by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project
“Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’” Matthew 6:31 (NLT)
“Measured Faith (Belief Enough?)” is a revealing examination of belief as it is measured by faith from what appears to be very different translations of Romans 12:3. What is behind varying degrees of faith that gets in the way of the surrendered life necessary to reap the full measure of blessing?
Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time… and yet you still don’t know who I am?” John 14:9 (NLT)
The second of the twelve steps declares that we came to believe in a power greater than ourselves who can restore us to… fill in the blank. The third step boldly declares that we have turned our will and life over to the care of God as we understood… or, came to believe in… Him. How is this proven to be true in your life? Why would you not fully surrender all in your life of faith if you fully believe in God’s promised best for you?
The following are two credible translations of the same Scripture. Please consider the loaded questions following the first translation. Then notice how the meaning changes dramatically from the first translation of the Scripture to the second.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:2-3 (NKJV)
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. Romans 12:3 (NIV)
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What does it really mean to say that I came to believe in a power greater than myself; or that I came to believe in God; or that I have faith in God?
- How much faith do I have in God?
- What does it mean to have received from God a measure of faith?
- How much do I believe?
- Do I fully believe? Am I confident in my faith?
- What does it really mean that I have surrendered my life to the will and plan of God?
- Am I really committed… entirely committed… to pleasing and serving God?
- What does that look like? What does that sound like? What does that feel like?
- What am I doing today that reflects my belief… faith… surrender… commitment… to pleasing and serving God because I believe fully and entirely, with a full measure of faith, in God’s will and plan for my life?
- What am I thinking and imagining that reflects the truth of my belief, faith, surrender, and commitment? Or does my behavior and imagination express and expose who I am, what I am, and where I am when it comes to the truth that lies in these questions?
I am very uncomfortable personally with these questions; not in asking them of you the reader, but in responding to them from an honest place in my own heart, mind, and soul.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Romans 12:2-3 (NLT)
As your spiritual teacher I give this piece of advice to each one of you. Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all. Romans 12:3 (Phillips New Testament)
When I examine the New Living Translation (NLT) and Phillips New Testament of the same passage from Romans it appears to read quite differently than the New King James Version (NKJV) and the New International Version (NIV).
I have an uncomfortable feeling that Phillips and NLT might have it right. Why would God give to me less faith than He would give you; or you less faith than He would “distribute” to me? Does that even make sense? While we are gifted uniquely, have been called to serve uniquely, and have experienced varying degrees of revelation into deeper knowledge perhaps, it does not make much sense to me that impartial God would dole out varying measures of faith as it pertains to fundamental revelation and access, through relationship with Jesus Christ, to Almighty God.
What does make sense is that as God imparts to me faith by revelation of Himself to my mind, my heart, and my soul, that I would by my choice decide how to invest myself into the full abundant life God has chosen to bless me with. What does make sense is that I choose the degree to which I want to surrender my life and intentions over to the plan God has revealed to me about the new life He wants and has for me to experience.
Should I sow the seed of new life into everything I am and do, I will reap a harvest of blessing. Should I sow the seed of new life sparingly or with some reservation, holding back some, I will reap sparingly or with at least some degree of reservation the blessing that God wants to lavish on me without reservation, sparing nothing (God has chosen to afford me the choice the extent to which I am receptive to the immeasurably lavish blessing He intends to rain on me).
Expectations about Faith
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:5-8 (NLT)
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:5-8 (NIV)
I believe that James is writing that God does not find fault with my emotionally-driven fear and anxiety when I come seeking from Him everything from wisdom to a miracle. Because should I doubt God’s ability to engage, work, and move in my circumstances due to an intellectual conclusion of disbelief that God is God, and I turn to alternative remedies to manage fear and anxiety, then I am wavering in the gusty winds of divided loyalty. It is then I am double-minded and unstable in pursuit of resolution. It is then that I am lost like sheep without a shepherd. While James writes then that I ought not to expect to receive anything from the Lord it doesn’t mean that I won’t receive from Him. James is speaking about my state of mind. He is saying that I will have lowered my expectations of what God can and will do.
If I have concluded that I probably will not receive much of anything from God, why would I expect to receive much of anything from God? There really won’t be any relief from pain, fear, and worry should I altogether not believe in what God can do. It’s common sense at that point. I’m an emotional mess from the empty conclusions I have drawn intellectually about what God can and will do. Absent is the hopeful anticipation of God’s intervention that would have a calming effect on my nerves.
