Remembering God’s perspective during the walk of Faith

The best preachers force us to question ourselves. I have been interested in writing about Faith for a while. I have been unpacking the idea of faith during a deep study of Romans and Faith is the basis of the kids class I have crafted to teach the book of Hebrews to 3-5 year olds. But after hearing a recent sermon (listen here), I realized that this topic deserved more of a look in the mirror. Rather than simply outlining the biblical idea of faith (which I still hope to accomplish here), I’d like to show you my vulnerability towards sin and unwise approaches as I wrestle with having faith and how I view faith in others.

Maybe it is the perfectionist part of my personality. Or maybe it’s the fact that I am an Enneagram 1 – the moralist. Or maybe its the Myers Briggs “Judging” aspect of my thought process. Or more likely the beautiful combination of all of this…but I have a lot of trouble accepting myself (and in turn others) right where I am at that moment. My desire for growth and maturity has often left me feeling like a failure in the present. If I do achieve a level of proficiency in something, I tend to reflect on my path to get there rather negatively. I find myself admiring those who have achieved mastery and overlooking those who are wrestling with decisions and navigating life’s difficulties in their own way. I often look down on my earlier mindset when I was younger, seeing only the immaturity and gaps in my understanding. I’m only satisfied with myself to the extent that I feel I have conquered an issue. My studies of faith recently have reminded me that God works throughout the process…not only in our ability to achieve victory, but also through our defeats.

Let me unpack this a bit…

During the time in my life that I was searching for biblical truth and understanding of the Bible, I always viewed myself as woefully ignorant and displeasing to God, which was somewhat true. I felt embarrassed that I had been attending church services for so much of my life and didn’t really feel like I understood the Bible. It took the loving reminder of many around me that God is overjoyed that I desire to learn more about His word and to know Him and that I took action to change it. God has always encouraged His people to do exactly that.

I have this negative view of my past that has held me back from receiving others at similar points in their journey. In college, I was certainly quite dedicated and hard working. However, when I look back, I’m often disappointed in my moral judgment despite claiming to be Christian. I was at a military academy for college, so I joined the workforce with many of my college classmates. I expressed often how uncomfortable it was to work with some of my former classmates, who witnessed many of my mistakes in college. Running into ex-boyfriends or having friends befriend ex-boyfriends was a bit haunting for me…I didn’t quite feel I could grow up and put my less mature years behind me. I was worried that they might hold it against me during my career. I later realized that I had judged them the same way. I often avoided fellow Academy grads out of a distaste for how they may have remembered me and how I viewed them, either individually or collectively. My view was almost entirely black and white. I was only “bad” and ignored my strengths and positives during that time, even if immature. Others were inadvertently seen the same way. And I was often wrong. More times than I’d like to admit I was surprised by someone’s graciousness towards me despite their awareness of my missteps. I would be surprised that they had positive things to say about me from that time, having only focused on the negative aspects of my life at that time. Sadly, I rarely gave them the same grace; failing to see that perspective even for myself. Though I eventually realized I needed to offer them a clean slate too. Upon reflection, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I didn’t give myself or anyone else the room to be a whole person, with a developing personality and character. I didn’t see the complexity of each person. If any of you are reading this, I’m sorry.

I was doing a disservice to them and to myself. All of us (or at least most of us) have grown and matured since college or high school. Many of us struggled with establishing healthy relationships and yet were passionately seeking love. Many of us made mistakes that we weren’t proud of that developed us in new ways and yet we were attempting to navigate new challenges. Many of us fell into comparison or some level of bullying and saw the damage it caused and yet found others who gave us a sense of belonging. And along side those things…Many of us found a deeper relationship with God was needed. Many of us found ways to show kindness and help each other. Many of us found a purposeful work that we loved. Many of us explored new things and found amazing friendships. That is part of the journey of that stage of life; to explore who you are and refine it.

