9.14.2007

Do Not Lose Heart (part 2)

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart
(Galatians 6:9)

What are some of the reasons that believers grow weary in doing good or right? What causes believers to want to give up and throw in the towel at times? I have wanted to throw in the towel on the whole thing more times than I wish. One of the primary things that keep me from doing so is the apologetic truth of Christianity; I simply can’t get around it, I know it is true. I can think of several causes that lead true believers into growing weary, losing heart in the fight against sin. Remember, that is the context of that passage, fighting ourselves, our old selves, that war against God and truth. So while some things like taking on too much in ministry (ministry “burn-out”) can cause one to grow weary, such examples are not what the context of this section has in view. Here are some possible causes of losing heart in this fight.

1. Poor theology. Modern evangelicalism has a message to the world that is quite foreign to what the Bible actually teaches. The modern message says that if you come to Jesus all your problems will go away. Come to Jesus, give him a try and you will no longer be lonely, no longer have substance abuse struggles, no longer be sad or depressed, no longer struggle with moral issues, and you will always have peace, joy, love, and happiness. This sets up people for not only a false conversion, but also disillusionment for those who are genuinely converted. The Bible on the other hand, promises that once we accept Christ all hell will break out in our lives. Once we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, and once Christ becomes our Lord and no longer the Prince of Darkness, and once we join the assembly of God’s people and no longer love the world, and once we have the Holy Spirit inside of us along with still retaining a corrupt heart, this is a recipe for intense warfare and battle. Yet be encouraged, because all these signs of struggle, of battle, of failure, of guilt and sorrow are tell tale signs that you are a true Christian. Getting saved does not mean that we no longer struggle or that we will always have victory; quite often just the opposite. Struggle is a healthy sign of spiritual life. The many theologies out there about the victorious life, the higher life, the deeper life, Keswick movement, total surrender etc. that tell you if you do x, y, and z, then you will finally live sin and struggle free. This is a naive and false view of the Christian life. Jesus taught that out of the heart (yes of believers) proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, theft, blaspheme, etc. There is no secret out there that will set you completely free. We are promised daily battle, some days better than others, but always a fight. All this is part of God’s will for our lives, but that is another Meditation for another day. Thus because of poor or false theology, many people have false expectations about the Christian life. Dear friend, God’s diagnosis of our condition, of our human nature, is bleak. We are depraved and will be until our redemption is complete through glorification.

2. Lack of knowledge. Another reason for cause of despair at times is a simple lack of knowledge. This is close to the above point and obviously there is overlap. However, many people have a sound theology but lack knowledge about what God says we are to expect. For example, James under the inspiration of the Spirit writes this: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials [or temptations], knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). Read that again and look for the word “knowing.” Is such a thing common sense? Hardly. Divine revelation says that there is a designed purpose in all our trials and temptations (cf. Rom. 8:28). But amazingly, we are called to “count it all joy” when we face these things. Huh? Well, if you lack knowledge for example that there is a purpose in all these things, that the purpose is ultimately good, that God is all good, and that He will help us in the time of need, then we will most likely not rejoice at such situations. I admit, however, that even having such knowledge does not make it very easy to rejoice in tough times. But this indicates we still have a lot of growing and learning to do, the very purpose of these trials. If you do a word study on the word ‘knowing’ or ‘know’ you find a lot of passages like the above, where possessing certain knowledge is a key in our spiritual growth. Thus those who say that knowledge is carnal or makes you prideful need themselves to gain some more knowledge to correct this distorted view and excuse to remain in spiritual infancy. We are called to “grow in the grace and knowledge of God.” One of the most interesting ironies is that those in Church history who have the most biblical knowledge were/are the most humble, while those who had little knowledge (often and a lot of zeal) were/are the most proud and abusive. Knowing the truth about God and yourself has a sobering and humbling effect. Legalists and overly critical fault finders are usually those who lack knowledge.

3. Expecting perfection. The desire for perfection is healthy; an expectation of it is pagan. We are never to be satisfied or fully content in our sanctification. Because of the above two causes and others, Christians are often too hard or demanding on themselves and thus cast themselves into all sorts of unnecessary guilt trips. Expecting perfection has led many in Church history into all sorts of weird and carnal practices in an effort to escape sin and thus arrive (e.g. monasteries, monks, asceticism, castration, etc.). Such persons expect that they should never sin, often because they think they are above that or they think to highly of themselves (thus lacking knowledge), and when they do fall they either rationalize it away as a “mistake” (not sin), or they needlessly beat themselves up either mentally and even physically. Again, such people usually lack a knowledge of liberating grace. Such think that their acceptance by God is based on something that they have to do, some level of performance they must meet, or some list of do’s and don’ts that they must keep. This is not true religion as taught by the Bible. God accepts us because of who Christ is and what He did for us. Period. Such people who expect perfection of themselves often have the attitude described by Paul in 1 Cor. 10, “If any man thinks he stands, let him take heed lest he fall.” Again, in Galatians he says, “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Again, in 1 Cor. 15, Paul says, I am what I am by the grace of God (paraphrase). This expectation and attitude often looks at others when they fail or fall and says, “Oh my, that is horrible, I could never do that.” Be careful! Pride comes before a fall. The answer to this problem is to understand the grace of God and the doctrine of justification through faith alone by grace alone. Well, then, what should we expect of ourselves? Isn’t it right to have high expectations? Yes, we should have the highest expectations, but, in this life—not perfection (cf. 1 John 1:1-2). Should we expect failure? No that would be defeatist, and the opposite of the optimism the Bible gives us. We should expect various degrees of progressive growth over time, mixed with temporary set backs, failures, and droughts. This leads to our next cause of a loss of heart.

4. Designed deserts.
God has designed spiritual deserts and droughts for us to teach us many things: dependence, faith, humility, insight, desperation, etc. These are trying times when the ebb of our spiritual flame is low, if not nearly out. How can you fight sin in these times? The same way you must survive while stranded in a desert: do whatever you can and hang in there! But what you must continue to do is not neglect God’s ordained means of grace and growth, our next cause.

5. Neglecting the due means of grace. The expression, “the due means of grace” comes from Puritan literature and the Westminster shorter catechism. What does it mean? These are the things that God has designed for His people to grow and persevere. They are usually considered reading/studying the Word, prayer, fellowship/church, communion, and some say, baptism. Jesus said that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (cf. also John 15). It is popular today as it always has been to seek other more fancy or "deep" or mystical means to give us a quick fix to sinlessness. These are not God's designed means for His children to grow; they are carnal and man-centered, humanistic inventions (cf. Col. 2). It is crucial that during trials and deserts, we keep doing these things, even if we don’t feel like it. For as Peter said, these trials and bouts of weakness or struggle, are only for a while. The biggest key I have found is remembering the gospel of grace: I’m saved because of what He did, not anything I have done, am doing, or ever will do. All my works are like filthy rags and the wages of my sin is death. It is not about me, but Him who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

No comments: