36. FAITH IN GOD vs. FAITH IN CIRCUMSTANCES, PEOPLE’S OPINIONS AND OUR OWN FEELINGS

(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 2)

This morning in my devotions, I have been meditating on Colossians 2:12-13.

In the book of Colossians, Paul wrote a letter to the Believers (Christians) at Colosse and in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul reminded them that, as believers in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, they were:

  • “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:12-13)

This ‘faith of the operation of God’ which we have is two-fold, as follows:-

(1) Faith of the operation of God THAT WE HAVE BEEN REGENERATED

Part of the verse above reads: “…And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”

QUICKENING speaks of REGENERATION or being made SPIRITUALLY ALIVE, something far more precious than just physical life.

We have faith in God and of the operation of God simply because as Abraham believed (Romans 4:3-5), we believe that whatever God says he will do and can do, he does do and we demonstrate in baptism that, due to our faith in believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we have been made SPIRITUALLY ALIVE in Jesus Christ by God’s divine power and operation and so identify with Christ.

That is we have been washed in his blood and have therefore been REGENERATED by his Holy Spirit, which, according to God’s Word the Bible, has come to indwell us until the day of redemption. (SEE Note 31 entitled: ‘The Blood Of Jesus Gives Spiritual Life’)

This is true, no matter the extent of our subsequent failures. Once we have genuinely believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and confessed that he is Lord, as Romans 10:9-10 tells us, we are REGENERATED or made SPIRITUALLY ALIVE and this REBIRTH cannot be reversed by what we later do or don’t do.

This of course is not to confused with people who claim to believe the truth with their lips (mere professers) but live their lives in any way they choose, in open rebellion to God. Such persons were never REGENERATED because although they claim to have believed, their faith is not genuine but is imitative of the real thing.

Sometimes, as human beings and because we are not all-knowing, we can’t tell the difference as to whether a person falling into sin is a genuine Christian that has backslidden (in that they are genuine believers who have taken a wrong path in life) or an UNREGENERATED, lost person (in that they were never truly saved because they never truly believed).

However, God knows the difference. He knows those who are his and one telling indication that a person who has backslidden is genuinely his is that he or she will not remain comfortably in his or her fallen condition but will arise like the Prodigal son and return to God’s presence.

This is why Proverbs 24:16 states: “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”

The REGENERATED person often rises up again as a result of the Lord’s chastening, which he only does in his mercy and love when a person is his child and therefore is SPIRITUALLY ALIVE in Jesus Christ.

(2) Faith of the operation of God THAT WE WILL BE RAISED FROM THE DEAD UNTO LIFE ETERNAL IN HEAVEN

Part of the verse we initially read states: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”

We also have faith in God and of the operation of God (once again because of who he is, what he has said he will do and can do and because we know that he does not lie and his Word is sure), that he will raise us up from the dead when Jesus returns and that our soul will live on in heaven with Him.

ON ANOTHER NOTE

When we foolishly doubt God, who he is, what he has said he has done, what he has said he will do, what he has said he can do, who we are to him and our identity in Jesus Christ, what we are doing is choosing to redirect our faith, not in him but in our circumstances, people’s opinions and our own feelings, the three major catalysts for sowing seeds of doubt in our lives.

These catalysts are also the three major avenues that the enemy uses to attack our faith as Christians:

  1. Circumstances
  2. People’s opinions
  3. Our own inner feelings, inadequacies, struggles and turmoils

We should always esteem God’s Word (what he has said) higher than circumstances, people’s opinions and our own feelings.

FAITH OF THE OPERATION OF GOD vs. FAITH IN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES

What happens sometimes is that CIRCUMSTANCES (what we are going through in life) are of such a nature in our lives, that they try to make us doubt who God is, that he loves us, what he has done for us and what he has said he will do for us and his own glory.

A Christian woman may think for example, due to her CIRCUMSTANCES:

  • Yes I know that the Lord said he can do anything and everything and I believe he even promised me from his Word, as I read it, that he would give me a family of my own one day and children but look at my age! The reality is I’m getting older and there is no man in sight! Nobody sees me despite my best efforts and despite my years of prayers! Now, this Coronavirus makes things all the more difficult. How am I ever going to get to the place where I am seen, start courting, get engaged, have a Wedding, conceive and become a joyful mother of children, which is what I thought God told me he would do for me, seven years ago, while reading his Word?

Yet, God’s Word says and it is therefore written:

  • “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
  • “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
  • “…if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God” (John 11:40)

On at least three occasions in the Old Testament, we also see Abram (who was renamed Abraham by God), putting faith in the CIRCUMSTANCES, rather than in the operation of God.

Interestingly, he is described in the Bible as a man of great faith but it did not seem that he started out that way. It seems that as he grew spiritually and learned more about God’s character, that he eventually got to the place where he had strong faith in God and in the operation of God, to do just what he said he would do.

