Chapter 47: Ministry

January 23, 2008

“It is faith that connects us with heaven, and brings us strength for coping with the power of darkness. In Christ, God has provided means for subduing every sinful trait, and resisting every temptation, however strong. But many feel that they lack faith, and therefore they remain away from Christ. Let those souls, in their helpless unworthiness, cast themselves upon the mercy of their compassionate Saviour. Look not to self, but to Christ. He who healed the sick and cast out demons when He walked among men is the same mighty Redeemer today. Faith comes by the word of God. Then grasp His promise, ‘The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.’ John 6:37. Cast yourself at His feet with the cry, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ You can never perish while you do this–never.” DA458

I am hesitant to try and comment because this passage is so complete and beautiful already, so instead of trying to add to it I’ll make 3 belief statements in response.

1. I believe that God’s plan of redemption includes saving us from sinful traits in our life now. In other words, Jesus did not die on the cross so that we should have to continue living in sin. Ellen White affirms that this can only be a reality in Christ through faith. Again, being saved from sin now is a function of being in Christ and is through faith, not grit. This understanding must come first and never be replaced to make any real headway towards living in a righteousness that is not our own. I believe that many Christians try very hard to live correctly, but are trapped by sinful character traits that only conversion can handle. Such efforts may keep one from seeing the kingdom of heaven and delay their rebirth. I pray for continued conversion in my own life that I may function in Christ through faith.

2. I believe that faith is biblically wedded to the Word of God, a connection that is described clearly page by page in scripture. It is why John starts out his Gospel with a major teaching on the Word that was with God and has become flesh. The same teaching begins Genesis, I John, Hebrews, and Revelation. The concept surfaces repetitively in the Psalms and the books of the prophets. Understanding the Word-faith connection has been pivotal to my spiritual growth and the growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church starting in 1888. This truth leads to a powerful understanding of righteousness which is key to the plan of redemption both for the individual and for the bride of Christ. I believe that this is the message that will spread to the world in preparation of the second coming of Christ.

3. I believe that there is a poorness of spirit, a brokenness, that is perfectly matched to the saving power of Christ. It isĀ  a weakness unlike others because it draws our focus beyond ourselves to God’s strength, and to this poor spirit His Spirit speaks. It is the lesson of every trial. We truly are blessed to be poor in spirit and by be promised the kingdom of heaven. This is the spirit which Ellen White is so sure will never perish. What a glorious reality.

I usually try to stick with the main event, but a quote early in the chapter was curious. They are on their way up to the mountain after a long and discouraging day.

The disciples do not venture to ask Christ whither He is going, or for what purpose.” DA449

Ellen White expresses the same observation early in chapter 47.

How slow of comprehension even the three favored disciples were, is seen in the fact that notwithstanding all that Christ had said of what was before Him, they queried among themselves what the rising from the dead should mean. Yet they asked no explanation from Jesus.” DA455

Questions bubble to the surface. Should we venture to ask Christ where he is leading or his purpose? Might this betray simply faith? It’s easy to assume a false entitlement that we should know God’s plans because we are trying to do His work. At times our spiritual pride is the the only thing between us and the answers we seek, but maybe all we need to concentrate on is the work of believing in Jesus, not the details of where he is going. Jesus hints that we do not have because we do not ask, and he command us many times to ask even as much as “anything” in His name and He will do it. Blandly my own prayers have been so general at times that God could be exempt from any action on His part other than existing in time and space. We must ask because “please be with all the missionaries” prayers do not lead to the mountain top and conversations with Moses and Elijah.

I have often said that it’s not His custom to tell us His plans ahead of time. But then I remember He did tell Abram about Sodom, and the disciples were told quite bluntly of the mission leading to the cross. Prophecy is sprinkled through out scripture in such a way to reveal His plans to those who are really looking and asking. He may not detail his route into the future in the way we expect, but by not asking we reveal our “discipleness”–the same slowness to comprehend that seems to run naturally in human veins.