The Balancing Act
It’s been quite some time since I have written a focused article for the website and I am way overdue. Let’s fix that… today.
The ministry is going great. My family and I are blessed and prospered; and we have great hope and faith in all that the Lord is doing.
And yet, I am convinced we are right on the cusp of breaking into a new and wonderful season for myself and those I am fortunate to serve with. This has produced an unsettling within me. That’s not bad by the way. It’s the Lord’s way of saying “Get ready. More to come and you need to be prepared for it.”
For a while I have been taking some time to meditate on my core values and world views concerning my ministry and doctrinal convictions. Preparation starts with getting back to basics. And I think it's important all of us regularly evaluate what and why we believe what we believe. I do this regularly.
While doing these things, I have also been spending time listening to the teachings of those who are "preaching outside of my own choir", so to speak. I have learned to hear the voice of the Lord from many viewpoints and “camps”, and I regularly take the time to listen to those who do not necessarily think the same as I do. It's fun, and there is always something to learn...even if you're relearning how right you are!
Jesus' approval of people outside of our personal influence is nothing new...even His own!
“Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. Mark 9:38-39 (italics mine)
It’s unfortunate that Christians sometimes have a tendency to think their personal perspectives, favorite teachers and preachers, and their own church affiliation, have a corner on the true or most accurate “revelation”. When we do this, it can be easy to become tribal over our favorite doctrines and/or styles of worship. We can begin to look down on others as not being as knowledgeable or spiritual as we are.
That cushion we plopped our rear ends on while reclining on our self appointed judgement seat can tend to get more and more comfortable. There is a certain rush we get when we believe we are more advanced than others and have something they don't. As that happens, odds are that in the name of “discernment”, we actually enter into a spiritual pride that certainly the Lord won’t be happy with.
Any of us can be tempted to do this. And it doesn’t seem that “spiritual rank” necessarily makes someone immune from its temptation. Even the largest and most influential ministries can develop a sectarian spirit. It's part of our fallen human condition. Knowing this, I certainly try not to allow myself to be so cloistered I miss out on what God is doing wherever He is doing it. I am not perfect, but I am confident my batting average is pretty good.
Let's talk about these things a wee bit more. I'm building up to the purpose of the article.
Consider that if God wanted just one person or ministry or affiliation within Christianity to have a monopoly on “the truth”, then I submit there wouldn’t be the multiple writings of Matthew… Mark… Luke… John… Paul… Peter… James… Jude… you get the point.
For example, within one or two chapters of reading say First Peter and then Paul's letter to the Ephesians…though doctrinally they are the same, there can be no doubt there are stylistic differences and emphasis. But that is a blessing! This allows us to have greater, varied, and more detailed descriptions by which we are able to behold the Lord.
Personalities and different perspectives under the unction of the Holy Spirit can paint and describe many different hues and inflections that not just one writer, or a whole denomination for that matter, would be able to. Consider that the same mountain looks very different standing on top of it… to looking at it from a mile away… or flying forty thousand feet over it.
Personally, I thank God that He uses people to communicate from so many vantage points His thoughts so that we may understand Him in such amazing detail.
So here is the reason I took the time I just did as an intro.
During my perusings, one of the theological perspectives I have been listening to are those who do not believe in the continuous demonstrations of the Holy Spirit through His gifts as discussed especially in First Corinthians chapter twelve. The term for that is called "cessationism". Just because I don't see eye to eye on everything with someone though, doesn't mean there still isn't some great stuff out there to be learned. In addition, I was interested in seeing whether their arguments had changed, or I had changed.
They haven’t and neither have I.
I was particularly listening to a very well-known pastor and theologian who has for years spoken some really over the top and insulting comments refuting from his standpoint the “chaos” of Pentecostal/charismatic theology and experience. He has been insulting to such a degree, that another very proper, world-renowned theologian…who used to believe what this other person did concerning the cessation of the Gifts of the Spirit...
