Living By Faith


                                                             Living by Faith

    “We live by faith, not by sight.”  (II Corinthians 5:7)  Jesus Christ came into the world, living with perfect knowledge of the Father and perfect trust in the Father.  His life was lived by faith from beginning to end.  What was natural for Him is unnatural for us.  I can only recall (dimly) one time in my life when I lived totally by faith.  I was not worried about where my next meal would come from.  I had no concerns about what I was going to wear.  There were no anxieties about what the next day would bring.  The thought of worrying about school work, a career choice, eventual marriage and family responsibilities never crossed my mind.  I lived a life of trust and dependence.  Sadly, in some regards, these days of early childhood slipped away and I joined the rest of fallen adult humanity.   Humanity assumes it must take responsibility for itself and find its own way in life.  It is no wonder that Christ says we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven!  When our forefather (Adam) chose independence from God as a lifestyle he set himself up to be his own God.  He said, in effect, “I know better how to run my own life that you do”  As David Benner notes, there are only two prayers offered by mankind.  These are often unspoken, non verbalized prayers expressing two alternative desires of mankind.  One is supernatural, the other is natural.  One is “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”  The natural one, the one we are born with is “Hallowed be my name, my kingdom come, my will be done!”   Desiring God’s Will, Intervarsity Press, 2015, pg 33.  Jesus says to those who unconsciously or consciously pray the natural prayer, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  The burden of running our own lives is a heavy one.  Christ offers us His burden, the will of God, telling us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  (Mathew 11: 28-30)   

     St. Ignatius notes that “Sin consists of our unwillingness to trust that what God wants for us is our deepest happiness.”  If we really knew God fully we would trust Him fully.  To live by faith does not mean that we need more faith.  It means that we need greater knowledge of the object of our faith.  I John 4:19 says that “We love because he first loved us.”  To immerse our lives in a study of His love for us would overwhelm us with the truth Paul describes in Romans 8:38-39.   “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  If we knew what Christ knew about the Father when He was on earth, we would surrender to His love, and willingly turn the control of our lives over to Him.  “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  (Philippians 2:13)  The apostle Paul further describes his experience in allowing the Lord to control the events of his life.  “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”   (Philippians 4.11b-12)  To live by faith, then, is to relinquish control of our lives to Him.   

     Isaiah characterizes another aspect of living by faith.  In his reply to the Lord in Isaiah 6:8 “Whom shall I send?”, and “Who will go for us?”, he says “Here am I.  Send me.”  G. Campbell Morgan describes this response as abandonment and readiness.  Isaiah has abandoned himself to God!  Oswald Chambers has these comments to say about what it means to abandon.  “Are you prepared to abandon entirely and let go?  The test of abandonment is in refusing to say—“Well, what about this?”  Beware of suppositions.   Immediately you allow—-What about this?—- It means you have not abandoned, you do not really trust God.  Immediately you do abandon you think no more about what God is going to do.  Abandon means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions.”  To abandon is to live by faith.  The opposite of this is to live by sight, as three men in Luke 9:57-62 demonstrate by their (hypothetical) questions.  Where are we going to sleep tonight?  Can I bury my father first?  Can I say goodbye to my family first? 

     To live by faith also means continued waiting on God.  We must be attentive and responsive.  We wait on His agenda and timetable for our lives and ministry, not on our own.  If He chooses to set us aside from our work for Him, are we able to wait patiently for what He wants?  Waiting on Him implies that what we want is what He wants for us.  Do we want blessings, active service for him, and success in what we are doing, or do we want Him?  Living by faith is waiting for  Him to be glorified in our lives regardless of the path and its detours.  

     Finally, living by faith means that we have not yet attained that for which we were created.  We continue to thirst and hunger for deeper knowledge of our Lord.  We are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  (II Corinthians 3:18)  Paul has this thought in view in Philippians 3:12-14.  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  We must always have the vision of the person of God before us.  Our satisfaction is not to be granted during this probationary existence.  It awaits for us when we are with Him.  “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness.  I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”  (Psalm 17:15)  KJV 

     I am reminded of an illustration I heard a few years ago describing living by faith.  Imagine a river flowing from His throne of grace.  This river of grace flows throughout the whole world, touching and redeeming the lives of multitudes of people.  Picture yourself going down to the river with an empty pail which you fill and then dispense to others throughout the day.  You have carried His grace to minister to others.  Now imagine going down to the river and actually jumping into the river!  You are now allowing His grace to carry you!   Do you appreciate the difference?  Allowing His grace to carry you rather than you carrying His grace relinquishes your control, abandons yourself to Him, waits fully on Him, and has a clear vision of God and His glory before you!  May His grace carry you as you live by faith in Him. 

In Christ,  Richard Spann      



He Must Become Greater


                                   He must become greater;  I must become less.  

                                                                                             John 3:30

     John the Baptist had clarity concerning his calling.  It was not to draw attention to his own ministry, but to the person of Christ.  HIs role was defined as follows.  “The bride belongs to the bridegroom.  The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegrooms voice.  That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must become greater; I must become less.”  (John 3:29-30).

     Our task, like that of John the Baptist, is one of introduction.  Our relationship with others should enable them to fall more and more in love with Jesus Christ.  We wait upon the Holy Spirit to manifest the bridegroom’s voice in their lives.  Our joy is in seeing His voice become increasingly manifest in their lives.  We need to be available to them as long as it takes to see God’s work accomplished in their lives.  At some point, however, we must be willing to become unnecessary to them.  As He becomes greater, we must become less.  As Oswald Chambers relates, “If you become a necessity to a soul, you are out of God’s order.  Your great responsibility is to be a friend of the bridegroom.”  My Utmost for his Highest, March 24. 

     In our relationship with others, we must always emphasize what Christ has done for us, not what we have done for Him.  Their gaze needs to be continually directed away from us toward Christ.  Although we may be channels of God’s blessings and introduction, it should be clear to them that we are not the source.  Our lives must be lived with enough transparency that they can see the light of God shining through the cracks in our clay pots!  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.”  (II Corinthians 4:7).  We must be convinced in our own lives that Christ has done all that we need and that He is all that we need.  If they see that we are looking to anyone or anything but Christ, then we will have become a stumbling block to them.   We will have diverted their trust and dependence away from Christ.  