Thank God I believe intellectually and spiritually in what God can do. Too often, though, I question my faith because I doubt on an emotional level. I need to stop the practice of riding my feelings until I feel guilty that I doubt God. I feel guilty doubting God because of what I know and believe intellectually (in relationship with Christ) God can do; I struggle emotionally with what I believe God will do. Is he willing? Is there something wrong with me? I think that’s what it means to have faith in the midst of doubt because of the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). What I feel isn’t necessarily a reflection of what I know. What I doubt emotionally isn’t necessarily a reflection of what I know intellectually and believe spiritually in my soul.
The question that is most discomforting to me is not, “How much do I believe?” or “How much faith do I have?” The question is not even, “Do I believe?” Because I do. The question is, “Will I let go of what I want, and choose to receive what God wants and has for me?”
As you read this, the first question for you might be, “Do you believe?” And if you do, you are in the same boat I am. Are you willing? Will you let go of what you want, and choose what God wants and has for you? Don’t be so quick to answer. If your answer is yes then your life should reflect your answer through and through. How confident are you when you pray? What is the level or degree of your faith?
If I am being honest, I have substantially more confidence that God will bless you in the miraculous than I believe He will bless me. Not because I don’t believe God can bless me that way. But because I am in a hurry according to my standards and according to what I suppose I believe I deserve. I think my problem with belief and faith has a great deal to do with my sense of entitlement. I deserve what I want and believe that I need as soon as possible.
When I began FREEdom from MEdom Project, I had the expectation that the world desperately needed what God is saying through me about how to sustain long term recovery God’s way. It my dream to take the counseling and writing ability God has blessed me with, along with the vision He has laid upon my heart, to do FREEdom from MEdom full time. Things need to occur for that to happen. I believe God has given me a promise for this ministry. Initially the idea was to sell memberships incredibly inexpensively. Then someone mentoring me said, “What about those who still cannot afford it, or will miss out because they will not pay for something on the free internet?” I agreed and made it possible to donate without charging for these services. Donations are pouring in at approximately… are you ready… six dollars per year. I thought I would be discovered and published. I thought I would be teaching at conferences. Am I not entitled to more success? What, only the Joel Osteens, T.D. Jakes, and Rick Warrens of the world get to do this? Come on, God… I want in!
However, since I have been working at the prison I have had tremendous opportunity to share the good news of a new life experience God’s way in relationship with Jesus Christ to so many men whose lives would ultimately end in prison (or they would get out and die on the streets) without such liberating truth. Thousands and thousands of people around the world are reading this message and invitation to experience new life set free from addiction to what holds them captive.
I wonder if the question of how much faith I have is somehow tied in to what I feel entitled to, meaning what I believe I deserve. Abraham and Sarah may have dealt with some of this when they waited twenty years for the promise of a son by God and… nothing. How often might you think Abraham and Sarah made beautiful love together in the hope that they were making together the promised son? It appears as though they gave in to their sense of entitlement and strategized to find an alternative to God’s plan. Abraham conveniently married Hagar and she was pregnant without another thought. Born was Ishmael and the rest is history. Abraham and Sarah felt apparently that they deserved a son.
The writer of Hebrews writes of Abraham’s unwavering faith but it appears to have wavered when it came to waiting on God’s promise of the son that was Isaac. Did Abraham lack faith? I don’t think so. I think he and his wife grew impatient and sought desperate measures for an alternative to waiting on the fulfillment of God’s plan. Perhaps the thinking was that even God declared they were entitled to a son as long as it was promised to them. So Abraham did what he had to do to get what he deserved.
So What Then about Faith?
Is my belief system skewed by what I believe I deserve? Do my expectations shape my “beliefs” when it comes to the matter of faith? If God determines that how He chooses to bless me is affected by what I believe I deserve, is it because God recognizes that my so-called faith is actually shaped by what I desire in my flesh, which is selfish and feels entitled?