I am critical of myself in so many ways, yet my goal, which I desperately try to achieve, is to lovingly accept others without criticism. And yet, many of the people I care about most have expressed this pressure they feel from me that they need to “arrive” at the more mature mindset I am presenting almost instantly. That I push too hard towards my recommended approach in a loving desire to uphold the standards I’ve outlined. They end up feeling like a failure because I’m expecting them to jump right to where I’m already at. I’m often not open to their unique approach to working through these problems. I’m often expecting them to adapt faster than even I did and skipping over the need to determine whether they believe it is true for themselves.

I’m grateful they were willing to open up to me, despite maybe feeling judged even more. Though it may not be fun for me to hear, I’d do well to listen to them because I should know the feeling they are trying to express. I am making them feel the same weight of criticism that I hold against myself. I thought I was able to approach them differently, but I’m realizing that wasn’t the case despite my best efforts. It starts with me. That is why, I believe, God insists that we work on ourselves first.

Especially with women, who often view themselves negatively, we can’t escape this critical mindset spilling out unintentionally. Viewing ourselves by only our worst qualities during past phases of our lives is incredibly unlike God’s view of us. Faith has nothing to do with where we have been, thanks to God’s forgiveness. Faith only looks to where we are going and who is leading us. Yes, we have screwed up or been naive or maybe even something more serious. But God sees our desire to know Him. God sees our sorrow that produces repentance. God sees our excitement as we learn new things about Him. I know this because of His words:

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8

God grants us time to come to the knowledge of these things. And God calls us to continue, but comforts us as we struggle.

When you begin to study people in the Bible more deeply, you can begin to see personalities emerge. I tend to think I’m a combination of 2 people: Peter and Paul. Peter is bold and quick to answer and often lovingly corrected by Jesus for missing the mark. He seems confident that he’s “got it” and then miserably denies Jesus. Peter has so much godly sorrow from denying Jesus that he is moved to repentance and recommits himself with new dedication to his calling as an Apostle.

Paul, too, is convinced of the truth of his message as a Pharisee, persecuting Christians. He then converts to Christianity and applies his intensity to the Faith and strives that much more once Christ directs him to the path of righteousness. Paul’s letters (13 recorded in the Bible) often help us to see Christ’s standards and inspire us to rise to the upward call. Whatever Paul committed himself to, he was all in. Amusingly enough, Paul is labeled as the Enneagram 1 in most all of the enneagram personality comparisons. (See more Enneagram Bible personality comparisons to find yours here or here.)

Paul encourages us to renew our mind and commit ourselves to transforming to a mindset driven by the Spirit instead of the flesh. Paul writes to the Corinthians about their many egregious sins, calling them to repentance while still encouraging them that he loves them and more-so, that they are cherished by God, which is why Paul desperately desires that they return to His ways. You can feel his passion as you read his letter, desperately appealing to them to change and return to God despite how harsh it sounds (1 Corinthians).

I hope that while I match aspects of the personalities of these incredible men of the Bible, I can also adopt their perspective about God and faith. Both of these men needed Jesus. Both of these men had difficulties where they didn’t measure up to Jesus’s standard and yet proclaimed God’s righteous standards for all of us. And both talk about the need for perseverance in our faith. Not as an arrival, but as a process through-which God is glorified along the entire journey.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Paul in Romans 5:2-4

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Peter in 2 Peter 1:5-8

Did you notice that faith was the first idea from each of these men inspired by God? Faith is our response to the call of salvation offered by Christ. However, faith is not an end-state, nor is it stagnant at all. We are called to remain faithful until death (Hebrews 3:14 and others). But our faith is not one of performance, so much as commitment. In Hebrews 10:23, the KJV states, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised)”. Our faith is based on who God is, not on our performance.

The children’s definition we use in class for faith is to “trust, believe and obey what God has to say”. Hebrews 11:6 says it this way…”But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Then we break them down:

TRUST – God has a plan to save us through his Son and keeps his promises (Hebrews 3:14, 6:12)

BELIEVE – That Jesus is the promised Savior from God (and High Priest, and King, and…) (Hebrews 10:10 & Hebrews 4:3, 11:6)

OBEY – Follow the laws Christians are to follow (the New Covenant) from the heart, including repentance when we sin (Hebrews 4:2, 6)

All of these aspects of faith are based on Who God is and that He will accomplish this great work! One of the greatest acts of obedience we perform is repentance from sin, in the beginning through Baptism (as an answer of conscience) and continuing throughout our lives to God and often to others. God will keep His promise to take away our sin and remove our punishment of death if we commit to Him.

