We all have spiritual struggles and failures.  But what if I told you that God can use these as a humble witness of His Grace?  It happened to me one day a few years ago.

The Surprising and Humbling Day My Son Praised My Faith 

It’s not very often that I’m at a loss for words.  Under most circumstances I am able to respond to questions or statements with words that are thought out in a careful manner.  Words mean things, so I take pains to choose my words well before I speak them.  There are moments, however, when I don’t know what to say because I am so stunned at what was said to me moments before.  I had one of those moments on May 24, 2022.

My then twenty-three year old son, Michael, was involved in a prolonged discussion with me and my wife Kelly in which the subject of faith came up.  The question that I posed to Michael was this: “How do you know that your decision to follow Christ was real?”

In his answer that followed, Michael told me that he saw me as a man of great faith in Jesus Christ, and that he hoped to one day have a faith as big and bold as mine.  He went on to say that he watched me go through adverse times, including the divorce between me and his mom, and that he has been a witness to my firm stance on my faith in Jesus as the only way to have survived what I went through in 2004 when the divorce was finalized and was officially a single father.  Michael said that his decision to truly follow Christ, and to have me later baptize him, was from watching me hold onto my faith in Christ during the hardest times of my life.

I had no words.

The Questions that Ran Through My Mind

I sat and looked at Michael as I searched for words, but how do you find the right words in such a humbling moment?  I mulled over a couple of questions:

  • “How can I be a man of great faith when I wrestle so much with my faith in God?”
  • “How can this boy hold me in such high regard when I am such a failure at living this life as a follower of Jesus Christ?”

How You Can Be a Person of Faith and Wrestle with God

To answer the first question I first had to go back to the Apostle Paul who told the Philippian Church:

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

“Work out your own faith with fear and trembling.”  Work it out.  There will be fear and trembling.  Faith takes work.  Working out one’s faith takes…well, work and sometimes there are long lonely dark nights of the soul.  Working out one’s faith takes silent walks in the forest or in the neighborhood.  Working out one’s faith takes long discussion amongst Christian brothers (and sister for the ladies) who will ask the hard questions, listen, and make sense of convoluted answers as one attempts to make sense of a situation.  It also sometimes takes those friends sitting with you around a fire and saying nothing.

It’s What You Do in Spite of Your Doubts that Matters

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.”  (Philippians 2:21-23 ESV)

Your faith cannot be absent of work.  There is much to do in refining your faith, and the work that we do, including the work that our faith produces, is the process of living this life.

What works does Michael see me doing?  Everything.

I hope that he sees me:

  • Loving and serving my wife daily
  • Loving and serving my family daily
  • Deepening my relationship with God by reading the Bible
  • Giving of my tithes and offerings to show that I trust God completely with everything
  • Engaging in authentic worship in front of my family and friends at home and at church
  • Serving others: my friends and strangers alike
  • Offering Mercy, Grace, Love and Forgiveness to others the same way God does
  • Also being like the Apostle Paul and others who desire to do what God says to do and realizing that sometimes I will fail
  • Living my life knowing that God loves me unconditionally, and I should love others the same
  • Making mistakes, but owning them and repenting when I have sinned against God
  • Apologizing when I am wrong to my wife, my kids or anyone I have offended

All of this, I believe, is working out my faith before God.  My son sits in the audience of my life, taking notes.

Walking by Faith in the Dark Times Counts

 “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV)

I can’t live by what I see.  My eyes will deceive me.  I see my failures and where I have fallen short of God’s glory.  I haven’t measured up.  Thankfully, that’s not what matters.

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21 ESV)

When my sin abounded, grace from God the Father abounded at an even greater rate.  Because of this I have anchored my faith in Christ Jesus.

My faith has been shaken and it’s been tested at the  t level, but I can say with all candor that in most instances during the deepest darkest moments when I have felt the farthest from God, it has been my faith that I have held onto with all of the strength that is within me.  All of the time I thought I was alone, God was holding onto, defending, and fighting for me.  His Word is all that I have.  I consider that I have no one else to turn to.  Just like the Apostle Peter, I know that God is the only one that gives me exactly what I need: Him.

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.  So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  (John 6:66-69 ESV)

God is at Work Even When We Falter

My plan to work out my faith does not always succeed.  I fail, I make mistakes, I slip, stumble and fall.  This is what leads me to wrestle much with the second question: How can this boy hold me in such high regard when I am such a failure at living this life as a follower of Jesus Christ?

The problem with the questions asked is the premise that I pose in the second half of the question.  I have believed that I fail, and fail miserably.  While I have fallen short of the glory of God because I am a sinner, I am saved by His grace.  My sins have been forgiven through my belief in Jesus Christ and I have repented of my sins.  My sins, therefore, will not be held against me when I stand before God when I leave this world.

Michael holds me in high regard because I wrestle with my faith.  My son looks up to me because he sees wrestling with and working out my faith while holding myself to the standards outlined above.  He sees me taking ownership of my mistakes.  He sees me stewarding our family resources by living out what I say when he hears me pray to God and say “everything we have is from You.”  He watches me interact with Kelly and love her unconditionally.  He watches me interact with other people, serving them as Christ would have me serve.

I am in awe of the fact that all of those times that I wrestled with my faith and with God, and all of those times I chose to cite what the Bible says in response to the hard days of life to my kids, those words found a foothold in Michael’s mind.  The greatness of God worked through my working out my faith, and this is what humbles me.  I am not boasting about anything I have done.  I am, however, boasting about what God has been able to do through my life in the eyes of my son.  It will be my humble privilege to pass this legacy of faith on to him and watch it grow, and be able to walk with him in it for a while.

God Always Does More Than We Can Imagine

 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  (Romans 3:20-21 ESV)

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4 ESV)

God has done more than I could ask or imagine.  He has worked through me to impact Michael’s life.  To reach and teach him, and set him on a path to further become the man that he is supposed to be.

All of this is because of what God has worked out in my heart over the past fifty-six years.

Prayer that God Will Use Your Spiritual Struggles and Failures as a Humble Witness of His Grace

Pray with me: “Lord, you have said that we must walk humbly before you.  May we learn from each day that a humble heart represents the work of Your Spirit in our lives.  Thank you for the work You are doing in us and through us that your name may be glorified.  May we not grow weary when the hard days surround us because You are still working for Your glory.  May these lessons in humility carry us through to the end, knowing that the legacy we will leave behind is one that cherished, honored, blessed, and worshiped the One true God, and based all our hope on the name that is above all names, Jesus.  For His beautiful name we pray all of these things, amen.”

Other Helpful Articles by David Shelton

Prayer to Stop Believing You’re Not Good Enough to Follow Your Dreams

Feeling Unloved Prayer to Find God’s True Love

Prayer for When You’ve Fallen in Life and Feel You Can’t Get Up

Prayer When People Let You Down and Life Isn’t Fair

David Shelton

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