Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, June 28, 2009.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8).
This is the last essay in the series, at least until Fall. The Lord is giving me the rest of the summer off as my body and mind need a break. These lessons on "Surrendering to God" were for me, as they all are; if anyone else gets something from them, it's "icing on the cake." I mentioned earlier that "Surrender" is not in my vocabulary, because I'm a fighter. No white flags in my closet, which is no big deal to God, for He has His ways to aid us in "getting over ourselves," as the expression goes. After He has dragged us through enough knotholes backward (my homely description of how it sometimes feels to be one of the "elect"), we have less trouble giving up.
There would have been a time when I would just "soldier on," doing my duty, no matter how tired I was, but those days are gone for several reasons. First, I'm older now and my body is screaming louder: "Enough already!" Aging has limited the number of windmills we can tilt at before collapsing in a heap. Second, God has patiently, carefully, unrelentingly shown me the folly of self effort, works done in the flesh, not the Spirit. Third, on a psychological level, He has shown me that when we bear the burdens of the world because of codependency or some religious compulsion, without taking care of ourselves, our bodies break down and we're no good to ourselves or to anyone else. Lenny reminds me that Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself." If we don't love and care for ourselves, we cannot love and care for others.
God has made it abundantly clear to me that He has already given us in Christ, EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness, EVERYTHING we need to live overcoming lives, and EVERYTHING we need to be pleasing to our Father. Why then do we sometimes have such problems accessing what God has done for us? He surprised me Sunday at Medicalodge by giving me an impromptu discussion of the difference between faith and belief. It struck me at the time, that this is important in so many ways, including why we seem to come up short in accessing the "goodies," including healing, we have in Christ.
Whereas belief is usually the sum of what we've been taught, faith is, as Paul said, "the GIFT of God." For instance, I always knew that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins. I thought I had faith in Him, but what I had was a belief system taught me as a child. Grateful as I am for that, in spite of my belief, I was lacking Faith. That gift from God came at the moment He baptized me in the Spirit. There was never a time when I didn't believe Jesus died for me, but at that moment when the Spirit overshadowed me, I "saw" Jesus on the cross for Jan by faith! What a difference there is between belief (often, a work), and faith, a gift.
We need faith to be pleasing to God (Heb. 11:6). By faith, we know that the world was created by the word of God (Heb. 11:3). We weren't there when it happened; we didn't see it with our own eyes, but by the faith He planted in our hearts when HE chose us, we believe it to be true. By the faith God gave him, Abraham left the home of his fore fathers and moved his family to a far country he had never seen, all on the word of the Lord (Heb. 11:8-9). None of us has ever seen God with our physical eyes, but by His Faith, we believe that He is and that He rewards us for seeking Him. Like Abraham so long ago, we discover that He is our shield and our "exceeding great reward" (Gen. 15:1).
If, as Paul put it, Faith is the Gift of God, it cannot be earned or drummed up by self effort. John declared, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4, KJV). I still think in King James terms because the language is poetically beautiful. However, in my youth and zeal to access all God has for us, I stumbled over the phrase, "even our faith," mistakenly thinking that it was Jan's faith which counted. After my Baptism in the Holy Spirit, I had the occasion of hearing Kenneth Copeland in person. He was dynamic, charismatic, confident, dogmatically proclaiming, that everything was up to us and our faith. Suffice it to say, I spent a few years running after the prize, which to me was healing. I had missed the point God made to Abraham.
The Patriarch was exceedingly wealthy by this time with gold, silver, men servants, women servants, camels, asses, sheep and whatever else they deemed valuable in his day, including a very beautiful wife. Yet, God said to him, "I am thy exceeding great reward." Likewise, when John declared that it is our faith which overcomes the world, he prefaced it by this qualifier: "For whatsoever is born of GOD overcometh the world." It is NOT therefore, really our faith which overcomes the world, but rather, the gift of God given to us when we are born again that makes the difference. I see that plainly now, but in my youthful zeal, I was torn up much of the time because I didn't have the faith to get someone healed, and sometimes was too timid to even go lay hands on them and pray for them. I saw that as MY lack of faith, until God in His mercy began to teach me the way of the Kingdom: "THY kingdom come, THY will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Those words are tremendously significant in reminding us whose will it is which prevails.
