A follow Up to Desperation: Grace and Faith

Friends,

I posted a day or two or three ago about being desperate for Jesus. I used a quote from Mike Yaconelli’s book Messy Spiritualityto convey the idea. Well I re-posted it at CRN.info and Analysis where I have been doing some writing and got some more good feedback from the readers there. One of the respondents asked me to clarify what I meant by ‘certainty’ and ‘desperation.’ He wrote:

Jerry,

Would you expound on the relationship between “certainty” and “desperation.” I think I know what ya mean, and probably agree…

As I see it, there are many things on which we can have certainty – the veracity of Scripture, our salvation, the uniqueness of Christ, etc… – yet in my own life I have been way too certain about things that are less obvious – dispensationalism for example.

Is this what ya meant?

Neil

And I responded:

Neil,

You know what it is? Last week I was at a camp with four kids from KCU. One has a 13 year old brother whose body is riddled with tumors.

I have a brother whose 30 year old brain is being crushed by a tumor. He is 30 years old and cannot control his piss any longer, eats paper, wanders aimlessly around the house. In short, he’s dying. 30.

I am about to take on a mortgage for my family, rejoice in God’s blessing, while others in the world are starving. Rejoice in all things, he says. And yet, I want this house so bad for my wife and sons and I shouldn’t feel badly that I have to have a place to live and that after 14 years of preaching I’m tired of living in a parsonage which provides nothing for my future or family.

I believe in Creation and the theological importance of such a belief. But what if Darwin was right? (I”m not interested in debating this so please spare me.) And why is what’s so obvious to me so hazy to others? (I’m not interested in debating so please don’t bother. Here I’m sharing those ‘certainties’ and ‘desperations.’)

What about all the lost? The Calvinist escapes this fear and angst by attributing all the lost to God’s just election. I cannot do that. Every person that dies without Christ tears me apart. What about hell? I don’t want to imagine it in any way.

What if David never really did exist?

What if I die some glad morning and I don’t have the requisite wings to fly away?

What if my sons grow older and end up hating God like my youngest brother does?

Why won’t my church grow even though I am preaching Sola Scriptura? Why does one man in the church continually harp on me about the length of the worship? Why have I been stuck preaching in small churches since the day I graduated while many of my peers have done far more?

Even on the mountain when Jesus ascended some doubted. The problem I have is that sometimes doubts have no answers.

Why have I had to struggle the way I have had to struggle with certain sins? No matter the prayers. No matter the faith. No matter the resistance. Struggle. Struggle. Struggle.

You know what it is? Grace. I cannot, no matter how much I believe and preach it, understand God’s grace. I am desperately clinging to that grace. Desperately.

PS. I don’t get dispensationalism either. Then again, I don’t get mathematics. I cannot reconcile Calvinism with Scripture and yet there are some who see nothing but ‘Calvinism.’ I don’t get ‘Left Behind’ and yet some see nothing but Left Behind. I play guitar and sing, but I don’t understand music. I am desperate.

But I’m learning that I am more desperate for Jesus than I am for answers.

I’m learning to live in the ambiguity of it all. Isn’t it strange that God could have give us straight answers–like the straight forward Laws of Leviticus–and yet he chose more often than not to give us ambiguity? Am I the only one who finds that strange, dissatisfying, and completely unfair?

I guess that’s what faith is about, huh?

jerry

Sorry for the long reply. Maybe this song is helpful to explain my position:

Well, sometimes my life
Just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something
I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band
Is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

–Rich Mullins

These thoughts were also picked up by Eugene at Eugene Roberts Weblog. My point is not to boast about my insecurities concerning faith. To be sure, there are some things that I am rather certain of and have no problems facing. Rather, what I hope to demonstrate here is that what is required is grace and faith. It goes something like this:

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, TNIV)

Christians are not Christians because they have all the right answers to all of life’s imponderables or because we necessarily rise to meet every occasion with perfect faith and joy. Rather, we are Christians and we persevere in faith, working out our salvation with fear and trembling, because of grace. It is grace, God’s grace, that is sufficient even when everything else in life leaves quite perplexed because of its insufficiency.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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