Faith or Feeling?

“I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house” (Mark 2:11).

So often the road to recovery, when we fall down or are in despair, is one small step from feeling to faith.  For example, Jesus comes to us and says, “Love your spouse,” but we look in our heart and respond, “I no longer feel love for her.  How can you command me to love?”  Jesus comes to us and says, “Go the extra mile,” but we feel the burned-out and respond, “Lord, I can’t take one more step.  I’ve had it.  Haven’t I done enough?”  Or Jesus says, “Rejoice in hope,” but we feel no joy and look down in despair.

What is the solution to these so-true and so-common scenarios?  After all, is it not true that in those situations we feel nothing?  Is it not reasonable in such a state to expect nothing from us?  Worse, would it not be hypocritical to try to manufacture some love, some hope, some joy, when in actually we do not feel it?  Why not just be “me” and sit here, hoping somebody will understand the legitimacy of my condition based on all that I have endured?

But Jesus came to the lame man and said, “Arise.”

Of all the nerve!  Can’t He see that the man cannot walk?  If anybody had a right to dismiss himself from obedience, it was certainly the lame man.  “Lord,” he might say, “I would if I could, but not only do I not feel like walking today, I actually can’t walk.”

Yet Jesus said, “Arise,” and in His command is the power to obey¾if we believe.  Mind you, not believe in ourselves, but in Him.  Do we really believe in Jesus, that He Himself is the Resurrection and the Life?  Then we will bank on His power giving us what we lack as we rise up and walk.  It takes just one step in the direction of faith.

This has been the secret of Christians for ages.  Late in the fourth century, Augustine penned his prayer that made Pelagius, the self-righteous British monk, so angry.  “Command what You will,” Augustine prayed, “but give what You command.”  Was this not the attitude of Peter on the night sea?  “Lord,” he answered, “if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  In response came the simple but miracle-producing command, “Come.”

What is it that has you bound, feeling helpless in your natural state?  An unloving person?  An impoverished bankbook?  A depressed spirit?  Whatever it is, the formula is often the same: Jesus will square you up, make you face it, and then command you to do it¾to love, to give, to rejoice, or to give thanks¾and in that moment you will have the choice either to look down at your feelings or to look at Him and take your first step towards freedom.  What will it be?  Faith does not bank on what the Lord has already given you, which is so often gauged in our feelings, but on what He will give you if you walk out to Him.  In that sense, faith is truly future-oriented, not present-oriented.  The Bible says that he who comes to God must not only believe that He is there (most people do), but also that He is “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).  In other words, it will pay to seek Him.  I can bank on Him.  He will not let me down.  Therefore, I step out and walk.

God bless you as you rise up and step out!  May the Lord heal your weak limbs and fill your empty heart with the grace that He secured on the Cross, dying due to human sin and rising due to divine vindication!  May the Lord also then fill you with the peaceful fruit of righteousness!  All this is similar to what Jesus said once regarding humble service: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).

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