TITLE: THE FINE LINE BETWEEN FAITH AND PRESUMPTION
Subtitle: Common Sense Is Becoming Scarce!
Most Christians with any spiritual discernment at all should recognize the fact that confusion abounds within the professing church. Doctrinal disputes continue to proliferate along with a seemingly endless variety of other issues guaranteed to cause division. First one camp and then another will run up their flag, claiming to be the latest champion of orthodoxy, and—quick as a wink—volleys of verbal and/or written abuse fly between them. Then, when the battles cool off long enough to take a breath, both sides claim victory! Sounds like NATO and Yugoslavia, doesn’t it? (Or U.N. vs. Iraq—take your pick!) And I am afraid that about as much is actually settled in these disputes among preachers and churches as there is with NATO, the United Nations and their "peace-keeping" missions. First Corinthians 14:33 (KJV) informs us that "…God is not the author of confusion…" Therefore we must conclude that the majority of these disputes over differences of interpretation and practice are caused by forces external to the church.
You know, opinions are just like belly buttons—everybody has one! And yes, I am about as opinionated as the next guy. When I believe that I am right, it takes a lot of irrefutable evidence or hard logic to convince me otherwise. But, I hope that I will always be man enough to admit it if and when I am proven wrong. Disputes between the brethren have been around for as long as there has been a church. The apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:11 that he "withstood Peter to the face because he was to be blamed." Acts 15:39 tells of Paul and Barnabas engaging in contention so sharp that they felt it necessary to split up and go their separate ways. Based on John Mark’s prior "track record", Paul did not trust him. Barnabas did and wound up taking him along as his traveling companion. Who was right and who was wrong? Opinions vary, but one thing is sure—argument will not provide the answer.
Have you ever wondered why God did not word the Bible in such a way as to rule out all differences of interpretation? I wish that I had some profound explanation for it, but I don’t. For reasons known only unto Him, God has purposefully given us His Word in a form that requires us to diligently study it and search for our answers. It claims of itself to be a supernatural book and therefore the Holy Spirit must aid us in our efforts to comprehend it and be conformed to its teachings. The "natural man"—the unregenerate and lost man—cannot understand it at all. (1 Corinthians 2:14). As much as we would like to be dogmatic and assert that we have a full understanding of the Bible and correctly interpret it in every case, all of us to be honest must admit that "now we see through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Many good and godly men have taken and continue to take opposite sides on doctrinal issues and matters of practice. Their arguments make perfect sense to them and they are amazed that the other "side" cannot see it. Conversely, the other "side" feels exactly the same! This polarization usually leads to someone "running up the flag" and then the battle is on again. Please understand me when I say that I am not pointing fingers at anyone here—I have the same urges to want to be the champion who hoists the flag! But when I am tempted to take on the other "side", I try to stop long enough to ask myself this question: What good is it likely to accomplish in light of eternity? More often than not the answer is "forget it"! However, if you disagree with my pessimistic viewpoint, I challenge you to make a long list of those you know who have changed their position due to factional squabbles in the past.
However, with this disclaimer in mind, I want to point out that there continues to be an element within the church who teach that no matter what the circumstances happen to be—we must exercise our faith in God, keep on working, and ignore the obvious. Their rationale is that "the just shall live by faith" and any type of precautionary preparation on our part reveals a lack of faith. While all of this sounds very good and pious, it is actually irresponsible teaching! God gave us a brain to think with and to stand in the path of an oncoming train depending upon God to save us is sheer stupidity! If I was a betting man (and I certainly am not), I would "bet the farm" that the vast majority of these same teachers pay monthly premiums for various types of insurance on themselves and their homes. Why don’t they just trust God? The principle is exactly the same.
