In thebook Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis writes of Reepicheep. He is a mouse of exceptional courage and with a strong faith. People seem to always misunderstand a talking mouse, especially one who dresses like a swashbuckler.
He is determined to reach the utter east and join the Lion, Aslan (a type of Christ), Reepicheep is heard to say,
“While I may, I will sail in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I will row in my coracle. When that sinks, I shall paddle east with my four paws. Then, when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, there I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.”
Compare this to the Apostle Paul’s testimony:
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what is ahead,14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul transmitted an example to his generation of Christians. He put himself as a model of what is to motivate a believer. The apostle Paul pressed into what the Holy Spirit had for him. Both Paul, and Reepicheep are great examples, they would rather die than to miss their calling.
Everything depends on what God allows of course. But I believe He makes a special place at His side to those who mix their faith with authentic desire like Reepicheep of Narnia and Paul of Tarsus.
God may be making you brave and full of faith. Deep down, this is exactly what your soul is really wanting. Give Him permission to do this work in your heart. Then stand back and see what happens.
There are some who may not understand the term, but back on the farm in Wisconsin, “barnburning” meant one of two things:
1. A person who burns down a barn, (obviously literal.)
2. Something amazing or noteworthy. To be strong, impressive, or of interest, (metaphorical.)
The following verses have made a tremendous influence on me. Here are five “barn burners” — incendiary verses that have directed me and given me support in challenging times. I hope at least one will fire up your heart.
It is a challenge to limit myself to just these five, so much has blessed me over 40 years–I should have at least 500. Scraping up five was really not the problem, there could be so many more.
So here are five which have made a definite impact on my thinking. (I reserve the right to change my mind as necessary, LOL.) All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV), such as it is. Get ready for some “spiritual napalm.”
ONE: “Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
This is a very precise chapter in my mind. A great deal of attention is given to Paul and Barnabas’ relationship to the people. At first, they are deified, but moments later the crowds pick up rocks to stone him. However Paul’s message to the local church was impressive. He strengthens, and he encourages. The reality of difficulty and tribulation has become the very doorway for them to come into the kingdom. This encourages me, and helps me in the conflicts I deal with.
TWO: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
This verse tells me of God’s commitment to me. First, I’m part of a little flock. Nothing of any significance. The world evaluates me, but I’m just a simple guy involved with a simple group of people, nothing more. However in this verse, fear is the primary issue. “Fear not, little flock.” Our fear is supposed to be eradicated and extracted.
The word “pleasure” is an interesting choice of words. We understand pleasure, or at least we think we do. This verse implies that the Father has put into play His intensity. Pleasure is often a way of doing intensity. God is “ultra-involved” and is exceptionally extravagant in His treatment of us. We are brought into this place of grace, by His kindness and grace. He can’t wait to pour out his love on us.
THREE: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6
What confidence! That is a vital ingredient in our lives, this confidence and boldness. Our God is active in bringing us to a deeper place of maturity. Paul understands this, and uses God’s diligence as the basis for his growth. This verse is a real confidence builder for me. A promise that He will continue His work in me, no matter what. This is a great promise for young Christians. I often look at my own issues, and I give up after I accrue a certain frequency–a certain “sin-ratio.”
Shortly before I became a Christian, I spent a lot of time with Fred Tsholl who was the night-shift announcer at a nearby Christian radio station. He was so patient and kind to me. I would sit with him in the studio, all night long. When it was time for me to leave he would quote this verse to me. Looking back, this verse became quite significant. I would take it as a promise from the Lord Himself.
FOUR: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Cor. 4:7
‘Jars of clay,’ really nothing more than this. We are weak and vulnerable, we so easily can be broken. But a treasure, I don’t think we grasp the value of treasure. But, if it resides in us, we become a repository of great significance. This magnificent work is not of our own effort. It belongs to God. It is nothing we can claim from any working on our part.
FIVE: “Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?” Song of Sol. 8:5
This world is a tangled place, it is a dense and difficult wilderness. There doesn’t seem to be a smooth road anywhere. We make our way slowly, through much suffering and personal doubt. This particular verse gives me an assurance of His presence, even in the middle of hardship and challenge. He is present with me.
We come up out of this ugliness, precisely because of that close presence. We lean on the Lord, as we traverse this hard place. His dear presence will bring us through this darkness, He gives me the amazing strength to do this journey.
“Give me the love that leads the way, The faith that nothing can dismay, The hope no disappointments tire, The passion that will burn like fire, Let me not sink to be a clod: Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”
– Amy Carmichael
“Seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.”
“Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ.”
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”
Edgar Degas, Melancholy/ c. 1874, oil on canvas, Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.
The sadness flows from this painting. Degas caught the dark despondency of his model. Her inertia becomes something we can gaze on carefully and at leisure.
