Is It Christian Faith or Cabin Faith
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. Bill Gillham; ©1999|
|Is it safe to trust your feeling to determine whether or not you are saved? How important is the object of our faith? Can we be released from bondage to our emotions? Dr. Gillham explains.|
Is It Christian Faith or Cabin Faith?
(excerpted from Lifetime Guarantee, Harvest House, 1993,Originally published by Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1987)
(In the last article we got you inside the cabin where you were safe—if only you knew it.)
Let’s examine this situation and what needs to happen so you can benefit from your safety. We’ll do this in four steps, beginning with the fact that you are now safe in the cabin. Step 1: TRUTH. You are safe in the cabin from the bear.
This is true. However, since you don’t know you’re safe, you could still die of that heart attack. So what good would your safety do you? None! It isn’t enough to be safe. You must believe it and embrace it.
The critical factor in my little story is time. As time marches on, you are going to survey your situation and ultimately come to the conclusion, I believe I’m safe in this cabin. This is faith.
Step 1: TRUTH. You are safe.
Step 2: FAITH.I believe I am safe.
This is not Christian faith; it’s cabin faith—faith in the cabin and the cabin’s ability to meet your need. It will take you who have what I call “feeler flesh” much longer to arrive at step 2 than will others. You have a flesh pattern of believing that your feeler is usually telling it like it is. You often arrive at “truth” by trusting in your emotions; you make them the object of your faith. (Faith is a function of the mind; it means believing something, and it must have an object. It is never a feeling, but a belief upon which you take action. And it’s a fatal mistake to always make feeler faith’s object.)
Now that step 2 has arrived, you begin saying things like, “Oh, I’m so thankful! Without this cabin, I’d be dead!” But all the time you’re saying how safe you are, you remain plastered to the wall. Can you see that even after arriving at step 2 you could still die of a heart attack with your faith? What good would your faith do you? None, because it is faith without works. Faith without appropriate action won’t do you one whit of good. You might as well not have any faith at all (see James 2:17).
Knowing that you’re now safe, why would you be acting as if you’re unsafe? Because the intensity of your faith (in your mind) is about a two, whereas feeler is still demanding its way at level ten. Will is choosing to go along with feeler’s assessment of the situation even though will knows better. Feeler’s recommendation is five times stronger than mind’s at this point. Will is intimidated and chooses to go along with feeler’s demands in an effort to relieve the pressure. But remember who’s boss. Will can overrule feeler or mind or both simultaneously, no matter how intensely they apply pressure to sway his choice. Will is in charge. Will is your control center, and remember that it works like a light switch, you either do or you don’t. There is no middle-of-the-road ground. That’s choosing not to choose which is a “don’t.”
This disparity between faith and feelings has a direct and important spiritual parallel. I’ve had many people say to me, “I just can’t get Jesus to save me. I try to get Him to come into me, but He never has. I can’t feel Him at all. I thought I did one time, but it went away.”
They want to feel saved. Typically, these are the “feeler flesh folks.” Unless they can feel something, they have difficulty accepting it as reality.
The Word of God never says, however, that we will feel saved. It says “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved,” not feel saved (Acts 16:31, emphasis added). As I lecture around the country, I take straw polls, asking the audience how many of them felt Christ enter into them when they were saved. The results (among charismatics and noncharismatics alike) are about fifty-fifty. God chooses to give a feeling to some folks, but He chooses not to others, and that falls under the heading of “His business.” But even if He should give you a zingy feeling to boost you off the launching pad into the Christian life, it only has about a ninety day warranty. It’s going to dissipate. It has to at times, because the Lord has no interest in strengthening your fleshly pattern of being controlled by your emotions. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6). Faith is an active belief, not a feeling.
God is committed to training you to walk in the Spirit by faith, and a critical part of that training is to teach you that you cannot trust your feeler, but you can trust Him. At times, He’ll give you zingy feelings, but He will not permit you to build a tabernacle there. Sometimes it’ll feel as though He’s gone to Mars for a vacation. He will withdraw all experiential evidence of His presence in order to train you, indeed, to box you in and force you to walk by what you know rather than what you feel. But has He left you during those times? No. He said that He would never leave you nor forsake you. Your job is to keep believing that He’s allowed a testing time to come upon you. Don’t be anxious about it (see Phil. 4:6). Keep operating by what you know.
With the passage of additional time in the Alaskan cabin you will arrive at step 3, which the King James Version of the Bible calls “works.” That means performance, activity, behavior. You’ve got to put some action to your faith if it’s ever to benefit you. Mind will ultimately reason, “That bear can’t get into this cabin! Here I am with sweaty palms, dry mouth, heart palpitations, and shaky knees. I’m going to have a heart attack if I don’t get my act together! Get off this wall! Sit down on that floor and relax!”
