Living By Faith And Not Feelings (Part 1)
As human beings we are naturally driven by our feelings. On the one hand, they are a gift God has given us and can even protect us. For instance, fear keeps us from doing things that could cause us harm. Pain can give us warning signs that we might have an injury or illness. But on the other hand, we are challenged by God’s Word not to let our feelings dictate the way we think and act, especially when it comes to moral decisions. Instead, God calls us to live by faith. (from Podcast Episode # 510 – Live By Faith, Not Feelings | Key Lessons on the Road to Freedom)
Nate: Austin, I wanted to start off by asking you how relevant you think the topic of living by faith and not by feelings is. If you could venture a guess and think about all the guys you’ve counseled and the guys that you’ve interacted with on our Residential Program campus, what percentage would you say need to learn this lesson?
Austin: I would say it’s safe to say 99%, if not 100%. I can’t think of anyone that I’ve counseled that I haven’t addressed this issue with.
Nate: Okay. For someone who’s listening and has never even really considered if they are living by feelings or if they are living by faith, can we first describe what it means to live by feelings?
Austin: To live by feelings is simply to live by my senses. You can easily quantify that by using the following example and examining these patterns in your own life. If you have a two-year-old kid who’s just sitting there playing and they see a toy that they want, at that moment all hell breaks loose until they have that toy. That’s what you can see. There’s a sense and there’s a desire that that kid has as a two-year-old that says, “I want that and I’m willing to do whatever I need to get that. We could get that same perspective looking at a teenager who has a friend group and he wants to be like his friends. His friends maybe have the latest video game and he’s like, “This is something that I want.”
So, this mindset of living by what one wants, if left unchecked, will continue to go step by step into each stage of our lives. If that goes unchecked in a teenager’s life, then as a young adult what’s going to keep him from doing all kinds of other things? This kind of consumer mentality of whatever I want is mine can really monopolize our lives. I took some time to think about it and if you really want to boil this issue down it comes down to submitting to one’s feelings regardless of what the Word of God tells them. The Word of God has something to say about what is right or wrong in any given situation and we have the temptation of whether we want to heed what the Word says, or just do what we want and what feels good in the moment. So living by feelings would simply just be going by what feels best at the moment rather than taking into consideration what the Word of God says.
Nate: That’s a really good perspective because we are Americans through and through, and one of the things that’s deeply entrenched in our culture is the idea of “I’m just going to be me.” We believe that if we feel it or if we think it, we’re going to act on it. I think a lot of people, especially our younger generation, are just being taught to live this way. If you ask somebody, “Why didn’t you go to work today?” They may respond with, “Well, I just wasn’t feeling it.” And as you said that kind of life will end up being very destructive. Then on the other side, it can be really hard to break out of that kind of life, especially if you’ve been living like that for a long time.
Austin: Certainly. For someone who’s now really repented, who’s now wanting to walk in the right direction, how does this now carry into their new life with the Lord? There are a couple of things that I’ve really found we have to face with the Lord that I’ve learned from personal experience. For instance, we may begin to not completely give over to sexual sin, but now in this new life with the Lord there are things that are coming against us that we must face and deal with, as far as feelings go. Some of these things include despair, depression, and condemnation. There are strong inward feelings that if we submit to, can run our lives in a very wrong direction very quickly.
Nate: Yeah. Or maybe anger or laziness. There are so many things in our inward lives that are trying to get us to live a certain way. And that’s kind of what you were saying. If I feel condemnation or if I feel despair or depression, it’s not just that I feel it, but it’s actually causing me to live in a certain way. Maybe I neglect my responsibilities because I don’t feel good. Maybe I shut people out because I’m depressed. Maybe somebody has a need right in front of me, but I just say no, I’m not going to take care of them because I don’t feel like it. It always ends up affecting our lives. So, like you were saying, there has to be a whole reorientation of one’s life from doing what their feelings tell them to do, to doing what the Word of God tells them to do. That’s what you were saying. What it means to live by faith is to let the Word of God tell us how to live our lives.
Austin: Yes. For me personally, that’s really something that goes deep because I still remember in the program the first time that I started walking by faith. I remember it was early in the morning one day getting up out of bed and it was one of those mornings that you just feel dead and have no desire to seek the Lord or to spend time with Him. But I knew that that was what I needed to do. I needed to seek the Lord. I needed to pray and read the Word. So, I went to the place where I would normally spend time with the Lord in the program, even though internally I just felt like I couldn’t do it. I was sitting there with my Bible open, but I just felt like I didn’t have it in me to seek the Lord.
And in that moment the Holy Spirit reminded me of what my counselor had told me. The night before this happened my counselor told me that you can choose by an act of your will to praise the Lord. And that came back to me at that moment as a revelation of, “In this moment, even if I feel completely dead, I can choose to praise the Lord.” And as we know, the Word of God is full of commands to praise the Lord and in every circumstance to give thanks. And so that’s just what I began to do. I began to praise the Lord and thank Him for the Word of God and how sure and how faithful it is.
And I just remember that after about 15 minutes of doing that, something broke. It went from being completely dead to me to being full of life. The Holy Spirit really began to speak to me, and the Word of God began to become real to me. So, a morning that was completely dead got turned around all the way to where it was the best quiet time I had ever had thus far. I just remember that for myself and the revelation of how powerful it is to obey even when I don’t feel like it.
Nate: Yeah. And I’m just thinking about what would have happened if you would have gotten there to your quiet time, opened up the Bible and were like, “You know what, I’m just not feeling it.” And shut the Bible like, “I’ll just see if I feel better tomorrow.” Then maybe you come back the next day and you’re not feeling it again. And this can go on forever. Eventually you will create a pattern where you never read the Word or pray because you never feel like it. And that’s a death sentence, to never read the Word because you don’t feel like it. We need the Word of God. And what’s so awesome is that when we obey, like you were saying, the Lord rewards us.
This post was originally posted at: Pure Life Ministries
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.