Sunday, May 16, 2010

Using both pedals of the bike

During the two years that I've been writing in this blog about perseverance and trust, and about faith and hope, and about my wife's health, it's always felt a challenge to accurately express what I believe without feeling like I'm contradicting myself.

On the one hand, I want to write about how the Bible teaches us that God is glorified by how we trust Him amidst whatever troubles we face in this world, no matter how unpleasant they may be and no matter how long they last.  That way, when people around us see that we can have real peace and joy and gratitude no matter what the circumstances, we will clearly demonstrate that God is our treasure above all else, and that even if we lose everything -- even our lives -- but still have Christ, we would call that "gain" (Philippians 1:21).

On the other hand, I want to write about how the Bible teaches us that God is glorified by how we persistently pursue Him as the One who can deliver us from desperate circumstances, trusting Him as the God who can do miracles to rescue or heal us.  That way, when people around us see the great deliverances God can work for those who cry out to Him in faith, God will clearly be seen as the God who lovingly responds to those who depend on Him (James 5:15).

So I find myself writing that God is glorified when we faithfully trust Him in the midst of troubles, and that God is glorified when our prayers of faith result in deliverance from troubles.  Which is it?  Trust or change? Trusting God's wisdom to allow certain difficulties to persist in my life as He rules and reigns amidst every circumstance, or seeking to change things in this world through persistent prayer or by exercising the authority God has delegated to His disciples?

I believe the answer is both.  I've certainly written about both those themes in this blog.  For me, those two perspectives represent the two pedals on the bike of the Christian life (metaphorically speaking, of course).  To live as a Christian with only one of those two perspectives is like awkwardly riding a bicycle with only one pedal.

In a sense, this is the Biblical tension between God's sovereign decree that "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33) and God's encouragement for us to not lose heart in prayer because God will surely "bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night" (Luke 18:7).  This suggests that there are difficult circumstances we must go through in order to grow in character (Romans 5:3-4), to grow in endurance (James 1:2-3) and to grow in faith (1 Peter 1:6).  It also suggests that there are other times when God wants us to persistently and confidently pursue Him for a change in our circumstances so that we will be more fruitful (John 15:16) and more joyful (John 16:24), and so that we would "find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16) and God would be glorified as He helps us (John 14:13).

Sometimes it's not easy to know which of those two outlooks to adopt when we face a mountain in our life.  My rule of thumb is to seek to move the mountain by "the prayer of faith" (James 5:15) in Jesus (pedal #1), all the while trusting Jesus as my Sufficiency as I pray about that mountain -- especially if the mountain simply refuses to budge (pedal #2).  That's how I keep moving forward in my Christian life, come what may!

© 2010 by Ken Peters


Andrew Mick said...

Hi Ken,

I totally agree with you. Most Biblical truths seem to live beside other equally Biblical truths which seem incompatible but must be held side by side, in seeming tension, without contradiction. It really is both-and. I think this is a marvellous proof that the gospel is true, because we see paradoxes in life all the time. As GK Chesterton quipped, "we cannot see the thing by which we see all things, namely, the sun." There is mystery in truth, and certainty, and sometimes the places you'd expect to find mystery are the places where you find certainty, yet in other situations, you look expecting certainty but are left with mystery. God cannot be tamed. There is a time for everything, a time to fight and a time to claim defeat.

But right now - and for things like healing and more conviction of the Spirit in our preaching - I'm fighting.


ps. let me know what you think of this:

Ken said...

That is a fantastic post by Adrian Warnock! I agree with it entirely! It resonates in my heart and leaves me wanting more of the fullness of all "Christ in us" is supposed to mean. And as I ponder the impossibility of realizing such ideals on this side of heaven, I see increased potential for it if we can embrace the strengths and passions of all the various parts of each local expression of Christ's Body and not keep trying to pit various Biblical values against each other, thereby creating false dichotomies and trying to force people to choose between Biblical values rather than having it all! Because I too want it all!

Ken said...

That said Andrew, there remains the question of order. It's one thing to want it all -- it's quite another to, amidst our deep desire for all of the many blessings of the Gospel, end up displacing the primacy of the cross and our resultant relationship with the crucified Christ. After all, idolatry is our greatest weakness, and any good gift from God has the potential to be an idol if we want it more than God Himself.