Keep the Faith!

An article I read recently observed that a Christian faces new kinds of spiritual challenges in their 50’s or 60’s that can provoke a loss of Christian practice and diminished faith. The writer surveyed 500 self-professed Christians of that age group about their church involvement. More than half reported that they were no longer involved regularly in church worship or service.

For some the availability of more resources and increased recreation drew them away from their church.  For others it was a general disillusionment that came from experiencing church dysfunction and politics. Some felt there was no place for them in a church often focused on families. For others it was dealing with sickness and/or the death of parents or more responsibilities at work.  

The fact is that all of us, regardless of age, struggle with seasons when faith wavers under the weight of loss or disappointment, but for mature Christians that doubt can be surprise, an unexpected development. 

In such times, we need to dig deep, 
mining the confidence that was ours in days past,
patiently waiting for the renewal of our heart by the Spirit.

The Old Testament book of Job tells us about his trials, horrific tragic losses of family, wealth, and health. The writer brings us Job’s conversations with God and three friends as they struggle to make sense of life and the will of God. As Job sat in agony of body and soul, he cursed the day he was born. “Obliterate the day I was born. Blank out the night I was conceived! Let it be a black hole in space. May God above forget it ever happened. Erase it from the books! ” (Job 3:3-4, The Message)  I’d say that is good evidence of a man experiencing a crisis, wouldn’t you? 

His friends often got it wrong, but following Job’s outburst of anger his friend Eliphaz the Temanite got this much right. He encouraged Job to recall times of the past when he had offered encouragement to others and to renew his hope in the Lord. “In the past you have encouraged many a troubled soul to trust in God; you have supported those who were weak. Your words have strengthened the fallen; you steadied those who wavered. But now when trouble strikes, you faint and are broken. Does your reverence for God give you no confidence? Shouldn’t you believe that God will care for those who are upright?” (Job 4:3-6, NLT)

Can you identify with that? Have you, once strong in faith, found yourself wavering, pulling back from worship, no longer engaging in serving others in His Name?

REMEMBER and REFOCUS! 

There is real joy to be rediscovered when we remember times that we were useful to God and others. Perhaps it was preparing a meal, or sitting with a broken-hearted friend, or offering a shoulder to cry on. Perhaps it was a time when we gave our time and effort to help in a specific mission. Maybe it was a hidden thing that we knew was the last push that brought success. Remember and give thanks! 

With mid-life comes a subtle temptation to think that we can manage life on our own. We tend to think that we need less counsel, that we are capable and experienced. In one sense that is true, but we never outgrow the need to rely on God with a child-like faith.  When the storms come, and they will; when faith is challenged and the things we thought we firmly believed come into question, and it will; it is time to go back to the core truth – God’s love shown us in Christ Jesus, the one thing that remains.

Paul, himself a mature Christian who experienced many difficulties, draws on the metaphor of the marathon runner urging steadiness, discipline, and eternal perspective. He says “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NLT)

Here is a word from the Word. May it shoot some spiritual adrenaline into our souls today. “Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36, NLT)   Steady and faithful! Amen.

(Video of this blog at this link)

_______________

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow
Of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever wilt be

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Summer and winter
And springtime and harvest
Sun moon and stars
In their courses above
Join with all nature
In manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness
Mercy and love

Pardon for sin
And a peace that endureth
Thy own dear presence
To cheer and to guide
Strength for today
And bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine
With ten thousand beside

Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan © Words: Public Domain

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