Monthly Archives: June 2016

More than a Sunday Faith

Blind Faith (No. 26, 2016)
Weekly Devotional for June 30, 2016
More than a Sunday Faith

Critics blast Christians for talking a good game of following
Jesus in church on Sunday but living like the devil the rest of the week.
Last week’s Blind Faith dealt with the detrimental effects of the “Sunday’s
child” syndrome on both hypocritical Christians and people observing their
hypocrisy. God intends his invitation to faith to produce more than a good
crowd at worship services congratulating one another for how good they are.
True relationship with God should result in believers demonstrating God’s
grace to everyone they encounter in every corner of life every day.

Unfortunately something short-circuits such faithful consistency by too many
professing followers of Jesus. George Barna commented on data from numerous
surveys that find very little difference in every day behavior between
professing Christians and non-Christians: “Christianity is not losing
influence in America because it is overmatched by the challenges of the day;
it is losing impact because believers have been unsuccessful at merging
faith and lifestyle outside the walls of the church.”

Eugene Peterson, a Presbyterian pastor who worked with Hebrew
and Greek texts of the Bible to produce The Message version, identifies what
may be a root cause of a worshipper’s profession of faith at church failing
to transform actions in everyday life. Peterson’s weighty observations
deserve extended quotation:

The great danger of Christian discipleship is that we should have two
religions: a glorious, biblical Sunday gospel that sets us free from the
world, that in the cross and resurrection of Christ makes eternity alive in
us, a magnificent gospel of Genesis and Romans and Revelation; and, then, an
everyday religion that we make do with during the week between the time of
leaving the world and arriving in heaven. We save the Sunday gospel for the
big crises of existence. For the mundane trivialities-the times when our
foot slips on a loose stone, or the heat of the sun get too much for us, or
the influence of the moon gets us down-we use the everyday religion from a
Reader’s Digest reprint, advice from a friend, an Ann Landers column, the
huckstered wisdom of a talk-show celebrity. We practice patent-medicine
religion. We know that God created the universe and has accomplished our
eternal salvation. But we can’t believe that he condescends to watch the
soap opera of our daily trials and tribulations; so we purchase our own
remedies for that. To ask him to deal with what troubles us each day is like
asking a famous surgeon to put iodine on our scratch.

But Psalm 121 says that the same faith that works in the big things works in
the little things. The God of Genesis 1 who brought light out of the
darkness is also the God of this day who guards you from every evil..

Psalm 121, learned early and sung repeatedly in the walk with Christ,
clearly defines the conditions under which we live out our
discipleship-which, in a word, is God. Once we get this psalm in our hearts
it will be impossible for us to gloomily suppose that being a Christian is
an unending battle against ominous forces that at any moment may break
through and overpower us. Faith is not a precarious affair of chance escape
from satanic assaults. It is the solid, massive, secure experience of God,
who keeps all evil from getting inside us, who guards our life, who guards
us when we leave and when we return, who guards us now, who guards us
always.
(Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, IVP, 1980, 2000)

Peterson correctly emphasizes that growing, mature faith is essential for
practicing consistent Christian living. The foundation of faith supports all
of our actions, or, conversely, our actions grow from and reveal our faith.

A key to developing growing, secure faith is trusting that the
Almighty God we praise in worship services is just as awesome wherever we
are any day of the week. Peterson’s preceding words are his reflections upon
Psalm 121. Here is his vital, comforting translation/paraphrase of the
psalm:

1-2 I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
3-4 He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.
5-6 God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you-
Shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moonstroke.
7-8 God guards you from every evil; he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
He guards you now, he guards you always.
(Psalm 121 MSG)

The more we grow in active awareness of the grace and power of God being
present with us at all times in all circumstances the better we can behave
faithfully. Psalm 121 offers beautiful poetic assurance of God’s
trustworthiness in all situations. Our response is to cultivate deeper faith
daily.

Jesus dealt with people who worked at being faithful, but whose
faith seemed to falter when they faced challenges in everyday life. When
Jesus told the disciples that they were to keep on forgiving people who had
done them wrong, they evidently realized that they were not up to that
standard of behavior. They implored Jesus, “Increase our faith!” (Luke
17:5). Jesus taught them that faith often grows from fulfilling one’s duty
in relationship with God. When a man with an epileptic son came to Jesus’
disciples desperately seeking help with his son’s condition, he did not get
immediate satisfaction. His despair was evident to Jesus, who challenged the
man’s faith. The man then blurted out one of the most honest prayers
recorded in the Bible: “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do
believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'” (Mark 9:24 NIV) Jesus then
demonstrated the day-to-day effects of living faith by healing the boy. Paul
had heard good reports about the loving, faithful, exemplary lives
Christians in Colosse were becoming noted for. He wrote to them about his
prayers for their faith to grow and deepen so that they would continue to
live consistently the faith they professed: “We pray this in order that you
may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing
fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, {11} being
strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may
have great endurance and patience, and joyfully {12} giving thanks to the
Father..” (Colossians 1:10-12 NIV) That consistency of behavior grows from
active, daily, sustained dependence upon the same faith that works in the
big things and also works in the little things.

How can you avoid being just a “Sunday’s child?” Grow into the
vibrant daily faith of Psalm 121. God is your unfailing guardian; live like
it consistently.

– J. Edward Culpepper
You can receive Blind Faith weekly via e-mail. Either click the
“Subscription” link on this page, or send the message “Subscribe to Bliind
Faith” to eculpepper1@comcast.net.