This becomes especially fragile and sensitive for me. I thought I would be published by now and making a living writing, and perhaps even counseling, from my computer. I hoped I would be doing well enough with FREEdom from MEdom ministries that I would be doing it full-time. And if I am entirely honest, I suppose I hoped some recognition would have come my way by now… well, you know… because this FREEdom from MEdom stuff is SO good… profound truth from a fountain of knowledge and wisdom and all that.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:1-10 (NIV)
Things have not worked out according to my expectations. Does that mean that God hasn’t blessed this ministry? Honestly? Not in the way I want Him to. Instead, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of men who have been blessed and perhaps even saved by the truth, knowledge, and wisdom delivered through these FREEdom from MEdom/NewLIFE Xperience principles. Thousands of people around the world have read from this online ministry. Dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands more have been influenced by those touched by God through this ministry. Only God knows.
God also knows me well enough to know what He can and cannot trust me with. My pride, my lazy prayer life, my undisciplined habits and routines may in fact limit my access and effectiveness because God knows that I will certainly fall otherwise. So the reasonable question is, if I recognize things in me and my intentions, motivations, and lifestyle routines, why don’t I commit to change respectful to the calling on my life? What a great question! What a challenging question? Do you relate to it?
Faith in the flesh… what a concept. While it is an obvious contradiction, perhaps it is as much a paradox. James writes in chapter four that my problem with what appears to be the absence of blessing is the absence of my desires and motivations lining up with what God wants and has for me. The tragedy in that is that what God wants and has for me is His very best.
Desiring God’s Best
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4 (NLT)
Often times this passage in Psalm 37 is taken grossly out of context. Even when it’s interpreted that if I am walking in the will of God He will bless the desire of my heart, it is misleading. My heart is still selfish, particularly when the heat is turned up. When I am transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2), taken in proper context, God has rearranged my thinking to want and be willing to receive what He wants and has for me. In other words, He has transformed my wants by putting His desires and motivations deep within me, giving me my heart’s desires – His desires.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)
When I am motivated to seek first God’s best through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, God is more than happy and willing to add to my life the experience of His best. His best for my life will be a blessing to anyone who is touched by my life.
J.B. Phillips in his translation perhaps says it best.
Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course. Matthew 6:33 (Phillips New Testament)
This is an incredible promise of blessing that brings this next passage to life.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)… or as J.B. Phillips translates … dare to ask or imagine.
Okay, now we’re getting carried away. It all sounds good, but come on.
What’s the problem here?
The problem is that God’s best is too good to be true to be experienced in this life on this side of eternity. Just allow me to relax and do whatever it is that I do. Don’t put too much on my plate. I need my television time. I need my down time… my alone time to unwind and decompress. I need my sleep. I’m not being sarcastic, this is how I think. I want to be lazy, disrespectful of the call of God to really dig in to what He wants and has for me to pierce and feed my soul. I want God’s best so long as I can do my thing my own way in my own time.
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:4-13 (NLT)
Really… is this poetic hyperbole? No. This is the real deal! I don’t have to like it but here’s the thing. If I really knew and understood what I was missing, missing out on God’s best, I would drop every shallow and dissatisfying routine that sabotages what I can enjoy in the joy of the Lord, so that I could experience life in the best of what God wants and has for me.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. Romans 8:18 (NLT)
Already Free in the Joy
If you haven’t yet, I’d like to encourage you to read My Problem with Hank… Prisoner Set Free. This is written about a prisoner that I work with who has been set free from the chains of addiction and bondage to life’s “stuff” in a way that convicts me to the core of my selfish existence. He is a brother in Christ who is free in a sense that I have never known, full of joy in the Lord. I get near him and feel like whatever he has, I want some of that. And he has quite a bit of prison time left to serve yet he is so free.
You might say, “Well look at his circumstances, he needs Jesus more.” And what really is the point of this whole thing is that he doesn’t need Jesus any less than you or I do. You might say he has less weighing him down. He doesn’t have a big screen television. He doesn’t have financial responsibilities. He doesn’t have to deal with the stresses of the job every day. He doesn’t have to take care of his family… at least he can’t from prison.
Hank lives in what is essentially a bathroom with another man. Hank has a godly wife who is waiting sacrificially for him. He has post-adolescent children living the life of the streets, following in daddy’s footsteps. Hank has a home and financial responsibility. Hank does not know from one day to the next how his family will make it and he is powerless from prison to do anything substantial to help anyone out there. But somehow, living out Philippians 4 and James 1, being transformed by the renewing of his mind, Hank has been set free.
22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.33 Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. 34 He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.
