Help! I'm Struggling to Come to Faith.
The following is a reply to one who wrote a long letter detailing the struggle in coming to genuine faith in Christ and salvation rest.
Greetings in the wonderful name of Jesus! Wow! Thanks for writing and sharing your experiences and thoughts in such detail. Like you, I hardly know where to begin, but I believe I should begin by saying that you should be greatly encouraged. It is very evident to me that God has been working patiently in you for a long time and that He has given you an understanding of many things that few understand. That is not a cause for pride but rather for gratitude and hope.
In several places you recount things the Lord has said to you at various times (in spite of the fact that you are not sure it was the Lord). It was. Early in your letter you quote the Lord as saying, “I know I am not all you need, but one day I will be all that you need. But you can’t get yourself there, only I can do it in you.” That’s exactly right and you ought to remind Him of His promise – and thank Him daily for doing what He has promised.
Towards the end of your letter you summarized what you believe the Lord is saying. I won’t quote it all but I believe it is exactly what He is saying and that you ought to believe it!
You use the word “struggle” frequently. In the first place not everyone’s experience is the same. We are all different and God works according to our need and His purpose. It might encourage you to know that John Bunyan, author of the great classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, went through a terrible protracted struggle in coming to faith. What he gained as a result of that struggle is everywhere evident in his writings and ministry later on.
It seems obvious to me that much of your struggle is being orchestrated by Satan who is understandably terrified at the truth God has revealed to your heart. He is throwing up every hindrance he can muster to prevent your laying hold of the hope God has set before you.
One hindrance involves the multitude of religious “voices” you are subjecting yourself to. As the Lord told you long ago, not everything that appears to of Him actually is. Believe it! I’m not in a position to issue a blanket condemnation of _______ (surely there is something on it that is good) but the few times I’ve had opportunity to watch (usually on overseas trips) it has been obvious to me that much of it is religious “garbage.” As you point out several times, the message and emphasis is often very different from what the Lord has revealed to you in various ways. Why is that? Surely these voices are not all from God! God is not the author of confusion. If He isn’t then who is? Shouldn’t we go by the Word of God and recognize that the source of much in Christendom today is really demonic? Yet it is allowed to influence you and side-track you from what God would make real. Wouldn’t it be better to stop listening to so many voices and stick with the Word of God, thanking the Author for revealing it to you and working it in you?
Another recurring theme in your letter is your addiction to self-effort. You know you can’t, but you can’t stop trying. You’re afraid to stop trying, but also afraid that you will “let God down.” Guess what! You and I will always fall short through self effort. You’re trying live in Romans 7. Self-effort is rooted in unbelief, pride, and self-righteousness. You are no different from every other sinner. In ourselves we are all unworthy, helpless, guilty, and in need of mercy. But that is exactly what God offers!
Yet Satan keeps you on this “treadmill” through the fear of what will happen if you “stop trying,” as though acceptance by God depends somehow on your efforts and if you stop trying and then fail God will reject you. Satan knows that this is the very reason we need a Savior in the first place! Your addiction to self effort is fueled by reasonings such as you express. You need to go to the Word and use it to answer the devil.
Isn’t that what Jesus did in His temptation? Even the Son of God didn’t attempt to debate or reason with the devil. He simply gave Him the Word. Satan can always come up with some kind of rationale to prop up his lies but he has no answer for a simple stand on what God has said. The truth is that when we don’t do that – and none of us does it perfectly all the time – aren’t we really saying that maybe God is a liar after all and that His Word isn’t reliable? We’re left caught in the middle, trying to evaluate what God says, what the devil says, and trying to come to a conclusion through our own powers of reason. Not a good place to be! Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matt. 24:35.
Closely related to this is that Satan works to keep you on the treadmill of “analysis.” Perhaps you have heard the expression, “paralysis through analysis”? It simply means that because we can’t understand everything, we are afraid to do anything! Did not Jesus say, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it”? Mark 10:15. There will always be things you cannot fully explain but must leave in God’s hands. That is trust, the kind of trust a small child has in a loving parent.