This is one of my favorite paintings. For me, it captures an essence of what depression “looks” like. The anguish and the whole sense of being is seen in the expression of her face. She is frozen in her despair.
Depression immobilizes and then lays waste all that it touches. It is a vicious blight on the human soul.
I remember as a boy seeing a prehistoric bug caught in amber. It struck me as a bit macabre. This poor insect frozen for all to see.
Little did I realize that this was going to happen to me.
For almost 20 years I’ve tangled with clinical depression. It was initiated by a brain tumor in 2002 and has been evident since then.
Depression to me is like being frozen in a deep sadness that clings to my soul. It shows me no mercy when it is active, but I can go several weeks at a time without it being an issue.
There is a dual aspect to this. My experience is like a complete suppression of the good and optimistic, combined with an increase of despair and despondency. I despair of any future good that might occur. Everything becomes bleak and black.
My life becomes a meltdown; a cascading effect of worsening feelings.
A few points that have helped me:
A main point for me is to doubt the “certainties of despair.” I believe that God’s promises to me contain a “future and a hope.” This is vital. At times I feel too far gone, and completely irredeemable. I must doubt the lies of the enemy.
Freedom come through a real faith in God’s grace. I believe that His Holy Spirit empowers the weak. He holds my hand as I stumble in the path. My confidence is in His promises to this “weak lamb.”
Scripture tells me that Jesus’ present ministry is one of intercession for my soul. “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34.)
Jesus has the power to keep His flock. He also gives me a few select companions. I meet with some of “my fellow sheep” at my local church. These know me, and their friendship encourages me. They don’t condemn.
I hope that some of this helps, if anything I hope you have a window into my convoluted faith. I don’t want pretend to have all the answers. I’m not a guru. I’m a “work in progress,” and some ways far behind you, the reader.
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
“No erudition, no purity of diction, no width of mental outlook, no flowers of eloquence, no grace of person can atone for lack of fire. Prayer ascends by fire. Flame gives prayer access as well as wings, acceptance as well as energy. There is no incense without fire; no prayer without flame.”
“Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”
“God will not turn away from doing you good. He will keep on doing good. He doesn’t do good to His children sometimes and bad to them other times. He keeps on doing good and He never will stop doing good for ten thousand ages of ages. When things are going bad that does not mean God has stopped doing good. It means He is shifting things around to get them in place for more good, if you will go on loving Him.”
“The Lord is good and upright; therefore he shows sinners the way.”
I am not a Christian because my faith “works” for me. Talk to a devout Mormon, Muslim, or Buddhist and he’ll extol the here-and-now benefits of his faith. He’ll cite a serenity of spirit, or a sense of order that believing brings to his life. Yet his belief system contradicts mine, so logically these various faiths cannot all be true!
If I were a Christian just because faith has utility for me, because my days are more likely to unfold in a smooth, trouble-free manner, I’d be a pragmatist, pure and simple. And I’d be prone to shuck my commitment to Christ the moment a different philosophy or religion appeared to offer me more.
Don’t get me wrong. Following Christ is not without rewards in the present. My faith often sustains me, provides perspective for decision-making, and injects happiness rooted in a biblical worldview.
But not all the time.
There’s the inevitable warfare with the world, the flesh, and the devil to contend with. And in my case, either chronic depression or other weaknesses of temperament sometime get the best of me. I’ll keep praying for relief and I’ll strive for sound mental health, yet I don’t want to be among the growing number of Christians who expect God to give them on earth what He only promised for heaven.
From a theological perspective, I’m a Christian because God chose me and initiated a relationship with me (Eph. 2:1-10). From a human perspective, my faith is in Christ not because it works, but because I believe Christianity is true. And truth is objective reality, not a subjective experience. No matter how I feel, or how my day goes, truth doesn’t change. Truth just is. I wrote this poem to convey this point.
Nature of Truth
When all hope yields to despair
and I doubt that God is there;
when my heart is cold, unfeeling,
and my prayers bounce off the ceiling;
when depression takes its toll
and winter winds assault my soul;
when the race seems all uphill
and dying grows in its appeal;
when things don’t go as expected—
still, God’s Truth is unaffected.
In the long run, faith works in the sense that I’ll enjoy eternity with my Savior (thanks to His works, not mine). But being a Christian doesn’t shield me from affliction in the here and now. It does assure me of God’s compassion and healing presence: “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).
Terry teaches in the areas of Church Ministry and Ministry Leadership at Columbia International University in South Carolina. He has served as a Christian Education staff member for three churches, and he’s a licensed preacher in the Presbyterian Church of America. His current books in print are Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants, and Now That’s Good AQuestion! How To Lead Quality Bible Discussions. Terry has been married for 46 years, and has two sons, a daughter-in-law, one grandson, and a dachshund. His constant prayer is, “Lord, make me half the man my dog thinks I am!”