     In some business ventures, I have known some who would not teach others fully, holding back some information or needed skill from new employees.  They wanted their own position to always be a little superior to others.  They withheld knowledge of the job from others in order to keep their own standing as a leader or supervisor.  Our goal with others, however, is to see Christ increase in the lives of others to the fullest extent possible.  Paul says the following about this ministry in Colossians 1:28-29.  So naturally, we proclaim Christ.  We warn everyone we meet.  We teach everyone we can all that we know about Him, so that if possible, we might bring everyone up to his full maturity in Christ.”  Paul holds nothing back in his teaching.  He also mentions this in Ephesians 4:11-13.  “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” 

             None of us have all the gifts needed fo fully impact others for Christ.  We need the gifts of others.  To continue to minister to another person without the help of others will foster dependence.  In order for Christ to increase His prominence in their lives, we must be willing to introduce them to other individuals, groups and ministries.  The Holy Spirit uses the body of Christ, not just an individual.  In addition, we need to remember that we transmit our weaknesses as well as our strengths.  The presence of other individuals impacting the lives of those with whom we work will lessen this effect.  As they broaden and widen their relationships with others, any dependence they have on us will naturally diminish.  This is part of what It means when John the Baptist says “I must decrease.” 

     Some years ago, I had a conversation with a relative about his son.  He was discussing some of his desires for his child.  He went through a few items that he was hoping to accomplish and at the end of his list made the following statement.  “My main goal is that he will become independently dependent upon Christ.”  Independently dependent!  Having heard this from him, my wife and I then decided that this should be a prayer for our two daughters as well.  We knew that there would be an end to what we would be able to say and do.  Our influence would diminish and our impact would lessen over time.  As this occurred, our hearts were gladdened and encouraged as we saw both of our daughters manifest dependence upon the Lord independently of us!  We were full of joy when we heard the bridegroom’s voice expressed through their lives!   

     Time, distance and other ministry pursuits often separate us from those we have ministered to over the years.  We no longer play any role in their Christian walk and service.  We have become unnecessary to them.  We may wonder if our impact was sufficient to make a significant difference in their life and ministry.  The apostle John, near the end of his life, had the occasion to look back on those to whom he had previously ministered as well.  In many cases, his influence and input had long since ceased.  They had become independently dependent upon Christ.  After hearing that the bridegroom’s voice was still being heard through their lives, he described his joy in these words.  “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  (3 John 3-4)  May this joy be yours as well as by God’s Grace you hear the bridegroom’s voice in the lives of those in whom you have invested your own life.  

In Christ, Richard Spann  

Not by Bread Alone


      Several years ago, I was reading about the temptations of Christ as recorded in Matthew chapter 4 and Luke chapter 4.  One of the verses He used to refute the devil was Deuteronomy 8:3.  I was interested to read Jerry Bridges comments on this verse in one of his writings.  His opinion was that “every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3) included more than just the scriptures.  It embraced His creative decisions, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth, (Psalm 33:6) as well as His providential care of all of His creation.  (Isaiah 55:11)  I came across this same opinion from Dallas Willard in his book “Hearing God.”  These thoughts began to widen my understanding about God’s care and directions for His people.  They include bread, but also manna, which was supplied by the “word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

     Bread is that with which we are familiar.  We can see it.  We watch it grow in the stalk, whether it be wheat, barley or oats.  It is also a substance over which we have some control.  We harvest it, (the wheat for example) and mix it together with yeast and other products to produce our bread.  It is a process which we comprehend.  We understand how our body processes the bread and provides the nutrients we need.  Manna, on the other hand, was a substance with which the Israelites were unfamiliar.  Daily by faith they picked it up from the ground.  They had no control over when and how much appeared.  They could not even control how long it lasted. (On the day before the Sabbath it lasted two days compared to one day the other days.)  They had no ability to comprehend how it appeared and how it was used to supply their nutritional needs during the forty years in the wilderness.   

     From this example it is clear that the Lord will guide us in both the familiar and unfamiliar, in matters over which we have some control and that over which we have none, and in ventures which we may understand his leading as well as by paths that are inscrutable to us.  It includes a walk by faith, not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7), taking risks, getting out of our comfort zone, and leaving the outcomes of what He calls us to do in His hands.  

     I was in the process of memorizing this verse (Deuteronomy 8:3) when I was admitted to the hospital for the fourth of five surgeries I have had in my life (so far!) for the removal of a cancerous growth.  The surgery went well and I returned to my room later that afternoon.  In the evening the pain from the incision significantly worsened despite the medication they were giving and I asked for more pain relief.  At 9:00 PM they gave me four mgm. of Morphine which did not relieve the pain.  I was given another eight mgm. of Morphine at 10:00 PM but again with no benefit.  At 11:00 PM they tried an intravenous injection of Toradol (another strong pain reliever) with no benefit either.  At midnight she went back to more Morphine with still no relief of the pain.  I knew that Percocet had helped pain like this before from previous surgeries but they would not give me that drug because I was not to take anything by mouth until morning.  My wife, Beverly, had stayed in my room overnight and would be available, should I awaken her, to leave the hospital and go to our home and bring back the Percocet I had on hand.  As I considered this option, my mind turned to Deuteronomy 8:3 and I was reminded of the Lord’s opportunity to turn the stones into bread.  There was a legitimate need before Him and he had the means to take care of it by saying the word, but He would have stepped out of the Father’s will for His life.  I was reminded that to take my own medication against hospital advice, even though it would have relieved the pain, was not what the Lord wanted me to do.  Having rejected this option I was given the thought that I should take both hands, and press them into the left aide of the abdomen next to the incision and roll over on my left side.  Within a few minutes I was asleep and slept until the nurse came in at 6:00AM!  By faith I responded to the thought the Lord had given.  The control of the pain was up to Him, not me.  It was beyond my understanding as to how He accomplished this!  The pain relief itself was profound and I was exceedingly grateful for it.  What was even more profound, however, was the lesson that the Lord taught me then and has been teaching me since.  

