In Hebrews 11, the words “by faith” appears at least 20 times as the writer fleshes out through each Biblical character the punch line in 11:6 “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” They died without receiving what was promised, they only welcomed them from afar…they were aliens and strangers with their eyes on a heavenly city…they were men made strong out of weakness who conquered kingdoms and shut the mouth of lions…they regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as greater treasures than all of Egypt. As a result, they were sawn in two, faced jeers and flogging and were imprisoned. They were men and women of whom the world was not worthy all because of their faith that had been planted in their hearts by God.
Some don’t go out looking for God or for an extra ordinary faith, God finds them. That would be the case with the apostle Paul most certainly. Colson used the example of Boris Kornfeld, a doctor imprisoned in the Gulag Archipelago, to illustrate how God changes a person and draws them to obedience. That obedience carries results that we cannot program into our agenda, we cannot contain, and it can lead to results that lead to a death of some sort.
One of the lines in the retelling of his story on pg. 31 is “Whatever had happened inside him (Boris) would not permit him to do it (legalize punishment).” Can you think of times that God was stirring up something inside of you that bubbles up, causing you to do or not to do things that you don’t even intend or control? In Colossians 1 Paul commends the Colossians for their evident faith in Christ Jesus and for their love for all of the saints “a faith and hope that springs from the hope that is stored up for you in Heaven.” vs. 5
When the seed of the Gospel is planted in our hearts, things spring up because the Spirit of the Living God is inside of us. It springs and it stirs and it bubbles and takes on a life of its own. It did so in Kornfeld’s life. It caused him to do things that he knew would lead to his death like refuse to sign orders to send men to torture, to not kill an evil guard on the operating table, and to turn in an orderly for stealing bread from starving inmates. Kornfeld could hear the footsteps of his approaching killers in his soul, so he tells a man of his newfound faith in Jesus while the man is still groggy from surgery. But Kornfeld continues, knowing his doom was near and sure. Sure enough, he was bludgeoned with a plasterer’s mallet. But the man he shared with was Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a man who would become a mouth piece for the Gospel in the midst of the Communist oppression found in the Gulag.
Kornfeld’s story seems so far from us, as does the Gulag and Solzhenitsyn, but again, it points to the springing up from within that the Gospel and the implanted faith in Jesus does as God changes our hearts and transforms our lives. Just as the Hebrews 11 people and Kornfeld died without seeing the results of their faith, Colson points out a key on pg. 36
“Knowing how susceptible we are to success’s siren call, God does not allow us to see, and therefore glory in, what is done through us. The very nature of obedience He demands is that it be given without regard to circumstances or results.”
Why do we rely on results to validate us?
- Is it because our identity is really not in Jesus, but in what we look like, what we can do and visible results that we can hold and see and touch?
- Do we really have a works based or performance based faith, even though our head tells us that we are saved and validated through faith and by faith?
- Do we know the voice of God that propels us, as opposed the many voices of the people around us or the sometimes accusing voice inside of us?
Paul declared to the Galatians that he resolved to be a God pleaser and not a man pleaser and he took a lot of flack for that. It was in the middle of a church culture that wanted to drift back to works to validate their faith. It is apparently a part of our sin nature because it happens all of the time–the relying on what we to be okay before God do as opposed to the resting in faith on Christ for what He is doing in and through us.
There is a resting in faith and, as Colson refers to Acts 1 on pg. 39 a wait of faith.
The 120 early church believers were told to pray and wait for the promised Holy Spirit. Every instinct in us goes against waiting, while faith calls us to wait on God and then go. In Psalm 42 and 63 David calls out to God worship words like “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you..My soul thirsts for the living God. Where can I go to meet with God? Earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
As we drink deep, crying out for God and waiting for Him, stuff happens. And then He tells us what to do, surprising our “to do” list with His “to do’s” that may run the opposite. He gives us burdens for people and for prayer that may surprise us. God whispers words He wants us to say to people that we would never suppose, and He puts projects and plans to foot that are way bigger than we are. Sometimes He puts dreams in us that take years to come to fruition. That comes from the wait of faith.
And then there’s the wrestle of faith. The saying goes “nothing easy is ever good and nothing good is ever easy.” Have you noticed that it’s sometimes a fight to really move ahead spiritually? It’s a fight to get time alone in the Word and in prayer, and the minute you do the phone rings, there’s a knock at the door and a dozen different things to do pulling at you…Or to break sin habits, addictive tendencies and chains from the past seems to be bigger than what you can conquer…Or to really move ahead spiritually yourself or in the body just doesn’t happen because there are frequent disruptions, rabbit trails and deterrences? I expect those from outside of the church, but when the wrestling match happens inside it hits me like a sneak attack.
Colossians 4:12 tells us that Epaphras always wrestled in prayer for the Colossians that they “would stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” What are you wrestling with and for?
Finally, on pg. 40, Colson told of how a magazine article concluded that “prison radicalized the life of Chuck Colson.” He went on to write “What radicalized me was not prison, but taking to heart the truths revealed in Scripture. For it was the Bible that confronted me with a new awareness of sin and need for repentance; it was the Bible that caused me to hunger for righteousness and seek holiness; and it was the Bible that called me into fellowship with the suffering. It is the Bible that continues to challenge my life today.”
Oh to be radical for Jesus. What that means may or may not look radical to those around us. It may be radical that we spend our time on the shut in’s and the broken, not in the limelight. It may be radical that you take care of an aging spouse or parent with Alzheimer’s with patience and love. It may be radical that you take in orphans, defend the oppressed and quietly practice hospitality while only God notices.
It may look radical to those around us, and they proclaim you to be nuts, losing perspective and in need of an intervention. It was pouring over the Word that radicalized Colson and God was the one that charted the course for him as Colson sat at His feet. May God chart our course as we too sit, hear His voice and then obey boldly and humbly.