All these people died still believing what God had promised them...Obviously people who say such things are looking forward...(NLT)
Heb 11:15 If they had been thinking with [homesick] remembrance of that country from which they were emigrants, they would have found constant opportunity to return to it. (AMP)
Heb 11:16 But they were looking for a better place…(NLT)
Yesterday, I met with about 70 other pastors from around the world to listen to a round-table discussion of significant church leaders give their take on the condition of the Church. During a break from the larger session several of us gathered in our own small circle and thrashed out why Christians were leaving their faith altogether.
As we talked I thought about the verse, “All these people died still believing what God promised them.” According to this, faith always looks forward and never gives up, even if the one believing for the promise dies while believing and never receiving.
Faith has no reverse. There’s no “R” on the gear shift of faith.
This being true, I’ve found that one of the great enemies of my faith is feelings. “If they had been thinking with [homesick] remembrance of that country from which they were emigrants, they would have found constant opportunity to return to it.” The writer warned that thinking would open the door for feeling homesick, whereby they would find an opportunity to return.
Okay, here’s the deal with this verse. When the Israelites walked through the Red Sea they threw a party on the other side. After the party was over, the days became hot and the nights were cold; all the beer was gone (not really, but I’m trying to make a point here) and the place was a mess; the journey had become long and the manna became tasteless; moms got grumpy, dads became bored and kids started fighting; and the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night no longer thrilled them when they worshiped.
So what did they do? They did the same thing we do…they thought back on the good ole days in Egypt. Their thoughts stirred up feelings and desires when they sat around camp fires at night after pulling a hard day in Egypt’s brick yards. Sure they had it rough back then, but they appreciated what they had. They may have been slaves but they missed the old life.
Thinking back is the biggest mistake you’ll ever make when God has called you forward. Thinking back stirs up feelings and plunders faith. Going back is easy. Trudging forward in faith is hard, but in the long run, the most fruitful direction to take.
Know what gets me off my diet plan and causes me to eat fattening food? Thinking. Thinking about eating hot, chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven with a big glass of milk—oh, savor the thought! (Let’s all pause for a moment of silence…) I don’t have to see them or even smell them. Thinking about them is all it takes. And if I think about them enough, by golly I’ll FIND cookies!
An addict, it doesn’t matter if it’s chocolate or crack, will get what they want if they think about it long enough. We long to return to the high we felt in the old life. Keep thinking about it and you’ll find a way to go back to it.
Thinking about the feelings you experienced in the past destroys the faith you need to move forward in the future. Dwelling upon past feelings can eradicate present faith. It did for the Israelites in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Christians in the New Testament, and it does for us too! Is it any wonder the Bible says, “Think the same way Christ Jesus thought” (CEV, italics mine). If we think right, we’ll live right.
If Jesus had thought about all He left in heaven would He have gone to the cross on earth? Had He pondered leaving the beauty of the throne, would Jesus have settled for the pain of crucifixion? Maybe not.
The leaders in our little group agreed that there’s a battle for the mind and emotions of twenty-first century humanity and it’s being yielded to by what feels good. Sadly, most twenty-first century Christians live like most non-Christians, by our feelings. Our consensus was that today’s church has positioned herself to be forced to present the Gospel with a Disney World feel before we can get people’s attention. Personally, I think there’s room for creativity in how we present Jesus, but there’s certainly merit to this conclusion.
“Finally…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil 4:7, NIV, italics mine).
We are told to "Walk by faith, not by sight" [feelings] (2 Cor. 5:7, brackets, my addition). Sometimes faith is all we have. So don’t squander yours by thinking about your past, stirring up feelings, and returning to what didn’t work. Shift into “F” and move forward in God.
Meanwhile, I’ll try to stop thinking about Chocolate Chip cookies.