Recently I found myself watching a national news program on the election debate taking place. There were interviews from representatives of both the Trump/Pence and Biden/Harris campaigns. When the report was over and the rhetoric began to cool, I found myself wishing that the election was already behind us. I confess that I am ready to vote and move on. Regardless of who is elected, I increasingly think it is past time for some kind of healthy and holy healing to take place.
In my both my mind and heart, I went back to a phrase I had used in a previous blog. We (that is, those who claim to be Christian) ultimately follow the lamb and not the elephant or the donkey. Remember, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) However partisan our personal political preferences may be, let the lion roar over the bellowing of the elephant and the baying of the donkey.
Then one of the elders said to me, “Don’t weep. Look! The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has emerged victorious so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5)
Regardless of one’s politics, ethnicity or gender, a major spiritual issue of our time is engaging in radical trust in the God who comes to us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. This is no easy task. It does not come to pass casually or easily, but takes ardent commitment, assiduity of purpose, and deep spiritual discipline. Dallas Willard has written,
“If you want to know whether you truly believe in God, you have to ask yourself what you really trust. Many folks who profess to believe in God, act from disbelief. … I want to tell you that it is not an easy thing to count on God. It’s easy for us to print on our money, ‘In God We Trust,’ but what do you believe that means for us as a nation? What does it mean to trust God? … in the quietness of your own room, are you able to really trust God?” (Dallas Willard, The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus)
Such a statement ought to bring us all up short. We (let me say I!) find it easy to trust God when things are going our way. It is a whole different matter when events are unfolding in ways which evoke concern, disagreement or even despair in us. Yet trust is foundational element of what we mean by faith. Do you recall the great Camp Meeting song “trust and obey for there’s no other way.”
I have stated before that we have a sense of being overwhelmed by multiple crises and lost in a COVID-19 wilderness. In this very wilderness, as the days unfold before us, we need to remember that as Christ followers we are following the lion & the lamb not the elephant and the donkey. How do we move to active status of deep trust in God (without embracing a heretical fatalism)? Allow me to offer an outline of some basic steps.
Allegiance > Praise > Confession > Humility > Action
The first and most basic step of faith is allegiance to Jesus as Lord. He is our ruler over all pygmy pretenders and idolatrous aspirations.
The second step in the deep discipleship of trust involves praise of God in Christ. Praise is an acknowledgement, a celebration of ultimate authority. “Praise the Lord! Let my whole being praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with all my life; I will sing praises to my God as long as I live.” (Psalm 146:1-2) Trust grows out of allegiance and praise.
Trust naturally leads to confession. Here we acknowledge that Christ is Lord and we are not. Confession is a foundational aspect of trust. By example, a basic act of discipleship is our confession of involvement in systemic racism. To trust is to confess painful truth.
From confession we naturally move to humility. The advice of the Apostle Paul rings true only in radical trust in God.
“Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:1-5)
We all come to kneel at the altar of God. Finally, true trust in God moves us from the altar to action. “Carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling. God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes.” (Philippians 2:12b-13) Radical trust in God leads us to what Mr. Wesley called “holiness of heart and life.”
How does following the lion and the lamb in radical trust shake out in the life of a local church?
- Now more than ever we must teach, preach and practice the life of prayer and spiritual formation.
- Together in small group ministry “watching over one another in love,” we must build a spiritual core individually and as a church which is based on a relationship with the incarnate God.
- My Cabinet colleague Mike Ramsdell has accurately stated, “We need to create more spiritual conversations in groups and not just opinion conversations.”
- We must embrace Bible reading and study at the center of our lives and the casual edges. Mr. Wesley called this “searching the scripture” and it was the regular practice of early Methodists.
- Together we are to engage in the deeds of love, justice and mercy which live out the great commandment to love God and our neighbor in all that we do. (see Luke 10:25-28)
Here is beginning of a spiritual discipline which will survive the rigors and rancor of this election regardless of who wins. Follow the lion & the lamb, follow the God who comes in Jesus Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, in radical trust and deep obedience. Let the words of Job cover your life.
“Though he slay me yet will I trust.” (Job 13:15, KJV)