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Monday, March 8, 2010

Surprised by Faith

Faith is often full of surprises. Through faith many things happen that are totally unpredictable. For instance, it never struck Goliath that he might be felled by a little stone. Elisha’s servants could not have floated the idea as to how an ax head might be retrieved from the river. Joseph never dreamed he would rise from prison to be second in command of all Egypt. And Jonah could not have fathomed his rescue from the sea. Faith is often full of surprises. In God’s world the unpredictable happens as thought it were the norm. Many times this makes people uncomfortable. We often don’t like surprises. They make us feel as though we aren’t in control. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were definitely among those who intensely disliked surprises. They had effectively placed God in a box and had established procedures for how one’s religious life was to be lived. In doing this, they were able to be in control and maintain power. Life was predictable. They could dictate what would happen and when. They falsely believed that they were in control of their own destiny. They hated Jesus because he did things out of the box. He healed on the Sabbath, pointed out their own inconsistencies, and taught his followers a totally new way of living. When Jesus was around, they no longer were in control. Afraid of losing their power, they couldn’t stand that thought, and so they killed him.

I wonder if the reason we sometimes have difficulty with faith is due to our also not liking surprises. Surprises take away our own control. We prefer to be in control of situations, just like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. We want to be the captains of our own destiny. We also want life to be predictable. And so we place God in a box. We tell him how he is to act and when. We become upset when he does things outside of the box in which we have placed him. We are forced to realize that we aren’t in control, God is. And that can be uncomfortable.

Some people are fearful of charismatic renewal for this very reason. If the Holy Spirit is in control, they are not. Denying his activity allows them to maintain control. They are fearful of the unexpected happening which might upset their understanding of the way things work. Denying that he works in the world today becomes the easy way out.

But what does this fear of surprises really say about our faith? I think it implies a lack of trust in God. We are less comfortable with God in control than we are having it ourselves. We don’t really believe he can handle all of the variations which life brings to us. We desire to have tangible evidence that things are working out OK. Having the power of control gives us a false sense of security, which we find comforting. Ultimately though, it comes down to the fact that the fear of surprises is really a lack of faith in God. We really don’t believe that he is big enough or strong enough to take care of us. We prefer to keep God in his box, never wanting to let him out.

By refusing to accept his surprises, we miss out on much of what he has for us. We willingly accept a diminished faith and the excitement it brings. We lose the spontaneity of the joy of seeing him work in our lives. How willing are you to let God surprise you?

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