lost career or the botched opportunity takes the spotlight. But Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22) Don’t stop following Jesus to commiserate with the past. Don’t turn back from trusting the Living God to wave farewell to the outgoing tide. Advance in your faith anyway. Realize that grief has assumed a place where faith should reign. A willful decision to meditate on God’s sovereignty eventually lifts that heaviness. Then love resumes the place where loss once inhabited. Faith can break free of the limits grief has placed around it. You can move forward in faith again.

Relationships can also limit faith. When you compromise holiness in your relationships, the person at the root of the indecision is on a throne where faith belongs. You have capped your faith. Your faith is now measurable beneath your attachment that relationship. To forfeit the relationship and honor Christ erases the glass ceiling over faith. Then faith can expand into uncharted territory, encompassing friendships and romances where it never did before.

The need or want of money can certainly limit faith as well. If you make decisions to pursue or preserve money over using your possessions to be the hands and feet of Jesus, then you concede to measure your faith in earthly terms. This is not a limit you want to uphold. Motivated by the selflessness which faith demands, force money into a subservient role. Through deliberate acts of sacrifice, money and faith will reverse roles. Remember, faith assumes the worth of that which you forsake to uphold it.

Have you permitted earthly events to limit your faith? Does your faith back down when temptation rises? If you hesitate in your faith, recognize that you are standing on a perimeter which you preserve. As long as a barrier is in place, your faith will be measured by it. Pray for wisdom to identify the barrier. Make the decision that nothing on earth will bind your faith. Shed the shackles. Cross the line. Return your faith to a position where it cannot be measured here on earth, only there in Heaven.

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