POSTED ON MARCH 23, 2011:
An Article of Faith
Surrender to remain committed in uncertain times
I'm a thinker. I enjoy analyzing things. Sometimes it gets so bad that I just lay in bed at night trying to turn it off.
This week as I watched the images from the tsunami in Japan play out on my TV screen, I sat with the rest of the world in shock. As a thinker, your mind can't help but begin to formulate questions when you see such tragedy.
Earlier in the week I sat down with two fellow deep thinkers who were still processing what their faith was going to look like. They hear the messages about God being good, they see the suffering of innocent people, and they have questions -- valid questions at that.
As human beings, we want answers. Something we can comprehend that will put our minds at rest. Something that's black and white. Something concrete.
We crave clarity and we pride ourselves on being able to formulate solutions and certainties to life's most complex issues.
After eight years of formal bible and theology training I've discussed about every issue imaginable. I've spent countless hours scouring the depths of issues from predestination, to the reality of heaven/hell, to the issue of theodicy (the problem with evil).
At times these discussions led me to truth. At times, scripture and the use of reason led me to conclusions that somewhat appeased my curiosities. At times, most of the time, I had to settle for uncertainty.
I can vividly remember a time in my theological pursuits sitting in a dorm room with a young man I had become quite familiar with through various classes. This dude was brilliant. He had just been accepted into the most prestigious divinity school in the country and rightfully so.
Years of theological pursuits, asking questions, seeking answers and delving into studies had led him to a "crisis of faith" moment. That time when knowledge becomes an inevitable roadblock and the path becomes either faith or unbelief.
There are discrepancies. There are complexities in life and faith that we must be willing to wrestle with.
In essence, all the questions inevitably come back to one very important question: "Can I believe? Can I have faith?" The problem with faith is that it takes just that: faith.
A type of faith that is not contingent on circumstances, tragedies, or uncertainties. The type of faith that supersedes our ability to fully comprehend the complexities of the world we live in and our faith in God. Not a faith void of real questions, but a faith that understands our limited nature as humans.
Psalm 139 may be one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. As I read it, I listen to the Psalmist express prayers to God that comfortably embrace his role as a limited human before a limitless God.
"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain" (139:6) and "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand." (139:17)
Hidden behind these words and phrases in Psalm 139 is a resolute faith, a peaceful assurance that rests in God's omniscience. It's almost as though you can hear the relief in the writer's words: "I will never fully understand these complexities and I'm OK with that."
Do you remember the story of Job, a righteous man who walked in the ways of the Lord and yet faced unspeakable tragedy. Put yourself in Job's shoes.
Job had questions and even decides to put God on trial. God shows up and responds in a way that is truly incredible.
God responds to Job by asking, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?" (Job 38:4-5)
Don't misunderstand me. Our minds are an incredible gift of God that should and must be used. The difficulty lies when that pursuit of knowledge and understanding becomes the very thing that keeps us from true relationship with Him.
Paul understood this tension when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:1, "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."
As a follower of Jesus Christ we can never separate our thinking, our pursuit of knowledge, and our myriad of questions from a personal relationship with Christ. If we do, we will inevitably come to our own "crisis of faith" moment because uncertainties are inevitable.
In the midst of these questions and uncertainties, we must continually allow the Holy Spirit to shape us, allow prayer to change us, and allow God's work to speak fresh and relevant truth to our lives.
-(Matt Nelson is the lead pastor at City Church.)
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