     We go along in our daily lives walking by sight, in control of most things that concern us and able to comprehend the path ahead of us.  Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are in the Lord’s hands, being sustained by His mighty hand of Grace.  To walk by sight, however, is to live by bread alone.  It is doing what we usually do each day with familiar surroundings and with people we know and with whom we are comfortable being around.  The Lord, however, does not want us to live by bread alone.  He desires that we also walk by faith.  He asks us to take risks with the use of our time, our talents, and our resources.  He desires that we leave our comfort zone of activities and trust Him to use our lives, leaving our future in His hands, or, as the title of John Ortberg’s book states, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat!  He asks that we befriend others of different religions, cultures, races, lifestyles and that we spend time with them and minister to their needs.  By faith, He asks that we accept them and seek their good.  We have no control over whether they will respond to the Gospel but we are to love them just the same, uncertain of how the Lord will use our lives and uncertain of the outcome itself.  We are unable to comprehend what He plans to develop in the lives of others by our simple steps of faith as we follow Him.  This is living by His word,  which supplied the manna, not just by bread alone.     

     His word, His providential care and direction of our lives leads us to a venture of faith, relinquishing control of outcomes, trusting His sovereign judgment to use our lives as He desires.  Living by faith we are called to make a difference, not just a living.  Our lives, lived by faith, will then make a mark, not a blur.  It is my desire that His word will direct your lives into a life that is is not lived by bread alone, making a difference for eternity, not just for this life.  

In Christ, Richard Spann           

Running the Race


                                                     Running The Race

     The winter Olympics have started.  Last night I watched curling.  It is truly a sport that could only have been invented in the frozen wasteland of our planet!  Skiing was also featured as were previews of other competitions to come.  Over the next month many contestants will stand shoulder to shoulder with others at the starting line, all with a desire to be the first one to cross the finish line.  We all enjoy watching these scenes unfold.  What we seldom realize, however, is how similar our lives are to the Olympics.  We have many contestants clamoring for first place in our lives.  They each one want to be first.  These include our jobs, hobbies, relationships with others, our career advancement, accumulation of possessions, plans for retirement, and, oh yes, our relationship with God. 

     I recall with amusement, and some conviction, an ongoing description of a race described by Leroy Eims, a Navigator mentor to many people over the years.  His comments were as follows.  “They are at the Gate!  God jumps out in front and takes an early lead, but career, hobbies and friends are close behind!  At the turn hobbies is closing fast, while career is advancing along the rail!  Friends is coming up along the outside and God and friends are neck to neck as they make the turn!  Career advances to the front on the backstretch and God falls two lengths behind!  As they round the final turn all four are neck and neck!  God makes a final lunge at the end and wins by a nose!    

     Have you ever had days like that?  You were running ragged with too many irons in the fire.  You remember after dinner that you neglected your relationship with God most of the day so you grab a devotional book or read a chapter in the Bible, pray for a few minutes and go off to sleep, thinking to yourself,  “Well, at least God won by a nose!” 

     Leroy brings home his point even more clearly with the following hypothetical scene.  He describes it as follows.  “Let’s say that I travel on a business trip to New Orleans to spend several days there with various people.  As is my habit, I call my wife Virginia every night to let her know how I am getting along.  The first night I call to tell her that the meetings are going well and that I have met a young lady that I am having breakfast with the next morning.  The next evening I call again and tell her that all the projects are going well and that I have really enjoyed meeting this lady, so much so in fact that I had lunch and dinner with her as well.  I then added ‘But don’t worry, Virginia.  Your’e still number one!’”  Still number one , indeed!  How do you think Virginia would react?  How would you react to this?  More importantly how do you think God reacts when we do this to Him?  What Leroy is telling us is that no one else, and nothing else, should even be in the race! 

     God, in fact, tells us the same thing in Luke 14:26, 27 and 33.  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple.”(verse 26)  “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (verse 27)  “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (verse 33)  Our Lord states here that relationships with others, self interest and possessions are not to enter the race.  Our relationships with others, not permitting them to even enter the race, may even be regarded by hate in comparison with the love we have for Christ.  Self interest is denied entry in the race by carrying our cross and following Him.  Possessions, likewise, do not gain entrance because they are given up to Christ for His use. 

     If our race does not include others, self or possessions, then what is the purpose of the race?   What does it mean to run the race with perseverance, (Hebrews 12:1) or to run in such a way as to get the prize? (I Corinthians 9:24)  There is one race I love to watch and that is in the movie Secretariat.  In the Belmont Stakes, all the other horses but one withdrew, and that one was really not a challenger.  The race was essentially a demonstration of the beauty, strength and glory of the horse Secretariat.  He created wonder, amazement and praise from the onlookers and admirers.   All eyes were on him as he continued to accelerate around the course.  

     In many respects, it reminds me of the race that we are to run.  There are no competitors.  We run with the purpose of demonstrating the glory, strength and might of Christ Jesus.  “We have been given fullness in Christ.”(Colossians 2:10)  “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:18)  Paul says “For to me, to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21)  He will, Himself, by His presence produce wonder and bring praise to His name.  “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)  As we run the race united to our Lord and Savor Jesus Christ, even the defects and problems in our lives (cracks in our jar that let His light out!) serve but to show others that it is Christ within and not our lives that contain the power that is seen.  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (II Corinthians 4:7)  

     This is the race that Paul was referring to in I Corinthians 9:24 and which he himself was to complete.  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7)  This is the race that we are called to complete as well, making the invisible Christ visible to others so that they may see His Glory.  It is my prayer that your race will glorify Him and bring praise to His name!                    

In Christ, Richard Spann

God will become all you need Him to be


                                     God will become all you need Him to be 

                                  when you need Him to be all that you need. 