35 The next morning the city officials sent the police to tell the jailer, “Let those men go!” 36 So the jailer told Paul, “The city officials have said you and Silas are free to leave. Go in peace.” Acts 16:22-36 (NLT)
What is necessary to understand about this passage is that Paul and Silas were so filled with joy in the best of what God wants and has for them that even when the chains fell off all of the prisoners, no one left the dungeon. They had already been set free from the chains of this life. None of the other prisoners left either. They wanted some of what Paul and Silas had. The jailer didn’t run either in fear for his life when Paul said to him, “Look, we’re all still here…” even though the quake had loosed their chains and jarred all of the doors open. The jailer stuck around as well. He wanted some of what Paul and Silas had. The city officials were moved to then let them all go free. Like Paul and Silas, Hank is filled with joy and already free! I want some of what he’s got whenever I am around him.
Are you still with me?
“Why call Me Lord when you don’t mean it?”
Honestly, what keeps you chained in your recovery journey and Christ-centered life from fully receiving the miracle of the best of the new life experience that God wants and has for you? I was honest about myself earlier in this article. Now it is time for you to be honest with yourself. For me, the matter is full surrender to God’s calling on my life for every hour of every day. If that sounds like a bit much for you, it’s a bit much for me too. But truth is truth.
I haven’t even brought up yet the issue of sin… you know… declaring to God that you love Him but then at times living as though He doesn’t exist; also true of me. Maybe it’s entertaining lusts of the eyes and imagination. Maybe it’s coveting material prosperity. Maybe it’s harboring resentment and jealousy. Maybe it’s living in shame, or loneliness, or living in fear. Maybe it’s being overrun by anxiety and stress. Maybe it’s being selfish with your money. Maybe it’s being selfish with your time; even if you’re always too busy. Maybe it’s holding on to your obsessions and addictions. You likely know even though it might always be clear to you, and certainly God knows.
“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? Luke 6:46
The word ‘lord’ is a word of authority. The name Lord for Christ is a name of trusted authority. I call Jesus Lord all the time. So why don’t I believe and respect, even revere, His lordship all of the time? How is it that I can call Him Lord and then live as though I do not trust in, respect, and certainly revere, His authority, ability, desire, and willingness to bless me to the full with abundant life as promised in John 10:10? Why do I not fully believe in the promise of Ephesians 3:20 that God can and will do infinitely more in my life that I even dare to ask or imagine?
How about you?
If you appear to live like you have measured faith it is because you are divided between what you want and aspire to in the flesh and what you want and aspire to in relationship with Christ. In relationship with Jesus, you are transformed into new life by the renewing of your mind. Paul writes that you in fact live this transformed life having the mind of Christ having received God’s best.
We have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us… We understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:12, 16b (NLT)
I could go on with promise after promise. The issue is, if you are limited to a measure of faith it is because you are divided and unstable in who and what you are in relationship with God. You are divided between the new you in Christ that you see when you look into the mirror and the old you that you remember and cling to when you walk away from it; me too.
What a life it would be
Why it that we struggle so to believe all of it? As long as we hold on to the former life in the flesh by choice, we choose to forfeit so much of God’s best; not only for us, but for our families, loved ones, friends, and so on. That’s right. When we surrender all into the full blessing of abundant life, those we touch in some way are also touched by the blessing. When we choose limited blessing because of divided loyalty limiting faith – confidence – in what we say we believe in, we can limit the blessing to those under our influence.
I’ll put this back onto I-statements. I need to do what the Word of God says and what I know spiritually and intellectually to be true and reasonably sensible for my life; because it is good and right and it is God’s best. Even something as small as a mustard seed that fully believes can move a mountain and experience the full blessing of abundant life. So why measured faith? From revelation of truth comes belief. From belief in truth comes faith. From faith—confidence in what you believe—comes surrender. From surrender comes obedience. Why not let go into total surrender if I believe in the truth of the Word of God? Do I believe enough that I am confident in the promises and assurances in the Bible? Or, is what I believe clouded by entitlement (sin)?
Do you believe enough? Is your faith measured according to what you believe you deserve?
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
Please, let’s pray for each to let go and surrender to the truthful teachings and promises of God’s Word and enter in to the fullness of everything that is God’s best for us. Then He is able to freely work His purpose through us without fighting us like a parent trying to get his child to accept and appreciate something amazing, if the child only believed enough; not only in the creation but in the Creator; not in the gift but in the giver of the gift. What a life it would be.
Click on Measured Faith Recovery Lesson.
(Please watch this amazing video to “Revelation Song”. It’s worth the six minutes.)