Monday, December 14, 2015

How To Live By Absolute Faith In Christ?


            Romans 1:17 says that the righteous will live by faith. If we are in Christ, we would be righteous in HIS presence. Righteousness entails a life lived by faith in Christ. But what does it mean to live by faith and how do we live by faith?

            First, what does it mean to live by faith?

            To live by faith is to be utterly dependent upon Christ. A life utterly dependent upon Christ trusts Christ be it in good times or bad. Life in faith is to constantly carry the cross of Christ. Even if everything were to go south - wrong and ugly - in our lives, our faith in Christ cannot deteriorate. Therefore, to live by faith is not to expect only happiness and wellness in life.

            To live by faith is to boast about our weakness, for when we are weak we are strong. A life utterly dependent upon Christ enables us to be strong in Christ even in our weakness.

            Easier said than done! How do we live by faith?

            As a case in point, consider tentmaking 1 and fulltime 2 ministry in Christendom. The dichotomy of tentmaker and a fulltime worker is based on the premise that the time available to these workers to disseminate the gospel of Christ is largely different.

            The fulltime worker has more available time to serve Christ than the tentmaker. The tentmaker ought to spend a considerable portion of his time towards his tentmaking vocation, which deprives him of time in comparison with the fulltime worker.

            Before proceeding further, certain misconceptions about fulltime workers and tentmakers ought to be resolved. So permit me to digress. There are two naïve misconceptions about tentmaking ministry.

            The first argues that only some Christians are called to serve Christ and that the other Christians serving in the secular domain are not called to serve Christ. The second misconception argues that those called to serve Christ fulltime ought to be a tentmaker i.e. he earns his own livelihood without depending on any Christian entity for his livelihood.

            First, fulltime workers do not serve a “higher calling” in comparison to Christians serving in secular field (e.g. factory workers, teachers, doctors, engineers etc.). Every Christian is called to be a disciple and to make disciples of all nations. Every Christian, in whatever capacity he works, is called to serve the Lord from his/her workplace. The workplace is a means to sharing the gospel of Christ.

            The second misconception argues that every Christian who serves the Lord fulltime ought to be a tentmaker. Here the term “tentmaker” assumes the notion that the fulltime worker should be employed either in a Christian organization or secular.

            Now think this through, how does a Christian mission organization (or church) meet its expenses? Christian organizations depend on fellow Christians to fund its operations. The finances received are then apportioned to its employees as salary.

            Although the fulltime Christian worker earns his salary as a tentmaker from the Christian organization that he serves, his organization depends on fellow Christians for its finances. It is then evident that the tentmaking Christian is indirectly dependant on finances from Christians.

            Therefore, fulltime workers without a tentmaking jobs are an existential reality in Christendom. Examples for this category include pastors who serve independent churches or evangelists who serve the Lord independently using their spiritual gifts.

            The pastor of an independent church is dependent on the offerings from his church for his living. The evangelist depends on financial contributions from gracious Christians.

            There could be a situation wherein pastors of independent churches (or evangelists) do not receive adequate funds. What do they do? Should they take up a secular job to care for their family and be tentmakers with reduced time to serve in Christ’s kingdom? If they work in a secular job, would not their calling to fulltime ministry be compromised and their time to serve Christ reduced?

            Alternatively, fulltime pastors and evangelists should trust God for their living, for Christ taught that God would provide their needs, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:30-34a, NIV).

            Imagine the life of a fulltime worker, who has been called into fulltime work by God. If the fulltime worker depends only on God and not on his friends for his living needs, then is he not living a life in faith?

            Such a fulltime worker surely lives a life in faith. He trusts God for his living needs. While trusting God, he remains faithful to God to the best of his abilities. He diligently carries out his duty in serving Christ and in caring for his family. Because God’s words are living and active, God who promised to take care of those who trust in HIM, would never fail or forsake those who trust in HIM.

            How could a tentmaker NOT live a life of absolute faith? The tentmaker’s job pays him every month. When the tentmaker trusts his abilities and his job for his living needs (more than he trusts God), his life would expose reduced faith in God.

            God enables our abilities so that we work well. God is the source of an organization’s sustenance. Every moment lived out successfully in our workplace is a testimony to God’s goodness and grace.

            A chief obstacle to trusting in God is to trust in self or to trust in other men. The obstacle of trusting ourselves or trusting fellow humans should be absolutely broken if we are to absolutely trust in God. The first and the greatest commandment is to love God. If we truly love God the most, then we would trust HIM the most – more than we trust our neighbors.

            This is not to say that we should intentionally distrust ourselves and our neighbors. No! If we are to live in peace with our neighbors, then we should trust them. Moreover, if we do not trust in our own abilities, we will suffer from low self-esteem.

            Therefore, a life that absolutely or utterly trusts Christ…

            …will not expect only health, wealth and happiness in life.

            …will trust Christ be it in good times or bad.

            …will not trust self or the neighbors to the point where our trust in humans overshadows our trust in God.

            We will grow into trusting Christ absolutely when we diligently offer ourselves to Christ through the studying of HIS Word (i.e. Bible study) and through constant communication with HIM (prayer).

            May God enable us to live a life that absolutely trusts HIM and HIM alone.

Endnotes:

1 Tentmakers are committed to serve the Lord in various ways by performing other jobs to provide for their living.

Tentmaking ministry is relevant in Christian evangelism, where missionaries have little or no dependence upon any Christian entities for their living expenses while preaching the gospel of Christ. Apostle Paul is the most widely cited source for tentmaking ministry (Acts 18:1-5, 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8; Acts 20:31-35; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 9:6).

Apostle Paul was a tentmaker because of his three missionary journeys. During these missionary journeys, Paul worked to support himself in Galatia, Corinth, Thessalonica, and Ephesus.


2 Evangelists, missionaries, pastors, itinerant speakers and the likes are fulltime workers.

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