Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Mountain of Steel

  Jesus and his disciples were out in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee when a furious storm came up with waves sweeping into the boat. Matthew 8 tells us that Jesus was sleeping through it all, and the disciples were understandably freaking out and woke him saying “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Before he gets up and fixes it he says “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

  In his excellent book Hearing God, Dallas Willard points out “Now the disciples obviously had great faith in Jesus. They called upon him, counting on him to save them. They had great faith in him, but they did not have his great faith in God. It was because they did not have his faith that he spoke of how little faith they had. 
  Some Christians too commonly demonstrate that the notions of ‘faith in Christ’ and ‘love for Christ’ leave Christ outside the personality of the believer.”

  The concept excited me and I knew it was deeply applicable right now, but it took many readings to let it sink in. To grow one’s faith has always seemed vague to me. How much faith are we supposed to have? How did the disciples get it in the long run? If “little faith” here refers to the quality and placement of the disciples’ faith rather than quantity, application was going to answer some of my questions.
  I know that I am to have the mind of Christ with which to make judgments (1 Cor. 2:16). I know that Christ is my life (Col. 3:4), that regeneration brings me back to square 1, but my redeemed life + his life in me is true life. I know that the peace of Christ is to rule in my heart (Col. 3:15), and the word of Christ– who is himself the Word (Jn. 1:1)– is to dwell in me richly (Col. 3:16). If Christ’s life is to literally, not figuratively be my life, then it makes sense that I need to ask for his faith as well. 

  Of course it was only a few hours before I once again desperately needed Christ’s faith. In addition to not feeling great at this time of year, God has directed me to get involved with something that is particularly spiritually embattled. At first Mondays were hectic, then Sundays, and it spread from there. For a month and a half every minute of rest has been a dark, dirty fight. 
  Here’s what happened: Once again as I prepared to obey God’s request I was feeling sick and tired. There was a chemical halo of anxiety to it, and as I prayed about it, I got the sense that it was more spiritual than anything. I was prompted to remember what I had read about Christ’s faith, but I didn’t really know how to apply it. First I asked to be taught to pray. Then I asked for greater faith, for Christ’s faith in God. Without any awareness of when or how it happened, without any sensation at all, I was suddenly calmer. My immediate impression was that I had more backbone. I was suddenly praying with calm clarity addressing the darkness and anxiety: 
  “My life and times are in God’s hands. If he has asked me to go tonight, I will go, and you will not be able to stop me. His rule limits your power to harass me. You are clearly allowed to make me uncomfortable, but you are not allowed to actually stop me. I am the Lord’s servant. I will not be afraid.” 
That was it. No dazzling linguistic fireworks, just a rock solid statement of facts. It reminded me of how Jesus prays in Scriptures, but not how I pray. I try to pray with authority in Jesus’ name. There was a point in time when that seemed like enough. Maybe it was developmentally appropriate then, but I’m going to tattle on myself here. Lately it sounds kind of whiney and desperate: An urgent, peevish whinge “They are picking on me...Stop it! Jesus doesn’t want you to do that!” No one likes to listen to that, nor does it carry any authority. It isn’t effective at stopping an attack. As we all hopefully learn in grade school, singsonging “Hey! Mom told you to stop that” really only eggs on antagonists. 

By showtime I felt like a 30 lb weight I had been schlepping all month had melted away. I also slept restfully that night for the first time in a month. I have since had occasion to pray this way a shocking number of times. I’m having to fight just as hard for sleep and peace, but I am entering the combat with a power far beyond my own. 

  When I pray this way it feels like the tattered membrane of my faith is firmly backed by a mountain of solid steel, the force that invented nature. Aha! Is that why faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? My own faith might be very flimsy, but Christ's isn't. 
  I can’t express why, but it also feels like instead of tugging on my brother’s sleeve to get him to beat up my bullies, I am stepping out from behind him and we are taking care of it together as a family. The verse that keeps coming to mind is 

Romans 8:29 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” 
  This is a conformity unlike any I have experienced before, and I’ve never had a sense of Jesus as a brother before, but it is really awesome! It is a quality you can sense in the heroes of the faith: Not just an assurance that comes from years of walking with God, but that otherworldy sense of being tapped into the source of life, of Shalom. I am definitely not there yet myself, but I know God means for me to be. 

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10

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