                                                                                     Jill Briscoe

     God created man in His likeness and to live in such a relationship with Him that all of its needs would be met in Him.  Mankind, having rebelled through its spokesman in Adam, has become so distanced from God that there is no realization of the need for Him.  It goes its own way, oblivious to the infinite resources at its disposal.  Even those who have been drawn near to Him seldom realize the supply that He desires to bring to their lives.  The need of God for part of their lives is acknowledged, but they are quite content to seek other sources for what they desire or consider useful.  There is a tendency to compartmentalize Him in our thinking, regarding Him as useful for salvation when the end of physical life comes, but desirous of having other needs met elsewhere.  The need of Him is only partial, not total.  They do not realize that even the needs that are met elsewhere than Him are ultimately supplied by Him as well.  The food, the clothes, the homes, the relationships with others are all ultimately supplied from His Gracious hand.  Every provision we experience is His gift to us.  Accepting provisions from Him without seeking Him as the primary One to be desired actually serves only to turn our hearts away from Him.  We see this in Hosea 13:6.  “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”  To seek and depend upon the provisions of God rather than the person of God is to ultimately turn away from God.  Our dependence must rest on Him and Him alone. 

     The tragedy of dependence upon what God has given us rather than God Himself is brought home to us multiple times in the scriptures.  The most notable of these is a man’s story with which we are all familiar.  He was set apart from birth to be used mightily by the Lord.  It is recorded that he grew and the Lord blessed him.  His dependence was ultimately revealed to be, not in the Almighty God who had given him his strength, but in his strength alone.  Judges 16:20 tells us the story of his failure. “Then she called, ‘Samson, The Philistines are upon you!’  He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’  But he did not know that the Lord God left him.”  These words, “not knowing that the Lord God left him” are some of the most sobering in all of scripture.  Oswald Chambers has this comment about our relationship with God.  “If you are depending upon anything but Him, you will never know when He is gone.” 

     The Psalmist captures the thought behind Jill Briscoe’s statement with these words in Psalm 62:1-2.  “My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”  David is declaring here his dependence upon God alone, not His provision, His gifts, the experiences he has had with God, but God himself.  He is declaring that God Himself is all that He needs.  The Old Testament is replete with the words of the Lord guaranteeing this to us with the very name He has given to us, Jehovah, the becoming One.  Jehovah, which means “I am becoming all you need me to be” is the One who will become all we need Him to be when we need Him to be all that we need.  He illustrates this by including other names along with His name Jehovah, Jehovah Jireh, “I am the One who provides for you”, Jehovah Nissi, “I am your banner,”  Jehovah Raah, “I am your shepherd,” Jehovah Rophe, “I am your healer,” Jehovah Tsidkenu, “I am your righteousness,” Jehovah Shalom, “I am your peace.”   This is only a partial list, illustrative rather than exhaustive, of all He will become for us. 

     My wife of 56 years, Beverly, went to be with the Lord in September 2021.  With the start of the year 2022, I purposed to read through her Bible, in which I found copious notes along the edges of the text!  In Exodus chapter 14, she had underlined the story where the cloud (for guidance) moved around the Israelites and became a pillar of fire (for protection).  (Exodus 14:19-20)  She had pencilled the following comment in the margin.  God becomes whatever I need”  This is what she believed and this is what she experienced in her life.  Hannah Whitall Smith has the following comment about the belief that God becomes whatever is needed.  

     “The last and greatest lesson that the soul has to learn is the fact that God, and God alone, is enough for all its needs.  This is the lesson that all His dealings with us are meant to teach; and this is the crowning discovery of our whole Christian life.  God is enough!   

     No soul can be really at rest until it has given up all dependence on every thing else and has been forced to depend on the Lord alone.  As long as our expectation is from other things, nothing but disappointment awaits us.  Feelings may change, and will change with our changing circumstances; doctrines and dogmas may be upset; christian work may come to naught; prayers may seem to lose their fervency; promises may seem to fail; everything that we have believed in or depended upon may seem to be swept away, and only God is left, just God, the bare God, if I may be allowed the expression; simply and only God.”  The God of All Comfort.  Moody Press 1956, Pages 241,243.      

     Have you come to the conclusion that God becomes whatever you need?  Is your dependence placed solely in Him?  The rest that God has for us is only to be found when it is in Him alone.  May the Lord lead you to find your soul refreshed daily as you discover that God, and God alone, is enough.  

In Christ, Richard Spann                       

Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?


                             Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

                                                                                                    Del Tackett

     The question as related above was asked by Del Tackett during the presentation of the Truth Project.  The Project was initiated 12 years ago by Focus on the Family, a Christian organization located in Colorado Springs, CO.  Del Tackett was the spokesman for the project that became a widely used seminar which related the truth of the scriptures to every day life.  Although having reference to the teaching of the seminar, his question has a deeper relevance that impacts the totality of our lives.  His question in actuality includes two questions.  The first of these, “What do you believe?”, is then followed by the second, “Do you really believe it is really real?”

     To fully answer the first question would take volumes so let me summarize in a few sentences.  If we are born again the old has gone, the new has come.  The old man is buried with Christ (Romans 6:3) and the life we now live is by faith in the life of Christ given to us. (Galatians 2:20)  We are sealed by the Holy Spirit, given the consciousness of God and the assurance that the Lord is our security and our significance. (Genesis 15:1)  Our Lord is in charge of each day, guarding us each second and preparing us with perfect knowledge and infinite power to celebrate Him, enjoy Him, worship and serve Him for all eternity.  He is in charge of all that pertains to us and all His governance is guided by the eye of infinite eternal love.  He supplies all we need physically and spiritually and tells us that we have no need to be afraid or worried. (Deuteronomy 31:8)  

     The second question to consider, then, is this.  Do we really believe this?  Is it really real?  In the case of many there is a wish and a hope, but the circumstances of life cause us to question the reality of what we believe at times.  We face many difficulties in life and the disappointments, the loss of health, family concerns and financial burdens all combine to cause doubts and anxieties.  Looking at our circumstances may cause us to doubt our relationship to Him, or to doubt His promises.  We may even wonder how our lives are to be different from the unbelieving world around us.  What are the distinctives?  What differences should be present in our lives that characterize us as really believing that what we believe is really real?  

     The scriptures are not silent as to the expected response of the believer to all one has in Christ.  If we really believe that what we believe is really real then we will have the response described in Colossians 3:1,2.  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  These verses introduce the topic of “things above.”  What are these “things above?”  What activities are continuously taking place in the realm above?  I believe there are three of these in number, in each of which we are invited to have a part.     

