Faith in the darkness

Young beautiful girl emotionally prays to the god of a wind

“But when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8

I’ve struggled to write a blog recently as I have felt overwhelmed by the fact that a huge amount of women are now ministering in churches in places of authority, leadership and teaching. Not just overwhelmed by the sheer volume, but, if I am true to myself, the huge dilemma it raises in the choices that I feel I need to make in the light of what I believe God is saying in and through His word, and how I am to live out my own conviction with the tide continuing to flow in the other direction.

As I have said before, I would much prefer an easy life, agreeing with everyone and everything and not causing any waves. I generally go back and forth in my mind, in the midst of conflict and dilemma, sifting through and weighing up all of the arguments, and asking so many times…. does it really matter that much to take a stand against something such as women teaching in the church? Aren’t there more important issues to be addressing at this time than this one? Why not concentrate on just reaching out to the lost who are facing an eternity without the Lord? What about all the other parts of scripture that are just as important? Why risk being misunderstood and rejected or even worse hurting other people’s feelings for a seemingly ‘lesser’ subject?

I can say from the bottom of my heart that taking this stand against women teaching in churches or having authority over men is not something one does lightly, like putting the kettle on for a cup of tea or coffee. It is not without deep concern or love, or witnessing the many sincere women out there who are ministering in the role of leadership. At some point along the way, a heart-wrenching decision has to be made, a choice between pleasing man or pleasing God. Either we need to take His word seriously in the divine order He has set for mankind and submit ourselves to it or we overthrow it and say in effect to the creator of the universe, ‘Lord, your word doesn’t really matter anymore, does it?’. How can it be any other way in the long-term when we are faced with the choice of either continuing in agreement with something that goes against His word or realigning ourselves and seeking to follow His way of doing things? It is after all His kingdom.

Last week my husband and I attended a funeral of a close relative of his. The service was held in the chapel at a crematorium and just before we went in, as we waited amongst friends and family whilst the coffin was being carried from the car, we realised that a woman priest would be presiding. This presented a dilemma for us given our conviction about God’s word and how He has been speaking to us. Probably in both our minds we were processing and praying about the situation asking if we should just ‘go with the flow’, attend the service out of respect and honour for a precious dead relative, and not run the risk of hurting anyone’s feelings in the family or if we should live by our conviction, not go into the service and honour God and His word in this matter? Was it right to take such a stand in such difficult circumstances?

There are many popular causes in the church today that can often seem trendy and fashionable to stand with but when one looks back in history, to those that have sought to be obedient to Christ even to the point of death, there appears never really to be a convenient or trendy time to stand by one’s convictions. It usually happens when the moment is the hardest, starkest or cruellest or when one least wants to do it. Humanly speaking it can appear that the choice you are about to make will create a great chasm between yourself and family or friends who you are so desperately trying to reach out to with the love of Christ. It can be the most painful decision to date, and another death to die in the walk of obedience to Jesus. What naturally follows are thoughts of what others will think or conclusions they will jump to. Perhaps they will think we are anti-women, completely crazy or just plain heartless. In such circumstances, they might not understand an expression of obedience and faith to a living God who we owe our very lives to and who loves both men and women equally and truly does know what is best for the human race.

As I have been reflecting on the subject of ‘women in the church’, I am regularly facing in my mind’s eye the familiar faces of beloved friends – women – who I know are now in positions of leadership within churches or who have been ordained in the Church of England. I have followed their journeys and in former days encouraged and accompanied some of them on their path to ordination. They are women I love and respect and I know they are gifted and have a heart to serve the Lord.

For many in the church, I know that it is this evidence of women in these roles and in what they believe to be their calling, that stops them from taking the scriptures in 1 Timothy 2 v 12 and elsewhere seriously or thinking enough about them to allow them to affect or change their lives. Yet what is the abiding fruit of women in these ministry roles after the initial enthusiasm and novelty has worn off? Recently, whilst talking through this issue with an ordained minister in the Church of England we were told that current statistics indicate that churches led by women are actually in decline and dwindling in attendance. This evidence needs investigation but certainly presents a different image to the rosy and positive picture we initially think might be out there. But putting aside numbers whether large or small what about the evidence that is unseen by human eyes but known by God?

It can be a momentous decision to decide that God through His word is true, insightful and wise in teaching about the different roles of men and women, and to stand on those truths in faith, no matter what one may see with the eyes or what may conflict with the heart within.

I remember once listening to a talk by a faithful missionary lady who had gone through umpteen trials and tribulations including the sudden, tragic, death of her husband. In the face of what she could see visually, she was able to proclaim, ‘faith operates in the darkness’ and to explain that one must hold on to God’s word even when the world tries to give other answers.

Many years ago, I wrote down a quotation (possibly familiar to many) which I have never forgotten and which somehow seems relevant:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

This is why I take this stand and believe it to be a high priority; because I believe it is ‘that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking’.

Alison Joy

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