Will is beginning to act on mind’s suggestion instead of feeler’s and is starting to slap feeler around a little. “Now, relax,” you tell yourself, “shake out your muscles. Breathe slowly and deeply. Close your eyes. Don’t look at that bear. That’ll just get my emotions all bent out of shape again. Cover your ears; don’t listen to him. Unclench your teeth, and get your tongue ‘unstuck’ from the roof of your mouth. Now, imagine some relaxing scene like sitting in the sun in the springtime. Relax!”
You are now choosing—forcing yourself—to “live like a safe man lives.” You are bringing your behavior into line with the truth, according to your faith. The Bible calls this “walking in the light.” You are choosing to go against feeler’s recommendation because mind has gotten more information about your security. You might say your faith has increased as a result of becoming better acquainted with the object of your faith (cabin). Will has now determined that the wise thing is to overrule feeler’s intense recommendation in favor of mind’s weaker one. You have thus arrived at step 3.
Step 1: TRUTH. You are safe.
Step 2: FAITH.I believe I am safe.
Step 3: WORKS. Live like a safe man lives.
Act like a safe man.
The Bossman Takes Over
As will forces all your members (except feeler) to relax on the floor and insists on exercising the authority that is his by God’s edict, step 4 will evolve. We will label step 4 “Feelings.”
Step 1: TRUTH.You are safe.
Step 2: FAITH.I believe I am safe.
Step 3: WORKS.Act as though you are safe.
Step 4: FEELINGS. I finally begin to feel safer—sort of.
Your feeler will gradually begin to decrease because you have chosen to act the way safe people act. Notice that step 4 says “I finally begin to feel safer—sort of.” In other words, you can never get complete control over your emotions. True, you can exercise some control over them, but never total control. It is humanly impossible to do so. God has created us this way. As a saved person, you can control your mind and your will, but not your feelings. God’s plan is for us to believe Him and choose to submit ourselves to His loving care and authority regardless of how we feel.
Jesus Could Not Control His Emotions
Jesus Christ could not control His emotions when He walked Planet Earth. He took on the form of a man and acquired man’s limitations (see Phil. 2:5-8). Consider the scene in the garden the night before the crucifixion. The Bible says that Christ’s “sweat became like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). What were His emotions doing if His earthsuit was sweating blood? They were a fourteen! God says that your emotions have never been that high. “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4). That passage isn’t speaking of Calvary, but of Gethsemane.
Let’s say that you were there in the garden with Him and spoke to Him. “Excuse me, Sir, but it would appear that You have lost Your peace that You speak of so often. Have You?”
He’d answer, “Oh, no, I have great peace. But it’s a peace that passes [human] understanding. The peace I have is knowing something. It’s a function of the mind, not the emotions. It is knowing that My Father has everything under control. He and I discussed tomorrow’s events before I became a human. As it approaches, I dread what is to come and have asked My Father if there isn’t another way, but all I am getting is silence from Him.”
How do we know that Christ got silence? Because if the Father had answered no and He’d persisted in asking (which He did), that would have constituted rebellion, and He would have been unable to be our Savior.
Silence is a normal part of the victorious Christian life at times. When that happens, we must just forge ahead based on what we believe the Bible teaches His will to be for us, trusting that if we’re mistaken He will reveal it to us. I want His will for my life, and He wants His will for my life. So it’s His move if I’m a bit off the course He wants for me. I am to behave according to my understanding of His Word and ways, believing that He is leading me.
Christ would then continue to say of emotions, “Human beings often cannot understand the peace of which I speak, because the only peace many typically comprehend is a feeling. They want to feel peaceful. They will tell you that they have great peace of mind, but they don’t. It’s just that they feel peaceful, so they set their minds on how peaceful they feel. Let adverse circumstances arise, and they’ll tell you they’ve lost their peace of mind. However, they never had peace of mind in the first place. It’s simply that their feelers have gone off the Richter Scale, and now they’re keeping their minds set on how bad they feel. It was feel peace instead of mind peace all the time.”
You can never make the victorious Christian life a reality approaching it by the faith, feel, truth, actions sequence. God has prescribed one and only one way to consistent, moment-by-moment victory. It is the way of faith and obedience, never the way of the emotions. It is applying the Biblical steps in proper order: truth, faith, behavior, and feelings. If the feelings are reluctant to line up, rain on them. You can walk in complete victory without their lining up for as long as He wills it. You can make it work with only the first three. God will grant you the grace to enable you to do so. Just go for it. He’ll take care of your feeler in His time after He has taught you to walk in the Spirit by faith.
Finally, the state of your emotions is never the criterion of whether or not you are walking in victory. Lining up on the Word of God by faith and obedience is the sole criterion you can trust.
In our next session we’ll take these four steps that we would naturally follow to gain victory over the tyranny of our emotions when trapped in a cabin by a bear and apply them to experiencing the victorious Christian life. You can experience such victory! It’s normal to do so. God promised it.