Faith Alone

I struggle with the idea of ‘faith alone,’ because it’s hard to believe I don’t have to do anything to earn my salvation but have faith. It seems as if there are an awful lot of rules that can be broken that would eliminate me as a candidate for righteousness.

The book of James in particular has troubled me. For example:

James 1:22: ‘But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.’

So, we have to be doers? What about Ephesians 2:7-8?

‘For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—’

I think I found something that makes sense to me in Jeremiah:

‘This is what the LORD says: Look, I am presenting to you the way of life and the way of death. 9 Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and plague, but whoever goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will live and will retain his life like the spoils of war’

First, God here presents to this people the way of death and life. He is exceedingly fair. He shows them their choices: death or life.

How do you know the believers? They are the ones out of the city. I think it’s like like having fruit. Jesus says, “16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:16. Good fruit grows when the tree is well tended by the farmer. The idea of faith alone is one that giants in the faith wrestle with, and I know I do, but sometimes a simple illustration helps me to understand it a little better.

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Je 21:8–9). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Eph 2:7–8). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Jas 1:22). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Faith Alone

Words Are Important

I could read at a young age and I have always loved reading. I think reading benefited me in a few ways, and perhaps cursed me as well.

For me, words can be quite precise. I often search for a word with the nuance that will commute the meaning to others exactly the way I intend them to be interpreted.

When I want to say something positive, I try to convey my thoughts in the exact, effusive way I intend them. I want my erudition to mean something.

When I want to say something negative, I try to dispatch said information in several ways. First, if correcting someone’s sciolism, I try to be propitious. I don’t want to pain someone who is sincere. I evaluate their audacity to the best of my potentiality.

And finally, malevolent comments, I handle them one of four ways. First, I can respond in kind. Second, I can respond in a remonstrance fashion. Third, I can use euphemism to diffuse the situation. Finally, I can be passive aggressive.

I have to identify my motives and do the right thing.

Words Are Important

Shyness

I was watching a program today and a woman said ‘shyness is not one of her problems.’ That made me think. It is very true that people do not want to be shy. I think it’s harder to get a job when you are shy.  I think it’s harder to get a mate. I think it’s harder to make friends. So yes, there are a lot of problems with being shy.

There hasn’t been a time when I felt I wasn’t shy, but there are times when I didn’t feel it was a liability. When I first got sober, within a year I had a lot of friends, I was comfortable in groups, and I was able to not just speak in AA meetings, but actually share.

I was able to find jobs, but there was always a mention of my shyness. It was worse than normal, as evidenced by my boss introducing himself and me at the same time we were going around the  rooms with introductions. I was glad he did it.

Right now I embrace my shyness. I have even spoken up and said to people right up front that I’m socially awkward. I don’t like being shy, but I don’t have to be ashamed of it. It actually feels kind of good that I don’t have to fight to be someone I’m not.

Lots of alcoholics have social anxiety. You know, the type to drink to be comfortable in social situations. There is a percentage of time in AA spent talking about how to manage social situations where there is drinking.

I’m  not alone!

Shyness

Laws and Rules

For most of my life, I tried to keep God’s law. I think everybody wants to avoid doing bad things. Most everybody.

I have known for a long time that as a human, I sin. I also knew that I cannot save myself. So I did trust in the work of Christ to save me, but I lived sin to sin.

In the past 2 years, I have come to a deeper understanding, that Christ already paid for my sins. I don’t have to live sin to sin. Every day I can walk deeper and deeper into Christ’s love.

I have everything I need to live a righteous life. There was a whole world of information God gave us in the life of Christ. I have always focused on the Cross, and that is important, but also important is the life of Christ which is a testament to how to live a good life.

I want to tap into this life now more than ever.

In Psalm 119:19 it says:

I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide Your commands from me.

This psalmist recognizes that God’s laws are good things and beneficial in living a meaningful life.

I do want to live a meaningful life.

