Faith is Easy
So that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.(Galatians 3:22)
If faith is the gaze of the heart at God and if this gaze is but the raising of the inward eyes to meet the all-seeing eyes of God, it follows that it is one of the easiest things possible to do. It would be like God to make the most vital thing easy and place it within the range of possibility for the weakest and poorest of us.
Because believing is looking, it can be done without special equipment or religious paraphernalia. God has seen to it that the one life-and-death essential can never be subject to the caprice of accident. Equipment can break down or get lost, water can leak away, records can be destroyed by fire, the minister can be delayed or the church burn down. All these are externalities the soul and subject to accident or mechanical failure but looking is of the heart and can be done successfully by any man standing up or kneeling down or lying in his last agony a thousand miles from any church.
Because believing is looking it can be done at any time. No season is superior to another for this is the sweetest of all acts. A man is not nearer to Christ on Easter Sunday than he is, say, on Saturday, August 3, or Monday, October 4. As long as Christ sits on the mediatorial throne, every day is a good day and all days are days of salvation.
Neither does place matter in this blessed work of believing God. Lift your heart and let it rest upon Jesus and you are instantly in a sanctuary though it be a Pullman berth or a factory or a kitchen. You can see God from anywhere if your mind is set to love and obey Him. The heart-gaze is, in fact, happily practiced everyday by many, and is beyond the reach of none.
A. W. Tozer
I thought this piece by Tozer was and is certainly appropriate for us as the people of God in these days. The pandemic has touched and affected the church in unprecedented ways. In almost a moment in time all our familiar and comfortable gatherings, places and means of gathering, the practice of our rituals, and where and how we worship was changed.
For many, these changes brought great stress, confusion, doubt and at least to some degree disassociation. When the old norms were no longer available, two schools of thought emerged. Some chose to hibernate, waiting for the spring of the return to accustomed ways and means of church while others chose to become creative and innovated in means of gathering and worship. Both groups have at their roots the desire to worship God and to follow the practices of Christianity. There can be no doubt that the ability to return to in person gatherings in sanctuaries and fellowship times and meals and the normal practice of ritual is at the heart of every Christian.
So we struggle, torn between safe practices health-wise and worship opportunities necessary for soul-health.
This writing by Tozer, which by the way was written years ago, speaks to the heart of the matter. Our relationship with God is a living relationship and is not subject to where we gather or whether we can practice ritual as accustomed. I know it’s hard to wrap our minds around this especially if we are one of those who have been part of the church for many years.
I can tell you that I personally long for the return of the day when those who wish or need to respond to the message of the gospel can once again walk down the aisle and meet with me at the altar. However, I know that this is for my benefit and not theirs, for I know that their salvation or their blessing is not hinged upon some act of mine but is something that is solely between them and God. I know that even if the church cannot meet in the sanctuary that God can is is meeting with people in parking lots, in their living room, bedroom, and kitchen or any other place where a seeking heart is found.
We proclaim that God is omnipresent, meaning that He is everywhere, therefore we must acknowledge that if that is so, wherever and however seekers are looking toward God He is easily found.
The Bible tells us that God can be found with only one condition:
“For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Here then is the secret to finding God; “ when you search for Me with all your heart.” We must know and believe that wherever we are and in whatever place or condition we find ourselves, when we seek with our hearts, we always find God.
Many of you have heard me say that I believe these are defining times for the church and believers. Perhaps in the end what we may think we have lost has really become eclipsed in our gain. Sometimes, as with in any relationship, we find ourselves going through the motions and taking for granted that everything will always be the same. We drift along with little if any effort in growing or strengthening the relationship. It is very easy to become complacent and put little effort in our walk with God. Prior to the pandemic, we knew that whether we came to church or not, the sanctuary would be open and available, the choir and organ would be in use, the pastor would deliver the sermon, all our rituals would occur on schedule and with little variation as they had in all the past years, so we were comfortable in thinking it would always be so. There were even those who would say that since it had always been it would always be and then the pandemic struck.
I have great hope for the outcome of the post-pandemic church, at least for the most part. What we have and are learning is that we can meet with God at other places other than a sanctuary. This has always been true but somehow we didn’t know that. We have learned that our rituals can still be practiced, though they have taken on a different form. What a blessing that we can still observe the Love Feast or Ash Wednesday even though we cannot meet together with the whole church. How thankful ought we to be that both of these observances could still be done in the sanctuary of our homes and hearts as we gathered virtually. I’ve been told that for some the family gathering in the privacy of their homes actually made these more intimately spiritual. We’ve learned that parking lot services can bring us into the presence of God and also provide a means of evangelism. I have been told that those who live near the church are sitting on their porches or opening their windows and are hearing the gospel along with those who are actually driving to the parking lot. We are using our website and other social media means to spread the gospel and are nearing the launch of livestream. We are learning that congregational care is the work of the whole church, led by our deacons rather than the work of a single individual. At the very base of all this we are learning that we can meet with God daily as our heart pursues Him. I do not know how many of our old programs and methods will make it in the post-pandemic church. I am hoping that the lessons we’ve learned and the creative-innovative flexibility we’ve found will drive our future. I pray that the freedom we’ve found to be expressive in our worship in our cars will come with us when we once again enter the building. I hope it’s been forever impressed upon us that we and not the building is the church and that only a living relationship with God makes up the church.
My deepest prayer is that every believer finds themselves in a heart-to-heart relationship with God. I pray that we will go far beyond a mere intellectual knowledge about God and move on the the deepest spirit-to spirit intertwining of our souls with Christ.
Two things I want to leave us with:
“But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him [believing and relying on Him], not having any righteousness of my own derived from [my obedience to] the Law and its rituals, but [possessing] that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
15 “I am the true Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit]. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have given you [the teachings which I have discussed with you]. 4 Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me. 5 I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.
So the summation of this it that we seek to know Him not intellectually but experientially and that we remain(KJV uses the word abide) in Him and He in us. Both these speak to heart connections that are not conditional on the where or the how. They are not just for certain times and days and only to be experienced through certain rituals. So even though I don’t get to see someone coming forward in a sanctuary, I know that salvation is possible for them sitting in their car for when God touches their heart and they respond that meets the requirement for Scripture says that:
For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation.
May we become heart-seekers and God-chasers by any means available and may we become so intense and intentional that if everything changes and all we have known in the past ceases, at the end of everything we find ourselves in intimate embrace and connection with God. May the church of Jesus find itself becoming more an organism- the living body of Christ- than the organization of man led and man driven orthodoxy. May our rituals and observances take on new meaning and may the Holy Spirit make known to us the depth and power of symbolism so that all we do is more than intellectual assent but the craving of the heart satisfied only by the very presence of God.
Dr. John Thompson