This spiritual progression from weak faith to strong faith is understandable, as after all, Abram (who became Abraham) did not have a book like we have today (the Bible) with true stories of patterns and attributes of God laid down in detail, for us to digest and learn from.

In Genesis 12:1-3 for example, God told Abram to get out of the country where he was living and from his family and his father’s house, to a land that he would show him. He told him further that he would make of him a great nation and would bless him and that he Abram would also be a blessing. He told him that he would bless them that blessed him and curse them that cursed him.

In faith, Abram obeyed by leaving his father’s house and embarking upon the journey that God had called him. He and his wife Sarai and the others with him, travelled to Canaan, to the land of Sichem unto the plain of Moreh and then to a mountain on the east side of Bethel, where he erected a tent. He then continued his journey toward the south but when a great famine arose, he went down into Egypt.

At this point, Abram may have never expected that a famine would arise and that he would end up in Egypt. Despite the fact that:

(1) God was the one that had called him out of his father’s house of comfort in the first place,

(2) that he had promised to take him to a land that he would show him,

(3) that he was a God that did not lie,

(4) that he had promised to make of him a great nation (which required offspring from his loins) and

(5) that he had said he would bless him,

based on the reality of the CIRCUMSTANCES before him (which Abram deemed to be dire), it seems that he forgot all about what God had said or perhaps, in light of the famine, in light of how far he had travelled thus far and the fact that he was about to go down into an ungodly place like Egypt (which he probably figured God would never have allowed him to go), he doubted that God would still do what he said he would do and considered that maybe he had changed his mind.

After all, the CIRCUMSTANCES he faced, made God’s promises seem to be unattainable and downright impossible. His life was now at stake. How could he ever become a father of the nations?

Abram therefore took matters into his own hands because he felt that the CIRCUMSTANCES required him to stop placing his trust in God but to act selfishly to preserve his life. As he approached Egypt, he instructed Sarai his wife to lie to the Egyptians and say that she was his sister. The reason he gave was that because she was a very beautiful woman, he was convinced that the Egyptians would kill him in order to lay claim to her.

Abram therefore forgot what God had said and instead of putting faith in the operation of God to preserve him and the seed within him and to take care of him until he got to where God had promised to take him, he allowed the reality of the CIRCUMSTANCES to overrule, causing him and Sarai to lie, so as to preserve his life.

Had he remembered what God had promised, although life had taken an unexpected turn (as he had not expected a famine and had never anticipated having to go down into Egypt), he would have known that no situation or CIRCUMSTANCE takes God by surprise, that he (Abram) did not need to panic and lie about being Sarai’s husband or to be fearful that he would be killed, as the God who told him to leave his father’s house and had led him thus far was still with him on the journey and still planned, despite the CIRCUMSTANCES, to make of him (and from his loins) a great nation.

Not trusting God therefore, led Abram to worry about what would happen when he and his wife entered Egypt, then it led him to take matters into his own hands to try to come up with a solution (instead of trusting God to work it out). This then led him to make a bad decision to lie to the people in Egypt, which led to more trouble than he had bargained for. For, although they did not kill him and treated him well because of Sarai (whose beauty they were impressed with), they recommended her to Pharaoh the King and she was taken into his house.

Abraham may not have bargained for this so I could imagine his dismay and alarm at the development. He had gotten to that place because he failed to trust God in that moment and had God, in his sovereignty not intervened to plague Pharaoh and his house because Sarai, a married woman, had been taken, Pharaoh would have made her his wife.

Sadly, Abraham did the very same thing again a second time, when he went to Gerar, where the king of Gerar, Abimelech was.

He and Sarai also took matters into their own hands a third time without fully having faith in the power and operation of God and based on their CIRCUMSTANCES, when Sarai found that she couldn’t have children.

Instead of having faith in what God had said and that that meant that God would one day give her conception no matter her age (because God does not lie), she caused Abraham to marry her maid Hagar, so that a child could be conceived through that route.

Abraham is not alone. Other men in the Bible who God used greatly, also allowed the CIRCUMSTANCES they faced to make them doubt what God had said. David for example, knew that he had been anointed by God through Samuel to be King, in the place of Saul. Yet, after being chased by Saul relentlessly, who wanted to kill him, 1 Samuel 27:1 reads:

  • And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand.”

David was therefore convinced that, unless he escaped to the land of the Philistines, Saul would succeed in ending his life, although he (David) had been anointed by God to be King and that meant that God would therefore protect him from Saul and keep him in the land of the living, so that he could become King.

FAITH OF THE OPERATION OF GOD vs. FAITH IN PEOPLE’S OPINIONS

PEOPLE AND THEIR OPINIONS also try to make us doubt God’s truth, as they try to impress upon our minds and hearts the opposite of what he has said. He has said we are precious in his sight and valuable but they say in unison, that we are insignificant, nobodies, not important at all and scum and they treat us this way, sometimes even in our own families and in the household of God.

