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four questions that help activate faith in my life

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It was one weighty situation after another, and I felt paralyzed by the need to think, feel, and decide wisely. Choices of when to speak and when to be quiet, how to wade unfamiliar relational waters, and how to listen to God were all on full blast. I was in knots for days, and it dawned on me, how does my faith help me here?

The Self-Reliant Fixer and the Trusting-Surrenderer in me were wrestling, and I was weary. Where was my faith? It was in my feelings and whether they could be trusted. It was in my ability to solve problems, to be a good advice-giver. It was in the pressure-inducing lie of ‘choose well or it’ll be your fault.’

I was at a crossroad: continue wrestling anxiously with myself or allow God’s truth to clear-cut a new path of being. By His grace, I confidently chose the latter, and living by faith became less of an abstract Biblical idea and more of a tangible framework for the storm hidden under the surface. I’m learning faith is surrendering my way to deepen my capacity to know and pursue God’s way.

Here are four questions that have helped energize my faith:

  1. Who is being exalted here?

Me? or God? Living by faith in God decreases pride and self-reliance… why? Because we can’t help but be humbled in light of our perfect Savior. Like Abraham, who “with respect to the promise of God, did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20). My thoughts do more harm than good when not illuminated by faith, because faith glorifies God, not self, as sufficient. One of the most gracious things the Lord continually reminds me of is I am the creature and He is the Creator. We live by faith and not sight when we choose to find God in the midst of pain, uncertainty, or weakness, and exalt Him.

  1. What does the Bible say about this situation or my emotions?

Living by faith is a daily submission to the authority of Scripture and treasuring the truth of God. By applying His promises to our circumstances, we open ourselves up to flourish in both mundane and marvelous moments. Faith is allowing Scripture to inform our decisions and attitudes, conforming us to the image of Christ. We live by faith and not sight when we trust Scripture over what we see and feel.

  1. Is the gospel instructing my self-examination? 

In #1, I am reminded to submit to God in low humility and exalt Him. But my faith also states my position in Christ before God. Excessive self-demotion is contrary to the gospel that invites me into life with God. Living by faith in God promotes confidence and acceptance even when we fail… why? Because your failure can’t disqualify Christ, and you are in Christ. Focusing on ourselves too much is like quicksand. Allow the truth of Scripture to not only pull you out, but also to be the light that helps you see more clearly. Maybe you’ve heard these words by Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” We live by faith and not sight when we see ourselves accurately: near God, raised and seated with Christ, walking with His Spirit on earth to declare praises of Him. (For more on how God sees you, click here.)

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prayer: how much of God can I savor in this moment?

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At just shy of double digits I became a Christian, and learned to pray using a checklist of sorts. Maybe you know it: ‘ACTS’ – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. And while this practice formed in me a habit of talking to God, it didn’t cultivate in me a desire to listen to Him.

“Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine” (The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, 8). C.S. Lewis

A stack of journals full of teenage handwriting reveal how I enjoyed sharing ‘all the things’ with God. But months into college independence, with nerves about new friends and a fear of walking into a lecture hall filled with 200 people alone drew out a deep need to listen to Him. I longed to hear His comforting words when I felt alone. I craved His opinions about my new (and somewhat foreign) surroundings. Thankfully and graciously, He promises that when we search for Him, we’ll find HimPsalm 107:9 says He “satisfies the thirsty.” I began a journey of thirsting and hungering for the heart of God for me.  

I found joy in verses like John 15:13-15:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

The disciples hearing these words from Jesus’ lips experienced this marvel in a tangible way, memories of walking from town to town and listening to their Master teach. In our day, this is profound to us because everything Jesus learned from His Father is made known to us in the Bible, so deeper into Scripture I walked.

The power, wonder, and clarity of God I saw in the Bible gave me confidence in who He said He was, even when I couldn’t feel His presence. 

“Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice. He ransoms me and keeps me safe from the battle waged against me..” Psalm 55:17-18 NLT

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why I created a rule of life

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Two good friends sat across our living room, having just asked how they could pray for me.

“I want to be a deeper person.”

In typical external processing fashion, words of explanation tumbled out: I crave simplicity of passion, sweeter clarity in my life with God and others, ruthlessly eliminating distractions and noise. I long to dig deeper into myself, the shadows and the bright colors, what is whole and what is broken, and uncover every possible layer than can be re-formed to image Christ. I need depth in my knowledge of God through the Bible, and learn to put on and pour out His truth instead of my own. I want depth in my Spiritual fruit orchard, instead of living parched and reaching for habits of patience or joy I don’t have.

All of this sounds marvelous, wouldn’t you agree? Too bad my default way is to live emotionally and mentally small and “spread-thin.” (insert exasperated emoji here)

It makes sense… I’m a Two on the Enneagram. In a run on sentence, this means I tend to give of myself, hoping my Chelsea-ness isn’t too much, to meet as many known or perceived needs as within my power, without considering the consequences.

 

+++++

 

Enter: creating a rule of life.

A rule of life “serves as a gentle guide that keeps you trained toward God.” Sacred Ordinary Days

My landing pad is a prayer of Paul’s:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father… I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21

Filled to the measure of all the fullness of God? Yes, please!

No one else lives my quirky, God-ordained, unique ‘two space’ life. And I don’t want to waste the days. I can’t expect to grow and be the best made-in-the-image-of-God Chelsea I can be without intentional effort.

Creating a rule of life has helped me prayerfully and practically make decisions that expand my capacity to experience more of Him and who He created me to be.

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