...until his wife was miraculously healed of cancer and now both he and she speaks in other tongues!
That would do it.
And since that time, have seen marvelous supernatural works in the name of Jesus and written prolifically concerning these things!
Well, this brilliant man of God was compelled to write a book to refute the allegations this other minister had laid against Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians.
And guess what?
A strange thing happened. Didn't see it coming one bit.
Because of my delving and taking the time to listen to other perspectives including this extremely critical gentleman... and even though I knew ahead of time I probably would not agree with most of what he said concerning this particular subject matter... I was able to grasp more where he is coming from and began actually to be sympathetic toward him. This of course helped me understand why he speaks the way he does. I still think he is very disrespectful and I don’t agree with his positions, but I get it now.
But that's not the end of it.
Though I find this man of God and his fellow cessationist’s views concerning the miraculous rather easy to refute… theologically and experientially… one contention they bring up is pretty accurate and is the instigation for this article.
And that contention...three in one actually:
The flamboyancy, lack of holiness in behavior, and shallowness of doctrine they submit many within the Pentecostal/charismatic traditions are guilty of .
This brother and those thinking as he does struggle with the position that the same persons or groups that jump and holler and fall down “in the Spirit” while supposedly being used to demonstrate great signs and wonders are at the same time going through their 5th divorce… purchasing their 20th mansion…carrying on adulterous heterosexual and homosexual affairs and abuses… and so on.
To add to these things, they marvel that these same “ministries” are claiming that the Scriptures supposedly defend their extravagant excesses!
Well...I hope this next statement isn’t a shocker:
To a large degree, I agree with them!
Before we continue, understand that no group, movement, or denomination has a corner on carnality.
It is unfair for the conservative Reformist to claim somehow Pentecostals/Charismatics have an inordinate amount of extravagance, even deception, in comparison to any other persuasion within the Body of Christ. The vast majority of those who have had a Pentecostal experience and delight to believe that God still moves wonderfully and miraculously, are not driving Rolls Royce’s, have multiple fifty thousand square foot homes, and think doctors are agents of the Antichrist.
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” I Corinthians 3:1-3 (italics mine)
Look. If the Apostle Paul himself had difficulty getting some of his people to grow up and bring them to maturity, and I find it hard to indict Paul concerning an inability to shepherd his people, then I challenge those sweeping judgements towards the leadership within today’s Charismatic movement for the behavior of the minority of her members.
Frankly and to be fair, I could contend using their very same rationale, these reformists are as inundated with error and immaturity. As they do not believe in the spiritual endowments so plainly annotated in the Scriptures, and the experiences of hundreds of millions of Christians from the first century until today… I could slingshot my own verses and judgements at them declaring they are “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” and not “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” as they “strain out a gnat to gain followers.”.
Or how about at the same time they denounce emotionalism, demonstrative music and praise, which this man contended was being used only to hype up emotions and altered states; I could very well rightly accuse them of being snobbish and aloof… having no understanding of true biblically modelled praise and worship.
We could wonder aloud why as they sing their two-hundred-year-old hymns with the same exclamations and passion of the mannequin in the local department store or the sentry at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, they are not obeying the Scriptural command to “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
I hate to break this to you my conservative friends, but Jewish praise, of which Paul certainly would be alluding to, was exuberant, demonstrative, and celebratory. Certainly not the atmosphere of a funeral dirge.
Oh wait! Did I mention the signing of my three-book deal for my favorite publisher who would pay me wonderfully to rail up, down, left, and right, concerning the lack of proper openness to the Spirit, let alone the poor exegesis of the Word. I could attack them, elevate my spirituality above theirs, and leave my audience and “choir that I preach too” confident that God needs to have mercy on the poor souls so lost and misled. Just ask us.
And the war would continue. “Tit for tat” gets nothing done and let’s call it what it really is:
Christian cannibalism. And it drives me nuts.
So my point now that my sarcasm is over (temporarily, knowing me), and the purpose of this article:
This man did bring up valid points. Period. It doesn’t matter whether we like what he said or if “the other guy is doing it too.” Doesn’t matter. If these are accurate observations, we need to address them…fix them…and move on in God. At the same time not be drunk with the intoxicating effects of ungodly judgment and self-exaltation which only divides that which Christ and His messengers gave their lives for…His Body…the Church.
The following are only a few observations... mini lessons if you will... of what we can do to address this...at least within ourselves and the groups of which we are a part. I'll discuss a couple principles addressing not just those who really should dial things back a bit, but those as well who in their judgments have become arrogant and self exalting. No doubt I discuss a few of their doctrinal beliefs that I find quite damaging. This is not as much a detailed order of things, but a few thoughts, each of which could certainly be separate articles themselves, that the above triggered and my observations and added "two sense" concerning them.
What Say You Paul?
The Apostle Paul wrote almost half of the New Testament. He instructed churches…pastors…his theology as surgically described in Romans is a masterpiece concerning the details of our redemption in Christ alone…he sat in the most horrific dungeons and witnessed in front of kings and royalty.
And I am kinda figuring that with all that experience of surviving the best and the worst this world had to throw at him, he may have just a few life’s lessons from different aspects we should pay attention to. Specifically, his personal guidelines and standards of conduct concerning his ministry and message.
Let me remind us, this is the same man that God used to demonstrate extraordinary signs and wonders (Acts 19). He had at least one visit to heaven itself ( II Corinthians 12:3). He also thanked the Lord that he "spoke in tongues more than any of them." (I Corinthians 14:18) His instructions on giving and receiving in Second Corinthians chapters eight and nine makes TBN and Mike Murdock look like pikers!
You can't get much more “Pentecostal/Charismatic” in theology and practice than the Apostle Paul!
So what did Paul conclude and appeal to as his personal standard concerning both Christian and ministerial behavior and ethics:
"But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection lest when I have preached to others I myself should become disqualified." I Corinthians 9:27
The Apostle certainly understood the Word of God doesn't become illegitimate because of a minister's behavior (it would not be the Word of God if human effort good or bad was its validation). Yet in the eyes of the audience this very thing can happen. Preaching one thing and living another way is called hypocrisy. And giving credence to hypocrites doesn't normally happen.
The ability of the audience to accept and believe the message of the man of God, no matter how Scripturally accurate, is severely hindered when the ministers themselves live in gross excess and violation of holiness and sound doctrine. Like it or not, the behavior of the messenger greatly influences the effect of the message.
Note: Certainly, if the minister continues in unrepentant sin or outlandish doctrine, no doubt the Lord Himself will eventually step in and put a stop to it. When Jesus addressed the seven churches in Asia in the book of Revelation, there is no doubt He is very "hands on" and will remove ministers and even churches themselves when necessary. I'd call that disqualification and certainly an element of Paul was referring to.
What I am mostly referring to above is the effect outlandish behavior has on fellow members of the body of Christ to the point of being disqualified as a competent minister...even entire affiliations. And Paul was acutely aware of this potential...even within himself.
So, what do we think can possibly guard us from being excessive and self-blinding when it comes to representing the Lord, the gospel entrusted to us, and the wonderful inheritance of which we have been made “co-heirs with Christ”?
One of the most important principles I learned in Bible College was to “not get in the ditch” over most doctrines.
To stay away from extremes!
If we could just remember this one principle, many of the accusations of these brothers against the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement would go away. The actual or perceived “disqualification” Paul referenced above (I Corinthians 9:27) as seen by our conservative friends, shuts them off from genuinely being blessed by the amazing truths that God does emphasize in Pentecostal circles i.e.…faith…the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit…prosperity to be blessed and then to be a blessing. Side-note: I sure am glad I learned the will of God concerning financial blessing and abundance. It was a wonderful day when instead of needing a financial miracle, I was able to be used to be a miracle for someone as I wrote out that check!
Let's quickly note one obvious exception to “avoiding the ditch” so to speak. That is the absolute, one hundred percent, no “middle of the road”, exclamation that Jesus is:
“The Way, The Truth, and The Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.” John 14:6.
“…let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. ’Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:10-12 (emphasis mine)
Christianity is certainly extreme...I'll define that here as "no other option"... on that one (a few other doctrines as well)…as it should be! Jesus is the one and only way to come to the Father and through Whom we can be saved from our sins. No one else. Nothing else. Period.
There is no question there are non-negotiables in the Word of God that are not up for debate...as in the example I just cited. These doctrinal absolutes, that no orthodox Christian of any persuasion would disagree with, are not what I am referring when I use the term "extreme" as I continue to address these matters.
Yet there are many subjects folks can be tempted to develop completely out of balance positions, and it's not profitable. In the Charismatic tradition, we tend to see this when it comes to teaching on godly prosperity and at times even divine healing. And as I have said, I agree for the most part with the cited ministers at the beginning of this article, that there are excessive teachings out there that should be addressed and corrected.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking so I’ll say this:
“Middle of the road” or "balance", is not compromise!
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches." I Corinthians 7:17
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. I Corinthians 9:19-23
Whether it's eating meat or only vegetables...getting married or staying single...having bacon and eggs or matza and kosher fish for breakfast...the Apostle Paul who taught that circumcision is no longer necessary had his apprentice circumcised (Acts 16:3)... there are many situations where there are not concrete black and white extreme positions to be taken. It's left to the particular cross you have been called to bear or emphasis in the Word you may have been given. Situational ethics are at times very Biblical.
These things and more are important reasons we should be open to listening to those of other persuasions within the Body of Christ.
When you learn how to be in balance, another way to put it is... "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." II Timothy 2:15... you're not going to be interested in wanting to get into it with your brothers in Christ with the purpose of embarrassing let alone destroying them. You'll learn to be quiet and listen for the voice of the Lord through others, not insisting you personally are that voice! You’ll have a bigger, more gracious audience. And you’ll sleep better since your blood pressure won’t be so high from arguing!
Here’s an illustration of what I mean.
The gentleman I fly a corporate jet with is Roman Catholic. Of course, there are a few things we see from different perspectives. I grew up in the Catholic Church and I get where and why he has the positions he does. And certainly, I no longer believe in a few of their positions. But those issues are so few…and if I ever let them bother me I would be losing out on a tremendous friendship and blessing. And I live a richer life for refusing to “go there”.
On one trip, I went to a Catholic service with him and it brought back some great memories. The order of service, standing and kneeling, even the smell. I'm telling you there is a particular smell in the sanctuary of Catholic Churches! If you grew up Catholic, you know exactly what I am talking about. It was awesome.
Now, I didn’t have my arms crossed and listen for every theological error I could find. I wasn't remembering every Chick tract concerning the Jesuits and the Inquisition, or how I could be in the same room with those "Mary worshippers." I was listening to the Spirit and what He was saying, and it was really great. And my friend went to the local church I visited for a prayer meeting. Respect is a beautiful thing…more should try it.
I’ll briefly mention there was one memory not so pleasant …the feeling of that hard-wooden pew on my rear end! It’s like every cell down there on those cheekbones woke up to that familiar feeling wondering what in the world I was punishing them for. Without thinking, I even remembered how to lean forward just enough to get the pressure off my tush and on to my elbows leaning on the pew in front of me. Pretty funny.
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." Romans 12:18
Because I try to stay balanced and away from extremes, I wouldn’t think about fighting over our differences. We are close enough friends to have passionate and in-depth discussions and disagreements…but never at the risk of hurting one another. Christian brotherhood is worth everything to protect as much as is able.
Having cited the above example, I wonder aloud how much better fellowship our reformed brothers would have with Pentecostals and the mutual exchange we would experience if both sides would downshift a gear and talk, exchange, and grow.
Another Point: Is Preaching Blessing and Increase Heresy, Extreme, or Out of Balance?
