Dear Saints,From time to time I post on here with various questions and struggles, to which I have always received kind and sensitive responses. A number of folks have even taken the initiative to personally email me with encouragement and to those, I thank you.I would like to share my heart once again. This may sound quite heavy and if Greg and the moderators deem this to be inappropriate for this forum then I understand if it has to be deleted. I am really struggling with my faith at the moment. As I have said in a number of previous posts, I struggle with the assurance of salvation and reality of my own faith. This has been going on for over ten years now and I am finding myself now getting hardened, bitter, cynical and fed up.I am actually finding myself disliking and resenting God (or at the very least, certain perceptions of him). I have really been struggling to believe that God is good.This struggle to believe in God’s goodness has nothing to do with my life circumstances – they are generally good. Rather, it is purely a spiritual and theological issue. Allow me to give some examples of my thought process:I read a scripture such as Matt 7:14 “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”I find it difficult not to conclude that, in the light of this passage, God has made the way purposefully narrow and hard because he doesn’t want to save many people. How is that good? I read that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs (1 Cor 13:5). However, Christians are to expect a judgment where God does in fact bring up a record of wrongs (2 Cor 5:10), a judgment that might not be passed. How is that good? I read that God will test the faith of his children by sending them all kinds of trials: Sickness, death, persecution etc. He even expects them to be thankful and rejoice at this (James 1:2). Those that are not and fall, He breaks off and casts away (Romans 11:22), not unlike a hardy training regime for some top military special forces position where only the toughest and strongest make it and qualify in the end. How is that good? I read an account of one of the great revivals of the past, under Jonathan Edwards. I read how many would labour under soul -crushing fear and torment for weeks, months and years before displaying any signs that Edwards deemed worthy enough to be evidence of pardon before God. Some never even got there and fell away eventually (or even killed themselves). In fact, he even asserted the following in his sermon “pressing into the kingdom”:“There are probably some here present that are now concerned about their salvation, that will never obtain. It is not to be supposed that all that are now moved and awakened, will ever be saving converted. Doubtless there are many now seeking that will not be able to enter. When has it been so in times past, when there has been times of great outpourings of God's Spirit, but that many who for a while have inquired with others, what they should do to be saved, have failed, and afterwards grown hard and secure? All of you that are now awakened, have a mind to obtain salvation, and probably hope to get a title to heaven, in the time of this present moving of God's Spirit: but yet, (though it be awful to be spoken, and awful to be thought) we have no reason to think any other, than that some of you will burn in hell to all eternity.” This, again, paints the picture of a reluctant saviour (though no doubt Edward’s Calvinism comes into play here). How is that good of God? I read a book that his heavily commended by many people, particularly on this site. It’s “Why Revival Tarries” by Leonard Ravenhill.In it I find page after page of bitter ranting, on how bad the church is and how angry God is at it for not being holy enough (plus the constant rhetorical alliteration in his writing style gets very tiring and annoying very quickly).The God of Ravenhill seems to be primarily defined by wrath, judgement and anger. Instead of it driving me to deep repentance, the book had the opposite effect.In fact, I stopped reading before the very end as I felt my faith slipping away after reading each chapter. If that’s what God is like, how is he good? I read a devotional thought by David Wilkerson that was posted up here a while back (https://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=58625&forum=45) on how God wants total obedience and will be angry if the obedience is incomplete . This is based on the scripture 1 Samuel 15:3-11, where Saul did not massacre all of the Amalekites as God commanded but spared some (much like an evil, mad dictator would give a bloodthirsty command to one of his subordinates and get irate when it’s not followed through).How is this a good God?I read some recent threads on this forum, ones that assert that the recent hurricanes and earthquakes in the world are direct punishments from God. Especially in light of the fact that these disasters affect the poor and vulnerable (including small children) the worst, how is that good of God? I confess my sins to God and ask for His forgiveness through Jesus. I have trouble believing God has forgiven me because I don’t receive the right kind of feeling or peace that some Christians say is needed to be confident of God’s forgiveness (believing 1 John 1:9 isn’t enough, apparently).If that’s true, how is God good if he ignores me like that? Finally, I have cried out to God many times in repentance for salvation. I have particularly asked for the witness and filling of the Holy Spirit, yet it still goes undiscerned. It, at least seems, that God has not granted this request, despite promising to (Luke 11:13).How is this good of God? I could give many, many more examples of these kind of thoughts. Now, it’s not all bleak. Somewhere deep down, I do hold out hope that God is good. Right now though, it’s very difficult for me to praise and love God. It has been a long time, for example, since I was able to sincerely sing along with a hymn or song that praises God. So that is where I am at the moment. The examples I gave are a selection of many thoughts that I have. I sometimes wonder if I have missed the boat, and that God is deliberately hardening my heart against him as a punishment. I find it very