I had to think for a couple seconds about the title of this blog. I wanted to highlight the need for patience, prayer and humility, but titles with those concepts just wouldn’t adequately describe the purpose of this entry. The truth is, I want this blog to be an adequate reminder of an attitude and practice that I want to maintain in my life. I figured the title should reflect the attitude and line of questioning I had when God revealed to me the untrusting nature of my belief.
Let me set the background scenario for how I began to think of these things. The first thing you should know is that I believe the Bible to be true and adequate for training us in all areas of life. I believe it should be the primary source for Christians to understand how our lives should be lived. This would include our attitudes at work, at home and at church. It would also include the way we as a corporate body structure our churches. I believe firmly that God has not left us without instruction to something as dear to Him as His Church. I believe firmly that Scripture should drive us in all that we do. Part of that is submission to church leadership. That’s a background of my beliefs relevant to this discussion. Now I’d like to detail my predicament.
Believing all these things has translated historically into a lack of grace in my life when discussing with people who seem to me to have impure doctrinal beliefs. I have historically grown impatient with those who seem to misuse the Bible, or simply not understand it correctly. The last few years, God has been working on my heart to make me more gracious. Unfortunately for those around me, it’s been a slow process. I don’t want to write to much about the actual scenario, lest those involved would feel I had betrayed their trust, or talked badly about them - that is not my intention. I’m simply writing these things so that I remember them in the future, and I feel that they may be of profit for the three people that read my blog. For sake of understanding what I want to share, it’s important (at least for me) to know (for me to remember) the context of how I learned it. So here is the scenario in a nutshell: I have very formed beliefs about what the Church is and how certain things should be practised. I was asked to do something by my church leadership which I didn’t feel comfortable with, as I thought it betrayed the truth of Scripture on particular areas of Church practice. That is the scenario. What to do in this situation was a source of great concern for me.
I began with prayer. My prayer followed three main lines of petitioning: that God show me how to react to the situation, that God show me if I erred in my interpretation of the Scripture and that God move the hearts of the leadership to understand the Scriptures correctly. All of these things, of course, I prayed would be according to the will of God. As I was praying for these things, God really spoke to my heart. He began to reveal an attitude in my heart that was untrusting of His methods and plans. I grew convinced through my study of the passages in question that my interpretation was accurate, but I noticed a desperate feeling in my heart to see my church practice according to the Scripture. This, needless to say, is not a bad thing. What was bad was my willingness to judge my leaders based on their not understanding the Scripture. I was eager to prove to them the truth of Scripture. I was willing to attack their current practices and argue about what was true and right. I was not willing to submit to their leadership and recognize that the same Holy Spirit which dwells in me also dwells in them. I was not willing to trust that God was working in this church, and that He had things under control. I began to feel uneasy about the situation, and I doubted whether I could have any ministry at the church. I began considering whether I needed to begin searching for a new church.
But God in his ever so gracious, ever so tender manner spoke to my heart. ‘It’s okay,’ He said. ‘Don’t forget why this issue is important to you. It’s important to you because I said it’s important. You can trust that if something is important to me, I will work it out. The truth is that I know what I’m doing, and I’m working at your local church. Take your stand and refuse to do what they’ve asked, because your conscience is convicting you. Then submit to their leadership and follow whatever decision they come to. Don’t forget that I chose them to shepherd my church, and I’ve given them authority over you. Don’t trespass my Word with the guise of following my Word. Don’t be divisive. Don’t judge. Just trust that I’m working in the church, and I will execute my will. Remember that I’m a patient God, patient even with you when you sin against me, and I’m asking you to be patient with my people, as I’m patient with you.’
So I have a problem with trust, do I? As I began to search my heart I recognized that yes, yes indeed I do have a problem with trusting the Lord. I give up so quickly because ‘things aren’t right.’ Thank God He doesn’t give up so easily, because when it comes to me at least, things are almost never right. Trust. That’s what I’ve gotta do, huh? Trust.
The concept is so simple: God knows everything, He has power to accomplish anything He wants to, so just trust that He knows the circumstances of my particular situation, and trust that He has the power to accomplish what’s best in my particular situation. So simple… to give lip-service to. I began finding how difficult it is to just trust that God is working in other people’s lives. As I began trying to focus on this idea, though, there was a very real positive practice that began to develop in my life. Prayer. Real heartfelt, intercessory, supplicatory, thankful, penitent prayer. I started to approach all my relationships with this main idea at the forefront of my mind: God is working in this person’s life. I began to stop trying to convince people of how right I am, or even of how they need to follow the Scripture, and began to just pray for these people sincerely. It doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped telling people they need to submit to the Lord or follow the Scripture, but I’ve realized that it’s not my job to convince them. I can honestly leave it up to the Lord! He knows what He’s doing. If there is something Biblical that is important to me, it’s infinitely more important to Him. If I don’t see Biblical practices being practised, it’s entirely arrogant of me to think that I can somehow cause them to be practised. God is entirely more powerful than I am, and He cares for these things entirely more than I do. More than that, He’s asked me to pray that they occur, and trust Him.
So I trust. I trust God to work in other people’s lives. I trust God that the same Spirit He’s given me, He’s also given to others who have believed on His Son. What’s that coming my way? Oh, freedom. Hi freedom, it’s nice to finally know you! The freedom that comes with a simple trust in the Lord and His Word has been monumental in my life. I’m well aware that to most Christians all that I’ve just written is completely basic, fundamental and boring. For me though, because I haven’t been practising it, it’s been transforming. Why won’t anyone listen to me? Because I’m just a jerk trying to convince people that I’m right about the Bible. Why would anyone listen to me? Because I’ve simply trusted the Lord and prayed that He would work in their hearts, and when I discuss the Bible with them, I’m not trying to convince them I know something they don’t, but graciously offering what the Lord has taught me and what about the Scripture drives me to do what I do, and believe what I believe.