That brings me to an e-mail I received last week from a precious saint who is walking through the valley of the shadow of death with her husband. This woman is very dear to me and has been since I first met her in about 1968 at the Hillcrest Church of Christ in Thousand Oaks, CA. She was the first person who encouraged me in my writing, at a time when it was just something I did to unburden my soul. It still is that, as a matter of fact, but this dear friend saw something in my words which sparked her and she told me about it and kept telling me about it over the years.
Her husband is in an ICU unit fighting for his life. My friend has been witnessing about God's power to heal to the loved ones of other patients, gathered in the ICU waiting room. Here's part of her e-mail:
"While I was sitting in the waiting room one day the Lord told me that if everyone in that room that belonged to HIM would come together and pray and really BELIEVED HIS HEALING WAS COMPLETE, HE WOULD HEAL EVERYONE AND THEY WOULD GET UP AND WALK! But of course, Jan, ME OF LITTLE FAITH didn't dare mention that to anyone and I don't know why I am telling you this now, but it was sort of a dungeon/vision/mind boggling thing, and I thought how cool is that? I KNOW HE IS ABLE AND IT WOULD HAVE BLOWN THE MINDS OF DOCTORS, NURSES AND PATIENTS HAD IT REALLY HAPPENED!" End Quote.
How many times have I been in that same place? Wanting so much to see someone healed, but unable to do anything about it. I would go "down for the count" in guilt because of my lack of faith. God used two events to show me WHO was sitting on the throne. One was a member of our church who died in hideous pain right in front of us, in spite of our prayers. The other was a mentally ill woman for whom our group decided to cast out her demons. She cut her throat with a chain saw the next morning and died in her own blood.
Here's a portion of my e-mail to my friend: IF you all in that waiting room could have mustered your faith and declared everyone well in that ICU, then you all would get to share the glory, sit on the throne, and be "God for a day." As it is, only the Faith of Christ IN us has any power to move mountains.
Christ did not come into Galilee, wave His arms, and say, "All you sick folks be healed." His healing gifts were an individual encounter with each needy person, about which He said He only did what He saw the Father doing and spoke what He heard the Father saying. How that plays out in my life is that if His voice tells me to do it, then He gives me the power to do it. IF not, then I don't do it. I long ago surrendered the idea that I have any power at all, or any faith either. Just as we could not save ourselves, even so we cannot gain the victory anywhere else. What I've come to after panting after God on the subject of healing for my whole life is that when Christ says, "Be healed," then we are, but until then, all our good intentions and self effort are more striving in the flesh.
It's a religious idea that we can do thus and so by OUR Faith. Paul made it very clear that it is Christ in us, who is the hope of Glory, the POWER (the dynamite) of God to Salvation. Or to put it another way, "If that same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, He shall quicken your mortal bodies" (Rom. 8:11). For the first time, I see that Christ did not come forth from the tomb, by His own faith, but by the power of the Spirit of God. We are dead in Christ, and dead men have no faith or anything else!
I love you, my dear friend, and it does no good to put yourself down and take responsibility for the fact that your husband hasn't been healed yet. God works all things "after the counsel of His own will," not ours (Eph. 1:11).
Having said all that, as I tell the old dears at Medicalodge, I will NEVER quit asking, hoping, and expecting God to heal the ones I love. Amen.
The question today is "Does God Need our Faith?" Is He precluded from accomplishing His will until we can muster up the faith to move mountains? Does anything about His plan for the ages depend on our actions, thoughts, prayers, or will? Based on the biblical record of man's abilities, it is clear that if God depends upon our getting it right, all is lost. Surrendering our will to His is the only solution, as Isaiah pointed out so long ago: "Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, What are you making?' Does your work say, He has no hands'?" (Isa. 45:9).
"This is what the LORD says, the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts" (Isa. 45:11-12).
Father, You flung the stars into the inky blackness of space; You created the heavens, the earth, and every living thing upon it; then You came to dwell among us and live in us by Your Spirit. We thank You for life itself and for Your love, mercy, and grace manifested among us. Grant us by the power of Your Spirit, eyes to see, and ears to hear Your glory. Heal us of all our diseases and all our neuroses, Father, that we may bear witness to Your power on earth among men. In Christ we ask it, amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
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This site was created on 06/23/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister