Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just the Facts, Ma'am.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." --Hebrews 11:1

It's September! And that means the misery of the summer heat has lifted and the kids are back at school! That also means I put my nose to the grindstone homeschooling one of my kids.

I must admit that my daughter (sweet kid that she is) challenges my patience and teaching skills to the limit, to put it nicely.  Her learning difficulties and short term memory issues coupled with her lighthearted, sanguine-phlegmatic personality sometimes make lessons an exercise in futility. 

I see her grasp the facts for a moment.  She can even use those facts to solve a problem.  Then suddenly ... POOF! They're gone, as evasive as a fresh breath of air in mid summer when you live next to a pig pen (which, by the way, we do).

And so we have to begin again. I have to get her to dig around her brain until she can find and reinstate the facts. Until the next time they manage to slip away.

Frustration, indeed!  But when I look back over a semester, I can see the improvement. Those facts that were so hard for her to hold onto at first, eventually settle in firmly, and she begins to recall them effortlessly.

But make no mistake. It is a long, painful process.

Recently I've been reading Watchman Nee's  The Normal Christian Life. It has caused me draw a parallel between the way my daughter learns and the way I learn spiritually.  

Nee talks about the simple facts of the Christian life that are so hard for us to maintain hold of.

Romans 6 outlines these facts:

1. the fact that our old self was crucified with Christ
2. the fact that we are dead to sin
3. the fact that if we died with Christ then we now live with/in Him.
4. the fact that because of these previous facts, we can now walk in newness of life.

Basic Christian facts, right?  And yet when was the last time we gave any thought to these facts?  We give a lot of thought to the facts of the material world: the fact of the family budget, the fact that the kids need new clothes, the fact that someone must cook dinner.  And granted, since we do live in this material world we have to deal with those facts too.

But I fear we tend to act like the facts of the material world are more "real" and "concrete" whereas the facts of the the spiritual realm seem only theoretical -- and somehow they fade from importance in the menial "real" tasks of daily life.  We may have used and applied those spiritual facts in the past, but like my daughter, we've allowed them to slip away from impacting what we are doing right now.

As a result, we become incapable of living the Christian life as we are called to live it. The key to regaining the perspective is "faith" as defined in Hebrews 11:1.  "Faith is the substance of things hoped for..." Nee explains that instead of substance, a better translation is "substantiation."  He says the word here describes something that is sort of like the relationship of color and the eye.  Color exists -- even though the blind man has never seen it.  The properly functioning eye provides us an ability to perceive color. It gives substance to the color so it can be perceived.

So also properly functioning faith in the Christian life enables us to perceive the world from the perspective of spiritual facts -- to see and understand things others cannot.

We as believers are called to hold on to the spiritual facts -- even when the facts of the material world seem more critical.

Today, even as I was writing this blog, my scatterbrained 11 year old declared, "I am going to focus and do this right!"  She suddenly took hold the facts and slowly and methodically used them to complete her on-line math quiz.

There were moments when the things of this world started to distract her: the smell of burning trash from next door, the sounds of people yelling outside, and the annoying yipes of our dog barking.  But she determined to pull herself back to the facts which enabled her to perceive and understand each math problem.  And then faith became sight as she earned 100 percent on the quiz -- and those don't come easy for her.

How important are the facts of Christianity to the hum-drum of our daily life?

 Oswald Chambers noted, "The things Jesus did were the most menial of everyday tasks, and this is an indication that it takes all of God’s power in me to accomplish even the most common tasks in His way. ...It takes God Almighty Incarnate in us to do the most menial duty as it ought to be done."

Try it and see. Take some time each morning to meditate on the spiritual facts of Romans 6 before you start your day. After all, we are exhorted in Romans 6:11 to "reckon yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ" so if we believe the Bible, there must be something to the act of focusing on these truths through the lens of faith.