A Stubborn Intolerance for Joyless Christianity
by Alex Crain
"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation."
Should one's relationship with the infinite and personal living God be joyless? Francis Schaeffer didn't think so. Yet there he was, a joyless man. Technically, he was theologically sound, but there was no denying that he had become a completely joyless Christian man. If that had continued, no one would be speaking of Schaeffer or his writings, or his legacy today. Thankfully, he was stubbornly intolerant of joyless Christianity.
In True Spirituality, Schaeffer tells how the spiritual reality, which would become the hallmark of his life, came about only after a time of great personal crisis. It was 1952. Schaeffer had become a Christian from agnosticism years before. After that, he had been a pastor for ten years in the U.S. and was now a missionary in Switzerland living with his wife and young children. Over a period lasting several months, Francis worked through the disturbing gap that he saw between the large amount of Bible data he claimed to believe and the lack of genuine spiritual joy in his life.
One significant and challenging question that caused Francis to ponder long and hard is recounted by his wife, Edith, in her book, The Tapestry, p. 356 ff.)…
"I wonder what would happen to most of our churches and Christian work if we woke up tomorrow morning and everything concerning the reality and work of the Holy Spirit, and everything concerning prayer were removed from the Bible? I don't mean just ignored, but actually cut out—disappeared. I wonder how much difference it would make?"
Apparently during that period, it was making no difference in Schaeffer's life. His doubts had cut the nerve of faith. And over those months as he walked in the mountains, Francis re-thought the doctrines of the Bible, the reality of the Holy Spirit, and each of his reasons for being a Christian.
At last, he declared...
"Gradually the sun came out and the song came... I saw again that there were totally sufficient reasons to know that the infinite-personal God does exist and that Christianity is true.
"In going further, I saw something else which made a profound difference in my life. I searched through what the Bible said concerning reality as a Christian. Gradually, I saw that the problem was that with all the teaching I had received after I was a Christian, I had heard little about what the Bible says about the meaning of the finished work of Christ for our present lives.
"Interestingly enough, although I had written no poetry for many years, in that time of joy and song I found poetry beginning to flow again—poetry of certainty, an affirmation of life, thanksgiving, and praise. Admittedly, as poetry it is very poor, but it expressed a song in my heart which was wonderful to me." (from True Spirituality, p. 196 in The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, vol. 3 © 1982 Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois).
That time of crisis—and more importantly, his rediscovery of the meaning of the finished work of Christ for his present life—settled the crucial issue of spiritual reality for Schaeffer. Francis saw and believed that the finished work of Christ really is the source of the Christian's life. Rather than pursue the trappings of Christian leadership while personally being a joyless Christian, he determined to wait for a greater reality of knowing God. With such a solid spiritual basis for his own life, he went on to become a great source of help for countless others.
Intersecting Faith and Life: Are you stubbornly intolerant of joyless Christianity in your own life?
What would happen if you woke up tomorrow morning and everything concerning the reality and work of the Holy Spirit, and everything concerning prayer were removed from the Bible? Not just ignored, but actually cut out… How much difference it would make in the way that you live?
How can you grow to become a greater source of spiritual help for others?
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