The idea of trusting God is an area Satan has concentrated on – as he once did with Eve. He paints God as untrustworthy and plies us with the ridiculous fantasy that by not trusting God we can somehow remain “in control”! Get real! Since when have you and I ever been “in control”?! So he has you caught between the fantasy of control and the fear of what might be.
And he has succeeded as he did with Eve in getting you to question God’s character. What does God have to do to prove Himself? He sent His Son to die for us – in spite of the fact that we were hopeless sinners, utterly undeserving. He gave up His Son for you; can you not give your children to Him? You can’t guarantee them anything in this world, let alone the next. And His concern for them is focused not just on this present world but ultimately on eternity. What better hands could your children be in?
God has not given us a spirit of fear – but there is one influencing you to doubt God. Why do you not steadfastly stand on the Word of God in the face of such a damnable lie? Are you not believing Satan – a liar and murderer – more than God? I do not say this to condemn but to shine a light on the enemy of your soul.
You refer to entering into rest and that is exactly what Jesus offers. Matthew 11:28-30. In Hebrews 4:10-11 we read, “… anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest….” That sounds like a contradiction but it isn’t. The work from which we are to cease is our own effort to make ourselves acceptable to God. The effort to enter that rest refers to overcoming the obstacles that would hinder us from resting from our own work. That means recognizing these tactics of Satan’s and resisting him with the Word of God. It is a battle of truth verses lies. Which will you trust? Where will you stand?
Another area of hindrance I see in your letter is in the area of what you are expecting. It’s almost as if real Christians are beyond faults and difficulties. Therefore as you focus inward and observe needs the devil is always in a position to say, “IF you were a Christian it wouldn’t be this way.” And so coming to a place of rest is always somewhere “out there,” some other time and place, etc. We can be so self-critical and analytical that we never really come to faith. When that happens we are looking in the wrong direction! As long as you are in the flesh you will always see faults when you look inward. It is not that we are dishonest and unaware of need but our focus needs to be on Christ who came to save sinners. If you are looking any other direction then, like Peter when he tried to walk on the water, you will sink. Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus reached out to rescue him!
Another thing Satan is holding over you is the fear of past sins. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid to be what you are, a sinner? Are you afraid that the blood of Jesus won’t be quite enough to cover your sins? Is it pride, not wanting to face the depth of your own need? Are you afraid of what those you have hurt will think of you? What? Satan has you in “jail” over this, terrified because he knows better. He knows perfectly well that there is freedom from the past in Jesus, that His blood can make the vilest sinner clean! Satan will invoke fear and pride regarding making things right with those you have hurt, because he knows that if you trust God – however those involved react – you will be free!
Take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and fight through these obstacles. The God who has helped you thus far won’t abandon His promises to you. He will help you. In Matt. 11:12 Jesus said of the kingdom of God, “forceful men lay hold of it.” That includes women! Let the opposition of Satan encourage you. He is afraid. He knows the power of the gospel. Don’t let Satan define what it is you expect to “happen.” Take it a day, an issue at a time. Stand on the Word. Like a child entrust each issue as it comes to your Heavenly Father – and THANK Him. (And don’t let the devil argue that He isn’t your Heavenly Father because you don’t measure up, etc.) Let God do the saving, a day at a time.
Always answer the objections and reasonings of the devil with the Word. What else do you have to stand on, your own powers of reason? When the devil tries to tell you that you have no right to expect anything from God remind him of the woman who said to Jesus, “Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” Quit trying to deserve what you get from God. Rely instead upon the cross and the One who died there. He paid the price in full for everything God offers.
Don’t fall for the lie, “God wants me different.” God wants you as you are. It is His job to change you – and that doesn’t happen all at once.
I guess I could go on but those are essentially the thoughts that came to me. As I said at the beginning you should be greatly encouraged that God has so patiently worked in your heart and mind – and that the devil has fought all this so hard. Don’t be afraid to let go. He is faithful.
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