As we strive for growth in our faith, we have to commit ourselves to yielding to our great God and the work He gracefully accomplishes in us…forgiving our sins, strengthening us, and sustaining us. We glorify God even as we stumble and struggle if we lean on Him amidst it all. We glorify God in our weakness, even more perhaps than we might through our strength. Paul talks about this idea in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12.

As I watch my children grow, I see more and more the kind of love God has for me on this journey of faith. When they are young and naive to the world, children have this amazing joyfulness at all the new things they are learning. And I’m not annoyed they haven’t matured and I’m not expecting them to understand like an adult. I’m joyfully watching them experience the phase that they are in, in all of its beauty.

If we are seeking to trust, believe, and obey God at the place where we are at, then we are glorifying God. We can do that as a new Christian. We can do that as we struggle. We can do that in our weakness. We don’t have to wait until we have perfect knowledge or maturity or until we have established a healthy habit (see my last post here). And we won’t get it right all the time. Our trust will be shaken. Our belief will be tested. And our obedience will always fall short. But God grants us time and doesn’t hold that snapshot against us. We don’t have to be at a great point in our faith to glorify God. And I know I am missing many great examples of faith when I overlook the teenager who just committed themselves to Christ, or the person wrestling with God’s wisdom about some aspect of life (finances, sin, marriage, etc) or the new Christian who leans on their church family in a tragic loss.

So bringing us back to my personal reflections, I need to see faith as God sees it. As a continual walk with Him. Both for myself and for those whom I love. I can’t expect everyone to process things in the same way that I do now. I can’t expect everyone to be ready to receive God’s message or follow the same path I did to get there. I can’t expect everyone to avoid choices that may take them off of God’s path. I certainly didn’t. I can’t expect everyone to be ready to hear God’s wisdom. I can only hope that when I speak to others (and myself) that I am speaking as “the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11), with God’s wisdom, God’s message and God’s love. I need to point to the one who is Faithful. I need to allow room for their own unique personalities and ways of processing things and give them time and room to wrestle with it. And chew on it. And go their own way. And make their own choice. That is the only way for them to develop their own faith. And I’m continually amazed as I watch God work at how often people come back around…not to me, but to God. Situations or even people that I have discarded as hopeless have turned into an incredible example of all that God can accomplish. I need to avoid writing people off when my view based on a snapshot may be completely wrong.

God lovingly offers His wisdom throughout the entire Bible, but He doesn’t chastise us about our past. He doesn’t look at the time in our life when we were confused and searching as pointless. They often draw us closer to Him, which He desires for us (Psalm 145:18). When we choose something unwise or sinful and stray from the path, He calls us back, welcoming us lovingly when we return…remember the prodigal son? But He doesn’t demand anything of us. He simply asks us to change. And in His forbearance, He often grants us the time to return.

Babies are daring, joyful and naive. Toddlers are learning new things and testing their boundaries. Teenagers are awkwardly seeking independence and defining who they are. Young adults are trying to “make something” of themselves and find a good match. Parents are trying to raise children well. And that’s as far as I’ve gotten, so I’m not yet sure what the future holds after that. Are you there yet? What do you think? We are all at a different point of processing information and how important it is to us at every one of these stages. Then we add on their vastly different personalities that blend together in a way that only God can fully see. He created us that way. And we can trust that He can work all things together for His good for those who love Him; to those “who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Him who is faithful. And so long as we continue in faith, we can trust that God will be faithful to his promise of salvation. The verse from a hymn suddenly makes more sense to me…

But “I know Whom I have believed,

and am persuaded that He is able

to keep that which I’ve committed

unto Him against that day!”

2 Tim 1:12

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