The Y2K issue—the "Year 2000 Problem"—revolves around the seemingly insignificant fact that computers are not equipped to recognize 00 digits as representing a year in the date fields of programming code. Computer memory was such a precious commodity during the early days of development that dates were represented as six digits. For instance, 01-01-99 is January 1, 1999, the 1900 component being understood. However, a few years ago some programmers realized that the year 2000 would cause problems when computers were forced to deal with the double zero code! After much study and consternation it was found that, on the average, a date field appears for every 50 lines of programming code. This fact staggers the imagination when one considers the enormous amount of code involved. Many of the computer games that are played and enjoyed by millions of kids around the world utilize written codes that would literally fill several rooms with the boxes containing the "print-outs" of the machine language programming used in their operation. I mention this just to emphasize the massive amounts of programming necessary for the large "main-frame" industrial computers. The basic task of solving the programming problem is considered to be a simple one, but the enormity of it is anything but simple and is actually impossible in the amount of time left before the year 2000. Many companies can boast of complete compliance with Y2K computer needs, but in order for the world’s computers to continue with the present international levels of interrelated commerce (with manageable correction of their subsequent failures), well over 95% of the computers would have to be compliant. The likelihood of this happening world-wide is slim and none! Additionally, the odds of a fully compliant computer (which networks) remaining so and continuing to function properly in the aftermath of Y2K is about as good as a man keeping a white shirt clean while working in a coal mine!
No one knows the full implications of this problem or the impact that it will have, but it does seem clear that it has the potential for significant disruptions of many basic things that we now take for granted. And just as men make preparations for a hurricane predicted to strike their area, prudent people ought to recognize the potential danger of Y2K and try to prepare for it. To refuse to make preparations and to stand in the path of an impending danger—such as a hurricane—claiming to have faith in God, is most unwise. When God allows prior warning and the means are available for survival, those with any common sense will seek shelter. It would be much better to feel silly, or even be kidded about preparation that was not needed, than to berate yourself for not doing so when the calamity actually happens (not to mention the embarrassment of having to depend upon the generosity of those who did prepare). Just as a matter of principle, our churches ought to be prepared at all times to render service to the community as a testimony for Christ.
This topic has been a hot issue lately and has again polarized the body of Christ. Unfortunately there are those who have taken the stance that to prepare for something of this nature is to show a lack of faith in God. Others have taken the extreme opposite position, gone off the deep end and have adopted a "bunker mentality"—barricading themselves in full survivalist mode. While I personally have not adopted the latter position, the former is just as extreme! Faith is a wonderful thing and can move mountains if God provides it, but very often it is little more than presumption on the part of the individual who professes to have it. I call our attention to Romans 12:3 which speaks to this premise:
"For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn every one among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought—not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance; but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).
If you know beyond doubt that God has given you the faith necessary to stand in the face of danger without prior preparation, by all means do so! But also understand that not every Christian possesses that degree of faith. I do not! Quite frankly I am hoping for the best and expecting the worst. My responsibility (and yours as a Christian) is to exercise stewardship and try to provide for our families. When we see the potential for a specific danger on the horizon, such as a hurricane or Y2K or whatever, we should take steps to be prepared. The Boy Scout motto is "be prepared" and I have not forgotten that training from the days of my youth. If the Lord were telling me to stand by faith, I could rest assured that He had a specific plan and purpose for it as a testimony to others. To assume that degree of faith and then be overwhelmed by circumstances is presumption and a mockery of God’s goodness and grace. I certainly mean no disrespect, but it seems to me that those who handle snakes to prove their faith are in the same class with those who thumb their noses at danger for the same reason!
It is one thing to have "mountain moving" faith yourself, but it is another thing entirely to teach that all Christians should exhibit it. There are numerous nationally and internationally known Christian leaders who are actively teaching that to prepare for an uncertain future is to show a lack of faith. These same people would probably have criticized the early Christians in Rome for hiding rather than stand the chance of being fed to the lions! I can’t help but wonder how much bravado they would muster if faced with the same situation. Their attitude seems to be that the Lord has promised to spare us from such calamities if we stand by faith. I find no such promise made to Christians! Did not the apostle Paul make every effort to elude the Jews who were plotting to kill him? He escaped from Damascus with the aid of some disciples (Acts 9:23-25). Why did he not stand by faith? Duh!! Peter quickly "made himself scarce" after the angel released him from prison (Acts 12:5-17). When any one of us has enough evidence that a potential threat exists, God has given us enough sense to warrant prudent action.
If we prepare and nothing happens—praise the Lord! If it does happen and we have followed the advice of the faith advocates, what then? I don’t know about you, but I had much rather be embarrassed on the safe side of the issue.
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, but have come to realize His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to accept His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can also do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you accept Him as Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.
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