Friday, October 5, 2007

Faith's Fixed Focus

James calls us to ask of God for our needs and we "must believe and not doubt" (Jas 1:5-8). This may sound unreasonable to us since we are naturally inclined to doubt in response. But James realized that when we consistently feel uncertain that the Lord can and will provide, we are not practicing faith. We have nothing to hang on to when our world starts to spin in circles. We lack that secure feeling of being anchored in Christ's love and assurance, and in the knowledge of the Son of God and what He accomplished for us. Doubting itself, is not a sin but it places us in a position where it's far easier to sin than when we rest in our faith in God.

And what exactly is faith we might ask? Faith is the hope for something with the sure expectation of receiving it (Heb 11:1). It is not based on mere "hopes or happenings," it is based solely on the assurance that we will receive what we are waiting for. It's like a child knowing Christmas is coming. He's so excited he feels like it's never going to get here and yet he knows it's coming. It always comes year after year. So he longs for Christmas with the assured expectation of what he hopes for. It may feel like it's never going to come to him but he knows in the back of his mind that Christmas is coming. Our faith is like that. We don't yet have that which we were promised but we know we're going to get it. We know it's going to happen. Faith is that kind of experience. It's not hoping something will happen like we're hoping to win the lottery and never knowing whether it will ever happen. No, faith is waiting for something that we know positively is going to happen. There's really no hoping involved. It's more a "waiting" until it comes or happens.

At times we will all have doubts in our minds, but such qualms are to be released in favor of trust in God. As stated earlier, doubting isn't a sin but our actions coming from that doubt quite often can be. How can we look to God with confidence if we don't know that He is trustworthy? And how can we learn He's trustworthy if we don't read His history? We must learn of His nature, commandments, and ways. We can build up a storehouse of trust by reading Scripture. The Bible is a record of all His interactions with His creation. We must nourish our spirit with His Spirit by reading mankind's history in the books of the Bible and see God's faithfulness time and time again. Then we must fix our attention on Him and focus our faith upon His faithfulness instead of just wringing our hands over circumstances.

Before Scripture was fully recorded and available, parents and elders passed down family stories about God much the same way as Native Americans did in more recent history. That is how a young Joseph absorbed the example of his ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From such a rich oral history, he gleaned deep truths about God's sovereignty, His faithfulness, and the consequences of doubting Him. Joseph was in his teens when his brothers sold him into slavery and when he most needed to fix his focus on God, he was able to do so because he had built up trust in the One who had shepherded his ancestors.

We, too, are to build up a trust in our Lord by reading and studying the Scriptures that reveal God's beautiful mercy, forgiveness, love, and faithfulness. We can read of Joseph's life and those of many other faithful followers in Scripture and learn from them God's ways of dealing with humankind. In addition, we can find many valuable examples of unwavering faith within our own church memberships. If our doubts outweigh our faith, our heavenly Father will be pleased to teach us all about Himself through the stories of His other children. All we have to do is open the Word and open our hearts. Rather than doubt, we can learn to put more and more faith in our minds and hearts by pausing on the great Bible stories about people who accomplished miraculous things because they never wavered in their faith in an invisible God who promises to never leave us, abandon, or forsake us. (Deut 31:6; Heb 13:5). As our faith increases our doubts automatically diminish. We need to keep our focus on the Lord and what He's done for His people and what He's doing for them today. It's a lot like us focusing in on objects near and far. When we are focusing on things close to us, everything in the distance fades and blurs away. The same thing happens if we focus on things far away, all the things near us will blur and fade away, becoming almost transparent. It matters greatly where we keep our focus. And it is imperative to keep our faith's focus on Jesus and on all the things our great God has done for us.

Well I'm back to doing the devotional first again. It just seems to work better that way. They've been a little shorter for the past week so it's just easier to write them directly under the heading. It seemed silly to separate the devotional from it's title and unnecessarily awkward to repeat the title down in the blog. Hope you don't mind that I'm just kind of feeling things out as I go. It is overcast and cold today, with an almost a dreary winter feel to it. I dreamed last night that I woke up to snow this morning and by the feel of things I'm surprised we don't have snow. It's quite chilly this morning. (I just got up and turned on the heater. I'll let it run for a little while and take some of the chill out of the air.) I'm surprised we're chilled as it didn't really get all that cold last night. We were about 10 degrees warmer last night than the night before.

I've got my lavender scarf about half done last night. I didn't knit for very long because I don't want to use up all my yarn so early in the month. I could knit a lot of scarves in a month if I can complete one in two days. I'll work on it more tonight. I don't have anything planned for today except to get my 40 Days project finished. Michael has been busy getting some artwork packaged up and wrapped for shipping. Some of the people at his navy reunion paid him for some copies of his art so that's what he's been working on for the past day or two. I don't know what is taking him so long. Of course I don't really know what he's doing so he may be whizzing through what he needs to get done for all I know. I thought he just needed to make a couple copies and slip them in an envelope but I was wrong I guess.

We had a great time up at my granddaughter's place Tuesday night. There must have been close to a dozen people there for dinner. She made a wonderful dinner for everyone. Especially considering her back was hurting her pretty much all the time. She and her fiance were in a wreck on Monday (I think it was) and she hurt her back a little bit. Mostly muscular I think. At least I hope it isn't anything more than sore muscles. The accident wasn't their fault. The woman pulled right out in front of them. They had the right of way.

I guess I should go get dressed since the house has warmed up now. It didn't take the heater long to warm things up. I don't have any plans to go anywhere for today. I will need to go out to the store tomorrow and buy something to make to take to church with me on Sunday. We're going to have the prayer walk around the church and then serve lunch. I thought I might make up a batch of Swedish meatballs since that's so good and it's quick and easy. The sauce is a breeze. The only thing that really requires any work at all are the meatballs and the dish is very, very good to eat. Anyway I think I'll go get busy doing things around the house. I keep feeling like there are things I need to be doing but I've checked my calendar and my days are blank until Sunday. I feel like I'm forgetting something. Oh well. I probably won't blog over the weekend (it's hard to believe the weekend is here already). I'm planning on washing my car since I skipped that task last Saturday. I just don't know what the weather's going to be like tomorrow. Guess I'll just have to wait and see. So anyway, until Monday... [this is an edit comment: for some reason my first paragraph is coming out in tinnie tinnie type. I've retyped it and it still comes out in tiny type even though it doesn't show it that way on my rough and I don't know what I can do to fix it. Sorry.]

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