What is the real walk of faith? I’ve been a Christian for over forty years and yet I have barely begun to scratch the surface of walking with Christ. That’s not to say I didn’t have saving faith before, but I think I often had a comfortable faith. I assumed that God was supposed to make me feel warm and safe. My God was like that favorite pair of ancient jeans in your wardrobe that over the years have shaped themselves to fit you like a glove. They don’t fight your body and they give in all the right places, even the places that are much more generous than they should be. Their whole purpose is to serve you, the wearer. I had the God of all my personal comforts. He was the God who supplied a cup of hot chocolate and warm chocolate chip cookies while I could remain drowsing beside a fire. I lost the concept that God is not the Cookie God, but He is actually the Consuming Fire.
It is easy to believe that if we give God our best, that He would make sure that our children will turn out right, that the pathology report would be benign, that the career promotions would be ours, and that it would be the neighbor’s basement that flooded – not mine. I kind of glossed over a lot of the Scriptures that deal with pain and assumed that the heavy-duty stuff was for “other people”. I blocked out of my head that in Christian history and also in our present world, a vast number of Christians live in places where persecution and pain are the norm. We aren’t talking about bad day circumstances where you get a failing mark in class because you disagree with the teacher over evolution nor are we talking about somebody keying your car because they don’t like your bumper sticker. We are talking about being a public punching bag for the devil because you are finally doing what is right, no matter the cost – no matter how poor, unpopular, or lonely it makes you feel. There are no hot chocolate and cookies to be seen in this picture.
True faith is walking in obedience even when you know that the path may cause you to quake in your boots. It is willing to obey even though you have chosen the road that may appear barely filled with fellow travelers. It can often be far from the norm of popular American Christianity. There is a wakeup call from in the testimony of the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 11: 23- 28 “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (from NIV)
God calls us to what can be the hard road of willing to love Himself and others deeply without holding anything back. To be willing to listen to His quiet voice and say “Yes Lord” even when all the other sheep have run away. That is the real walk of faith, to be willing to be obedient no matter how the chips may fall (and they will often be buffalo chips, not chocolate chips). This isn’t a Hallmark card. It is sometimes dark, often difficult, and occasionally brutal. But I have also found that it can be full of joy; a deep indescribable joy that wakes you up in the morning knowing the Father is beside you. This is better than a cookie. This is best summed up by Paul’s testimony in II Corinthians 11:-9-10 But he (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” There is an unseen choir that is singing full tilt with Holy Spirit stereo and being recorded live for all of heaven to see when we walk through the fire, obediently holding onto God. Possibly the hot chocolate and cookies are not on the table, but God Himself is the sufficiency, and that is enough.