Faith Versus Feeling
This is a column based on what I believe parts of scripture say, not based on your or my feelings or experience. I am arguing that we should consider taking the promises and affirmations of God’s word prayerfully and seriously, even when it is confusing and we are not experiencing the fulfillment of particular promises.
My long-time friend Brad Long, who is the head of a Presbyterian and Reformed renewal organization, once made a comment I have not forgotten about “the fruit of the Spirit” and “the gifts of the Spirit” in the Bible. Many but not all of the gifts of the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:8-10, 12:28, and other passages) tend to be miraculous or supernatural. They include gifts such as healing, prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, word of knowledge, etc. (According to Paul, only a minority of people in a church might have any one particular gift, but every Christian has been given at least one spiritual gift.) Brad pointed out that some of the more “supernatural” of these New Testament gifts seemed to manifest themselves more in charismatic or Pentecostal settings, or in mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic settings that have been influenced by Biblical teaching and by deep movements of the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand he thought the fruit of the Spirit (they are character traits produced by the Holy Spirit and intended for all Christians, see Galatians 5:22-23)--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control-- often seemed to be present in mainline or more traditional Christian believers. These fruit of the Spirit are not flashy, and they seem to be more gentle operations of the same Holy Spirit who grants both the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit!
With this background, pivot with me now to a passage I have been thinking about a lot the past few weeks, John 15: 7 and 8. Jesus says “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be granted to you.” And then Jesus continues in the next verse “This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Apparently Jesus thinks that part of bearing fruit for him (which grows out of being in close communion with him and meditating on his word) is that he also gives us a certain authority so that our prayers are answered in him. Now I believe that the New Testament in general teaches that when God‘s people pray together in agreement, and when they pray in Jesus’ name (meaning they pray God’s will as it has been revealed in Jesus) that he promises positively to answer these prayers. (If we are interpreting scripture correctly, this is a very radical claim, and it causes many people to stumble because many of us have not experienced such answers to prayer.)
But I think in John 15: 7 & 8 Jesus is even saying a bit more and probably promising a bit more. Here, he seems to be saying that part of our remaining in him and his words remaining in us is that our corporate prayers will be answered! After saying, “ask whatever you will and it will be granted to you,” he goes on to say that the Father is glorified when we bear much fruit and show the world we are his disciples.
What is particularly intriguing is that Jesus seems to be saying that there is a connection between bearing fruit and the situation where we ask whatever we will and it will be granted to us. (Of course, if we are abiding in Jesus and his words are abiding in us and if we are filled with his life and emptied of everything else, then our will expressed in prayer becomes more and more like his will as we are more and more filled with his life.)
So the gap between bearing fruit for him and being able to pray authoritatively in his name and by his Holy Spirit, seems to be bridged or at least narrowed by this passage.
I think, in the Bible, of how many of Jesus’ disciples, after his ascension, are able to perform miracles, and even on occasion to raise the dead. Apparently, it is to God’s glory not only that Jesus’ followers become so close to him and share in his life that we make disciples and display the fruit of the Holy Spirit, but also that we are his Holy-Spirit-empowered representatives, adopted children of his Father, who out of intimacy with him can humbly decree things in his name and pray with great power in the Holy Spirit.
I am asking you to consider this, not based on your experience, but based on your own careful study of God’s Word.
“If the vision tarries, wait for it, it will not delay it will surely come.” Habakkuk 2:3
Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column appears in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News.