Cynthia interviews Kathy Howard about what it means to avoid flat faith.

Cynthia: This is Cynthia, with Heart of the Matter podcast,
for women who want to obey God in a less than perfect world. In Philippians 1
Paul describes himself as a slave, some translations say bondslave, of Jesus
Christ. Totally committed to Christ. Today in America we seldom describe
ourselves that way, even though we would call ourselves Christians who follow
Christ. What does that say about our commitment? And what does commitment look
like? Today I have with me Kathy Howard, and she has just written a book called
Fed Up With Flat Faith. Welcome, Kathy.

Kathy: Thank you,
Cynthia. It’s good to be with you today.

Cynthia: Kathy, what is flat faith?

Kathy: I have
experienced it personally, so I can tell you in detail what flat faith feels
like, what it looks like. There’s a list, actually, of characteristics in the
book. But to get really to the heart of it if you feel like you should be
experiencing something more in your faith, in your relationship with God, if
you feel a lack of disconnect, like you know God’s there but you just can’t
seem to really sense his presence or see him working around you, or you’re just
not excited or passionate about your relationship with Christ, then you may
have flat faith.

Cynthia: You’re talking here about being passionate about
Christ. There may be some women out there who are having a little bit of a hard
time being passionate. Because there is something about their circumstances
that’s giving them a problem. Maybe they’re not happy with their life or what’s
going on with them. Is God concerned about both our physical and our spiritual
circumstances?

Kathy: Actually I have
to remind myself of this over and over again. And I tell women all the time,
Scripture’s really really clear that God cares about every detail of our
physical life. He cares if we have an illness, if we have an area of material
need, if we need money, if we’re without a job. He cares about all those
things, and he’s promised to meet those needs as we seek him and obey him. But
you know, I’ve seen Scripture, the truth, over and over again, that God, even
as much as he cares about our physical condition and our physical needs, he
cares so much more about our spiritual condition. Because our physical
condition is temporary. The things of this earth are just momentary.

His purpose for believers is to shape and form us into the
image of Christ. And we see in Scripture, again over and over, that he actually
works in our trials and difficulties of life to carry out that purpose. To
shape us and form us to the image of Christ. You see it in James, you see it in
1 Peter, you see it in Romans. So you’ve got James, Peter, and Paul, and Jesus
himself said in this world you will have trouble. And James, Peter, and Paul
says you know, we’re going to have these things. We are definitely going to
have trials and tribulations and difficulties. But our all-powerful God can
take those things and work them for our good so that we look more and more like
Christ. So that the eternal things of our character, our spiritual condition,
is shaped into what God wants it to be.

Cynthia: Okay. I have read Hebrews 11, and in Hebrews 11 it
actually talks about people who hold onto what they believe despite the fact
that they were tortured and sawn in half. I’m all of a sudden very nervous. Can
you make me feel better about that?

Kathy: This is
something that I have really thought about a lot in recent years. In fact, a
couple of my books deal with this whole idea of trials and difficulties and how
God works in them.

God has promised that we are going to have trials. He
promises also, though, to never leave us. And when you read through Hebrews 11
and you see, there’s actually a wide range. Some of those things God actually
delivered his people from them and protected them from experiencing those
things. Sometimes he walked with them through those things, and essentially
kept them strong in order to endure them. And then sometimes God allowed those
circumstances to actually take the physical life, but what God did is he walked
with that saint through that and brought them all the way into his presence,
into his actual physical presence.

So he never leaves us. He never forsakes us. But how he
chooses to be with us in those circumstances are going to change, depending on
his purposes. Sometimes he delivers us from things, sometimes he delivers us in
things, and sometimes he delivers us all the way through them right into
heaven.

Cynthia: During those trials, what about the heart? Because
I have had dark times in my life, very dark. What can you say about that? 

Kathy: When God allows
trials and difficulties in our life, from what I see in Scripture he doesn’t
say that we’re not going to grieve. His Word says that we can have joy in the
midst of trials and circumstances. We can, because our spiritual condition is
always guaranteed no matter what our physical circumstances are.

In fact, in 1 Peter, Peter says that God protects us for our
eternal inheritance. So no matter what bombards us from the outside our
spiritual condition, our eternal inheritance, God’s going to protect. But yet
we will grieve.

And Paul talks about people who’ve lost loved ones, and says
that we won’t grieve as those who have no hope. Which says to me we are still
going to grieve. But there is a joy still in that grieving. There is an eternal
hope in the loss, that unbelievers can’t experience. Because they don’t have
that eternal hope.

Last year my family and I went through a really dark and
difficult time. And it’s really funny because I had started writing, I had
signed a contract to write a devotional book called God Is My Refuge: Twelve
Weeks of Devotions and Scripture Memory for Troubled Times. And I had started
that because I had so many friends that were experiencing difficult things. And
I was about a third of the way through writing that book and this trial hit our
family.

