We will continually face moments where the feelings or faith conflict challenges us. But Jesus already has the victory. It’s up to us to make the right choice and to prepare ourselves for these times by reading and knowing the Word. He is the Living Word, and in Him is the faith we need to establish His victory in our lives.
Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)
The more I meditate on it, the more convinced I am that faith must be entirely about Jesus for it to have any value. It simply isn’t something we can conjure or sustain ourselves. The last few weeks have taught me that. It’s so very easy, when things are going well and giving thanks and praise flows naturally, to imagine that our faith is strong and solid. We feel unshakeable, like we could handle anything. Then crisis hits and depending on the severity, we find ourselves wavering a little or a whole lot. And we wonder why when only yesterday, we were ‘rooted in the Rock’ and immovable. The problem revolves around the issue of feelings or faith. Where is our faith really fixed? Are we certain that we stand in faith rather than in a confidence of faith that is based in self? Crisis reveals the truth.
Feelings or faith is a constant conflict.
The reason for this is very simple – human nature. We’re wired to experience and interpret our world through intellect, feelings, and emotive triggers. All these things are not wrong. God gave them to us in order to enrich our lives and to enable us to engage with life instead of going through the motions. He never intended us to live one-dimensionally but in all the glorious fulness for the entire range and spectrum of human potential. We’re made in His image so none of the things He has placed within us can be anything less than good. But they’re for the natural life, not the spiritual life. We may engage them in spiritual activities, for example our intellect in understanding semantics when reading the Bible. But true Bible understanding comes from the revelation of the Spirit. Our intellect is simply a tool.
The spiritual life and the natural life must be lived differently, and this is where the feelings or faith conflict has its root. We’re so used to engaging with our natural faculties that we automatically apply them to the spiritual. It’s a natural, instinctive response but it interferes with faith. What we feel begins to colour how we believe, even without us realising it. That’s why when things are going great and all is well with our world we ‘feel’ strong in faith. But there’s the root issue. The moment we feel our faith is strong, we can be reasonably sure it’s not. Feelings or faith are separate issues. It’s one or the other. They simply cannot coexist in the spiritual life where feelings have no place, only the Word of God.
Feelings or faith in context.
It’s worth looking at what faith is to grab hold of a deeper understanding. The first truth is that faith is entirely supernatural. It is entirely spirit. We cannot create it or affect it because it is a gift from God imparted directly to our spirits. It has no connection with the flesh at all except to empower the flesh through the Spirit to obedience or specific God-required action. Most of the time, faith will contradict every sane, rational, and logical response to a situation. It defies every standard and convention that orders our world. It transcends limitations and tears down barriers and generally has the ability to upend everything we rely on. This is why there will always be a feelings or faith conflict. The natural things simply do not make sense in the arena of true spiritual faith.
The second truth about faith is that it remains ‘dormant’ or inactive until we actually need to exercise it. This doesn’t mean it’s gone, simply that it functions only when required. We have the general daily faith we all need and use constantly as the fundamental foundation of our Christian walk. That’s constant and we often don’t even think about it. It’s the measure we need to believe and live our daily lives. However, when darkness hits and things get rough, this daily measure is not sufficient. Today’s verse is a poignant illustration of what happens when the feelings or faith conflict rises up. It’s a powerful picture of the very real and lonely place of human frailty. All of us have had moments when we seemed to stand on the edge of nothing. That’s the place of feeling, where our natural interpretative emotions swallow faith.
The choice between feelings or faith.
There at the edge of nothing is a point of choice. Because we run on emotion in life, it’s easy to assume that faith will have something attached to show us it’s operating. The problem, though, is that it doesn’t. Faith is, first and foremost, a spiritual decision to trust the Word of God and His nature and character rather than our feelings or circumstances. It’s the place of ‘but God says’ when everything says differently. When we decide to believe rather than feel and act accordingly, that’s when faith activates and the feelings or faith conflict is resolved. Faith will always override feelings if a proactive choice is made. We act on the choice by replacing the feelings with the known Word of God. In this way, feelings are placed under the spiritual control of Christ-centred, Word-based faith. But it’s a conscious, deliberate act on our part.
God has promised us that He will supply all the faith we need when we need it. But it’s not an ‘automatic’ injection of something wonderful. It’s His response to our decision to make the right choice between feelings or faith. When we look to Him, choosing His Word and His character above the overwhelming feelings or emotions, He responds by providing His faith. But this is always in proportion to the knowledge we have of Him and of His Word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word. There are rare occasions of extreme need where He has moved supernaturally to release a gift of faith for a particular moment. Mostly, however, He stirs up the Word in us, releasing His faith to meet our need. It figures, then, that faith has to have a ready supply of the Word to work with.
Preparing for the feelings or faith conflict.
It’s too late, out there on the edge of nowhere, to start frantically searching for appropriate Scripture. Emotions will swamp our attempts almost every time. Yes, in His Grace, God does provide relevant scriptures in our need. His concern is always that we stand and move in faith, especially in our dark and desperate moments. But the deeper-rooted the Word is in us, the more powerful it’s ability to stir up and release the faith we need. Faith is anchored in what we know, and what we know is far more certain when we have lived with it for a time rather than snatched it up in a crisis. To know something with certainty comes from familiarity and having assimilated it into who we are so it’s internal rather than external. It has become a part of who we are, our anchor in the feelings or faith battle.
This is what the Bible means when it talks about meditating on the Word or dwelling on it. It’s preparation for when we need that greater measure of faith. When we read and memorise the Word, meditate on it, mull it over and receive revelation, it becomes the inner power God intended. It is the Living Word living within us ready to work as soon as we make the right feelings or faith choice. The more of the Word we have in us and the longer we have it in us, the stronger our faith will be at crunch time. The Spirit will always only work in conjunction with the Word. For a faith that is supernatural and rooted in the Living Word, He needs that Word to work with. Only the Word can cancel the negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions that cloud our judgement and strip our confidence.
Feelings or faith and Christ’s victory.
The truth is, being made a saint doesn’t mean instantly perfect. It means ‘under construction and covered by the blood of Jesus’ till perfect. So, like temptations and sins, we will continually face the feelings or faith conflict. But, as in all things, Jesus has already obtained the victory on the cross. We still have to enforce it and establish it, however, and we do so by choosing faith and the Word. Always, when we choose Christ and actively follow through by rejecting the alternative and replacing it with the Word, He will make His victory effective in our lives. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Yet when we’re out there, flailing on the edge of nowhere, it’s really difficult to remember all this. Thankfully, God has that covered as well. When we reach out in honesty as the psalmist did, He will reach down to restore us.
Thank You, Lord, that You take care of everything, even our faith. Help us to participate rather than to simply expect You to bail us out. Guide us into Your precious Word and write it in our hearts. Teach us to love it and treasure it, and to meditate on each revelation so that it becomes a part of who we are. Above all, thank You, Lord, that our faith is of You, not of ourselves, and that we already have the victory over feelings through Jesus.