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Entries in Ed Welch (3)


We have to have skills

I'm on a bit of an Ed Welch kick right now. Even though I am still in the middle of Running Scared, I bought his new book. I so appreciate how he distills theology into real life situations. This is practical theology at its best, in my opinion.

In his new book, Side by Side (look for a review at Out of the Ordinary next Wednesday), Welch establishes two truths: we are needy and we are needed. Before we can come alongside others, we have to recognize that we are needy. That truth goes a long way in keeping us humble.

He encourages the reader that we can and should grow in our trials. In fact, he considers it a skill:

One of the critial spiritual skills for every follower of Jesus is to bring order to the internal ruckus and grow in trouble rather than rage or wither in in (2 Cor. 4:16). Tribulatioin will not win in the end. In the midst of physical misery we can have hope, and hope is one of our most valued responses to the difficulties of life.

To rage or wither in tribulation; that is the question. When we rage against it, we struggle, worry, and fret. We resist God's dealings in our lives. It can lead to bitterness and hardness of heart. When we wither, we just give up and ignore that God is present and hears us. It is indeed a skill to bring order from the ruckus, and it's a skill that starts with theology; with knowing who God is.


Fear requires a big God

I've been doing a book study with a friend the past few weeks. We've been reading Ed Welch's Running Scared, which deals with fear and anxiety. We all have fears, don't we? Welch is quick to point out as the book opens that everyone has fears, and fears only become more frequent as we grow from childhood to adulthood. It's part of living in a fallen world. The thing is not to give into the fears, but trust God despite our fears. That, of course, is easier said than done at times.

This past week, we read about the most frequent command in Scripture: "Do not be afraid." I think looking through the entire bible for that phrase would be an excellent study.

Our fears want to be in control. They want to be the boss, as Welch says. Fears escalate. Fears cause us to run to someone. Think of children, who, when they fear, run to a comforting parent. But to whom do we run? We should run to God above all, because people are fallible, and deep down we know that. As Welch says, "Fear calls out for a person bigger than ourselves."

The doctrine of God's sovereignty ought to comfort us, because that is what tells us that God is bigger than we are. God is the one who is control, not us. He is in control of the salvation of men and women. There is nothing we can do to merit salvation. It's all of God. John 15:16 reminds us that God chose us; we did not choose him.

Having a big God is crucial in moments of fear and anxiety. If we believe that salvation is a relationship whereby we must bring something to the table in order to be forgiven, how big is our God? If Christ's sacrifice on the cross only rendered the world "savable," is not the logical conclusion that we must do something in order to complete that action? The idea that we must "do" something only contributes to fears that we already have.

I've been reading Hebrews this summer as I prepare to teach it. I noticed in chapters 9 and 10 the phrase "once for all" is used a few times. The writer of Hebrews points out that the Old Testament sacrifices were inferior to the sacrifice of Christ because they were only shadows. Christ is the mediator of a new and better covenant. He is a new and better sacrifice because he is the sacrifice.

When Christ sacrified himself, it was "once for all," (Heb. 9:26). If that transaction isn't complete until people place their faith in it, how can it be "once for all?" I'm just sorting through these things; I don't actually have any definitive answers. That phrase, that Christ rendered the world, "savable," is one I have heard, and I've always had pause to think about it. If Christ's work is not finished until we believe, then is it any wonder we feel anxiety and fear? 

While we struggle with fear and anxiety, as we all do at some point in our lives, having a big God is crucial. 


When God is small

I finished reading Ed Welch's When People are Big and God is Small. It's odd that I haven't read this book already. God has his own timing, and perhaps it was just a matter of the best time to read it.

A number of months ago, long before I read this book, a thought came to me: "I think I've spent the majority of my life being afraid of something."

Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of having regret. Fear of change. Welch points out that we are controlled by what we fear. I already knew that. And I knew I was not fearing God. That has been my primary struggle. I suppose I didn't read this before because I figured it was everyone's struggle, and it was just part of being a Christian living in the world. 

I'm glad I picked this book up because it's given me a new way to think about the situation. Combined with studying Proverbs, as I told someone recently, I feel like I've been run over by a truck in a good way.

Welch acknowledges that our past contributes to our struggle to fear God. Everyone has an event in his or her past that can instigate an unhealthy fear of man. It's a matter of understanding who God is and discerning ways to get past it. That is what I found very beneficial about the book.

I found particularly challenging his chapter which deals with our relationships to others in the Body of Christ. In it, he encourages the reader to think more corporately than individually. It is when we are too self-contained that we tend to fear man above God: 

When we fear other people and either isolate or protect ourselves from them, we isolate and protect ourselves from a significant part of God's remedy -- love and unity with his people.

I have lived this myself. 

The importance of having fellowship with God's people cannot be understated. We need to be in a church where we can hear the word of God preached faithfully and in its entirety. And God must be very big or we will have a very hard time seeing him that way ourselves. Not all churches see God as really big. And if that's the case, it trickles down to every aspect of church life.

I know Christians who don't make involvement in a local assembly a priority. They believe they can do just fine at home on their own with a bible and some online sermons. They're kidding themselves. And I know people who have health issues who would give anything to be with God's people on a regular basis. I think I know which group has a healthier fear of God.

When we know God and see him high and lifted up we will fear him. And it is a fear which has feet; it will change the way we live.