The Search Begins

I am deeply touched that Kristie and Vic have asked me to join them in expressing and encouraging others to have faith in trying times. I have been praying and searching, writing and re-writing this article trying to find just the right thing to say as I start these little commentaries. But what can be said that has not already been said better? What new answer can been found that has not already been given to the most difficult of questions concerning faith in times of difficulty?

Well, I have reached the conclusion that words alone cannot full convey the answers to the questions we all ask during certain situations. And we might become very discouraged if we just thumb through the God's Word, pick out a passage or two and expect it to make a big difference and be the answer for our toughest question. Many times, this is how a person might try their hand at a certain religious idea or belief only to discard it when they are facing the challenges of life. They might be tempted to think that just because they have acknowledged something in scripture, that life will be a bowl of cherries from then on. It can be like a person going to the grocery store and seeing something in one of the large freezers, they buy it, and serve it immediately without any thought to thawing, preparation or cooking. After the first hard frosty bite it is tossed out with the trash and considered no good for human consumption although their dislike was of their own doing. There is more to answering life's most pressing questions than just looking in a book of cold unconnected facts and expecting to find the answer to all your troubles.  

Nor can the answers of life's daunting questions be found only by the experiences of life such as joy or sorrow, peace or war. If that was the case then no answer could be given by anyone who had not undergone the same experiences at the same time and had the exact same pressures and stresses. For instance, one person might find joy in kicking you in the shin, but for you, that would not be a happy experience. That certainly would not be the way you would find happiness nor would it be something you would recommend for others. Things we do and are done to us in the physical world are not experienced just for no reason. They are done to us or by us to give satisfaction or pain to something far beyond anything physical. It is our conscious being, or what we refer to as our soul that decides whether we like a thing or not.  This is how we learn to practice things to bring us joy and avoid things that bring pain.  But if the answers to life's happiness were found in just this idea alone, I would be eating ice cream every second of the day. Experience tells that if we base our joy and measure our pain by the things of the physical world, then happiness is only gained for a short and fleeting time and not sustainable by our physical world. What a kill joy to know that as you were experiencing something that brought you happiness, you were also aware that it was going to end. We are left to chasing a futile effort to regain what was just lost. Incidentally, that is what the whole book of Ecclesiastes is about. Solomon would call this type of searching for an answer empty and striving after the wind. 

The answers to life's hard questions are not easy to find but they can be found. The answers are buried deep in the actual experiences of life being tested against a certain standard that can be applied to all people in every circumstance.  Christianity follows the life of Christ as that standard by which every life experience can be understood and, thus, give the universal answers that we so want to know. In other words, if we take the Bible for what it says and experience life through its teachings, the soul becomes satisfied and life is fully experienced as God intended for it to be. We call it living by faith.  Just look at Hebrews 11 and you will see examples of people were guided by the words in what they were experiencing. These people  had major difficulties along the way. But through it all they were provided answers that filled their soul with happiness and joy.  Their faith became real to them and they used that faith  to endure experiences of life and recieve the greater eternal blessings. This is why the human experience both positive and negative is necessary for God to communicate the answers of life and allows us the ability to understand the true meaning of life how it can bring us to heights of joy through the deepest of sorrows. It provides us the ability to see beyond this temporary existance and understand the spiritual problem of sin and how it has been and will always be the reason we suffer.  And it provides us with the ability to learn of God and his great love in providing the answer to an eternal escape from the ravages of sin.  It is only by living by faith  in a world marred by sin that salvation can be freely given to all men by faith just as God promised (Habakkuk 2:4; Hebrews 10:38).  This is the hope and trust that is at the center of Christianity and can never be shaken no matter what circumstances come. 

The gospel (the story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection) is the crowning achievement of God’s spiritual work for mankind. This wonderful event gives the greatest example and experience of love. By great suffering came the great blessing. Through the recorded word of witnesses, we know He died and we see God’s power to overcome death in the resurrection. This word is taken to heart and tested by the experiences of life. Our life becomes Christ’s life. If we have identified with his suffering and death and we can know we are also in the likeness of his resurrection as well. This is the meaning behind the act of faith called baptism (Romans 6:3-11), but it does not end there. It is the continual experiencing of this story every day!  We know what Christ went through and what God did for Him. We also know that Jesus identifies with us in our time of sorrow (Hebrews 2:8). When his story and teachings are pressed within the reality of our lives, it is only then that it becomes a real and active faith pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6) and this understanding is first experienced when we are baptized into his death and raised to a new walk of life. Each step thereafter is built upon this understanding and commitment made by faith. When our experiences are mingled with the story of Christ’s sacrifice, each day’s events will teach us - God is love (1 John 4:8), Christ has overcome whatever I am facing (John 16:33), and death is Jesus bringing us into his arms (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)!

By the faith within our hearts and our days pour out like a flowing fountain of pure water, we can understand these words on our lips: 
How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

And I hope that this will be a place where we can ask questions and provide support and reason for the hope within.  Please feel free to send me a message of your thoughts and ideas.

May God’s richest blessings be yours!
Kyle Massengale

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