This Faith is Not for Wimps

CC BY, Stephen A. Wolfe, Flickr

CC BY, Stephen A. Wolfe, Flickr

I consider myself a city boy provided that you understand “city” in my history is originally Nowhereville, USA. So it’s a choice kinda thing. I enjoy studying cities and I like city life and have been privileged to visit some pretty big ones—the biggest, in fact, which is a true marvel.

Yet I feel more at home in the outdoors. I love nature. Words like rustic, sylvan, and bucolic stir me in ways the words modern, skyscraper, and metro never do.

Being sent outdoors as a kid was not a punishment. Later I would work and participate at several camps and a few jobs that were pretty hands-on. I’ve always admired the manual life, although I am regrettably not the son bitten by that bug. (My mom is a seamstress, so I could’ve been a tailor by now.) I’ve said 101 times that the person who can work with his or her hands will survive much easier should the world go belly-up tomorrow.

Compete to Win

As I’ve grown older, I’ve increasingly desired the physical, outdoorsy life. I envy those who grew up on farms, ranchers, and just the skilled laborer. I’m sure they have much to share to slap me back into my reality, still…

The physical, labor-intensive life is to me a fitting metaphor for the character of the spiritual life. Our faith certainly creates a refined product, but the nature of the tool is duly rugged.

I discover this truth all through Scripture: in the agonized prayer of Hannah crying out to God for a son; in the Psalms’ tightly framed shots of human emotional investment made in worship; in the implications of scripture, like grief as a spiritual act of sowing.

I notice it in Jesus’s bold yet nimble teachings to go the extra mile and love the vilest; to “have faith” in an ardent way; to know that if the kingdom will be had, it will be found; to remember that the way up is down; and to make sure we count the high cost of serving him.

Do you see it? Do you notice how tough and gritty, coarse and earthy this life of faith is? Every Christian will surely taste his own sweat and feel the grain in his mouth.

Works in Progress

Tools for cutting and refinement are necessarily sturdy. Wood isn’t going to carve wood, is it? Clay won’t shape clay. They need a sharper and more durable tool to give them form.

The faith God has given us is definitely durable and sharp enough—in his hands and in our spiritual practice—to whittle away at our knarls, imperfections, and stony hearts until we become works of beauty, transformed by his grace. It turns Jacobs into Israels and makes Peters out of Simons.

BUT… “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). This isn’t for cowards. It takes dexterity and resolve to apprentice this carpenter.

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13 thoughts on “This Faith is Not for Wimps

  1. Came here via a comment thread on Levi Thetford’s blog. So very glad I did. You’re right, faith is not easy. May Matthew 17:20 be an ever-present comfort to us.

  2. Mike, come on down and I’ll put you to work. I just cleaned the chicken house out the other day which would have been a good test to see if you really are a “country”. For some reason I think that you could handle it. Our Christian life though is in the nitty gritty and we are constantly being conformed into His image no matter where we live. Great post. Thanks. Again, glad you’re back!

    • You had my attention describing scraping out the chicken house, too. If I were to come to Tulsa, I’d definitely want to work with you! Last summer I cleared my sister’s large backyard of years of overgrowth and trees…snakes and hives, and…I had the best time all year! I’m telling ya, I might be a “country.” 😀

      I love how you’ve put it: conformed into his image–perfect. May we continue to be just that. Thanks for reading, Levi!

  3. I love the outdoors, but I wouldn’t live in it! When I was in the army long ago, we once spent 3 weeks in a place called Centipede Hill. No, I didn’t enjoy it.

    But that is nothing compared to the rough and tumble life of a truly devoted disciple of Christ. It truly is no place for the weak, but thank God we don’t have to depend on our own strength to do this!

    His grace is sufficient for us 🙂

    • Centipede Hill…any centipedes around there? I also find it laughable that I gravitate to the outdoors when I hate spiders (!) and things crawling on me. Oh well…

      “Amen” to your comment that we don’t have to depend on our own strength. I’m glad you said that too because it’s one thing to be timid and pursuing and quite another to stand in the shadows watching others.

      Thank God that his grace is indeed sufficient. Are you familiar with Matthew West’s song “Strong Enough”? You might enjoy it. Cheers!

  4. Do you notice how tough and gritty, coarse and earthy this life of faith is? Every Christian will surely taste his own sweat and feel the grain in his mouth…. yup, nuf sed.

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