hard to pray these days, though I am still a regular member of my local church (though I sometimes feel hypocritical for doing so).I appreciate that this is a huge topic, and I understand if it is difficult to offer any counsel. In the midst of all this though, I have realised that there are two very basic, very practical questions that I have that maybe I could get some advice on:How do I pray?I have realised that I don’t know how to pray for an extended period of time (particularly in the light of my struggles). Sure, I know how to present requests to God, offer praise & thanksgiving and ask for forgiveness. But many people speak of spending long, quality time in God’s presence and tell of how vital it is for them. How do I do that?How do I study the bible?I have a pretty good knowledge of scripture (though more NT than OT), but I nearly always find it difficult to read in a devotional sense, and often come away feeling confused and discouraged. If any of you have any pearls of wisdom to cast in my direction then I would be really, really grateful.Many thanksJon
Jon- Any honest Christian who thinks has or has had similar questions. It is nothing to be ashamed of. I have certainly had similar questions. More importantly, God is not mad at you for having these questions. Have you told Him your concerns? I would if I were you. If you do not go to Him directly you are essentially gossiping. Pour your heart out to Him. Just tell Him what you are thinking and ask Him to ease your mind. Your type of questions have plagued Christians for centuries. They are not solvable in our flesh; we do not have God's mind on the subject. One thing I try to remind myself is that God is good. Any time it seems He is not is due to misunderstanding of scripture or His nature. Finally, the fact that you are even concerned that you may be losing your faith is encouraging; if you said you didn't give a rip it would be much more concerning. You are in the midst of a trial, perhaps a "dark night". Keep trying to pray, read scripture with the mind of s child and go to church. This too shall pass.
ToddThank you for your counsel and encouragements. I really appreciate all of your contributions on this forum.
Jon,The scripture in Romans 2 tells us that "not knowing that it is the goodness of God that leads thee to repentance" will keep one in a self righteous attitude. I don't know if you realize what you are saying in what you have said. You have questioned the goodness of God all through your post. You fail to realize that you are stating your own goodness above God's goodness. You are stating that is how you see it and you can't even see your own sin in all this.It is the goodness of God that sent His own darling Son to suffer for sinners. It is the goodness of God that he paid the price for sinners. It is the goodness of God that the just suffered for the unjust. Jesus said there is none good but one and that is God. I could go on and on but it will be hard for you to receive anything from God apart from your own true repentance from your own false goodness and then put faith in His darling Son who suffered for you.I will pray for you because you have allowed your own intellect to engage into a mindset that is making you think that you are smarter than God. You are accusing God of not being good with your own understanding and logic whether you realize it or not.I could answer everyone of your questions but you have a greater problem than me answering your questions. But the good news is...that if you could see your own sinfulness and then see the goodness of God in the greatness of His Son Jesus who is so Holy and pure, but suffered and died for us anyway, then you can repent of your sins and receive His righteousness by faith. He will then teach you by His Spirit.I pray that you will....blessings rbanks
Bro Jon, I have no pearls for you, I'm sorry. I've had two experiences that have rocked my foundation, the first about 17 yrs ago when I backslid for a few years but upon coming back to the Lord, I couldn't forgive myself for the things I had done and that took longer than I had been backslid! And then my best friend died suddenly this past March after much praying and believing. I seriously stopped reading the Bible and praying. When I walked through my living room, it was like I walked around my Bible, staring at it. But common denominator the Lord showed me in both of these instances was... me. I thought it was about the Lord and Him not being good to Jeannie or her family but it was came around to being all about me, yet again!! My failure to pray hard enough, my failure to keep her alive, my failure to have enough faith to see her healed. I had a lot of "I's" and "my's" when I wasn’t crying and could talk to God about this situation. Years ago, the Lord gave me a local jail ministry for women and this was starting to affect me there, not wanting to go, asking what can I tell them? Why am I even going? Those kinds of things.And the Holy Spirit put it in perspective for me in a Job-like moment, “Can you tell me where the wind comes from?” “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” “Tell me, if you know these things, Lisa.” And I couldn’t. I’m learning that this is where we walk by faith and not by sight. With this jail ministry, the Lord gave me a vision (pray for a (ministry) vision), because without it, the people perish (me and you) from our own devices, earth-bound thoughts and questions. I have to “choose” everyday to trust Him and even admit that it’s not about me and I may never know why about anything but I’m learning I must trudge on anyway and believe you me, it’s not easy. I have a questioning personality; I can upset people with all my questions. I don’t know if any of this helped but God bless you, brother Jon,Lisa
rbanks,I am aware that I am very sinful and that I have trouble with comprehending and believing the goodness of God. However, I can't just magic all of those questions away and then prentend they don't matter. It would be like pledging your total allegiance and service to somebody who you are not sure you can trust. Yes, I'm sure I need to repent of some of these thoughts. I haven't a clue how I do that though.
