Sunday, February 9, 2014

For You, but Not for Me?

My Bible study friends and I were sitting down and doing a spiritual gifts survey last Thursday. It involved a self-grading (and long) series of questions that asked us to answer on a scale of 1 ("almost never true") to 5 ("almost always true") for how well a statement applied to us.

An example: "1. When I hear evangelistic messages, I pray for people who don't know Christ", with that question and several others intended to evaluate whether you might possess the gift of evangelism. In case you're wondering, I put down a 4 here.

So we were running through the list of questions, occasionally dropping wry comments about how we were not good at certain gifts. Don't ask me to administrate anything; I jotted down a 1 every time I saw the word "organize". We had a great and encouraging time - "oh, yeah, it makes sense that you might have that gift!" "Wow, my results sure changed from the last time I took this."

But as I progressed through the list, I felt ambushed by the Holy Spirit on something that the survey might or might not have intended to point out. I read these questions in quick succession:
9. "For me, it's easy to trust God for the impossible."

10. "I frequently find myself encouraging the troubled, comforting the distressed, and reassuring the wavering."
For question ten, I put down a five. But for the one for before it, after thinking long and honestly for about a minute, I put down a three.

On the next page, it happened again:
41. "I commit difficulties obstacles to God in prayer and am not anxious about His answering those prayers."

57. "I regularly attempt to motivate others to believe God in difficult or impossible situations."
For question fifty-seven, I again put down a five without needing to think. But question forty-one, this time I could only manage a two.

When it's other people's faith we're talking about, it's a slam dunk. I find it so easy to believe in God's goodness, his power, and his ability to come through - as long as it's in others' lives and the challenges they're facing there. I could go on all day about how God is the perfect object of faith for them. I've got awesome confidence in that.

But when I find myself asking whether I believe the same things for my own life? Pretty shaky. I'm lucky to get a three.

Sure enough, when I reached the self-grading end of the survey, the spiritual gift of exhortation - encouraging others' faith and spirit - was tied for my highest. But on faith, which I interpreted as God carrying out his promises in my own life? I'm sad to say that with the exception of administration, I scored second lowest on faith.

What an eye-opener.

And I know I'm not alone in this. Why is it always simpler to believe in God's presence and faithfulness towards others than for our own? It's a condition that can so easily sneak into our consciousness.

I could just say "Well, I need to cultivate that spiritual gift more" and that's probably true. It's only a survey. And it's easier to believe the truth when you don't have as much at stake, as is the case when you're trying to help your friends. Can't see the forest for the trees and all that.

But I can't ignore the truth of those particular contrasting questions. Maybe it's also because I know my story. I've seen a lot of moments where, for whatever reason, I have failed or fallen short or lost out. I know of a lot more such moments in my life than in others', whose story I've seen only a glimpse. We know our landscape of faith, countless little moments, better than anyone else could.

I don't know where God was in those times, but I know how the enemy wants to spin it. "You can't trust him. He's not going to come through, just like last time." It seems so much more real and immediate when it's my life on the line.

Thanks to a spiritual gift survey last Thursday, I'm reminded yet again of this lie in my life.
"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32
If it applies to others, it applies in equal measure to me. All the enthusiasm that you hold for God's power in the lives of those around you? That's for you as well. Jesus died and was resurrected to give you the same life he gave others, the same status as favored children in his kingdom that he gave to others. It's a fact.

Imagine if we could have the same confidence for ourselves that we have for others.

Thank you, Jesus, for your love and your faithfulness. Help me with my unbelief. I long to have the same confidence in you for my own life that I have for others. Calm my troubled waters. Give me your peace. I confess and accept your life, your resurrection, and your riches for me. In Jesus' name, amen.

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