Thursday, February 9, 2012

People-based faith or God-based faith?

We see it in Christian fiction all the time: the hero or heroine whose faith is tied up in whether or not another character responds appropriately (according to our desire) to God. We see it in our fiction because it resonates with readers (and editors) as a familiar situation, faith that is based on the response (or lack thereof) to God by a friend, relative, or loved one.

It's kind of an unspoken challenge. If you believe "good enough" then your loved ones, those you minister to, ought to respond, right? If they don't, is it because we didn't love them enough? Did we fail in our representation of God? Are we lousy ambassadors? No.

What we seem to have forgotten is that scary topic called "free will."

doubt Pictures, Images and Photos
Think about it: the Apostle Paul repeatedly talked about his passion for Israel to be saved, converted to belief in Christ. Few would dare to question Paul's faith, or his prayer life, or his holiness, but Paul did not see the fruition of his passion in his lifetime. His commitment, dedication, and perseverance to Christ are not called into question when we look at the nation he was so hungry to reach with the Gospel. But we often call our own faith into question when our spouses, children, relatives, co-workers, church family, or neighbors don't respond to our invitations, sermons, and exhortations.

I have a dear friend who is well aware of my faith in Christ. She has read all the "Left Behind" books and experienced a number of life-or-death situations. But has she placed her trust in Christ? Not that I'm aware of. You see, it's not a matter of her simply "having heard," it's a matter of her choosing to believe in Jesus as her personal savior. That is something I can't do for her. I can't coerce, manipulate, intimidate, or otherwise provoke her into believing. What does that mean? It means my personal relationship with God is outside whether said individual responds to the message of Christ.

Yet how many of us are basing, or at least weighing, the value of our personal faith in God on someone else's response to God or experience with Him?

Are we taking Him at His word in light of so-and-so's response/experience, or are we simply taking Him at His word personally and unconditionally? Are you willing to continue to love someone you've witnessed to who has (to your knowledge) rejected the Gospel? Are you willing to continue to display God's love to someone who has not, for all intents and purposes, responded the way you expected him/her to? Has your personal faith been affected by the response or reaction of those you love? How have you dealt with it?

About the Author: Niki Turner writes fiction, blog posts, articles in the local newspaper, grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, in addition to posting here. She was a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.


  1. As a teenager I was involved with a group of gung-ho teens who took their mission seriously. I was caught up in the wave and witnessed to my best friend, Mary-
    Anne who at the age of 16 smoked and slept with her boyfriend. She was my link to the world of non-believers. Not that we were perfect at home, but we weren't to associate with those who weren't either.

    Anyway, Mary-Anne listened to everything I said, then chuckled and brushed my words away with a comment about not having any fun. Two things I remembered from that conversation: First, my life was boring at that point, and second, I was filled with delight that I'd had the nerve to actually witness to someone.

    I have no idea if that seed I planted in Mary-Anne took root and grew. I hope so. But even at that age, I knew that I was only the vessel.

    It's not my job to speak until the person says, yes. It's only my job to open their eyes to the possibility. Then Jesus will either touch their hearts, or send someone else to encourage them along.

    Anita Mae.

  2. Great post, Niki. Btw, I knew you wrote it even though I didn't see your byline at the top. You always bring us such valuable messages. This is such a tough topic, and I'm sure we all have those people in our life whom we wish we could "push" a little harder. But that could potentially have a such a bad outcome. Is it worth the risk? I don't know. I think it's far better to demonstrate love than to risk pushing someone in the opposite direction.

    I have to comment on the picture of the little fence-walker. It's so adorable.

  3. Amen, Anita. Sometimes we plant, sometimes we water, but it's God who gives the increase!

  4. Aw, thanks, Suzie!
    One of the saints whose name I can't remember said something like "preach the Gospel always, sometimes use words." I think we discount our actions far more than the people we witness to do!

  5. I agree 100%, Niki. There's only one thing God can't do, and that's violate the free will He gave us. He created the world, but He also laid out the laws by which it would operate, and He won't break them. Excellent post.

  6. Dina, the local chamber of commerce had a hypnotist come to their annual dinner. It was the first time I'd ever seen a hypnotist in action and it really made me grateful that God doesn't violate our free will! : )

  7. Niki, what a timely post. Just yesterday I was chatting with my younger ster about a gal we both knew who is facing some serious life-threatening health issues. I told her how I'd tried talking to the gal about eternity and having joy in knowing she'd been home soon with Jesus OR joy in having more time in this life to spend with her family. Her response was temporal-life focused: clinging to her children.

    That gave me pause. How do you talk to someone about salvation when that person is "been a Christian since she was __"? It's not that I don't think she's a Believer. But what if she loves Jesus but has never place her faith in Jesus as Lord?

  8. Gina, that's such a tough question, and one that opens all sorts of annoying doctrinal differences among denominations and how each one defines "saved" or "Christian" or "born again" and all the different requirements and procedures and so forth.
    I like what I heard one minister say, and it seems to mirror the character of God as love: God is less concerned with procedures and protocol and more concerned with getting as many people into eternal life as possible.
    In a situation like that, where someone is facing death, I can understand how they would be more focused on temporal things than on eternity, whether they are Christians or not.

  9. Great post, Niki. There are several people in my life who have heard the Truth and ignored it, which is, of course, rejection all the same. I pray and I try to remember that I still witness through my actions, but what a relief it is to recognize that someone's salvation isn't up to us! They have to make the choice. I can't force them. And God doesn't force, either.

    I love the pic of the little fence-walker, too, Suzie. He's cute.

  10. Thanks, Susie!
    I'm convinced that a lot of people are far more influenced by the actions of the Christians around them than by what we say. Case in point, how many people rant about the hypocrisy in the church but have no idea what the Gospel is all about?

  11. I think one of the hardest things for me is to love and pray for someone who has rejected the gospel repeatedly. And it's not because I lose interest. I think it's because I'm trying to shy away from the pain--not from their rejection, but from knowing what their rejection will ultimately cost them.

    There are a few people I would like to shake (not that I would actually do this), and say--why don't you get this? Don't you see where you're headed? And don't you see how much God loves you?

    And the Scripture, "Why will ye die?" just plays in my head.

    And then the self-doubts. Someone more skilled to explain it might have gotten through. Was I a good enough example? Genuine enough? Say the right words? Live it in front of them?

    But in the end, they need to place their faith in Christ, and not in me. And sadly, they have a God-given right to go to the grave refusing to do so.

  12. Oh Barb, I agree. That IS hard. And if it's hard for us, imagine how hard it is for God!

  13. lots to think about, Niki. I agree with Suzie. I can always tell your posts without seeing your name.


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