Immediately after I became a Christian, I hitchhiked from California to South Dakota but had my plans not work out. I then hitchhiked down to Colorado (adding more wildness to the trip) to look up my new Christian friends, who after their conference ended, took me back to their home town of Moscow (Idaho.) There, I studied with them, with my church, and with the owner of the Christian Bookstore in town. Even so, I struggled to understand this new Christian life. I was told that I was a strong Christian for such a new convert. Still I felt there was something missing from my life.
I prayed and decided that I wanted to serve God full time, researched and felt the best thing to do was to finish my Chemistry degree and go to Multnomah Bible School for their one year certificate program. While finishing my Chemistry degree, I married my first wife and we both went to Multnomah. While there, I felt called to the mission field. We chose a mission and after graduating, I spent a summer working for a company distributing Christian scriptures. That missing something came to haunt me, and we ended the summer in defeat.
While at Multnomah, I had started asking people, “What was the secret to the victorious Christian life. Everyone’s answers were different, but I noticed a pattern. They all had a list of rules, usually including prayer, Bible reading, and going to church. I called them the ten point plans. I thought, “I am doing these things. Why do I feel like something is still missing?” I struggled with this for a few years, knowing that until I had overcome this deficit, I shouldn’t go out. During this time, I worked as a Chemist, and two of my children were born.
Then one day, I was reading three different Christian books and studying three passages in the Bible, and suddenly it became clear. Those ten point plans were sin! Imagine hooking up a trailer to your car and then driving it backwards. You go super slow. Now practice till you are the best and try to drive it backwards down the freeway. Soon you will crash and burn. But, if you drive the setup forward, there is no problem going down the freeway. That was my problem, I was doing things backward.
I remember reading that day Heb 10:38, “My righteous one shall live by faith.” I wondered how that worked. Then I was hammered by Gal 3:2-3, “did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish, Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Whoa. I knew that one could not earn salvation. It doesn’t matter how many good deeds you do, if you are not perfect, you are not going to heaven. The only way is by hearing and trusting in God’s finished work of Jesus dying on the cross. I had no problem with that, but tears came when I realized that I had been trying to live the Christian life by good deeds. Why had I not understood that good deeds can’t give you the powerful Christian life. We are saved by trust, and we live by trust. Good deeds should naturally flow from the life of trust. I thought I saw that getting it backwards is just not living the Christian life to the fullest, but then I read Rom 14:23 “whatever is not from faith is sin.” Living the Christian life by a ten point plan is not only less than ideal, but it is sin! What a powerful day!
As I tried to apply this principle to my life over the next few years, I wondered how it worked. First, I found that God puts his Spirit in us. Sin quenches it, but confession brings it back. I understood that the Bible promised that I had this amazing power in me. I didn’t feel any different, but the question was, did I trust God? Next, I realized that prayer wasn’t telling God what I needed, or demanding God supply the needs of “John” or “Sarah.” It was aligning my heart with the heart of God. I feel His love for all people. This makes me want to get rid of anything hindering my service to Him. I read how Jesus so loved all people that he lowered himself to take on a body, then suffered for them, and finally died for them. He says, “I want you to be like Jesus.” Phil 2:5-8.
Now, I am living in peace. If I became extremely ill, I understand it is Satan and I wouldn’t blame God. In fact, I would be at peace, knowing that I would then be able to reach people who are suffering similarly and wouldn’t listen to a healthy me. Anything Satan means to defeat me is an opportunity to trust God, defeat the plans of the devil, and be like Jesus, suffering so others might come into this glorious powerful life. No matter how crazy the world around us becomes, we trust God and that He will be victorious. We know that His power to overcome anything dwells in us, and we trust Him for victory no matter how powerless Satan tries to make us feel. No wonder, the greatest of these is love.