I’m overwhelmed by real life at the moment and it’s getting in the way of blogging. I have about 10 things I’ve started to write, but none of them has quite come together. So instead, here is a list, without much polish, of the things I’ve been wondering about recently.
Failure and success
Every few days all semester something or other I’ve tried to accomplish has gone very wrong for me. Sometimes it was a class, or leading Cru (Campus Crusade) or teaching my Sunday School class. Regardless, I get very discouraged.
I was trained to respond to failure by trying to learn from it and figure out how to succeed next time. These days, the idea that keeps coming into my head instead is that perhaps failure is not always a bad thing. Perhaps God wants me to remember that it doesn’t all depend on me. Perhaps relying on him for success means being willing for things to go badly sometimes, so that I have to rely on him even more. It reminds me of 2 Corinthians 12:9-11. I’ve come to think that it is sometimes God’s will for me to fail.
All this depends on the definition of failure, of course. If I try my best, and things go wrong, maybe I shouldn’t call that failure. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether failure is sometimes the will of God for a Christian walking with Him. Did Jesus ever fail? There are a few verses that sound like God is interested in giving us success when we are doing things His way. (Proverbs 3:5-6 for example.)
Questions: Is it sometimes God’s will for us to fail? Did Jesus ever fail? What should “failure” mean in each case?
The supernatural realm
It’s been a weird semester for me in prayer. I seem to be unusually sensitive (for me) to the possibility of demonic activity around me. At times I’ve been led to pray very specifically against the demonic, and those experiences have led to big spiritual victories for me.
My experience is running a little bit ahead of my theology in this. I’ve been praying for things that I’m sure I don’t really understand. I imagine that things work in certain ways in the supernatural realm, and I have felt led to pray on that basis, while not being sure I completely believe what I am picturing.
Questions: How real is demonic activity, and how important is it that we think in those terms? What is spiritual warfare, really?
Speaking of which, one of the things I am increasingly struck by is the way God communicates to us within the framework of the way we interpret reality. In an important sense, it doesn’t matter whether I see things as they are or not. God doesn’t let my faulty worldview get in the way of His speaking to me.
One Christian sees demons everywhere. Another eschews mysticism and interprets everything in terms of what is objective, measurable, and verifiable. Still another thinks in terms of the pragmatic. What matters is what works. God will speak to all three, on their own terms, as long as they are open to the Holy Spirit’s voice in their lives.
I’m learning to say, “This is how I think reality works” and then expect God to speak to me within that framework. When God does show me something, I can take it seriously without having to commit to my own framework. I can be sure that God showed me what I needed to know given what I was able to accept without thinking I have it entirely correct.
Questions: Does this idea not work for any reason?
Confronting false doctrine
A few weeks ago I befriended someone on facebook who routinely posts provocative and aggressive attacks on false teachers. I expected I would disagree with what he said fairly frequently and with how he said it even more frequently. Surprisingly, I usually enjoy reading his comments. Part of me cheers when he puts a foolish viewpoint in its place.
For years, I’ve known that I don’t do confrontation well. Although I respect some of those who confront false teachers, I know that I am no good at it. I’ve wondered if I would need to learn to refute false doctrine more than I do.
At the same time, I really disagree with certain self-appointed doctrinal guardians. There are some Christian writers who delight in finding fault with everyone whose approach to the faith differs from theirs in the slightest particular. They spend all their time tearing down their brothers and sisters in the faith, and building themselves up in spiritual pride for being one of the few who hold pure doctrine. I believe that in doing so they are violating James 3 and will one day be judged for it.
So I’m fascinated to see my reaction to my facebook friend. His posts make me very tense. They’ve also got me thinking about the way that refuting false doctrine should look when someone does it from the right motives and with the right attitude. I think this is something I’ll have to learn more about.Questions: What is the heart of a person called to refute false doctrine? What are the wrong ways to do it and the right ways to do it? What does God want me to have in my own life in this regard?
I’m very busy this semester, and I’m getting more and more emotionally, spiritually, and (especially) physically tired. At the same time, I’ve been studying the Sabbath for Sunday school, and trying to learn how to be at rest in the Lord in my daily walk with Him.
Questions: How do we find a rich and deep restfulness in Christ?