Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, Free for CAPC Members
In Gospel Fluency, Jeff Vanderstelt wants to help every believer speak the gospel in the stuff of everyday life.
Most of our pursuits in life are oriented toward finding and maintaining the good life. And however we may define it, suffering and trials are rarely included—even for those who are Christians. Try as we may to run from them, they find us, and the pain that ensues reminds us why we were on the run.
Because we cannot outrun the trials that test our faith, it helps to gain perspective from others who have endured and learned something more about God. Their accounts and insights give us a glimpse into what it’s like to walk through one of life’s fiery trials and come out the other side with faith not only intact, but also refined, strengthened, purified.In Failing Faith, Wade Bearden invites us into his life, full of loss, so that we might find a faith that can hold up under the weight of real-world realities.
Christ and Pop Culture staff writer and Seeing & Believing podcast co-host Wade Bearden is one who offers his trials for our aid and for God’s praise. In Failing Faith: When What You Thought You Knew about God Doesn’t Work in the Real World (print or Kindle), Bearden invites us into his life, full of loss, so that we might find a faith that can hold up under the weight of real-world realities:
As a teenager, I remember praying for God to fix my crooked teeth. When it didn’t happen, I figured I either didn’t possess enough faith, or he’d fix them through my parents’ pocketbook. Either way, I’d have straight teeth. He’d owed me that. I was a good kid. I didn’t drink whiskey or smoke pot. I felt I deserved a comfortable life.
After I left home for a Christian college, and later transitioned into a theological graduate program, my perspective on God, faith, and the blessed life changed. I realized godly individuals do suffer. The life of Job and other heroes of the Christian faith teach that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and good people don’t know why. Not to mention the ultimate Good Person—Jesus—who, although he had lived a perfect life, was betrayed by a friend, abandoned by the rest, and ended up dying a horrific death.
The desire for a comfortable life, devoid of pain, is how most of us would define the good life. As much as we may acknowledge the reality of trials in this life, we are still shocked and incensed when they find us. Which is why we need books like Failing Faith, as well as other stories, whether in film or on TV, whether spoken or sung. Such artifacts shape our perspective by coming through the backdoor of the mind and even the heart. We need our good-life faith to be challenged. Bearden does just that, touching on our expectations of being blessed, deserving miracles, and receiving Christian karma. These notions are weak, unable to hold up to the realities that overtake us. We need something much greater if we are to endure in this life. We need to know the truth about who God is. Bearden explains:
Sure, in the prospect of heaven, even the most difficult Christian life will one day be but a short, faded memory. But, despite all of this, our God above, the one who knows infinitely more than we could even imagine, weeps for us and with us in our pain.
I mentioned earlier that, to God, a thousand years is like a day. But that’s only half of 2 Peter 3:8. The first part of the verse actually says that the opposite is also true: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (emphasis mine). Notice what this means. Even while our suffering is small in comparison to eternity, it’s also true that the God who could have stopped it, but chose not to, also lives through the pain longer than any of us can imagine. (143)
Such truth is infused throughout Failing Faith. By it we gain the understanding that life isn’t good only when we’ve outrun pain—it’s good because God is near, bearing our burdens.
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