Vale of Tears

Faith or Presumption?



Faith or Presumption?

Asking Jesus to be Lord of our lives and embarking on a journey of faith brings the direction we had been longing for, but it by no means guarantees that we will miraculously be spared life’s griefs and losses. Such pummellings are common to saint and sinner alike: the difference is that Jesus is with us as we go through them.

We heard a wonderful story recently of how God miraculously restored the liver of a former alcoholic in Shetland. He is now going round the islands, sharing his testimony at every opportunity. The fact that God can give the alcohol dependent person a new liver (or the abusive person a reformed character) is a source of profound hope and inspiration, but on some occasions, it can cause us to put our hope in outcomes that God has not promised to endorse.

Most of us have discovered that the boundary between genuine faith and mere presumption can be surprisingly thin. Faith proceeds from taking a stand and following a course of action that we believe to be in line with God’s revealed word. Presumption sets in only when we expect – one might almost say demand – that God implements our longings and assumptions. Fine tuning our spirits to the point where we can tell the difference between what is truly of God and what are only “our” wishes is a considerable test of maturity – and we should not expect to always get it right.

If there is any trace of spiritual pride in our make-up, we are likely to become increasingly shrill in our insistence that God is going to “come through” for us in a particular way. God is always willing to work on our behalf, but He is not honour-bound to grant the outcome we would ideally like in the way or timescale that we expect. Wisdom lies in knowing when to “press on” in faith, when to wait, and when to “draw the line” and hand some particular longing or situation back to Him.

These are not easy issues to grapple with at any time, but can be particularly disturbing especially when grief is tugging our emotions in all directions. Close friends and mentors can sometimes be more clear sighted as to whether what we are feeling represents God’s true leading, or whether we are merely indulging hopes that have no real substance.

We have walked the journey recently with a much loved pastor, whose wife developed an aggressive cancer. Waves of prayer swept in for her from around the world, without making any apparent impact on the tumours. The prophetic call on her life was strong, but it was clearly not destined to find its full outworking on Earth, as she and her husband came to realise during their last few months together.

The vision she had certainly did not include leaving her husband and five children on their own at this time. The practical and emotional ramifications are enormous. We are praying not only for the immediate family, but also that none in the wider Body of Christ look on her homecoming as a “failure,” or lose the courage to exercise faith for healing in other situations. Her mission will undoubtedly continue, albeit now from the vantage point of Heaven.

Reflect and Pray

Tightly closed hands are not in a position to receive anything
– not even comfort.
It matters little whether they are hands clenched in rebellion
or just piteously trying to clutch the past.

Catherine Marshall.3

Is there a shadow over your life at the moment? The best way to handle it is to continually hand it back to the Lord – and to press on and attend to Kingdom matters.4

Since none of us can pass through Heaven’s waiting door without stooping lower, the more fully we let go, the better we will fare. You simply cannot lose out, therefore, by praying the following prayer. There may even be eternal consequences bound up in it!

Lord, all that I am, all that I have,
all whom I love, and all that I am hoping for,
I yield to You now.
I ask You to turn this intense grief,
and this immense disappointment,
around for good,
and bring glory to Your name as only You can.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

3 Marshall, C. “Open Hands,” in To Live Again. (2002) Chosen Books.
4 The people in Haggai’s day were profoundly grieved by the rampant inflation and other difficulties they were facing, but the prophet challenged them to realise that their lack of seeking God was a major cause of this. When they truly put the Lord first again, God was swift to promise His blessing. (Haggai 1:4-11; 2:18-19).