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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Don't Get Practical and Faithless Mixed Up

Each church I have served has people who say they have never heard from God. I have always wondered why they come to church. I think they think of me as a telegraph boy. I get the message and bring it to them.

Does God send His messages to those who won't listen? The days of Eli were characterized with rare words from the Lord. Visions were infrequent. I wonder if the Lord was silent or the people just weren't listening. Maybe the Lord knew they wouldn't do what He said anyway.

These non-hearers of God like to think of themselves as practical. They will invade a business meeting to present their practical solutions to problems. They will take the road of the least amount of faith to address the problems. They often blame the ills of the church on the pastor and staff of the church. They hardly realize that they have made the pastor and staff ill.

So, let's define the difference between practical and faithless. Being practical is doing that which is most pragmatic when there is no word from God to indicate that anything else should be done. This word from God can come from others but should be confirmed in the heart of the people. Faithless is refusing to listen and/or do what God has said. For example, it was practical to stay in the boat as long as Jesus hadn't commanded Peter to walk out on the water to meet Him. It was faithless to stay in the boat as soon as Jesus commanded Peter to come.

Many of the Israelites thought that it was more practical to go back to Egypt than to challenge the peope living in Canaan. They were faithless because God had already told them that this was their land. Many people think that it is more practical to wait until a church is prosperous enough to build a new building. It is faithless if God has said it should be done now.

Last night I told the small group that meets for prayer that a word from God precedes an act of faith. (I didn't use those words exactly but this is certainly what I meant.) An act of faith is going the distance to accomplish what God has said.

Too many people want the church to retire from acts of faith. They generally start talking about what is practical when this happens. They don't realize that they have traded in their faith for what they call practical.

Recently one of the members of my church pointed to the churches that were dying in the area. He said that we could become like that church. He was just being practical. You see, as long as we listen, God will speak. As long as we are obedient, God will sustain us. He is never far away from those who walk with Him.

So don't get practical mixed up with faithless.

Matthew 14:28-29 (NIV) 28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." 29 "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.


Anonymous said...

I loved this post! :D

Perhaps because I'm very practical and you didn't say that was a bad ting, just that it wasn't a good substitute for faith.

You see, solving problems and fixing things is my job. Really, it is. I'm a social worker. We call ourselves "change agents." While its true that there aren't many conservatives who are also social workers, God has more of us than you'd think. We can be quite useful. If you really want change...

Anyway, you know what makes the best change agent? The ability to dream, to believe outside the lines along with all of that practical hard work.

Or to put it another way, to be willing to move in faith-- believing that God not only has a dream for His creation, but that He also knows how to carry it out--even if it means that we have to get out of the boat...and start walking.


Anonymous said...

I could rather view this subject from the angle of handling decision-making.

Firstly, it is a mistaken notion that as Christians, God does NOT expect us to make decision, and so, to exercise judgment or discernment. There have been 2 main reasons for this misunderstanding; one stamping from the mis-exposition of the verses on "Do NOT judge", and two, from the skewed teachings of overly grace preachers who kept driving into believers that the Christian life is about God deciding everything, and we only need to do anything when we know we are required to do a thing from God, purporting standing on the notion that we have the perfect mind of Christ; what Jesus thinks and wants, we automatically know, and so, we have absolutely no need to decide, and it is all God decides, and if we don't know, purportedly we did not hear from God, from the having the perfect mind of Christ, we do nothing. Because of this, comes also such mistaken exhortation of preachers (so very common, nowadays) to us, that we should NOT try our best, or to effort, or even to try; encouraging fatalistic mindset or skewing into fate, and NOT faith.

Sure God can be making lots of decision impacting us, corporately and individually, yet it is NOT that everything God decides, and that we are merely robots, without volition. There is the God's holiness into which God said He would discipline us to share in it; yet it is still NOT God absolve us from decision-making totally. The parameters are, or we are bounded by, the holiness of God, yet embracing God's holiness still does NOT mean we have no volition or "cannot but do". God does NOT stop you in your track every time.

King Saul (1 Sam 13), for example, decided to do the thing that the prophet and priest Samuel was to do, God did NOT stop him in his track. God was NOT pleased, though, and counted it against King Saul. This case can be said to be a case of practicality, for King Saul was hard-pressed, for he had only a few hundred men, and the enemy was in tens of thousands of men and chariots. Samuel was late, and to be practical, King Saul proceeded to make the sacrifice offering himself!

Being wrongly practical is more often the case of us making decision that disregards the prescription or ways of God. It means we think God's way or prescription is NOT the best; another way of saying is that we are saying we know better, or our way is better than God's prescription.

These 2 must be taken together: we need to know God, and we may have to make decision. If you know God and you want NOT to make decision at all, overall you are NOT going to please God, for there are often enough times, God expects you to (learn to) make decisions (There are many verses exhorting sound judgment and discernment; you will NOT grow if you make NOT decisions!); and if we make decision but without knowing God, our decision-making are NOT within the boundary of God, and they too, cannot be pleasing to God. The actions resulting from such decisions would accordingly suffer the same lack.


Anonymous said...

Cont. from above

The boundary of God includes, foremost, His holiness. Unless, you embrace His holiness - hate evil, shun wickedness, darkness and idolatry, you will NEVER have the wisdom of God. Wisdom of God can only come to us, when we fear the Lord, meaning we hate evil (This is how fear of the Lord is defined in the Proverbs). That the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom is that, precisely because the fear of the Lord is to hate evil or to embrace God's holiness; for God is self-set apart to (His) holiness or set apart from evil. Righteousness of God is principally the outworking of the holiness through wisdom of God; and so, if we want to be righteous (be in agreement with God), we need to embrace both holiness and wisdom of God. The commands of God tell us of what God wills or wants, and are part and parcel of God’s righteousness, and so, it is important we embrace God’s commands, for they point us to His righteousness, and so, tells (us) on His holiness.

Is, to think we know better than God, evil? Is, to think our way is better than that of God, evil? Is, to disregard what God has said, evil? Yes, all of these, point to pride or self-pride; and pride is evil, for it was by pride, that Lucifer (former name for Satan) became evil. In fact, pride epitomizes evil; and Scripture said that God opposes the proud. If you are proud, God is opposing you, just as God is always opposed to evil. The prophet Micah said in Micah 6:8, God expects us to walk humbly before Him.

Without faith, is it evil? Yes, it is; Scripture (Romans 14:23b) said that everything that does not come from faith is sin. Making decision, without allowing for faith, is NOT pleasing to God. Many people make decisions and run their lives, on the pretext of practicality, or being practical, leaving no room for God to come in. They will run their lives insisting on covering every nook and corner.

When we want to cover every nook and corner, it is saying to God, "God, I can manage it all, I don't need you!" What is that? Yes, pride! In any case, if you are the "every nook and corner' person, you are NOT going to be able to rest, for you really cannot cover every nook and corner! Always leave room for God to come in to act; it is saying God is good, and we trust Him, or have faith in Him.

This is a good guide: We pray (and make decision) like it all depended on God, and we work (for the things we need to work on) as if it all depended on ourselves. It is recognising the God's part, and our part.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions