Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Faith or doubt? Both depend on their object!

Today brings two new projects. One is preparation for next Sunday’s class. I’ve not looked at the material yet, and don’t know what the content will be. I only have a template for laying out the material. Right now, I’ve no idea how this will challenge me.

The other project is a publication. I’ve a template since I produced the same magazine last fall. I have photos and sketchy write ups that go with them. It is my job to put everything together so it makes sense and looks good. This is a challenge and I’ve been procrastinating. My ‘boss’ is looking for a draft, if not today, soon. I am feeling very inadequate for this job.

God reminds me of what He said to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Paul’s responded, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

This weak/strong thing can be confusing, like flipping back and forth on a teeter-totter. On one hand, I feel the weakness (and don’t like it), yet I am told that others see God’s strength. On the other had, I know it is good to feel weak. If I was confident in my own abilities, I would not be trusting God.

This same idea is expressed in a different way by James. Today’s verses say this:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8)
Similar to feeling weak and needing God’s strength, an odd thing happens in my heart when I am at the end of my own resources and ask God for wisdom. I feel that I have no answers, or that what I need is impossible for me, and at the same time deep inside of me I know that He will give me what I need and it will seem easy. While this seems to be having “two souls” (see yesterday’s post), it is a good thing, not the negative double-mindedness that James is talking about.

Here, double-mindedness is about a person’s attitude toward God. Will He? Or won’t He? Can He? Or can’t He? Double-mindedness doubts both God’s ability and His willingness to help. Having two souls means that part of me wants to trust God, but I am still trusting myself.

On the other hand, faith says God can and faith knows that He is on my side. Faith isn’t about me or what I can do; it is all about God. In these verses, the doubt is also not about me, but all about God.

James compares doubt in God to a billowing, restless sea, moving back and forth with its endless tides, never able to settle. A double-minded person never has that inner sense that God will give him anything. There is no certainty, only accusing doubt.

My sense of inadequacy in this small trial of a deadline and the stress of producing is clearly “lack of confidence” in me. If I told others of my struggle, most of them would say, “Oh, you can do it. You’ve done it before. Just have confidence in yourself.”

However, in the kingdom of God, having no confidence in myself is a good thing. When I doubt me, I will go to God and receive what I need. However, if I doubt God then I am left with trusting only myself. As I read James’ words, I am certain that lack of confidence in myself is not only a good thing, but fertile ground for receiving wisdom.

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