The Key to Managing Life’s Uncertainty
Many are anxious and fearful as they watch the news today. Stories of bombings and mass murder, as well as the moral, economic, and spiritual decline of the United States, combine to create a mood of foreboding and uncertainty. Of course, this news should be disturbing as it reveals the hardships and heartaches many live with each day.
However, as Christians we can have an alternative perspective. You see, God is at work, even in the chaos, and is building His kingdom. The direction of our society should not shake the foundation of our life because our life is built on a rock that will never be shaken. This is why Christians throughout the centuries, and those who are persecuted today, can live a life of joy, purpose, and significance.
But how can we go about doing that? Learning more about God and the Bible is vital, but in many cases Christians who attend church, even casually, know a lot of information about God. They just haven’t integrated their head knowledge into everyday life. “I know God is sovereign, but so what? How does this make a difference in how I live my life day by day?”
We all come “into the faith” with a unique history formed by our upbringing, the culture, society, and church traditions. An institutional faith is one that comes from the religious group we grew up with, which may include parents, or the group we joined after accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. It is how we start our spiritual journey and relationship with Christ. This faith is often mixed with the denominational and cultural preferences of the group that we join after our conversion experience.
Think through the typical spiritual experience of a new Christian. They come to know Christ as their Savior through a life-transforming process which the Bible calls being “born again.” They meet a real Savior and start a real relationship with Him.
Next, they begin to attend church, Bible study, Sunday School, small group, or whatever the method the church they attend uses to promote Christian fellowship and impart knowledge about God, the Bible, and how to walk the Christian life. Part of this church experience and spiritual teaching includes denominational distinctions, church traditions (“this is how we do things here”), and cultural adaptations of Christianity. Think of how church services look based on the ethnicity of the majority group or pastor, the geographic location of the church, etc. This isn’t to say there is something wrong with this discipleship model. It is needed, especially for the new believer. The weakness is that this is where most Christian faith ends.
Post-conversion education needs to begin with imparting information, but it must move beyond this if a relationship with God will be fully developed. There must be an intentional process put into place that allows truth to be lived, of being in relation to God and others.
“Instead of doctrine, creeds, or traditions being the repository of truth themselves, they become a guide or channel through which faith is practiced and owned.”
Although this intentional process can occur through different approaches, one that I’ve found works well is the process found in The Seven Most Important Questions You’ll Ever Answer by Daniel Henderson. The first question that is addressed is, “Who is God?” Psalm 9:10 states, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.” Did you notice the phrase, “those who know your name“? This knowledge is not only head knowledge but is also based on how you experience God in daily life.
Hannah Whitall Smith beautifully illustrates this concept in her book, The God of All Comfort. She writes, “We are, let us suppose, overwhelmed with cares and anxieties. It often happens in this world. To comfort us in these circumstances the Lord assures us that we need not be anxious about anything, but may commit all our cares to Him, for He cares for us. And yet how few people are really comforted by it? And why is this? Simply because they do not believe it. They are looking for an inward feeling that His words are true before they will believe them.”
One way to develop this type of belief is by looking for how God has helped you in the past. Consider the many names of God associated with the name Jehovah. Names such as:
- Jireh = Provider
- Rapha = Healer
- Nissi = Banner
- Rohi = Shepherd
- Shalom = Peace
- Tsidkenu = Righteousness
Each of these names illustrate a different facet of God’s character and how He revealed Himself in Scripture. And He is still doing so today for you and me.
Exercises for Making it Real
Here are some practical ideas to help you begin personalizing your faith, and moving from head knowledge to heart knowledge. First, look back over the timeline of your life. Where did God clearly intersect with you and what did God reveal about His character? Write out the situation. Next, ponder what God taught you in that situation. What character quality, attribute, or name of God did you experience? As you create your list, begin your prayer time based on exalting God for these names. This creates an environment of promise-centered prayer vs. problem-centered prayer.
A second personalizing exercise suggested by Daniel in the Seven Questions book is to create two columns and list the “great moments” where God showed up in your life on one side and the struggles you deal with regularly on the other side. After you have several things listed in each column, look for ways to connect what God revealed about Himself in your great moments to the daily struggles. For example, if God provided supernaturally for a past need in your life, and you are daily struggling with your source of provision, than connect the name Jehovah-Jireh to this struggle.
Doing these exercises will create opportunities to really know God and grow your faith. It also creates opportunities to experience joy and peace in your life no matter the circumstance. You will be able to truly “count it all joy when you fall into various trials,” because these will be opportunities to grow in trust and knowledge of God.
If you have any comments or feedback I’d love to hear from you. The focus of my coaching is to help Christians live a life of purpose, passion, and significance. Please email me and let me know if this has helped you so we can rejoice together!
Copyright © 2013 Michael Pfau. All rights reserved.
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Michael Pfau, M.Ed., PCC is the owner of Crossways Life Coaching, LLC, adjunct professor for Assemblies Of God Theological Seminary, and faculty member of the Professional Christian Coaching Institute. He is a professional life coach who helps people live the second half of life with purpose, passion, and significance. Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 484-461-6403. You can discover more about him and check out resources to help you at www.crosswayslifecoaching.com.