A Stubborn Intolerance for Joyless Christianity
by Alex Crain, crosswalk.com
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” – Habakkuk 3:17
Should one’s relationship with the infinite and personal living God be joyless? Francis Schaeffer didn’t think so. Yet there he was, a joyless man. Technically, he was theologically sound, but there was no denying that he had become a completely joyless Christian man. If that had continued, no one would be speaking of Schaeffer or his writings, or his legacy today. Thankfully, he was stubbornly intolerant of joyless Christianity.
In True Spirituality, Schaeffer tells how the spiritual reality, which would become the hallmark of his life, came about only after a time of great personal crisis. It was 1952. Schaeffer had become a Christian from agnosticism years before. After that, he had been a pastor for ten years in the U.S. and was now a missionary in Switzerland living with his wife and young children. Over a period lasting several months, Francis worked through the disturbing gap that he saw between the large amount of Bible data he claimed to believe and the lack of genuine spiritual joy in his life.
One significant and challenging question that caused Francis to ponder long and hard is recounted by his wife, Edith, in her book, The Tapestry, p. 356 ff.)…/p>
“I wonder what would happen to most of our churches and Christian work if we woke up tomorrow morning and everything concerning the reality and work of the Holy Spirit, and everything concerning prayer were removed from the Bible? I don’t mean just ignored, but actually cut out—disappeared. I wonder how much difference it would make?”
Apparently, during that period, it was making no difference in Schaeffer’s life. His doubts had cut the nerve of faith. And over those months as he walked in the mountains, Francis re-thought the doctrines of the Bible, the reality of the Holy Spirit, and each of his reasons for being a Christian.
At last, he declared…
“Gradually the sun came out and the song came… I saw again that there were totally sufficient reasons to know that the infinite-personal God does exist and that Christianity is true.
“In going further, I saw something else which made a profound difference in my life. I searched through what the Bible said concerning reality as a Christian. Gradually, I saw that the problem was that with all the teaching I had received after I was a Christian, I had heard little about what the Bible says about the meaning of the finished work of Christ for our present lives.
“Interestingly enough, although I had written no poetry for many years, in that time of joy and song I found poetry beginning to flow again—poetry of certainty, an affirmation of life, thanksgiving, and praise. Admittedly, as poetry it is very poor, but it expressed a song in my heart which was wonderful to me.” (from True Spirituality, p. 196 in The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, vol. 3 © 1982 Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois).
That time of crisis—and more importantly, his rediscovery of the meaning of the finished work of Christ for his present life—settled the crucial issue of spiritual reality for Schaeffer. Francis saw and believed that the finished work of Christ really is the source of the Christian’s life. Rather than pursue the trappings of Christian leadership while personally being a joyless Christian, he determined to wait for a greater reality of knowing God. With such a solid spiritual basis for his own life, he went on to become a great source of help for countless others.
Through The Bible Devotions
Joshua 21:44-45 (NIV) 44The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. 45Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
In the eyes of the people God had provided everything He had promised. He had given them rest from their enemies. He fought for them and gave them victory. Is it any different for us today? Will the LORD fight your battles for you and keep all His promises to you? Absolutely! You can count on it. It may not always be in the way you imagine or be easy. Battles are good for us.
In the history of Israel, this period seems to be their most faithful period. These years of battles and victories seem to have the least amount of compromise and murmuring. Does that tell us anything? We wonder why life seems to be so full of struggle. Perhaps we would be worse off if we had no battles before us to keep us on our knees, asking for God’s help.
We often wonder if we will ever see the end of conflict, a time when the battles are over, and we can rest. Yes, it is coming. The LORD will give us rest, but not in this life. Oh, you will have breaks between battles, but we need the battles to grow and move forward. We need to keep taking the land as long as we are here. When there was no outer enemy to fight, Israel’s history showed that they turned inward and lost the battles with idolatry and discontentment. Thank God for battles. Keep taking the land. In God’s time you will have rest.
Prayer: Lord, help me appreciate the battles, knowing they are for my eternal good.
Christ’s people—imitators of him
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13
Suggested Further Reading: Ephesians 4:11-16
I will ever maintain—that by grace we are saved, and not by ourselves; but equally must I testify, that where the grace of God is, it will produce fitting deeds. To these I am ever bound to exhort you, while you are ever expected to have good works for necessary purposes. Again, I do not, when I say that a believer should be a striking likeness of Jesus, suppose that any one Christian will perfectly exhibit all the features of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; yet my brethren, the fact that perfection is beyond our reach, should not diminish the ardour of our desire after it. The artist, when he paints, knows right well that he shall not be able to excel Apelles; but that does not discourage him; he uses his brush with all the greater pains, that he may at least in some humble measure resemble the great master. So the sculptor; though persuaded that he will not rival Praxiteles, will hew out the marble still, and seek to be as near the model as possible. Just so the Christian man; though he feels he never can mount to the height of complete excellence, and perceives that he never can on earth become the exact image of Christ, still holds it up before him, and measures his own deficiencies by the distance between himself and Jesus. This will he do, forgetting all he has attained, he will press forward, crying, Excelsior! Going upwards still, desiring to be conformed more and more to the image of Christ Jesus.
For meditation: Christians are fellow-pupils in the masterclass of the supreme Master (John 13:12-15).