As I said earlier, I agree with those that have contended there are extremes being taught in SOME Charismatic circles. Specifically, over the derogatorily used terms “health and wealth…name it claim it” message.
Is believing that God wants to prosper His children heresy? Or is abundance and "more than enough" a promise of God for His children and we should contend for it as we would any other promise? Do you throw away an entire principle found in the Word of God just because some have abused it?
We serve a wonderful God Who has proven regularly in both old and new covenants that no matter how dire the circumstance or lost in the wilderness of lack, uncertainty, and infirmity; simply give Him the time while staying in faith, and the most arid wilderness becomes an amazing place for receiving His provision, presence, and His glory.
His Word is crystal clear concerning blessings, the responsibility to steward them properly, and increase. Don't forget. Your five talents are supposed to become ten. Your two talents are supposed to become five. “To whom much is given much is required…” presupposes that there are those to whom…well…much has been given!
Do you remember those AT&T commercials with those kids exclaiming “I want more, I want more!” Friends, in the proper context, wanting more is Scriptural. And to be anticipated.
The Scriptures are clear and directly refute the cessationists general positions concerning divine healing, the infilling of the Holy Spirit, the supernatural enablements/gifts He bestows as He wills, that He is a rewarder to those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), and godly prosperity and abundance is a part of our inheritance within the kingdom of God.
Let's put it another way: Not all prosperity is extreme or out of balance…its actually expected!
There is a specific reason I bring these things up. And this is very important that we consider what I am about to discuss. It concerns faith and how it operates within God's kingdom. And how devastating it can be to allow extreme positions of others to hinder our ability to believe the whole counsel of the Word of God. I contend our reformist brothers are guilty of this and hinders them greatly from receiving from those who have a genuine understanding of certain areas of the Scriptures. I also believe that Charismatics need to know there are a whole lot more verses in the Word than Mark 11:23-24. That revelation is a result of "studying to show yourself approved" II Timothy 2:15...not the latest emotional outburst of so called prophecy given on a whim to get a bigger offering.
The default theological position of many in the Reformed/Calvinist tradition tends to be that a specific faith for God’s intervention cannot necessarily be expected. Friends, the belief that God will do whatever He wants in spite of our efforts or faith…which they will appeal to His Sovereignty as the basis for this… is not faith. That’s called fatalism.
Fatalism is defined as: the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable.
It is imperative we understand that God does not deal in “whatever will be will be”. It's not how He thinks. God plays His part...you play yours. As you read this next little bit, I challenge you to consider how "fatalistic" you may be in your prayers.
Let me show you how fatalism, blamed on God's Sovereignty, conflicts with the Biblical pattern concerning faith, how we develop it, and our responsibility to develop it.
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?... So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:14, 17
The “formula” so to speak is clear and not difficult at all to understand concerning how God responds to faith.
Biblical faith is based on hearing specific statements concerning the will of God and then believing God is true to what He said He would do. In context, Paul was asking how someone can believe for a specific salvation unless someone comes along and clearly presents the will of God in which to believe. In other words, you can’t ask God for something you don’t know He will provide. He doesn't shove it down your throat.
We really need to get this next point: True faith is the result of multiple responsibilities being fulfilled by people BEFORE God responds!
Romans 10...certainly a favorite of both reformed and arminian persuasions....is clear as to the pattern, or formula, for a faith the God responds to.
Someone has to get going once they are sent...then when they get to where they were sent, they have to open their mouths so someone can hear. Then the one who hears has to believe...then when they believe they have to call out to God... THEN God responds. That's a whole lot of people doing things before God does His thing!
This example from Romans 10 concerns receiving salvation through Christ. How would you know that Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection was the end of the Law concerning attaining righteousness unless someone came and told you? How would you know that as a result, like Abraham before you, faith, not works, is the means of receiving righteousness as a gift, unless you were taught the Word of God in this area?
