Spiritual Rumination by Julia Phillips

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” 2 Chronicles 20:12

“Before the coming of this faith we were held in custody…locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.” Galatians 3:23

At times it is difficult to comprehend that the men and women we read about in the Word of God were no different than you and I. They are all in one way or another our distant ancestors and lived with many of the same joys and troubles we experience this very day. There is one thing I believe we can know is true — all of us want to please God, and all want our lives to make a difference, to count. I was discussing this with someone recently. She made a comment that stayed with me, the well-known verse, “Faith without works is dead.” I have been ruminating on it ever since.

There is a cry in every believer to be fruitful. It is rooted deep within our souls. We want our lives to matter and to count. We want to know that what we do each day is worthwhile, is making a difference, and that we are fulfilling our God-ordained reason for being alive. 

Paul spoke of this in the Book of Philippians verse 3:10-14 when he said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended for in Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” 

A person would have to be blind; literally, emotionally, and figuratively; to not see how much our country and its citizens are suffering from an identity crisis at this time. Our culture has been arrested by “self,” rather than being made in the image of and serving the Lord God Almighty. Generation against generation, race against race. Even families warring within and without. I may only be in my 60s, but I have watched the subtle changes from the 1950s up to the present. The changes are no longer merely subtle, they are accelerated and unchallenged by mainstream society. And when that happens, people define themselves separate from the Creator, thus denying themselves the grace of knowing who they truly were created to be. 

We were created for good works. Therefore, each of us craves being effective in whatever we are tasked with doing. It is built into us. Good works are about fulfilling those things that God prepared beforehand, which we are to walk in. All of it flows from our being His workmanship, which is the Greek word “poiema,” meaning “a product; a thing created; created for a purpose.” It is where we get our word “poem.” We are a lifelong creative work, and it is also our calling to pass it on. 

A poem usually reveals the nature of the writer, the artist. I think it is interesting that this verse from Ephesians speaks of us having “been” created in Christ Jesus for these good works. Created is in the past tense. Each of us as Christians are here to accomplish what has already been preordained for us. No Christian entered life on earth without reason or purpose. “Who God foreknew; He also did predestinate.” Romans 8:29. He knew you would love and follow Jesus Christ. You entered the earth with a divine purpose and heavenly agenda. This requires faith and trust and is not always accepted with open arms from those around you.

First Samuel 17:26-29 tells us the story of David, along with what he suffered while wanting to obey that creative poem and purpose instilled in him before birth.

“Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” And the people answered him in this manner, saying, “So shall it be done for the man who kills him.” Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, his own brother, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” And David said, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?”

I want you to read these verses again, slowly. God had placed a purpose, a calling, a poem deep within David’s heart and soul — just as He has in yours. And the battle started long before he looked face to face at Goliath. His oldest brother was so angry he began to spew hateful words at David. He ridiculed David. He humiliated him right in front of his brothers, the troops, and the king himself. He basically tried to embarrass him by saying, “All you had to do was take care of a few measly sheep and you left your post. We can’t even rely on you for that! Who do you think you are? All you want is a front seat to the battle. Get back home where father wants you. We don’t have time to give your pride an audience!”

In a modern-day scenario, most people would stop right there and say, “Did I just make a big mistake? Should I just leave this to everyone else? Maybe I should have just stayed where I was, doing what I was supposed to be doing. I’m probably not the right person. Why doesn’t anyone else see I am supposed to be here? Maybe God has everything the way He wants it. People will always speak evil of Jesus. Maybe my oldest brother was probably right. There are some things that are just too big to challenge. It will all change — but not until Jesus comes again for His Church.” 

But one phrase sticks out above the others. David cries, “Is there not a cause?” This word “cause” is the Hebrew word “dabar.” One of its definitions is translated, “Is there not a word? Don’t we have a word from God on this matter? Why are you just standing there afraid, doing nothing? Let’s arise and move at God’s Word!” Goliath was challenging God’s Word. The following verses state Goliath was defying the armies of Israel. This word “defying” is a Hebrew word which translates “to pull off by stripping.” Goliath was trying to strip Israel of their faith and identity, causing them their own identity crisis. David’s call and purpose was to stand up, resist the enemy, and face the giant by faith. 

You and I have enemies who attempt to rob us of our identity constantly. They will plant seeds of doubt, causing us to question our destiny and the assignments given to us by the Word and from the Holy Spirit. It is vital that we “test the spirits” as the Bible says. Our eyes may tell us one thing, but our faith in what we have not yet seen is able to keep us through every trial and attack. Romans 12:3 says we are to think soberly, according to the measure of faith He has given us. We belong to God. Our citizenship is in heaven, not here on earth. We must hold on to who we are in Christ, as His workmanship, and believe God’s Words, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 

Faith is something that helps determine the way we see ourselves. Sometimes we think faith is only about the way we see God. When we believe what God says about us and are fully persuaded of who He is, He will use us in ways we may have never imagined. But it may not be easy. It requires we allow our actions and service to be determined by what God has said in His Word and by being fully persuaded, “It is no longer I that lives but Christ who lives in me.” It requires us to shake off any perceptions or labels imposed upon us by others or ourselves. Even Jesus needed to do this. 

Mark 6:2 tells us many people were offended when Jesus stood to teach on the Sabbath. The people said (in my words), “Hey we know this guy. Isn’t this Jesus, the carpenter, the Son of Mary, along with all His brothers and sisters? And his neighbors and friends were offended in Him.” The same could happen to you. “Isn’t this (insert your name)? I’ve known him/her for decades. Why should I listen to him? He says the Lord led him to do this. Who put him in charge? Get back to your job at the store where you are supposed to be in the first place.” 

I have hope. I believe that just as quickly as we see our nation morphing from a loss of identity, we are also seeing the Body of Christ, His Church, realize who they are and their identity in Christ. I am not saying each of us will be facing a giant such as Goliath. What we face today is far more difficult to identify. It manifests like the old analogy of the frog in the stew pot. Little by little, we who are Christians made in the image of our God, are finding ourselves in situations we could have never imagined years ago. The enemy of the Son of God is attempting to erode the very foundations of our faith, one act, one law, one legal action at a time. If someone would have told you ten years ago that entire states in our nation were trying to get rid of police all together you would have laughed. There are cities who have suffered sustained riots daily for weeks. So, what can we do?

We stay in the Word, "hiding it in our hearts so we might not sin against God,” as the Bible says. We draw a line in the sand and decide with finality whose side we are on and whose report we are going to believe. As the enemy fights against us, attempting to destroy us from within, we will, as David, speak out against the attempts to desecrate all that is holy, and refuse to allow him to defy the Church.

 Remember the translation of that word “defy.” To destroy our faith and all we stand for by, “ripping off and removing all we stand for by stripping away piece by piece.” We must contend for the Word of God, and for all He has purposed for our lives. You need not worry or be anxious regarding how the Lord may use you in the days and weeks ahead. You just need to be ready and willing to respond in faith when He does ask. How do I know you will be called upon? Because we are all One Body. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” 2 Chronicles 20:12. “For it is God Himself whose power creates within you the desire to do His gracious will and also brings about the accomplishment of that assignment.” Philippians 2:13. It is all Him. But we are His instruments, His hands, and His voice. Are you prepared?

Ruminate on that.