God’s timing is always perfect, so even though he allowed
this thing into our lives, he had me where I needed to be to hold onto him. And
one of the biggest things that he taught me in the middle of this is that even
when my emotions—because you asked about the heart—even when our emotions are
dark and difficult and are telling us one thing, like where is God, he doesn’t
care about what you’re going through, you are never going to make it through
this, and this has just wrecked your life, everything has changed. When our
emotions are telling us things like that then we need to go back to God’s Word
and remind ourselves of his truth and the truth of his promises.

Because our emotions can lie to us and they can trick us. I
don’t ever want to be swayed by that and pulled away from God’s truth. So we
have to purposefully go back to God’s word and tell ourselves the truth of God,
even when our emotions want us to believe something different.

Cynthia: I’ve
heard you say a couple things now. You said in the beginning that you were
wanting to experience something more and being passionate about Christ. And
then I’m hearing you talk about feeling really bad and grieving. Is this about
emotions?

Kathy: That’s
a good question. Scripture, again and again, tells us that we are to have an
abundant life. The night Jesus was betrayed he said he wants us to have his
joy, and he wants us to have it to the full. So God does want us to experience
joy and excitement and passion. Read Paul’s letters and listen to him talk
about the gospel of Christ and his feelings for Christ.

In Philippians 3, when he talks about it he wants to know
Christ in the power of his resurrection and share in his sufferings, you can
hear his passion as he writes those words. I mean, God gave us emotions, so
emotions themselves are not a bad thing. But when they are, I guess,
manipulated by physical circumstances, we have to be careful because sometimes
our emotions don’t always tell us the truth.

But when our emotions are shaped by the truth of God, those
are emotions that we can revel in.

Cynthia: What
you’re saying is that maybe, in certain situations, that our passions, our
emotions, doesn’t necessarily equal faith. Especially if we’re going through
hard times. Is that correct?

Kathy: Yeah. I don’t think that grief and pain . .
. we can have those things because of our physical circumstances while at the
same time still experience joy and excitement over what God’s doing around us
in our relationship with him. I don’t think those emotions are mutually
exclusive of each other.

Cynthia: I
agree with you. I have noticed that during very dark times I would be grieving
terribly, but I still had eternal hope.

Kathy: Oh,
absolutely.

Cynthia: You
can hang onto both of those because your heart is big enough for more than one
emotion. You can believe and hang on, and that’s when you need to hang on.

Kathy:  Absolutely.
And the thing about trials and difficulties is they can strengthen our faith
like nothing else. In fact, ease and abundance and just going through life
without any trouble actually tends to weaken our faith. We get lazy and we get
self-sufficient and we don’t have anything in our life that really pushes us to
depend on God.

So often a fiery, passionate faith and a total dependence on
God is forged in those times of difficulty.

Cynthia: I
think back about Genesis, and we were designed to live in that perfect world
that God created in the garden, where everything was just the way it was
supposed to be. But the world we live in is not that garden anymore.

Kathy: No,
it’s not.

Cynthia:  It’s
broken and it’s damaged and things are not going to work right. Just that alone
is enough, without other people around us continuing to sin and do things that
devastate us. There’s been times that I have actually been mad and I had to go
before the Lord and say you know what, Lord? You could have stopped this, but
you didn’t, I’m a little bit angry. But you know? He’s big enough to handle
that.

Kathy:  He
is. Our emotions definitely don’t scare him.

Cynthia:  Absolutely.
And I think he’d rather us tell him that. I had a friend one time that said to
me, I’m so glad you pray that because he’s probably been waiting on you to pray
that for quite some time now.

Kathy:  Yeah,
because he knows it. Even in my marriage, in my relationship with my husband, I
realized pretty early on that if I was upset with him I was not going to get
over it until I let him know that I was upset and why. So I think sometimes
with God that probably we need to do the same thing.

Cynthia: Exactly.
Because he does know. You talk about, in your book, about living risky. Now
what does that mean?

Kathy: An
easy faith, one where, like I mentioned earlier where we don’t have many trials
or difficulties and just no challenges, our faith definitely will end up flat
in those kinds of situations. But it’s just easy, there’s no risk. But when God
calls us to a pumped up faith, a fiery faith, we have to step out in obedience.

So often God’s call to us is a call to obedience, is going
to be things that perhaps are outside of our comfort zone, or scares us a
little bit. Or is going to require things of us that we don’t want to give, or
require us to turn away from some other things in order to obey. We hesitate,
many times, to obey because of those kinds of things.

But yet, if we’re willing to take that risk, if we believe
that God is faithful and trustworthy, and that what he asks us to do is always
best for us and is in scope of his eternal plan and what he wants to do in this
world, we’re going to be willing to take the risk. And when we do, when we live
risky and step out in obedience, we’re going to experience blessings that we
can’t experience when we don’t take that risk. 

For an example, years ago God called me into teaching Bible
study to adults who’ve never ever studied the Bible before. And it was just an
incredible set of circumstances where he was just bringing unsaved adults to
our church, just over and over and over again. And it meant some changes for me
and my family because of time issues, and it was scary for me to teach the
Bible to lost adults. At the time it was a little nerve-wracking.

And yet God blessed me so in that. I got to see him do
amazing things. Change hearts, bring people into the kingdom. And I got to
participate in that and see his miraculous activity from the front row. Had I
not stepped out in obedience I would have missed that.