Hi Jon: The reality of our own sinfulness, when seen as you are seeing overcomes us. In that state of unworthiness, and sometimes even the feeling of alienation from God, what keeps coming to mind is God's judgment against sin...and you've made yourself a huge target for wrath and judgment. This scenario gets played over and over, especially when you've blown it in some way, did or said something that permits Satan to flood you with guilt and condemnation. One of the posters, very directly and very succinctly told you that you are inwardly feeling unjustly treated since you've "acted in faith to repent and believe". The fact that your mind and heart sense no peace and no respite from your fears creates even more internal tension and lack of peace. This is a vicious cycle and its end is always the same. Those are in them are being kept from the love of God by their own scruples and by their own self-condemnation. Satan at this point doesn't even have to show up, he just pushes the condemnation button on you and you revert to inward reproaches and rejections. How to get out of this cycle? Its time to believe the promises of God toward you. If you believe there is no condemnation. Rom 8:1. If you return to finding other texts to self-condemn you must realize you cannot be condemned and accepted in Christ at the same time. So, refuse condemnation first. Take the baby steps toward letting God love you. You have no problem believing he will condemn you. But Jesus didn't come to condemn those who have come to him confessing their sins. Jesus forgives them and accepts them. At this juncture you are in unbelief. Refuse the unbelief that says I am being refused of God. If your repentance is genuine then there is no word of God that withholds God's grace and kindness toward you no matter how you feel or how you have self-condemned your life. So, first step. Repent of self condemnationSecond Repent of unbelief, God does love those who he calls. Lastly concentrate your efforts on learning about Jesus who didn't come into the world to condemn you but to save you. Jesus is not out to get you and all the double-jeopardy running around in your mind is a distortion of God's plan. God's plan...is your salvation, your new life where He is loved and obeyed..Why? Because he loved your first and gave himself to obtain your heart and live in your body. So, my friend jump off the hamster wheel and turn away from condemnation and unbelief and turn to Jesus without wondering if he's going to be mad at you. Jesus is patient and kind he is longsuffering not willing for you to perish. I believe Jesus will reveal himself to you, go to prayer and believe in his promise to love and keep you. He will not cast you out, you cannot be stripped from the Fathers hand.
Jon,You have been in my heart before the Throne since reading your struggle.I believe with Marvin that JESUS will reveal Himself to you. He said He will never cast out those who come to Him. He didn't come to condemn us; we were ALL already under the condemnation of sin and death; He came to save us.In Hebrews it says that "Everything is open and laid bare before the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do." He knows your every thought and every word you say before it even comes out of your mouth. Nothing is hid from Him. So keep pouring out to Him all your fears, doubts, questions, frustrations...everything. He knows anyway. And loves you still.He is worthy to be trusted and will bring you through to the praise of His glory and grace 🙌🙏🏻Mary
Marvin and MaryThank you for taking the time to give me words of encouragement. I realise that I need to preach that kind of thing to myself daily, rather than the doom and gloom that I have been dwelling on.As I said, I struggle with prayer at the moment, particularly for extended time. Do you have any advice on how to go about it, particularly in light of the negative thoughts I wrestle with? I often feel as if God isn't listening.Jon
I Jon: Yes, pray in 5 minute spurts. Php 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Php 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. The text teaches us to let our requests be known to God. This can take the form of long protracted periods of intercession...or it can take the form of quick stop-and-pray moments. This is especially helpful when going through the day and sudden feelings of regret, shame, sinfulness, condemnation or anxiety overcome us. you remember the James text? Jas 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Jas 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.In the James text he tells us to mourn and weep ( for those who have not been doing this, rather they are laughing their way to hell). This you are not doing so I ended the counsel at vs8, you need not apply vs9 if this is already your state of mind. God's promise is to draw close to us. Believe that, refuse unbelief. Refuse further condemnation. So, pray in short spurts, pray as soon as you sense a disconnect between you and God, but remember walk in faith, the feelings and joy will follow. It's not about what you feel its always been about what Jesus will do in us and through us. Believe that; and always thank God for every little obedience you render to Christ, he notices and he remembers your surrender to him in every and all things.