Laws and Rules

Seeking (2)

So, at this point, a person understands that it’s important to incorporate a Higher Power into their spirit and mind. But they do not believe and they don’t see how it is possible to believe.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous has a whole chapter related to this. ‘We Agnostics‘ is the fifth chapter. The link here is for the .pdf version of text.

Essentially, one must recognize that perhaps half of our membership had difficulty with the spiritual part of the program. I believe the problem is that a) the person doesn’t want to change, b) they have an authority issue. Either way, a person has to get to the point where they will do anything to stay sober.

The Big Book puts it like this: We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power, which is God.

Some refer it as ‘becoming willing to be willing.’

So you have willingness. At this point, say a prayer. It can go like this: ‘God, I do not know if you exist. I want to stop drinking (or using), and I am unable. I need a power to help me. Please reveal yourself to me.’ Pray this every day. Go to meetings and share. Don’t drink and go to a meeting every day.

It might be difficult, and you might struggle with your belief. Make a decision to believe regardless of how you feel. Many times in my Christian walk, I have prayed ‘God I don’t have any feeling that you are there, I’m hopeless and I am choosing to believe you are there and you want good things for me.’

People claim they have no faith. According to the Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life, think about the ways in which you exercise faith every day. You have faith the sun will rise. You have faith that there will be water in your home. You have faith that your tires will work, that your bank will be open, and that the mail will come. Sometimes these things don’t happen, but they happen often enough that you do not say ‘The mail didn’t come! I don’t believe it will ever come again!’ Think of that when  you have a spiritual crisis and don’t ‘feel’ God’s presence.

Imagine if you went to bed and you didn’t believe the bed frame would hold you even though it always had and nothing had occurred to make you think it wouldn’t. So you get in bed and you worry that it will fall. You lay there bracing yourself against it falling. You don’t get a good night’s sleep.

Now imagine your relationship with God. You start to worry he doesn’t exist. You start to collect data to maintain your lack of belief. You stop seeking Him because it’s pointless. What can He do?

So, it’s the willingness to seek him. In the New Testament of the Bible, Mark 9:17-24, There is a brilliant story of a man grappling with belief.

17 Out of the crowd, one man answered Him, “Teacher, x I brought my son to You. He has a spirit y that makes him unable to speak. z 18 Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”
19 He replied to them, “You unbelieving a generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 So they brought him to Him. When the spirit saw Him, it immediately convulsed the boy. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asked his father.
“From childhood,” he said. 22 “And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy b him.
But if You can do anything, have compassion c on us and help us.”
23 Then Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can’? d e Everything is possible f to the one who believes.” g
24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”

That is ME! It is probably every believer. There is the willingness, the acknowledgment that we need God, and the request for God’s help in believing.

The willingness is key.

Seeking (2)

Looking for God

‘God could and would if he were sought.’

The words that conclude every reading of ‘How it Works’ at the beginning of AA meetings around the world. The assertion that we need a god, that he alone can heal our alcoholism. And that God could and would if he were sought.

The Higher Power gig is difficult for many people. What I have found is that the refusal or inability to rely on a power greater than oneself is the greatest stumbling block to sobriety.

As a Christian, I know to the core that God will help relieve my alcoholism if I seek Him. I haven’t always believed that He wanted to.

The thing is, while people do stumble on the higher power aspect of sobriety, it doesn’t say that you have to believe or that you have to find the right one. It doesn’t say you need to be perfect or good. What it says is that God can and will if we seek Him.

The journey is all about seeking him. People who aren’t willing to do the seeking, they won’t find God and God can’t help them. It is just the seeking. The honest effort.

Bottom line. People who don’t want to give an honest effort don’t want to be sober.

My next post will be about seeking.

Looking for God

Furlough

I created a nice post today on Agnosticism, and I accidentally deleted it. I have work to do, so I will have to work on it tomorrow. It’s a really cool post, you won’t want to miss it.

In the meantime, my friends in Brazil and the United States who loyally follow me, thank you for reading my posts.

Furlough