Advent Devotionals: Wednesday, December 9

December 9

FAITH: The Foothold that precedes HOPE

“Doubt and faith coexist. Indeed, certainty, not doubt, is faith’s opposite.”
(Philip Yancey)

Isaiah 43:1-4, Romans 8:24-25, Colossians 1:4-5, Hebrews 11:1, 1 Peter 1:21-22

I keep losing my footing. Does anyone else feel like the earth has completely shifted or the rug pulled out from under your feet?  Just when I think perhaps I’ve got things figured out and I’ve made a plan to go forward, everything shifts again.  PIVOT… that buzz word. Ugh.  I have had to pivot so many times, my metaphorical ankles feel sprained. 

It’s difficult not to lose hope when there is so much loss.  Basically, we have lost our way of life and in an effort to cling to any sense of normalcy, the slightest alteration is distressing.  

Or maybe it’s not that we have lost our way of life.  Maybe it’s that we have simply lost our way. I have this bad feeling we had already gotten off track long before this pandemic hit and now we’ve been exposed.

Prosperity has been killing us.  Having access to everything we could possibly desire destroys the soul and blinds us to our need for God. With limitations being imposed on us and losing our freedom to indulge ourselves whenever and however we desire, we are being forced to rethink our way of being, our values, as well as facing some deeply rooted fears.

This has been an intimidating and even downright frightening encounter with ourselves .  When all the things we have relied on for comfort have been altered or removed completely, it feels like we have nothing to anchor us.  Or at the very least, no rudder to steer the ship.  Collectively, as a society, we seem to be floundering and many are losing hope. 

This is a dangerous place to be because hope is what gets us through the dark nights of the soul, the despair, the turmoil or whatever we might be experiencing.  But not just any hope. Real hope has to be grounded in someone or something beyond ourselves. When left to our own devices, we are operating within our human limitations.  While that may work in ordinary life events, we come up very short when faced with catastrophic events or even just disappointment in life.

This is often when people, including those who follow Jesus, begin to question everything they have ever believed.  They second guess the values they were brought up with and questions of faith come tumbling to the forefront.  Where is God in all of this?!

This is a moment that is either faith-crumbling or faith-building.  The good news is that the struggle between doubt and faith often leads to spiritual growth.  Philip Yancey writes in Reaching for the Invisible God, “Doubt always coexists with faith, for in the presence of certainty who would need faith at all?”

John Drummond points out that Jesus consistently made a distinction between doubt and unbelief. 

“Doubt is can’t believe; unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness.”

Don’t be surprised by your doubt or lack of faith and don’t let discouragement set in.  We are engaged in spiritual warfare and the battlefield is in our mind. That is where the enemy attacks.  The evil one does not want you to be close to God and looks for ways to instil doubt in your mind.  But we have power and victory over the enemy.  In these moments of weakness, we simply need to call out the name of Jesus and ask for help and in that moment the battle belongs to God.  Trust him as he fights for you.  

Faith precedes hope. In the midst of discouragement, doubt and fear, we need to firmly plant our feet in the foothold of faith in order to securely climb out of the darkness we find ourselves in.  Faith requires practicing trust.  We practice trust by praying and by stepping out in faith, paying attention to the times we see God move in our lives.  Faith is like a muscle that gets stronger with regular exercise.  We build spiritual muscle through spiritual disciplines, especially immersing ourselves in scripture. As we build our faith, our trust grows too! 

Another way we can plant our feet in the foothold of faith is to honestly acknowledge where we are at in our faith. If you are feeling lost, the wisest thing you can do is go back to the basics of your beliefs.  Look again at the Story of Jesus and the Gospel.  Do you believe the story is true?  What has your experience of Jesus been?  

And then question becomes… How badly do you want this?  Are you willing to take a step deeper into your faith and move forward in trust, choosing to believe God will indeed walk with you through this season?

The apostle Paul writes  in 1 Corinthians 13:13, that we can only partially see things right now (in this in-between time) but one day we will know things fully.  He goes on to say that for now, while we wait there are three things to pursue:  faith, hope and love.  This is active waiting. The order of these three things is significant.  Faith precedes hope. So chase after your faith and as you grow more deeply in your relationship with Jesus, hope will rise.  Out of faith and hope, love will follow.  

REFLECTION:
Has there ever been a time when you have been so lost that you have had to go back to the very foundations of your faith?  How did you pull out of it?

Perhaps you are feeling lost right now or maybe just a little unstable.  Take some time to assess where you are at, re-evaluate things and re-visit the foundation of your faith. 

PRACTICES:
  1. Morning Prayers of praise and gratitude. (Suggestion:  Write out your prayers)
  2. Evening Prayers - Examen. 
  3. Scripture Reading as assigned above.  Which passage stands out to you? Memorize it and carry it with you. 

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