For a few years now, I have spent time thinking about faith that persists, compared to strong faith for a “right now” move from God. Over and over again I see examples of the way God values faith that persists. Joshua and his army walked around Jericho for seven days, before the walls fell down. (I know seven days isn’t a terribly long time, but when God asks you to do something so preposterous I’m sure seven days feels like a pretty long battle of endurance.) Abraham believed God for 25 years before his son Isaac was born. Noah built the ark for decades before the flood came. I know that God values enduring faith.
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However, so often in the church we don’t value enduring faith the way God does. We value the kind of faith that can bring a miracle from God’s hands before our eyes some time between the alter call and the closing worship during a church service. I desire revival in my church and my community, but even while we were still believing Joel would be miraculously healed, even specifically believing that Joel’s healing might be one of the factors that set off revival, I would look around my church and see the face of the woman whose husband died from cancer, after a long battle of faith for both of them. I saw the man whose daughter and wife had both died, much too young, in the past decade. I looked at them; these people who had believed God and lost anyway, and I saw giants in the faith. I saw people who really knew what it meant to trust God, and then when they were disappointed, to trust Him anyway. I began to ponder, what does a revival look like that wouldn’t exclude the people who had cultivated enduring faith, a revival that honored and esteemed those who were still believing for a miracle after many years and who might leave each service believing still and not yet receiving. Could there be a revival that would draw upon the strength and faith of people who had lost their personal battles or were still in the middle of them, instead of pouring fresh hurt and disappointment on the heads of people who had pleased God with their enduring faith?
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I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what that kind of revival would look like, but I hope I see it one day. We’ve sat through many healing services, blessed and amazed by the miracles we witnessed, knowing that people’s lives were being changed, and that for some people their long prayed prayers were being answered. We left each of those services carrying a son with terminal cancer in our arms. It was hard not to wonder “Why not us, God?” That question still plagues me. Although we were tempted to plant bitterness in our hearts, it was easy enough to overcome that temptation, because I knew that I was persisting. I was waiting on God’s timing, and if Joel was not healed that specific day it did not mean he wouldn’t be healed. Still, even without being bitter, we definitely felt excluded. Our persevering faith excluded us from the amazing work of God that was happening in those services, and I knew we were not the only ones who left those meetings feeling unseen and dishonored.
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Still though, I loved healing. I loved listening to healing teachers. I had grown up on Kenneth Hagen and Kenneth Copeland and I believe with all my heart that we are called to live our lives with authority, receiving the promises of God for ourselves and helping others receive them as well. However, I suspect I would have felt out of place in one of their meetings. Kenneth Hagen said he had never even had a headache, and as much as I would love to experience that kind of abundant life, I can’t relate to it. It makes me suspect he could not have related to me. My husband and I have always really appreciated the teachings of Bill Johnson. His church Bethel in Redding, California sees incredible miracles. He travels most of the year because other churches want to have him at their healing services. He preaches about being able to hold and maintain revival. He also says that he leaves his healing services thinking about the people who didn’t get healed and begging God for more. His preaching does not exclude people who are persisting in faith through trials. I have always suspected that one of the reasons his preaching is so inclusive of those who have been disappointed or who are still enduring is because his son is deaf. I’ve never heard him preach about that (I’ve really listened to very few of his sermons so he probably does talk about it,) but I really respect that he is a man with a deaf son, a son whose deafness was never healed, and still he devotes his life to preaching about revival, healing and the presence of God, with great success.
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One night, talking to Ryan about my many questions, wondering why our son was not healed when we really believe he would be, I thought about Bill Johnson. I thought about the calling I felt and the new strength I have to encourage people to give up their personal passions and seek out the advancement of the kingdom of God. I asked Ryan, “What if God saw the revivalists of the past, and the hurt they had caused without meaning to, when they proclaimed victory and healing and miracles without empathy for people God loved who had endured and who had lost. What if God hated that pain so much, that He is doing a new thing? What if God is specifically giving power and authority to people who have experienced loss, people who have been disappointed, people who have suffered many headaches and so much worse than that? What if God values love more than power? What if Joel’s death means we can love people better? What if all of this was so we could preach the word of God with power, but also with love?” (I know these questions presume that God will use Ryan and I in a big way to reach people for the Kingdom of God, but truthfully I do presume that, I have my whole life.) The questions stopped there. God has given me very few answers, but He has spoken many, many questions to my spirit. Those questions have stirred up within me a willingness to trust Him more, because there are possibilities I hadn’t considered, there are answers that would be acceptable to me, even if they aren’t the specific answer for my situation.
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That was weeks ago, and I had been wanting to write this post about these questions ever since then, but not quite getting around to it. This morning I woke up with a stirring in my spirit, that grew into something almost like a shout in my spirit as I kept thinking about it, “The greatest is love!” It is so simple. A verse so many have memorized and known, 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest is love.” Of course this is a scripture I knew, but now it means something new to me, something bigger. It was the answer to my question from earlier, “Would God deny me the fruit of my faith, deny the fruit of all my hope, in order to cultivate a deeper love in me for people?” Of course He would, because he values love more than faith. He values love more than hope. He tells us what is greatest, He says it is love. My heart doesn’t always agree. I value the wrong things when I esteem the rewarding of faith as the greatest possible outcome. God is changing something in me, and perhaps He really is doing a new work, a work that resets the way so many of us value preachers, teachers, even the way we value the Holy Spirit? Perhaps that sounds extreme, but I think many of us value the Holy Spirit as the source of power, much more than we value the Holy Spirit as the source of comfort. God says Love is greater than faith. I want my life to say that too.
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That scripture in full context, heals something broken in me. It explains to me that prophesies do fail. Knowledge fails. The spiritual gifts we esteem so highly fail. I feel like I have felt personally ripped off because the things I knew to be true were not, the prophesies I had believed had failed, and here God shows me: Yes, that happens. Those things fail. Love does not.
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1 Corinthians 13: 8-13: 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Comments

There are 2 comments for this post.

  1. Anne on June 8, 2014 4:01 am

    I read this post and I just wanted to shout YES!! You are on the right track and it’s wonderful to witness.

    Grief is the price we pay for love, but it isn’t the same as love. Grief is something everyone can understand, because we all have lost someone or something that we cared for. It’s universal in a way that other kinds of love aren’t; not everyone gets to experience romantic love or a nurturing family environment. But what you grieve for is not what you love. In your case, you’re grieving for what you miss about Joel: to be able to touch him, hear him, enjoy him live, to be able to see him grow up, to have your family whole and intact. These are worthy things to grieve about, but they aren’t what you love. What you love and will love forever is your beautiful son Joel, who is now healed and whole and happy in heaven. Love is stronger than grief; grief eventually subsides (although it never goes away completely) but love is eternal. It outlasts everything, and it’s the only thing that matters in the end.

    I love your Mommy questions but you don’t have to figure out everything right now. It’s also important to just live. Especially right now with a newborn.

    Wishing you healing, love and eventual peace.

  2. kathy limstrom on July 7, 2014 5:39 pm

    I have been blessed many times by your mommy questions, and mommy theology-mostly because of your honesty. I am commenting on this for the first time, because i can wholeheartedly agree with where your questions have led you. I don’t have the same griefs as you, but i live within a situation that my flesh screams at me to get out from, but God keeps on saying to be faithful to trust Him today, and He is completing a good work in me and the people i love. The way of the world is to get a quick fix, but Gods plans are much better and oh so much more difficult. It is very challenging to not let bitterness get a foothold when the body of Christ acts judgmentally, or gives upon people who have a long term struggle that God is using to build their faith.

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