Almost everyone I know became serious about following Jesus after they had a crisis of faith – cancer. Why? Because it’s easy to be a religious Christian until something “unfair” happens to you, or you have to make a choice that truly tests your faith.
“Crisis’ of faith” comes in two forms.
1. A loss that appears to be totally unfair. I’ve sat with men whose wives have had an affair, who’ve lost a job they loved, or lost everything they owned in a bad investment, or failed business. Everything in them, including the evil one, is whispering, “you trusted God. You tried to live faithfully. But he failed you.” I addressed this type of crisis of faith in this blog, The Things You Should Never Trust God For. (http://bit.ly/Y97AUz) However, this blog deals primarily with a second type of faith-testing experience.
2. A “crisis of faith” can also be a major decision that we are reasonably certain God is calling us to make, which will cost us something we really value. It may be a decision you’re facing regarding a simpler lifestyle; eliminating debt; your relationships with a parent who has deeply hurt you; an ethical decision that could cost you your job; the forgiveness of an unfaithful spouse; a sacrificial gift; the leadership of a ministry; or the unconditional love of a difficult child, friend, or even a stranger.
A crisis of faith decision is larger than the daily obedience or sin choices each of us make because it will usually alter the way we live!
Here’s how this type of a crisis of faith generally evolves: As we grow in spiritual maturity and in our understanding of some of the deeper truths of God, we become increasingly aware that the normal Christian life is a journey of faith steps, or decisions. Each choice we make is an indicator to God and ourselves of how much we really love and trust him.
Occasionally, we are confronted with a major decision that requires us to seriously examine what it truly means to live by faith. Sometimes it begins when a truth from scripture hits us head on and we are convicted that we have not been obedient in that area of our life. It can also begin when an opportunity or trial comes our way that forces us to evaluate what it really means to trust God and live for God.
While it’s true, there is an excitement about living on the edge for God, it’s also true that it is scary to consider the real cost or implications of obedience. This fear often causes us to initially dismiss the idea. But the Holy Spirit will usually come back repeatedly and remind us of his will in this matter and then he waits to see the strength of our convictions and character. Bitter or better? Believers who move in obedience will feel closer to God than ever before and will find the next crisis of faith decision easier to make. This is exactly what the term, “growing in faith” means. Those who turn away from obedience find just the opposite. Often they will subconsciously avoid those portions of scripture, which are convicting or find less spiritual friends, who will make them feel less guilty. In any case, the end is nearly always spiritual mediocrity – what I call in The 10 Second Rule, “beige Christianity.”
Here’s a spiritual truth you can take to the bank: obedience will always cost you something which you really value. It may cost you time, money, comfort, lifestyle change, friendships, independence, status, or security. The human spirit is such that we resist making costly decisions. It is our nature to desperately look for other less costly options, perhaps like other good Christians have made that we think will still make God happy and assuage our guilt.
The reason we call these “crises’ of faith” is because in them, we are brought face to face with a costly decision that will require us to either obey or trust Jesus, or turn away from obedience. To make no decision is to turn away. A crisis of faith decision is not always a decision to “do something,” but it could also be a decision to not do something. “Deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23). It may be a decision not to buy something you really want, to not take a more demanding but financially rewarding job, or not do something we would really enjoy, for the purpose of freeing up time and resources that could be used to serve the kingdom.
God tests us. In scripture, Abraham had a “crisis of faith decision when asked to sacrifice Isaac; as did the widow who gave her last penny; Peter to leave his day job to follow Jesus; Ananias and Sapphira to tell the truth; the rich young ruler to sell everything; and so on. Some passed the test, others did not.
God sometimes causes or allows crises of faith not just to get things done, but also to see if we truly have faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Faith by definition requires us to do something, without absolute assurance of its outcome.
Why is it God tests us this way? To find out what we really value most. He already knows, but he wants us (and occasionally others) to know it. Peter’s denial of Christ drove him to see his cowardice and pride. Peter then had another choice to make – walk away in shame and go back to fishing, or learn the lesson Jesus wanted him to learn and be a better leader than he was before.
To better understand these crisis of faith decisions,” we need to get a few things straight. First, God does not need us to do whatever it is he’s calling us to do. He is sovereign God and will carry out his purposes with or without us. The only question is, are we and our resources available to him, or does he look for another? Will you and I be found faithful?
It’s your behavior, not your theology, that tells God who and what you love the most.
The author gratefully acknowledges the profound influence the book Experiencing God has had on this Meta Concept on Crisis of Faith. Henry Blackaby, Claude King, Experiencing God (Nashville, TN: Lifeway Press)
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