And how would you know that God does "...exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or think..." Ephesians 3:20 or "Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments...wealth and riches are in his house..." Psalm 112:1-3, unless someone came along and preached this wonderful news to you to then believe and trust the Lord to bring His promises to pass!
Faith is meant to be educated clearly, and then fixed upon the particular truth that it may apprehend the specific grace mentioned.
If your spiritual worldview is that God has already decided what is going to happen in our lives way before we were created, and that "irresistible grace" is just that…you have no choice in the matter so might as well do your thing until God does whatever He's going to do…the result is you are relinquished to a “faith” that is not biblical faith at all. I’ll be clear in case you did not hear me. Fatalism and “…whatever God wants to do and what will be will be…” is not faith. God simply doesn't work that way.
At best you will have a general hope that honestly will most of the time have no more success than rubbing the rabbit’s foot or throwing a coin in a wishing well. It is identical to how pagans and unbelievers approach God…they have no clue and can only hope for the best. It’s like saying “I hope God is having a good day and will do something for me since He has already decided ahead of time what He will do.”
note: if you believe that(fatalistic predestination), then take it to its logical conclusions. Just one example would be that since God made Adam and Eve, He is the One who made them sin. It's His fault. He predetermined they do that; which in turn condemned only God knows how many to be separated forever from Him. Hell is His fault, not ours. That's sick folks.
My friends, ignorance as Paul referred to in II Corinthians..."But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away." II Corinthians 3:14 is no longer supposed to be an issue now that we are in Christ. We're not supposed to be guessing about a lot of stuff we still keep guessing over!
Not understanding these things has caused many to walk away from prayer frustrated and dejected in why it doesn't work. Friends, prayer does work...when wrong theology doesn't break it.
Paul’s Balancing Act
Let’s use the Apostle Paul as an example of how this “balancing act” I am discussing works in real life. Let's stay on the subject concerning how and how much the Lord provides in every condition in life we may find ourselves in. What is our attitude in both blessing and trial supposed to be?
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13 (emphasis mine)
That four-letter word I highlighted is actually quite huge.
Paul experienced great highs and great lows throughout his life and ministry.
You and I experience great highs and great lows throughout our lives as well.
This next point is key in that it is imperative we do not develop extreme, out of balance doctrines, concerning either one of the conditions Paul..actually anyone who has graced terra firma found themselves in…good or bad…nothin' to bunches of stuff.
I believe that there are some today if they had looked at Paul while he had hit his stride, was prospering greatly, most everyone liked him, and was abounding more than Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, would rebuke Him as a “health and wealth prosperity preacher” and obvious heretic! Accusations would be launched about how he was abusing God’s people and relentless questioning concerning by what authority he was preaching!
Ummm…oh. That’s right. That did really happen. Much of Second Corinthians was Paul’s rebuttal to these types of accusations. I guess no one is safe in any generation huh?
On the other hand, when Paul was laid out in prison or hungering, thirsting, fasting often and at times even “fearing unto death”, many today on the other side of the theological spectrum would accuse him of one of two extremes:
“He has no faith…why can’t he just believe God! You know, if he just would have followed the Holy Spirit like Kenneth Hagin taught, the Lord would have led him out of those perils. Start confessing the Word brother Paul!”
“Aww…look at how holy and spiritual he is going through all those trials. Buck up and remember Job! See how much Jesus loves him by keeping him broke, in jail, and beaten to an inch of his life. (People will use Job as the example of God permitting suffering yet completely forget by the time the story ends Job was twice as wealthy as he was going into the thing!)
There's two more ditches.
Let’s take the mystery out of this. Paul was just living his life unto God. Like all of us. He had a job to do in God and he was doing his best to run his race well. He had times of great blessing in his life…and times of great turmoil. And there is a “theology” produced from those experiences that covers both extremes of the human existence! It’s not one or the other. It's both.
There’s your balance.
