When I was 21, I was first exposed to faith teaching, and I liked what I heard. I had been seeking God for several years and had found real treasure in the Holy Spirit, but teaching faith helped me put ideas into place in a way that made sense of my many questions. He systematized the faith, giving me a structure that I enjoyed at the time, but later came to imprison me.
I learned a lot from the Faith Movement which I still care about today. More than any other denomination I have been a part of, they believe that God is truly good, rejecting the cruel notion that God sends hardship, disease, or tragedy to teach us a lesson. It was important for me to hear this, because it freed me from the heavy notions of the Lord that had plagued my childhood and young adulthood, and for what it’s worth, I still hold to this principle of the teaching. of faith today. James 1:16-17,
“Make no mistake, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, descending from the Father of celestial lights, which does not change like changing shadows.
It is a great comfort to me that God does not change like changing shadows, to know that he will always seek to make my life better, as I walk closely with him. His love is as trustworthy and supportive as that of any good parent, but more so.
The teaching of faith also helped me to better understand Jesus. My childhood church told me that God sickens us to teach us lessons, but teaching faith made me take another look at Jesus to test that notion. Guess what I found? Jesus never sent anyone away who came to him for healing. He also didn’t heal one person and curse the next with a health problem, telling them that God wanted to use him to teach them.
Jesus never sickened a single person, never refused to heal, and the many healings He performed came from a place of compassion. Faith teaching helped me understand for the first time that God is not just an occasional healer – he is the Healer. The healing of our souls and bodies is fundamental to who God is and to humanity’s relationship with him for eternity. In the end, we will all stand whole before him.
I firmly believe that grasping the nature of God is crucial for spiritual well-being and a healthy, active faith, and despite the damage teaching faith has caused me, I have never changed my mind about God’s desire to heal each of us in every part. When I turn my face to him in adoration, I approach my healer, protector, liberator and comforter. I am safe in his presence, and knowing it allows me to surrender myself more completely, in surrender and trust.
So what was wrong?
There is a subtle poison in the teaching of faith – it makes us gods. The teaching I had heard told me that I was responsible for exercising my faith and leading the world around me to obey the word of God. For example, I was living on a boat at the time, traveling from port to port in Southeast Asia, where I worked as a missionary. On my first trip (from Hong Kong to Taiwan) the seas got choppy and I got seasick. the mercy of the elemental forces. Then I remembered that Jesus calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and that “even the wind and the waves obey him”. It was an easy and seemingly logical step for me to apply the teaching I had heard and begin to do the same, commanding the seas to calm.
From that day on, things changed. In the first moments of every voyage, I would go to the bow of the ship and command the wind and the waves to calm down. The teaching of faith tells us that faith is ours to use to bring the Kingdom of God to bear, which has made control of the ocean my responsibility. If I did not command the wind and the waves, exercising my God-given authority as a child of the Almighty and a disciple of Jesus, I could not expect the elements to obey. Everything was on me.
This extended to all areas of life. Suddenly I was responsible for everything, which seemed challenging at first, but became an increasingly painful burden that I found difficult to bear.
One night I had trouble sleeping. I had delivered an exciting and well-received sermon at a church in Port Moresby, and had returned to the ship moments before the military curfew was in place. I was excited and couldn’t help but relive the most memorable moments of the night. I tried to calm myself down but my mind wasn’t responding. I tried to command myself to calm down, using spiritual authority, which only made things worse. Every time I started to drift, my brain revved its motor and I was wide awake, my thoughts spinning. It was torture and I got scared.
Morning came and I was in a state. I felt like I was on the verge of madness. I rushed to lunch and grabbed a friend, saying I desperately needed his help. She gave up her morning meal and we sequestered ourselves in a private place, where we began to pray. I begged the Lord to help me, terrified of losing my mind.
The Lord has spoken. I will never forget him. In words that were as close to an audible voice as I have ever heard during prayer, he said this:
I WILL FREE YOU FROM THE TEACHING OF THE FAITH!
I could hear/feel the fury in his voice, and he practically spat out the word ‘faith’. There was no doubt in my mind. I knew my Lord and had to accept at that time that my idea of faith was a counterfeit. But how much? I could not separate the commandment of the wind and the waves from other aspects of my spiritual practice – preaching, teaching, evangelism, worship, prophetic ministry, personal prayer, Bible study, community prayer, discipleship. Everything was tainted, compromised by the toxicity of the teaching of the faith, and I was in no condition to untie the knot.
I dropped – everything. I surrendered to God, letting go of all my efforts and consciously rejecting the version of faith I had clung to. The tension left me. I retreated from the brink of madness, safe from harm, but I was bruised and broken, and barely able to function.
Long story short, it took weeks to come out of recovery and years to fully recover from the damage I had inflicted on my own mind. My faith needed to be disjointed and simplified, back to childlike adoration and trust.
I found my Lord. The movement of faith had placed on my shoulders all the responsibility for my apostolate and my effectiveness, which deprived me of the light and easy burden that Jesus had promised. This had blocked my view of the Good Shepherd – why do we need guidance, if all the responsibility for personal discipleship lies with us? It had removed the Holy Spirit from its rightful place – why did I need guidance, if I already knew what to do?
By letting go of my grip on teaching the faith, I was able to cling to God with both hands. I learned to let the Spirit lead me once again. If he told me to stop, I stopped. If he told me to go, I went, but at no time did everything depend on me. I had a Lord, a Shepherd, a Father, a Guide. I was again a disciple of Jesus.
Trying to live a life of faith without the gentle guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit is wrong. None of us are responsible for anything other than what he leads us to, and we do those things in his strength. Even Jesus relied on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in his ministry. John 5:19,
“Truly I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, for whatever the Father does, the Son also does”.
We are not responsible, even for ourselves. We are meant to walk closely with the Holy Spirit, yielding to his love and following his direction. Each of us is called to do our part, without taking on the burdens and calls of others. In my experience, one of the keys to finding peace is finding out what that part is and embracing it. When we live like this, we walk in the strength and company of God, and life can be truly wonderful. Matthew 11:28-30,
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
Lord, let us lead an organic, spirit-led life. Help us discover our individual vocation and hear your voice more clearly day by day. Help us find our place in the Body of Christ and fulfill the roles for which we were created. Free us from the burdens of false faith, as we keep our eyes on Jesus. Amen.