For me, and perhaps for everyone who seriously attempts to follow Jesus, the biggest barrier is that of trust. I can say that I have faith (and really believe it) but if I don’t trust God with my life, with my all, it is a truly shallow faith. I have written about the journey to trust in an article “Losing Control” posted on my website: www.wellbless.com several years ago. It has to do with getting on a plane back in 2002 after not flying for over 30 years. In short, I was ministered to by the Holy Spirit thru a letter from an old friend and Brennan Manning’s book Ruthless Trust at precisely the moment that I was very fearfully contemplating a flight to L.A to visit my stepson. Since that time in August of ’02 I have flown 16 or 17 times and now look forward to traveling places thru the air. That flight to California opened up a whole new phase in my life–one of growth and ministry.
In his book, Manning posits a very simple equation that spoke volumes to me:
FAITH + HOPE = TRUST
I had “faith”–what I lacked was hope. It is not enough to just have faith in the Lord, one has to hope in Him as well. It is why hope is mentioned in the same context as love and faith (I Cor 13:13). It is that essential to our journey but it’s importance is often overlooked, or perhaps taken for granted. My lack of “hope”was as the result of the chronic pessimism that is symptomatic of the depression known as dysthymic disorder. I have that disorder–the disorder that says the glass is always half-empty. I have that, plus a willingness to buy into satan’s clever lies. The devil will recite in ones thoughts a million reasons to be fearful and not trust God.
But trusting God in life’s risks like flying, ministry, employment, finances, etc is not the aspect of trust I’m writing about here. I’m writing about the need for absolute certainty that seems endemic to so many Christians. This has been in my thoughts a lot lately because of Rob Bell’s recent book Love Wins. I haven’t read Bell’s book and won’t, however, I have read reviews and commentary. It has stirred up the old controversy (heresy?) of universalism and the enduring questions about the existence of Heaven and Hell. John Piper and other very orthodox theologians have kicked Bell to the curb.
I have passed through various phases in my journey since accepting Jesus back in September, 1979. My born-again experience, after 23 years of agnosticism, was sufficiently dramatic that I knew without a doubt that God existed and that Jesus was the path. However, like many Christians on that same journey, it has passed thru various phases. One phase encompassed trying to make sense out of the vast puzzle that is Holy Scripture. For a few years that search became paramount and there was a blessing in that. I did learn a lot. In my somewhat haphazard, piecemeal study it certainly looked to me like there were many contradictions in the Bible and certainly so in various preacher’s interpretations. About a dozen years ago I read Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul. It is a sound basic manual for biblical interpretation and one of the main points I got out of it was that if one just dug deeper the apparent contradictions are all resolved. Maybe so. BTW, I even attended Sproul’s church for a couple years and whereas I learned a lot, it wasnt the Answer. The interesting thing is that the questions are no longer that important to me. My mind isn’t terribly linear. Though somewhat left-brained, I’m not an engineer and my OCD and failed-perfectionism shows up in other areas.
When I had my born-again experience the Lord said, “Carl, where have you been all of these years? I have been waiting for you!” That was enough. He didn’t say, “Hey man, you just bought a ticket to Heaven and avoided Hell.” I believe His question was really an invitation to experience Him.
It is a sad but perhaps necessary thing that many come to Christ to avoid Hell. It was spelled out to me to be a truly terrifying place and it was forever. I hope the preoccupation with Hell is just a phase most pass thru–I hope that it is not the end point for most–and that for most it’s just the beginning. Hell is fear based and as we know perfect Love casts out fear (I John 4:18).
I think part of the incomprehensibility of scripture is because His thoughts are not our thoughts–because His reality is of an order that we can only dimly comprehend. The Lord doesn’t tell us all there is to know, just what we need to know. I’m ok with not having all the answers. I’m pretty comfortable with paradox. For me its all part of trusting in the Lord–that in the end He will work everything out and it will be wonderful.
” … but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31