Yet, the Word of God says and it is therefore written:

  • “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5);
  • Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:8-12)

FAITH OF THE OPERATION OF GOD vs. FAITH IN OUR OWN FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS

Also because of OUR OWN FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS arising from the devil’s promptings and the fleshly, corrupt nature that is still within us and coexisting with God’s holy nature that he has placed within us, destructive feelings and thoughts try to deceive us from within, to make us doubt God’s Word and what he has said.

For example, our feelings which come from our sinful flesh and the devil, often times informed by our dismal experiences and circumstances tell us:

  • God said he loves you and he has forgiven you but look at what you have been going through for the past ten years. You are still single. He hasn’t seen it fit to present you to one of his valuable sons because you are not good enough and there is no restoration for the magnitude of what you did when you committed that sin, although you repented or maybe there is restoration but it is limited. It does not extend to him providing a family for you. He has said he will do so much for you but look at how you have been suffering with your career issues and singleness issues and loneliness issues all these years! While you perpetually remain in the doghouse, other people are being blessed. They have God’s favour, they have been forgiven but you have not. Things are too bad and too far gone and your problems too great, for any meaningful change or for things to look up at this late hour. Everybody has already given up on you, thinking that nothing will happen for you at this point. Why don’t you just give up as well?

Yet, despite what our flesh or the devil tells us, God’s Word says and it is therefore written:

  • “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
  • “The Lord sitteth upon the flood; yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever.”
  • “…the devil…He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)
  • Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” (Psalm 32:1-2)
  • “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:22-26)
  • “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waiteth for the Lord: for he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.” (Psalm 33:18-21)
  • “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!…Blessed be the Lord: for he hath shown me his marvellous kindness in a strong city. For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: NEVERTHELESS thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee...Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:19,21-22,24)

CONCLUSION

Our CIRCUMSTANCES, PEOPLE’S OPINIONS and OUR OWN FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS, often try to make us doubt God and second guess who he is, that he loves us with an everlasting love, that his mercies are new every morning, that he cares for us, that he is able to bring about complete restoration in our lives when we repent after we have fallen, that even when we suffer and for prolonged periods, he has purpose in that suffering even when we can’t possibly understand or make sense of it, that he is with us even in those moments when the valley seems dark, long, the storm is raging all around us and he seems silent or asleep, that even when we are tired of what we are going through, confused as to the purpose for it and feel like we simply cannot go on, that he is faithful and strong, even when we have failed him and are weak and that he will faithfully uphold us with the right hand of His righteousness and guide us forward.

As Christians, we must therefore never get to the point where we allow CIRCUMSTANCES, PEOPLE’S OPINIONS OF US and FEELINGS GENERATED FROM OUR DECEPTIVE FLESH AND THE DEVIL’S VOICE, to make us doubt God. For, that would be to let go of the truth and embrace a lie. That would be as sad as a ship that was afloat (through faith in Jesus) but has begun to take in the water all around it and sink because doubt has hit it with holes.

We must always elevate God’s Word (which is infallible and never changing) and what HE has said, above these things. We must get in the habit of telling ourselves:

  • My circumstances look this way BUT GOD has said…
  • People think of me in this way BUT GOD has said…
  • I don’t feel like if God loves me or that I am special or that he has forgiven me of my sins and cast them into the sea of forgetfulness or that I am blessed BUT GOD has said…

Whether it is a circumstance that looks dismal, people’s bad opinion of us or our own destructive thoughts and feelings, we must learn to silence the voice of the enemy (which is a lying voice) with the Word of God, even as Jesus did when he was tempted in the wilderness.

Resolve in your heart today, that come what may, you will continue to have faith in God and of the operation of God because HE HAS SAID and that is enough.

(Written on 07th September, 2020)

ADDENDUM

1 Corinthians 14:10 states, “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.”

If you find yourself struggling with the voice of people’s opinions, circumstances, your own feelings and that of the enemy (even as I sometimes do), consider praying to the Lord about the issue, even as I have done in the past and did again this morning. I prayed something to this effect:

  • “Father in heaven, help me to put my faith in you and in your Word the Bible and not in people’s opinions, circumstances that can at times look dismal or my own feelings and flesh. Cause me to block out every voice that is contrary to your voice, whether it be the voice of people, the voice of circumstances, the voice of my own feelings or flesh, the voice of the world and the voice of the devil and his followers. For, these voices cannot be relied upon. They are not voices of truth. They cannot be trusted because they are deceptive. They seek to derail me from TRUTH. Help me Father in heaven, to tune in only to your voice of truth as revealed in your Word the Bible, to cling to the assurances given therein and cause every other false voice to fade into oblivion. Silence every diabolical voice without and deceptive voice within. Help me to embrace that which is true and to vehemently reject all lies, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

(Addendum written on 04th October, 2021)

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