The Impala Syndrome
This devotional was written by Jim Liebelt
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.—Hebrews 11:1
I recently read a story on the Internet about the deer-like African Impala that reportedly can jump to an amazing height of 10 feet in the air, yet can be restrained in captivity by a wall that is merely three feet tall. Why? It seems that the Impala simply will not jump without being able to see where it will land.
This reminds me of the faith life of many Christ-followers. We have been given the wonderful gift of faith. By simple acts of faith, both small and great, God chooses to expand His influence in the world (See Hebrews 11). Still, it seems that many Christians live like Impalas when it comes to exercising faith. I know that for myself, time and time again, I’ve let any number of small walls; those made of fear, or worry or even ‘common sense’ restrain me from exercising the gift of faith that God has given. How about you?
When we insist upon living by sight and always determining the results before we act, we short-circuit faith, cutting God and His power out of the equation in our lives. When living by sight overcomes faith, our spiritual lives begin to shrivel, we live at a lesser level of satisfaction, and our own participation in influencing the world for God decreases. According to the Scriptures, faith is a foundational principle for living the Christian life. (See Romans 1:17.)
The solution to the “Impala Syndrome” of faith is found in choosing to trust. When we choose to trust God enough to walk by faith rather than by sight, we exercise our faith and as a result, its capacity grows. Our spiritual lives are strengthened, which results in our living life to its fullest.
So, how are you doing when it comes to matters of faith? Are you consistently living by faith? Or, is your daily experience more like the “Impala Syndrome”? Today, you can make the choice to trust God and live by faith not by sight. Let our prayer today be, “Increase our faith, Lord!”
Setback or Cutback?
"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that is will be even more fruitful."
John 15:2 (NIV)
My eldest son is a born leader. That's a nice way of saying he's strong-willed. I've often heard Dr. James Dobson, President of Focus on the Family, describe determined, strong-willed children this way: "They come into the world smoking a cigar and asking to speak to the administrator of the hospital to complain about the temperature of their room."
That's a good definition of my son. For example, in Jr. High, Mitch struggled in his relationship with his basketball coach. Why? Because he didn't think he was a good coach. While Mitch never said so, his attitude reflected this mind-set, which in turn affected his game. The coach ultimately benched him, and his attitude. Devastated, Mitch couldn't understand why the coach would bench one of his starting players.
We've all been there. You and I have experienced "setbacks" in our jobs, relationships, and even in ministry. These setbacks cause us to wonder, "What's going on? Why is this happening?" If we're like my son, you and I may not always see what God is doing behind the scenes. That's where our key verse comes in.
God is more interested in our character than our comfort. He desires that we produce more spiritual fruit. Therefore, He's always at work pruning the areas of our lives that don't match His plans. So, when God allows our world to be turned upside down, we are not experiencing a "setback" but rather a "cutback." In God's economy, a cutback can be a good thing because it makes room for more good stuff to come.
However, sometimes the pruning process can feel like it's going to kill us. I remember one fall when I was pruning my rose bush. My daughter, who loves flowers, was distraught when she saw what I had done to the bush.
"Why did you kill it?" she asked with horror in her voice. I reassured her that I didn't kill the bush. I only cut it back so that next year it would produce larger and more beautiful roses.
Though it may feel like it at times, I assure you that God is not trying to kill us either. The Lord cuts us back in order to produce more--more Christ-like fruit in our words, attitudes, and deeds.
Eventually, Mitch apologized to his coach for his attitude and for not performing up to his potential. Ah, a new bud of humility was beginning to sprout! That's the positive effect of pruning. It stimulates the growth of good fruit. So take a look at your life and see where God may be pruning. Then get ready to produce some fresh fruit.
Dear Lord, at times, Your pruning may be painful, but I will trust You. Help me to see from Your perspective that it's not a setback, but a cutback that can help me grow in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.
There is a slogan commonly used when describing a trip to Vegas: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” The idea is that when people go to Las Vegas they get license to do things they would never normally do, to act like they would never normally act, and to sin in ways they would never normally sin. So what if you cheat on your wife, this is Vegas! So what if you are irresponsible with your money, this is Vegas! So what if you…?
The problem is many Christians are living their faith this way. When you compartmentalize your faith the slogan becomes “What happens at church, stays at church” or “What happens away from church, stays away from church.” Many Christians are living out their faith only Sundays at church. And when they don’t feel like being a Christian, they stuff their church selves away until Sunday when they need to be good again.
Christians are called to be Christians not just some of the time, but all of the time. We are called to be Christ-like in all of our actions, not just some of our actions. When Christians live a compartmentalized faith, they do a great job being a good Christian at church on Sunday but come Monday morning (or even in the parking lot on the way out!) all bets are off. You fill up on Sunday with a dose of Christianity and respond as the perfect Christian, but come Monday when your co-worker is late with a project…the evil thoughts take over and start plucking away any good fruit that was being produced the day before.
The Bible says that we can be recognized by the fruit we produce in our lives. What kind of fruit are you producing? More than that, what kind of fruit are others noticing you are producing when they see you on a daily basis? Are you producing the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? The challenge of the Christian faith is being a Christian 24/7. The challenge is being a Christian not just when everyone is looking but also when no one is looking.