     The first of these is prayer.  In Hebrews 7:25 we read that our Lord continues to pray for us.  Those of the redeemed who are with Him are likewise joining Him in prayer.  The reminders that our lives are to be centered in prayer are many in the scriptures.  Luke 18:1b states…”men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”  I Thessalonians 5:17 says “pray without ceasing,” and Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us to “Be careful for nothing;  but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  In prayer we are reminded that our need is not partial, it is total. 

     The second of “things above” is seen in Revelations 19:4.  “The twenty four elders and the living creatures fell down and worshipped God who was seated on the throne.  And they cried: ‘Amen, Hallelujah.’”  These two words epitomize praise to the Lord for who He is as well as for what He does:  Hallelujah-Praise the Lord!, and Amen-Let it be so!  If we really believe that what we believe is really real, that our lives will be characterized by praise, and specifically these two words of praise, Hallelujah and Amen.  

     The third activity taking place above is proclamation, the declaring of the person of Christ and what He has done.  Revelations 5:9-10 is as follows:  “And they sang a new song:  you are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”  If we really believe that what you believe is really real, then you cannot help telling others, proclaiming its truth first through your life, and then through your words.  

     Finally, we need to remember that we are not left to ourselves to manifest a life of prayer, praise and proclamation.  We have been given Christ, not as a model to emulate, nor as an example to study, but as a Life to be expressed in our lives.  It is His triumph in life in which we join.  His victory over all the circumstances of life is transmitted to us.  His Person given to us has already been manifest in prayer, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)  His life is seen in praise, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”  (Luke 10 21)  Finally, we see that His life in which we share is declared to be one of proclamation.  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  (Luke 19:10)                       

     There is no reason to doubt what we believe.  It is really real!  There is, furthermore, no reason to doubt that the Risen Christ will not be manifest in our lives with prayer, praise and proclamation as well.  As we constantly look to Him to manifest Himself in and through our lives, He Himself will demonstrate the reality of His truth through our lives.  

In Christ, Richard Spann

The Last Enemy



     We have many enemies in our Christian walk.  They are dedicated, relentless, and purpose our destruction physically and spiritually.  They became our enemies when, as a race, we rebelled against God through Adam and Eve.  The Good news of the Gospel is that Christ, our Victor, has dealt with our enemies!  Sins, which condemn us, have been dealt with and removed by His Cross!  (I John 3:5, Colossians 2:13-14)  Self, that persistent rebel that leads us astray, has been buried with Him. (Romans 6:3-4)  The world itself is dealt with by the cross as well, as the Apostle Paul celebrates in Galatians 6:14.  “But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.”  In addition, I John 3:8 tells us that the Son of God appeared in order to destroy the work of the devil.  All enemies that we face in life are now conquered but one, which is what the scriptures call the last enemy.  I Corinthians 15:26 tells us what this enemy is.  “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  

     Death looms before us as a specter which draws closer with each passing day.  Unpredictable as to its cause and timing, it is declared to be an enemy.  It separates us from our work, our plans, our friendships, and our loved ones.  It thrusts us from the known into the unknown.  It is the separation of the body from the spirit.  Its nearness produces grief in those who approach its gates and those who mourn with them.  Job describes death in these terms.  “The land of darkness, and of the shadow of death; a land of thick darkness, as darkness itself; a land of the shadow of death without any order, and where the light is as darkness.”  The shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept,” reminds us that even our Designer and Creator wept in the presence of death.  Our tears, our loss, and our grief as our loved ones pass is felt in His heart as well as in ours.  Being fully human as well as Divine, He understands and joins with us in our grieving, but He also wants us to know the scriptural truth about death. 

     The Lord desires us to understand first of all that the approach to death, including the particular illness, event or situation that produces death will not be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)  All the days ordained for us were written in His book before one of them came to be. (Psalms 139:16b)  This is the assurance that the days of illness, confinement and travail as we near the end of our lives are administered with His perfect control, His unfathomable knowledge and Infinite love.  We are His inheritance, His handiwork and His home.  We will find when we are with Him that He has omitted nothing that is needed for our perfection for His work through us in the ages to come, nor has He permitted anything to touch our lives that was not needed for His perfecting of us.  John 14:2-3 reminds us that He is preparing a place for us.  He is also preparing us for that place.  When we are ready and our place is ready, He will take us to be with Him!  It will not be like a sign I saw in a restaurant earlier this week.  “We regret to inform you that your assigned seating is not available.  Please wait in your vehicle until you are called.” 

     The Lord wants us to realize that the exact details of our coming to Him are under His control.  He states in Revelation 1:18 that He is the one who holds the keys of death.  For some, the Lord will give them a ”heads up,” so to speak.  He informed my mother that she was going to go home to be with Him in four more days, which came to pass as He said it would. My last visit in the nursing home to see my step brother was characterized by a smile on his face saying, “I am going home in three days!”  The Lord took him home three days later.  One patient of mine, a Christian, was told by the Lord that he was not ready to leave until he had returned to his friends and family and been a witness to them.  This man made a tape of his testimony and distributed it freely before He went to be with the Lord some months later.  Perhaps the most remarkable event describing the Lord’s control of His timing was a patient I was called to see in the Intensive Care Unit years ago.  She had been unresponsive and near death for several days.  A rattly noise and wheezing became evident to the relatives and I was consulted to order medication that would ease her respiratory distress.  I visited her late in the evening, and to my surprise, she sat up in bed and started a conversation!  My immediate thought was that there was only one reason that she regained consciousness and that it was because she needed to hear the Gospel.  She listened carefully, prayed to receive Christ and I visited a little longer with her before prescribing treatment for the wheezing.  When I returned to her room the next morning on rounds, I was informed that she had passed away during the early morning hours.  Truly, our Lord holds the keys of death!   

