Firm and Flexible

      Comments Off on Firm and Flexible

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45, NIV, -she was Mary)

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Rom 4:20_21, RSV -he was Abraham)

There are some things that God wants us to be very firm about. He wants us to be very firm in our faith, fully convinced that he is “able to do what he has promised,” like Abraham, like Mary. God wants us to take his promises seriously, and make the great decisions of our lives on the basis of those promises. No wavering, even when God’s promise seems, at the moment, wild or incredible. James wrote that in our prayers we “must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not think that they will receive anything from the Lord;” (James 1:6_7).

Of course, faith itself isn’t the only thing God wants us to be firm about. He commands his people to be firm about morals, and to hold one another to a high standard of behavior. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth” (Col 3:5_8, RSV).

Of course the list of things that Christians must be firm about would include all of the virtues described in scripture (as in 2 Peter 1:5_11) and exclude all of the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19_21).

One of the big difficulties that godly people always have is that in the midst of all that firmness, Christians are to be very flexible people, not bound by their culture, or their age, or their traditions, or their prejudices. Paul emphasized that about himself by saying that he had “become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). Paul also affirmed that changing circumstances did not dictate his contentment or affect his relationship with Christ (Phil. 4:11_13), and James particularly emphasized flexibility in dealing with people of all kinds when he said, “don’t show favoritism” (James 2:1ff). Jesus decried the hypocrisy that reduces religion to rigid rules and regulations formulated by human reason, which can be marvelously predictable, but makes worship empty (Matt. 15:7_9).

Reading the book of Acts, especially the first 15 chapters, we see an account of a firm and committed group of people, the disciples of Jesus, who were constantly being called upon to adjust to new circumstances and seize new opportunities. Many of these changes were painful and traumatic. While no congregation or believer may go through precisely the same set of challenges today, every congregation and every believer will go through some of the same kinds of adjustments and growth pangs that those ancient disciples did, with the challenge to remain firm in the essentials of the faith while being flexible in dealing with new people and changing circumstances in the world. The world, after all, while always driven by the same appetites, is also always changing around us, shifting like the waves of the sea.

In the passages about Mary and Abraham above that commended their faith, they were firm in accepting the Lord’s will for their lives, firm in their trust and obedience, but flexible in that they were willingly entering into a new adventure. What God had promised each of them meant change and growth, new challenges through the children they would soon have. They embraced those challenges and won praise from God. The disciple of Jesus who is firm in faith must be flexible as well, willing to grow and change and have new experiences, willing to use new tools and welcome different people, while being faithful to the life and message of Christ.

Share this article: