Sheltering & Challenging: Two Ways That God Strengthens Our Faith
June 8, 2013
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In the process of stretching our theology, God employs two key tactics. One is sheltering, the other is challenging. The sheltering period is often used when He’s trying to get us over some really big hurdles. There are certain rather unpleasant truths about God which we instinctively balk at. It’s too difficult for us to really get a hold of these slippery concepts when we’re surrounded by voices teaching us just the opposite. To resolve this problem, God will at times pull us away from other voices so that we have a chance to wrestle out new concepts without extra opinions butting in. Once the Holy Spirit feels we’ve got a handle on things, He decides it’s time to start cementing our newfound understanding into the core of our theology. This is when the challenging phase begins.
After sheltering us long enough to form basic confidence that yes, we are in fact hearing the Holy Spirit correctly, He will then begin to re-expose us to bad teaching which directly counters the new principle we’ve learned. Perhaps we find ourselves in a church where the sermons keep hammering the opposite of what the God has taught us. Often times such teaching is very logical and hard to fight against—especially when we used to agree with it. In order to keep our grip on truth, we are forced to do more internal wrestling with Go as our initial insecurities flare up again and we start wondering if perhaps we really are going astray. This is when we learn the value of bad teaching—there’s no better way to get a firm grip on what you believe than having to practice countering wrong teaching in your mind. It’s easy to sit back and nod along while someone says what you already think is correct. But when someone fires off a convincing argument that really shakes your confidence—that is where the real testing takes place. God will carefully increase our exposure to teaching and opinions which directly counter what He’s taught us until our confidence in Him finally becomes so strong that we are no longer thrown off balance when someone tells us we’re delusional or peppers us with Bible verses.
The confident soul is a calm soul. When we are certain of our beliefs, we do not feel the need to engage in heated debates with others. We don’t hurl insults or try to force blind eyes open. We recognize that gaining wisdom from God is a process which only He can direct and that He has devised a unique lesson plan for each of us. God does not teach us subjects in the same order, nor does He cover the same subjects with every soul. We will all go to our graves with theological blind spots and misconceptions. This doesn’t bother God at all, for it isn’t His intention that we thoroughly understand Him. What matters is that we cherish any insights He does give to us and remain always eager and open to learning more. By carefully following God’s leading through periods of sheltering and challenging, we will experience radical changes to our theology over the course of our lives as God teaches us more about Himself. We will learn to view change as a good thing instead of being threatened by it, and we will come to see that God is indeed the perfect Instructor. When we know we are relying on Him to educate us, we can be confident that we will never go astray.