Cynthia: So you stepped out and did something that, if he didn’t
make it succeed, you were sunk.

Kathy: At the best it
would have just fallen flat and nothing happened. Right? At the worst I could
have experienced some rejection and people making fun of me, putting my foot in
my mouth. There have been other things that he’s called me to do too that I
have obeyed and stepped out and been so greatly blessed.

And of course I also think about those things where I held
back and I didn’t obey, and I wonder what did I miss out on.

Cynthia: How did you sense that call?

Kathy: Actually he just
completely and totally dropped it in my lap. We were living in Canada at the
time, and I was in charge of ladies Bible study at our church. Of course I am a
big planner and so I like to have my ducks in a row, I don’t like for things to
be changed at the last minute. And so it was like two weeks before the fall
Bible study semester and I had all my studies lined up, I had all my leaders. I
was set on go.

And I get a call one morning from the church secretary, and
we had just finished vacation Bible school at our church. In one day, two moms
in the community who had brought their kids to our Bible school, called the
church office and asked if we had Bible study for people who had never studied
the Bible before. I mean, really, when does that happen? That is so totally a
God thing.

Cynthia: Right.

Kathy: So she calls me
and says Kathy, I’ve had two moms call, and she tells me what happened. Only
God can draw a heart like that to him. Someone who’s never been in church,
doesn’t know anything about the Bible, and they call a church and ask about
Bible study? That just doesn’t happen.

And I knew immediately that it was God working. In that
moment I knew I had to obey. It was so clearly God’s activity, to me, and I
wanted to be a part of it. So as much of a planner as I am, I said you know
what, we don’t have anything, but you call them back. I said I’m changing, I
will get it together, I will make something happen. And I did.

We had four women in that first little group. During the course
of the study two received Christ. It took two more years for the other two to
come to Christ, but they did. And then God just led us into, we started
teaching coed during Sunday morning. In fact I think, we’ve moved on, we’re not
in Canada anymore, but I believe that they still have a study for seekers there
that started with those two ladies who had brought their kids to vacation Bible
school.

Cynthia: You mentioned something about consumer Christianity
in your book. I want you to compare what you just talked about and your idea of
not having flat faith, with what you called consumer Christianity.

Kathy: We are so
influenced by our culture. It is something that believers, we need to fight
against every day. Because things that the world just accepts and takes for
truth, if we don’t constantly line it up against God’s Word we can so easily
fall into that.

As you read the Bible God is so clear about the way that he
has designed his church. When he saves us, he saves us into a family, into his
family. He puts the church together. It’s such an inter-dependent relationship.
We cannot be the believer that God calls us to outside of a vital connection to
a local church. A vital connection looks far different than what our culture
has sort of shaped us to believe that it looks like.

So what I mean by consumer Christianity is we have allowed
that consumer mentality to bleed into the way that we see the church. So rather
than really becoming an integral part of a body where we serve that body and we
meet needs and we allow them to meet our needs and minister to us, and we know
them and they know us, we end up putting this consumer model on the church
where we may go to, instead of going to a church with the attitude of God wants
me here, he’s got a purpose for me being here, he has given me spiritual gifts
that he wants me to use to minister to this body and to help them minister to
the community, we go to the church with the consumer attitude of what is this
church going to do for me.

Now, while we do get benefit, God ministers to us in the
church, that cannot be our motivation in where we go and how we relate to the
church. But many Christians will go to this church on Sunday morning because
the preacher is dynamic and we love the lights and flashes and music shows and
everything they put on on Sunday mornings, so we go there. But yet this other
church down the road has an incredible youth program and we want our kids to
get the most out of that, so we’re going to go there on Wednesday night.

And we’re not going to get super involved because we’ve got
a life and we’ve got a lot of other things going on. So we end up picking from
the programs of a church like we pick items off a menu, and we never have the
relationship with a local body that God intends for us to have.

Cynthia: It’s like shopping for a restaurant. I have always
firmly believed that every believer needs to have a ministry of some kind in
using their spiritual gift.

Kathy: Yes. That’s why
God gives them to us. 

Cynthia: And that is what Paul was meaning, I think, when he
said that I am a slave of Jesus Christ. That’s what I want to be, his will is
going to be my will. Kathy, where can we find you?

Kathy: My website iswww.kathyhoward.org, and of course my
books you can get on Amazon, ChristianBook.com, hopefully in your Christian
bookstore. If they don’t have them on the shelf I’m sure they can order them
for you. But I’d love for your listeners to visit my website. I offer a lot of
stuff there. There’s a whole page that’s free resources that’s packed with
Bible reading plans and quiet time tips and Scripture memory helps and that
sort of thing.

I even have some free Bible studies on my website. There’s a
study in the fruit of the Spirit on my website, and through the book of
Ephesians. And we talked about Hebrews, I have a study through the book of
Hebrews on my website.

Cynthia: Interesting. Well, I appreciate your time and I
appreciate you provoking us to thought.

Kathy: Thank you. It’s
been fun chatting with you.

Cynthia: Thanks.

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