To emphasize the good times and successes in the apostle's life alone is as much out of balance as emphasizing only how miserable life was for him at times. Let me ask. Have we considered that the same God Who spoke through Solomon concerning the joys of sex in Song of Solomon is the same who through Solomon again wrote Ecclesiastes (that man was confused and miserable at the time!), and through Jeremiah penned Lamentations!
This is just me, but having experienced both extremes, I would rather be healthy than sick…I would rather pay my bills than lose my house…I would rather have favor in town verses being escorted out by the mob. Sorry if you want to convince me God is not into His kids being well taken care of. I don’t buy it.
But friends, let’s also understand the human experience includes hardship, tribulation, and extremes in human emotion and experience. No matter how much faith you have. Jesus went through bad stuff too and I doubt faith was one of His problems.
Have you ever considered that the same God that promised “…with long life I will satisfy you…” and “…the number of your days you shall fulfill…” and "...no weapon formed against you shall prosper..." was dead at thirty-three? Yes, He got up at the resurrection, but work with me on this.
Jesus could not have been clearer. We are commanded to carry our cross. And crosses are going to hurt!
My wife and I pastor a wonderful church and have traveled around the world. We drive wonderful cars (2 not 20). We live in a beautiful home (not 5). I have seen many miraculous interventions of God in all areas of my life and ministry which certainly would include both financial and medically documented miracles. The idea that God no longer does these things nor takes wonderful care of His children in response to faith in His mercy is just wrong. Within all these wonderful blessings, He has at times reminded my spirit that I need to be able to know when “enough is enough”. It’s kinda like, “How about instead of buying another beach house in the Caymans, that two million dollars you were about to spend go to missions or inner-city work for the gospel!”
Now, on the other side of the coin, there have been terrible times for us as well. Almost losing everything twice…infectious diseases…marriage separation more than once. Children not behaving necessarily like little cherubs. Miserable times. I mean miserable. And I must confess victory in these areas are a result of His strength and doing, not mine. The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. I was just smart enough...or maybe just didn't know any better... to trust in His mercies clearly defined in His promises! I trusted…not perfectly, but I think He has weakness covered…and He did what He does best: “exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think!” Ephesians 3:20
As nice as it certainly is for us to have things (we all like the “abounding” part); like Paul, we have had to learn how to both abound with much and remain thankful with little to nothing. I have been humbled and brought low and almost lost everything …and I have prospered where the mortgage is paid, and a good steak is on my dinner plate.
Both conditions are Scripturally defended and must be preached!
I say regularly "This stuff is real."
Well...THAT MEANS ALL OF IT IS REAL! The same God that informs us of His blessings also warn us of covetousness...the same God that has freely forgiven our sins was very clear you don't go back to them now that you have grace! Grace forgave you and empowers you to quit...it does not license you to live however you desire!
I haven’t seen a coin yet that doesn’t have two sides.
After all I have talked about and the various observations and exhortations I have suggested, how about starting with just a few simple steps.
Let’s start with learning how to play in the sandbox together.
Reformed and Arminian and anything in between. It’s called the “kingdom of God” and we will be living together for a long time...like forever! And listen carefully to each other’s perspectives, celebrating different theological positions in the same way we celebrate Peter’s style along with Paul’s. Of course, what I am saying presupposes said perspectives are well established and viable doctrines. And if one perspective is right, listen and change.
“Faith people” can tend to talk too much about money and miracles as if they happen all the time and at our whim; fearing even the mention of trials and tribulations lest their "bad confession" bring it upon them!
And to my Reformed-Fundamentalist brothers. Frankly, you can be stuffy, snobbish, and boring. One of the best things you could do is run around your sanctuary a few times jumping and praising God and thanking Him for His goodness without worrying what you look like. Trust me…we all look ridiculous sometimes, including you…. the secrets out!
Let's be discoverers in the Word of God...which would be the same as discovering Him! Learning to do things God's way, not necessarily in our traditions alone "Cause that's how we have always done it." His mercies are new everyday. Let's get some new ones! Together "as much as depends on us."