     We have seen how the cross of Christ has dealt with all of our enemies except one, our last enemy, which is death.  This enemy our Lord has dealt with by His resurrection.  II Timothy 1:10 states that He has “abolished death.” (KJV)  What does it mean to “abolish?”  Websters dictionary states that it means “to do away with wholly,” or “to annul.”  To understand what this means more completely we need to look at what death is.  Death is separation.  Physical death is separation of the spirit from the body.  Spiritual death is separation of the spirit from God.  To “annul” or “to do away with wholly,” then, implies that separation is non existent.  Death, having been made of no effect, then, become the portal by which we are united with Christ.  The moment we accepted Him as Savior, he was imputed to us as righteousness.  Throughout our lives, He is imparted to us as our Holiness and when we see Him, He will be implanted at our redemption!  I John 3:2 says that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (KJV)  To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  (II Corinthians 5:8)  My mother’s last words on earth and her first ones in heaven as she entered the presence of the Lord were “Oh Glorious!”  I have known others who have entered the Lord’s presence in Heaven even while their body was still partially functioning!  I was called to the hospital to see a patient of mine who was admitted with a tentative diagnosis of a massive stroke.  She was totally unresponsive and unable to move her extremities.  Her blood pressure and pulse were normal but there was absolutely no response or movement.  As I stood at the end of her bed all of a sudden both ams shot up in the air and she said “Jesus!”  I immediately knew two things.  Number one was that she was not talking to me!  Number two was that I was going to have a difficult time bringing her back!  Her body “lived”  another day before respiratory and cardiac functions ceased. 

     Christ has also abolished death as to its effect on separation of the body from the spirit by exchanging the old body for a new one!  “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal home in heaven not built by human hands.” (II Corinthians 5:1)  “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:  “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (I Corinthians 15:53-54)  

      There is also another aspect of death which is “made not to be,” and that is the separation that death produces among believers.  In the view of some, there is no time lapse before this reunion occurs!  Ray Stedman related the following thoughts in Authentic Christianity.  “We are all locked into time.  At our physical “death,” we leave time and enter the eternal NOW.  But what is even more amazing is that in the experience of that believer he does not leave anyone behind.  All his loved ones who know Christ are there too, including his Christian descendants who were unborn when he died!  Since there is no past or future in heaven, this must be the case.  Even those who, in time, stand beside his grave and weep and then go home to an empty house, are, in his experience, with him in glory.”  Discovery House Publishers, 1996, pages147-148.  The above comments are beyond my comprehension, but they do introduce the certainty that in eternity in God’s timing, there will no longer by any separation experience among believers.  Christ will have fully and finally dealt with our last enemy.  We will be like Him, with Him, and with others  who have placed their trust in Him.  We will join a mighty throng, bringing glory to Him forever and ever.  “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen”  (Ephesians 3:21)  (KJV)        

In Christ, Richard Spann         

The Biblical Response to Governing Authority


      Today is November 3, 2020.  It is election day.  It will be a greater turnout for voting than we have ever seen before.  Many issues concerning our nation are before the voters.  The personalities and their lives have been under close scrutiny by the press. We are told many things that will happen in the future to our country if the right people are not elected.  A sense of anxiety and foreboding prevails among many.

     In our country, we have the privilege of openly supporting candidates for office without fear of reprisal.  The freedom to cast our vote is assured.  Honesty in counting the votes and reporting is the norm.  Over the centuries since society, cultures, and nations have existed, our situation is a rare privilege.  Throughout the history of the world, kings, dictators, and tyrants have ruled with no regard for anyone but themselves.  In the first several centuries after Christ, the Christians were scattered.  They faced abuse and persecution from their own countrymen.  Their nation was ruled by a foreign power.  They were hunted down, imprisoned and many retreated to the catacombs.  It was during these early years of the church that the Apostle Paul was used of the Lord to give direction to the church in regard to their response to the governing authorities.  These principles are still relevant today.  “The counsel of the LORD standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” (Psalm 33:11) KJV 

     The first of these principles is given to us in the letter to the Romans.  “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)  “Give everyone what you owe him:  if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:7)  The spirit of grumbling and complaining is to be avoided, because ultimately it is God that we grumble about and to whom we complain.  “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” (Philippians 2:14-16a)  Living as light in a crooked and depraved generation, without complaining or arguing, is greatly used by the Lord as we hold out the word of life.  It is in this setting that the Gospel is advanced.  “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men:  whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (I Peter 2:13-16)  If there is a conflict, however, between the authorities and God, then we must answer as Peter and the other apostles did.  “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29b)  

     The second of these principles is given to us in I Timothy 2:1-4.  “I urge, then, first of all that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives-in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, my wife and I were invited to attend the Presidential Prayer breakfast in Washington DC.  At one of our meetings, Dick Halverson, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, spoke to our small group.  His message focussed on this passage and he challenged us with the thought that, to some measure, the advancement of the Kingdom of God is dependent upon our faithfulness in prayer for the authorities.  Our prayer, for example, for the president should be that the Lord would guide his decisions, his selection of those in the cabinet and direct (like a watercourse) his agenda for our country.  We need to ask that the legislation and court decisions would be those which would glorify God and allow His work to continue in our country.  We need to ask that the Lord would turn our country and its people to Him.  

     This responsibility and privilege, to pray for our governing authorities, extends not only to our own nation, but to every tribe and tongue in all the nations.  Operation World, written by Patrick Johnston, is an invaluable guide to prayer that is needed for those in authority throughout the world.  Does not the Lord care about all the nations, and not just our own?  Does He not challenge us in Isaiah with the following?  “You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” (Isaiah 62:6b-7)  Is a lack of prayer delaying His work in this regard?                

     The third principle which is given to us throughout the scriptures, is that our trust is not in our governing authorities but in a sovereign God who rules over all authorities.  This is what Isaiah saw during the days of absent and ineffective leadership of Judah and Jerusalem.  “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.  The Lord does not allow the misdirection, the folly, and the evil purposes of rulers to alter His plans for His people and His world.  He makes the wrath of man to praise Him.  He will raise up a Pharaoh, if needed, to accomplish His purposes. “The kings’ heart is in the hand of the LORD, he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”
(Proverbs 21:1)   

     Ray Stedman relates the following thoughts regarding the Lord’s control of authorities.  “What was the best way to spread the Gospel in the first century?  It was to appoint Emperor Nero as chairman of the committee to evangelize the Roman Empire!”  Under his direction, two sons of Roman noblemen were chained to the Apostle Paul every six hours!  Every twenty four hours eight soldiers heard the Gospel.  You might say that they were the captive audience!  The effectiveness of this approach was such that entire legions (7,000 men) became followers of Christ during the first several centuries.  Paul reflects this success in ministry with his comment in Philippians 4:22.  “All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” 

     The early church, as well as the generations that followed, needed further understanding of what Christ did for us and how we are called to live.  To achieve this end, the Lord allowed the authorities to imprison Paul so we could have Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians and Philemon as directions for our spiritual walk. (The Prison Epistles)  Later, toward the end of his life, I and II Timothy and Titus were written from imprisonment as well.  The grace of God saw the need of the church in advance and gave Paul this opportunity to write for them and for us.   

     What the Apostle Paul gained from the opposition he experienced was of immense worth to Him.  “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.” (II Corinthians 12:10)  Many Christians, in similar situations in the last 2,000 years have found comfort from these words in their lives and been partakers of His strength in their weakness.  God permitted the authorities to interact with the Apostle Paul so that we might obtain similar comfort and encouragement in our lives as well.  

     The short journey that each of us has during this lifetime is one of preparation.  Jerry Bridges once remarked that we, during this journey, are looking for comfort, whereas God is looking that we be conformed.  God’s work in us is to conform us to the image of Christ.  His work through us is to bring others to Christ and be used by him to transform their lives as well.  During this journey, there are no accidents, only incidents.  The Lord is in control of all circumstances, including any authority that will touch our lives, whether it is to our liking or not.    As J. I. Packer noted, when we are with Him in His Glory, we will see that nothing that hindered His work in and through us was permitted and that nothing that was necessary to His work was omitted.  As the psalmist says, “The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me:  thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever:  forsake not the works of thine own hands.” (Psalm 138:8) KJV   

     Our task, then, as Christ followers, is to submit to the governing authorities, pray for them, and trust God’s sovereign rule over them.  As we do so, we can trust in His promise to us in Deuteronomy 31:8.  “The Lord Himself will go before you.  He will be with you.  He will not leave you or forget you.  Don’t be afraid, and don’t worry.”   His infinite love, unfathomable knowledge, and complete control affirm to us that He, Himself, and not any other authority, is our shield and our security.

In Christ, Richard Spann         


Who are you, Lord? What shall I do, Lord?


                                                          Who are you, Lord?

                                                        What shall I do, Lord?

                                                                      Acts 22: 8,10

     The ninth chapter of Acts tells us the story.  As Saul neared Damascus a light from heaven flashed around him.  In answer to the Lord’s question “Why do you persecute me?”, Saul then asked the questions as quoted above.  The pursuit of the answers to these questions drove him into Arabia for three years and were a major focus of his years in Tarsus after leaving Jerusalem.  (Acts 9:30)  The following words given to him in Colossians 1:15-20 are but a portion of what was revealed to him concerning the nature of Christ.  “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation.  For by him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” 

The passion to know Christ grew more deeply with the passage of time.  He related the following some years later in Philippians 3:10-11.  “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  He thirsted for and continued to seek more intimate knowledge of Christ.  His belief in the person of Christ compelled him to lay his whole life at His feet, surrendering his intellect, his emotion and his will to his Lord.  This response of faith in the person of the Lord is symbolized by his second question, ”What shall I do, Lord?”    

     Paul’s life chronicles for us his response to the Lord’s answer to the second question.  “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (I Corinthians 9:19)  “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.” (Romans1:1)  “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.” (Romans 1:14)  “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:  first for the Jew, then for the gentile.” (Romans 1:16)  “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:28-29)  “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)  It is abundantly clear that these two questions and his response to them issued in a life long commitment to “know Christ and to make him known.”  

     I  have heard it said that one of the keys to life is in asking the right questions.  In light of the Apostle Paul’s questions it is legitimate to consider the questions that we ask ourselves.  Do we, in the church, consider these questions daily?  Are they the pursuit of our lives?  Is it our daily desire to know Christ more deeply throughout our lives?  In light of the world around us living in darkness and sin do we ask “What shall I do, Lord?  Do we have a burden of prayer for the lost?  Do we seek to spend time with them and serve them?  Are we willing at cost to ourselves to share the gospel and our lives with them?  

     Or are we, like the world, asking the same questions the world is asking?  “What shall we eat?  What shall we drink?  What shall we wear?” (Matthew 6:31)  Do our questions focus on where shall I attend school?  What employment shall I seek?  Where shall I live?  What investment shall I make for the future?  If these are the only questions we ask, then we are no different from the pagan world around us.  Our salt has lost its saltiness. (Matthew 5:13)  We are like a kernel of wheat which remains only a single seed. (John 12:24)  We are content, as G. Campbell Morgan describes, to eat our morsel alone.  

                                               “‘If I have eaten my morsel alone!’

                                                     The patriarch spoke in scorn;

                                                 What would he think of the Church, were He shown

                                                      Heathendom, huge, forlorn,  

                                                 Godless, Christless, with soul unfed,

                                                 While the Church’s ailment is fulness of bread, 

                                                      Eating her morsel alone?

                                                 ‘I am debtor alike to the Jew and the Greek,’

                                                      The mighty apostle cried;

                                                  Traversing continents, souls to seek,

                                                       For the love of the Crucified. 

                                                  Centuries, centuries since have sped;

                                                  Millions are famishing, we have bread,

                                                       But we eat our morsel alone. 

                                                  Ever of them who have largest dower

                                                       Shall heaven require the more.

                                                  Ours is affluence, knowledge, power, 

                                                       Ocean from shore to shore;

                                                  And East and West in our ears have said, 

                                                  Give us, give us your living Bread.

                                                       Yet we eat our morsel alone.  

                                                  Freely, as ye have received, so give,

                                                       He bade, Who hath given us all. 

                                                  How shall the soul in us longer live, 

                                                       Dead to their starving call, 

                                                  For whom the blood of the Lord was shed,

                                                  And His body broken to give them Bread, 

                                                       If we eat our morsel alone?

