WHAT FAITH (SURPRISINGLY) LOOKS LIKE

Dear Friends,

Paul (the apostle) says a surprising thing in Romans 12:3. He says “do not think of yourself more highly than you ought but rather think of yourself with sober judgement in accordance with the faith God has given to you”.

So how much faith has God given to you? You may want to say He has given you strong faith but what do you mean by that? Do you mean great conviction or assurance or knowledge? You may want to say He has only given you little faith but what do you mean by that? Do you mean little understanding or confidence or peace?

The test for faith – here is the surprising thing – is the test of dependence. We work out who has great faith by finding the person who says “I can’t go safely forward without God’s help”. We don’t work out great faith by the person who says “I am a graduate in the school of Christian knowledge and I’m ready for anything”. That’s independence.

So Paul is saying a very perceptive thing when he says “measure your faith by your dependence”. We know that faith is confidence in someone else or something else (a dentist or a ladder) so I should be ashamed when I walk into my day confident in my ability to organise and solve and achieve everything myself – that’s baby faith. Mature faith doesn’t dare to go forward without God’s grace.

FAITH IN THE FELLOWSHIP

This mature faith will affect the way we see church. We have no idea how the consumer mentality has affected us. The most natural thing in the world is to now ask whether church will help us, please us, calm us or entertain us. We’re awash in ourselves.

But faith looks away from self and seeks God’s grace to go in His strength to do His will among His people. The “what about me?” song is replaced by “what about them?” Imagine what it is like to meet with a crowd of people who have come in faith to serve in the strength He provides. What a privilege – and what a contrast to the world.

To drive this home, let me tell you that when I call people who have been away for a while and ask if all is well – I frequently get told that they are fine, have been having a great time and catch up on the sermons online. Somehow I want to say to such people “but what about the flock – have they been cared for? You have been fine – have they?” You can see this is a revolutionary thought.

FAITH AND MATURITY

After the last Prayer Meeting I came home and typed out this reflection:

“Are we a mature church? It’s not the reputation or number or occupation or ages or buildings that make us mature – it’s faith…our sense of dependency.

Surely a clear test of a spiritually mature church is the Prayer Meeting. And by that test we are not that great. Picture me walking home after the Prayer Meeting full of thanks to God for the brothers and sisters gathered to pray but wondering ‘where are all those people – some are leaders and long-time members – mature in age and capable in work – who don’t come to pray? Do they think the real work will be done by the staff or others or the arm of flesh? Do they choose their meetings to attend by care or comfort or feeling?’

Age or distance or frailty will always make such an outing impossible. I would urge some people not to come but to pray at home.

Our 10am congregation should be out in great numbers because we have been given much and must give a lead to the younger members. What does it say that the young in the church are setting the lead in prayer?

I urge all members to come as a way to honour God, encourage others, seek His help, stir up a lukewarm day and get great work done. Don’t come to make me happy. Don’t come because I pester you. Come because it’s what spiritually wise people do. You will probably struggle to come – and rejoice on the way home – because when we draw near to God (in some remarkable way) He draws near to us. We receive more than we ever give. He is never in debt to us. When you hear ‘Prayer Meeting’ lock it in!!” That’s what I wrote on April 10.

Yours in faith,
Simon Manchester