Works of Faith; April 26, 2019

Galatians 3:5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

It really strikes me that the Galatians, for all their legalism, had still experienced the gifts of the Holy Spirit and miracles. That makes me feel the majority of churches in “developed” countries are formula-based, rather than faith-based. That is, we grant membership if someone says the right words, rather than if they really believe God. Faith is indeed a seed that grows, and we aren’t to demand maturity before baptism, but the question really arises as to whether we actually believe the things we profess. And that applies to pastors as well as to baptismal candidates! My maternal grandfather had a rather dismissive expression for the whole idea of “formula” Christianity: “Into bliss and out of blister.” That is to say, the idea that just saying a few words will get you a ticket to heaven instead of hell. What we say is important, as Paul himself stressed in Romans 10:9-10, but even there, faith is absolutely essential. As was said many years ago about the faith/works controversy, genuine faith works. We don’t earn God’s favor by what we do, but if we believe Him and love Him, we will do what He has said. The question then becomes whether we really believe Him enough to allow Him to do things that our “sophisticated, rational,” minds can’t explain or even comprehend. It is no accident that miracles are far more common in “undeveloped” countries than in wealthy ones. We end up depending on what we can do, instead of on the God who can do anything.

This is a matter of immediate urgency for me. Three and a half years ago my wife had surgery to correct scoliosis that had progressed to the point of putting her into a wheelchair. Yesterday, arrangements were finalized for her to have a second surgery, because the vertebra just above the area that was previously straightened and fused has shifted to the point of causing her intense pain. I am very grateful for good medicine, good hospitals, and good doctors, all of which we have. However, I can’t help noticing the paucity of miracles in my ministry, and I wonder if my faith isn’t badly distorted. Paul’s own experience of physical problems is a clear statement that God isn’t a “miracle vending machine,” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) but I can’t help feeling I should be seeing far more of the supernatural in my ministry than I am. I need to break out of the fear of embarrassment that holds me back, so that God will be free to do whatever He likes through me, whatever it makes me look like.

Father, thank You for this Word. I feel trite, thanking You for Your grace when my wife is the one who is in pain. Keep me from trying to dictate how You will act, but also keep me from drawing back from any way in which You want to use me for the sake of the Body of Christ and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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