     We cannot have this Christ-life within us without having clear vision, and without having driving compassion, and without having the dynamic which makes us mighty.  We cannot have Christ within us and be parochial.  Christ overleaps the boundaries of parish, society, and nation, and His clear vision takes in the whole world.  If Christ be verily in us we shall see with His eyes, feel with his heart, be driven with His very compassion.  He will send us where He would have us go, and He will make us what He would have us be, and through us-oh matchless wonder of overwhelming grace-the light of His life may shine, and the force of His life may be felt.”  G. Campbell Morgan  The Westminster Pulpit  Volume 2, pages 175-6.  Flaming H. Revell 1954-55 

In Christ, Richard Spann




Fear or Faith?


                                                             Fear or Faith?

     In my medical practice I once had a patient who described herself as a Christian.  She was theologically sound, but her life was one characterized by constant worry about nearly everything.  She was not only overly concerned about her health but about her finances and the future of her family as well.  Her life was one of continual anxiety rather than dependence upon God.  Her husband, a non believer, and I would have occasional talks together about Christ.  At one point, he related that he was not interested in “religion” because of the absence of any effect it had on his wife.  Although she knew the creed of Christianity, her life was one of fear rather than faith.

     Born into a fallen sinful world, we exist in an atmosphere of fear.  Having, as a race, rejected the governance of God, we have substituted our own governance for His.  Since crowning ourselves as king, we regard self as pre-eminent and are in perpetual conflict with the rest of humanity, who, likewise, have enthroned self.  Everyone looking out for “self” produces conflict in relationships, businesses, organizations and nations.  The end product of this conflict is a pervading sense of fear. 

     Those coming to Christ have, theologically, replaced this fear by faith.  This transformation however, is usually a process which is often slow and incomplete.  God desires that our thoughts, attitudes, and actions be governed by faith, but fear sometimes becomes the controlling factor in our lives.  This does so, commonly, in our relationships with God Himself, with others, with our concerns for our needs, and with those in authority.  

     If we do not have complete faith in what God has done and is doing for us in Christ, we replace this void in our relationship with Him with fear.  This is not a reverential awe type of fear, but rather a cringing fear which keeps us away from God rather than drawing us to Him.  This fear looks to the inadequacies of self and feels guilt and shame.  Rather than looking to Christ alone as our righteousness and holiness, it looks to the performance of self to some degree to find acceptance before Him.  Faith in His perfect love for us is the only factor that will drive out this fear.  “We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us, and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us.” (I John 4:18) The Living Bible    

     The fear of others may also replace the faith that the Lord desires us to manifest in our ministry to them.  This fear may be evident in a lack of trust, which hinders our relationship with them.  It may also be seen in a fear of rejection, which may prevent our sharing our lives and the Gospel with them.  This fear has as its basis the possible threat to self.  This fear is abolished by remembering that our trust in the Lord will keep us safe.  “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trust in the LORD is kept safe.”  (Proverbs 29:25)  

     Perhaps the most common fear of mankind, including followers of Christ, is the fear of the possible absence of the daily necessities of life.  This is seen in the following statement by the Lord.  “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”  (Matthew 6:31-32)  The Lord has also told us the following.  “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians  4:19)  Fear, perpetually focused on self, will compete with others to meet its needs.  It will also use others to meet its needs.  The needs of self will never be fully met and it will then accuse God of not meeting its needs!  Faith, on the other hand, realizes that God is meeting its needs.  Since God is the one who is responsible for meeting its needs, it does not need to be concerned about them.  That would be a duplication of effort!  This realization frees us up to help meet the needs of others. 

     Another common area in which we find fear is that of our response to authority.  Fear may be prevalent in the workplace, our organizations, and with our local and national authorities.  It may be a fear that our contribution is not recognized or appreciated.  It may relate to a disagreement regarding some decisions in the workplace or organization.  In regard to local and national authorities, we may fear the agendas, hidden or otherwise, that they bring to the office.  Whatever the case, self is not rewarded or feels threatened.  It commonly takes the posture of grumbling or complaining as the Israelites did in the desert.  “And he called the place Massah and Mariah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’” (Exodus 17:7)  Faith, however, recognizes that all authority is from God.  “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)  Faith looks to the future, and even though the governance  in our workplace, our organization or nation is imperfect and creates trouble for us, it knows that the Lord’s promises to us are our confidence.  “For our  light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (II Corinthians 4:17-18)  The Lord also reassures us of His care for us under all possible present and future circumstances with the following words.  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)  

     In many respects faith is the opposite of fear.  Faith is self-emptying.  Fear is self protective. Faith exalts Christ.  Fear enthrones self.  Faith looks to Christ himself to meet our needs.  Fear leads us to try to find solutions for ourselves apart from Christ.  Faith recognizes Him as our security and as our significance.  “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1b)  Fear drives us to try to find security and significance apart from Him.  Faith trusts in God to control its life.  Fear attempts to control all aspects of its life without reference to Him.  Faith trusts Him as Jehovah-Jireh, the One who provides all that we need.  Fear seeks the provisions rather than the One who will provide them.  Faith knows Him as its Shepherd, whereas fear leads one to shepherd their own lives.   

     The question before us, then, is how do we replace fear with faith?  The answer begins with the knowledge of God Himself.  If we knew Him perfectly we would trust Him perfectly.  Thanks be to God, we have been given the One who has trusted Him perfectly!  Christ Jesus came into the world manifesting perfect knowledge of the Father, perfect trust in Him, and delighting in His will.  We have been given Him, not as a model to emulate, but as a life to be lived in our lives.  He Himself is our life!  “For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-4)   In our application of these words to our lives we must begin where the Apostle Paul did, with verse three.  “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14) KJV  Since Christ is now our life, we must look to Him continually for our thoughts, our attitudes and our actions.  He has already demonstrated that He is triumphant over fear!  It is only in bringing the totality of our lives to Him that this transformation from fear to faith becomes complete.  “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  (II Corinthians 3:18)  KJV      

In Christ, Richard Spann