Friday, May 23, 2014

Faith and Insecurity

This is kind of the other side of the coin to my last post. Maybe it should have been first, I don't know.

I have taken probably two dozen different spiritual gifts tests over the years, studied spiritual gifts extensively, and even written my own test to try and address common shortcomings I saw in the standard approach to testing. So when I took another one a couple of months ago at my new church, I wasn't expecting to be surprised by the results or really to learn anything new.

Like so many other tests, the gift of Faith was one of my top-scoring items. And like so many times before, I dismissed the finding as being the result of a common (and in my mind, erroneous) testing methodology. After all, 1 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV) says that spiritual gifts are given for "the common good", and Ephesians 4:12 says they are also for "the training of the saints in the work of ministry" and "to build up the body of Christ".

That certainly hasn't been my response when I encounter a lack of faith in someone. I haven't tried to train others to have more trust in God, apart from what I consider just general encouragement from the Word, and I would be hard pressed to demonstrate that I have used my faith for the common good or for building up the body of Christ. My most common responses to people's unbelief, sad to say, have been either frustration or dismissal. Here recently I have graduated to trusting that God will show them in time, if He intends to. That's a little better.

But three things have happened over the last couple of months that God has used to grow my understanding. One, after taking this test, I shared (and promptly dismissed) the faith result with our ministry leader who trains people in the area of spiritual gifts. I shared the same line of reasoning with him as I outlined above, and when I said that I most often respond to people's lack of faith with frustration, he very quickly responded, "That's because you have the gift of Faith." I again dismissed what he said because I "knew" better. To his credit, he didn't argue the point further. Rather, the Holy Spirit went to work on me for a while, and I have been reminded of this leader's words at least a half dozen times in the last two months.

Two, I a have friend with whom I share a common understanding of and very solid belief in the total, absolute sovereignty of God. In fact, I always just assumed that that was where my unshakable faith and trust in God came from. Naturally, I expected him to have the same. But a few weeks after that spiritual gifts test and subsequent conversation above, my friend had a crisis of faith. I won't share the details publicly, but it traumatized him a great deal, and only now, several weeks later, is God starting to bring some real healing and understanding to his heart and mind. But the entire time he was going through it, as I would share from the Word to try and encourage him, try as I might, I really couldn't even begin to understand why he was reacting the way he was. I kept thinking in the back of my mind, "There it is in black and white (and sometimes red). Why don't you just trust what God says?"

Three, and finally, my pastor shared this video with the congregation this past Sunday:

It was a powerful message for me, but for different reasons than most people, I'm sure. I welcome the chiseling, sometimes even craving it. But his portrayal of the level of insecurity, doubt, and feelings of low self-worth that most believers apparently struggle with to some degree brought me to tears. I can't imagine having to deal with even the smallest level of something like that. After church Sunday, I said to my wife, "I really have no concept of just how insecure most people are", to which she replied "No, you don't."

As I continued to replay this video in my mind and see and hear this man's anguish, in my mind I cried out to God, "Why? Why would You do this to people? How do people even get out of bed in the morning if deep down that's how they really feel?" As gently and firmly as His counterpart in the video above, God brought this word to my mind:

My grace is sufficient for them, for My power is made perfect in their weakness.
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

I am beginning to understand that my faith is a gift in *every* sense of the word. Not just that I have been rescued from sin and death, as if that weren't miraculous enough, but that I have also been spared the loneliness, fear, and self-doubt that plague so many. And to borrow a phrase from Stan Lee, I am also beginning to realize that with great faith comes great responsibility. I don't know yet what that will look like, but I trust that God will reveal it to me in His perfect timing.

God, forgive me for taking for granted the special measure of faith
You have given me. By Your Holy Spirit, teach me to harness this faith to build up
my brothers and sisters for their good, to prepare them for the work of ministry,
and most of all for bringing glory to Your Name.

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