When I was about 17 I got into a heated argument with my mother about faith. At the time, I was focused on scriptures that talked about the victory of faith, and told my mother words to the effect, ‘If you have enough faith, you won’t have problems, because scripture says we have overcome the world.’
Mom was about 41 years old at the time and was raising 4 kids on her own after dad had left 6 years earlier, so she had experienced the great joy of raising a family according to how she dreamed life would be, then experienced the shattering of all those dreams. Like someone carefully walking barefoot across a room littered with pieces of a broken mirror, her dreams which once were a solid reflection back to her, now lay scattered and incomplete, never to be assembled again, and any misstep among the pieces could cut her and cause great pain to her and her children.
I was still wet behind the ears, had never paid a mortgage or related bills, and the paychecks from summer jobs if measured out carefully, allowed Barb and I to go on dates through the school year.
With me standing firm on my belief that with enough faith a person could have a smooth life with the fulfillment of all their dreams, and mom standing firm on her belief that faith helped you walk through life’s troubles, she brought it to a close with this: “You just need a few more miles under your feet.”
The culture of church
When I studied the differences between the way Paul did church and the way church is done in the traditional church today, I saw the differences were more than meeting in an auditorium or meeting in a home.
The culture taught in popular charismatic Christianity is very similar to what I argued with my mom – If you have enough faith, can rebuke the right demon, can move God enough, speak the Word enough, can find that 1 spiritual key to unlock the answers you need, you will have a smooth life. That was me until age 22.
Miles under the feet
That change in our life happened when our oldest son, at age 8 months, was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, a condition referring to any brain injury incurred during labor or delivery. The doctor told Barb to “Put him in a home and forget you ever had him, and go on and have more babies and raise your family and live your life.”
She was in tears when she called me at work, her anguish becoming mine over Chris’ condition, our hearts ripped to shreds while indignant at the doctor’s suggestion.
That night we gave Chris his bath, and carefully wrapped him in a warm blanket and laid him on the soft bath mat. As he lay looking up at us, we laid hands on him, telling the Father we reject the doctor’s diagnosis and advice, commanded Chris to be healed, and gave thanks to the Father for the gift of Chris.
Help God along
We stood on the Word, but as he grew it became clear the diagnosis was correct. We learned faith does not call what is as though it is not. Faith is not the denial of facts one must deal with in the here and now.
Chris went through various tests while we stood on the Word and sought the key to the puzzle of his healing. What could we pray, fast, confess, bind, loose, to get the job done? We debated if giving him physical and speech therapy was in faith, or against faith. We spent every penny on getting him whatever therapy might help bring about God’s healing in his body. We looked for ways to help God, willing to try nearly anything to help bring about God’s promises in his life.
One day I was yet again speaking scripture over him and suddenly the Father broke in: “What are you doing?” He asked. “I’m speaking the Word over him”. “What scripture are you standing on?” He asked. I replied, “I Peter 2:24; Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness. By whose stripes you were healed.” He replied, “Very well. Can you believe the promise?” I said, “Yes, I believe” And He said, “Then rest.”
At that point I went from trying to make things happen by my faith, to resting in the fact His Word is true and faith in Him is rest, as Hebrews 4:9-11 says of faith, when we cease our own efforts and simply rest in Him.
Faith: The response to grace
But much of traditional church culture is still trying to make things happen by faith. What I read in the Bible however is that faith is merely a response to grace. Grace makes it happen, and grace is a revelation from the Father either of Him or of His will. Faith is our response to grace, and grace is a revelation of the Father and/or His will.
Noah didn’t build a boat of his own intiative. He received grace in the eyes of the Lord, and from that revelation he built a boat. Moses didn’t just change his mind and decide to go down to Egypt, he had a revelation of God’s plan, which was grace, and he responded. Even Jesus said He only did and said what He saw and heard the Father say and do. (John 5:19,30)
Faith is not independent of the revealed will of God, faith is the response to the revelation of His will. I stopped pulling verses from scripture at will and deciding that would be what I’m standing on. Instead, I communed with the Lord and let revelation come to me, and then I believed and rested in that revelation.
I realized at one point as much as I want Chris to be healed, Chris’ faith is set on what he has stated many times; “When I get to heaven, no wheelchair” and upon seeing kids run, “When I get to heaven I’m going to run like that!”
I had a visitation once with Chris seated on my right side in his wheelchair, and Jesus standing on my left, teaching me about healing and how hard it is for someone who has never known wholeness to believe for their healing. I SO wanted to interrupt and tell Him to lay hands on my son, but He is God and I’m not, so that’s not something you do in the presence of the King. But I gained insight into Chris’ mind that night.
Chris’ faith isn’t to be healed now, his faith is set for heaven, and to that the Lord has responded. One day Chris came crawling down the hall very excited: “Dad, dad! Know what Jesus said to me? He said He’s going to walk through the mountains with me! Yep, that’s what He said, Yahoo! Yep, He’s going to walk through the mountains with me, that’s what He said!”
When the time arrived we had to make the hardest decision of our lives, by far, to put Chris in a group home which at the time was nearly 2 hours away from us, we felt like the worst people on earth. The worst parents.
In our despair we talked long into the night, but Barb eventually drifted off to sleep while I lay there still talking to the Father. I was saying, “Father, if you aren’t going to heal him, just take him home. Barb and I have both been to heaven, we’ve each seen you, we’ve each seen the Lord, so we would rather have our son whole in heaven than to live the rest of his life in his damaged body. Even if we live say, 50 more years, I’d rather miss him and long for him those many years than to have him live in a group home the rest of his life.”
Suddenly, Jesus was standing in my room. My eyes were open and I saw Him and our room as I normally would, just that the Lord was standing there. Without a word of greeting He said: “Would you have me bring Chris home early, having him miss out on the fullness of his reward, just because you feel bad for having to put him in a group home?”
I was dumbfounded. “I, I, am sorry Lord. I had never considered his reward. I know when I am gone ministering and he and Barb are home allowing me to go out, they take part in the ministry, but I hadn’t truly known that until right now. No, I want Chris to receive the fullness of his reward, even if that means hardship for us and him, for we value heaven more than earth. But only with these conditions; That he never be molested nor suffer neglect.” Jesus nodded His head sharply downward once as He said, “Done”, and He was gone.
As I write this, on December 21, Chris will turn 34 on Monday the 23rd. The whole family is coming for his birthday party and Christmas, both his brothers, both daughters in law, and all 6 of his nieces and nephew. He loves the Lord and continues to look forward to his new body in heaven, but until then….
By the time Paul wrote his letter to Lydia, the original hostess of the house church in Philippi, he had been through very great difficulties related to persecution and hazardous travel of the time. When he wrote Philippians 4:11-13 he had come to the point in his life he could say this:
“I have learned whatever state I’m in, to be content. I know how to be brought low, and how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and hungry, to abound and to suffer need…”
This phrase in English, ‘I am instructed’, is closer to this in the Greek; “I have been initiated into the mysteries“. Paul reveals the core mystery: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Next week – Initiation into the mysteries. Until then, blessings,