You are a stranger in the woods in Alaska and no one is around. You have been told that a man-eating bear lives in these parts, and he has just spotted you on his turf. He is eight feet tall and weighs 600 pounds, and mean as a junk-yard dog. At the moment he’s running at top speed towards you. It’s going to take him about 10 seconds to close the gap between the two of you and eat you.
Your mind starts working, retrieving information about bears. You won’t remember things like, Bears hibernate in the winter. No, you’ll remember stuff like, Bears eat meat, and I am meat. Running is an option, but bears can run faster than people. However, I could be running while I generate more options. Climbing a tree is no good, since he’d just eat me in the treetop. But then you spot a little cabin in the trees, and mind says, I can run into that cabin!
All options are recommended by your mind to your will at varying levels of intensity according to how strongly mind believes the option will solve the problem. Will is then going to have to choose from among the options presented.
Meanwhile, feeler is getting in on the action. Feeler’s going to generate but one emotion appropriate to the situation: fear! On a scale of 1 to 10, that’s a 10! Thus, feeler socks it to will at level 10: “I feel like the bear’s going to eat me alive, so get moving!” Now, feeler is a tremendous motivator to will. When feeler is talking 10’s, will is heavily influenced to submit to its demands.
Being thus motivated by both mind and emotions, your will quickly chooses to command the brain to make the muscles propel you into the cabin as fast as the legs will move, and they'll be empowered by special rocket fuel injected into the carburetor by adrenal glands at feeler’s direction. Feeler has the God-given ability to bypass having to get will’s permission to trigger adrenaline flow into the bloodstream. You then cover the forty yards to the cabin in record time (for you).
Now, the cabin’s constructed from railroad ties bolted together – even the roof. It’s built like a fort. But it’s also covered with vines, so that you can’t discern its construction. The instant you get inside, you slam the door, which is made of cured-oak bridge timbers three inches thick. You drop a huge wooden bar into a cradle behind the door, and when you do, you instantly become safe in the cabin.
Just as you drop the bar in place, the bear, who was right on your heels and closing fast, slams his nose into the locked door. It stops him cold. He raises up and puts an eye to the lone window (which has no glass, by the way). His head is big; he can only put one eye to the window at a time. He sees you in there and goes absolutely bananas with rage! He begins to rip the cabin apart to get at the nut inside this big husk. (You can relax now; I am not going to let him get in.)
Being a stranger to these parts, you have no idea about the construction of the cabin, and the vines and inner darkness don’t help. If someone where to see you know, they would see you plastered against the far wall of the cabin, as far away from the door as you could get, fearfully waiting for what you believe is the inevitable – that any moment the bear is going to crash though that door and you are going to be eaten alive!
But wait a minute, you are safe in the cabin, remember? You could lie down on the floor and catch up on your daily Bible readings, since you’re going to be there for a while with nothing to do.
Ah, but the problem is that you don’t know you’re safe. Feeler is saying to will, “I feel like that bear is going to burst in here and eat me – that’s a 10”! Mind, being thus influenced by feeler’s intensity, says, “Well, since I feel so strongly about this matter, I believe that my emotions are telling the truth. I believe I am going to be eaten by the bear, and that’s an 8!” Will, having no input to the contrary, chooses to command brain to make muscles act like a man who is about to be eaten by a bear, and there you are – doing an imitation of wallpaper.
Do you see that you could actually die of a heart attack in the cabin and never benefit from your safety? You are safe and you don’t even know it. However, since you don’t know you’re safe, you could still die of a heart attack. So what good would your safety do you? It isn’t enough to be safe – you must believe it! That is Step 1, truth.
A critical factor in this story is time. As time marches on, you are going to survey the situation and ultimately come to the conclusion; I believe I am safe in this cabin. That is Step 2, faith.
This is not Christian faith; it’s cabin faith – faith in the cabin and the cabin’s ability to meet your need. It will take you who have what some call “feeler flesh” much longer to arrive at THAT conclusion than it will others. You have a flesh pattern of belief that your feeler is usually telling it like it is. You often arrive at “truth” by trusting in your emotions; you make them the object of your faith. (Faith is a function of the mind; it means believing something, and it must have an object. It is never a feeling, but a belief upon which you take action. And it’s a fatal mistake to make feeler faith’s object.)
Now that you believe you are safe, you begin saying things to yourself like, “Oh, I am so thankful! Without this cabin, I’d be dead!” But all the time you’re saying how safe you are, you remain plastered to the wall. Can you see that arriving at step 2, faith, that you could still die of a heart attack with your faith?! What good would your faith do you? None, because it is faith without works. Faith without appropriate action won’t do you one whit of good. You might as well not have any faith at all.
Knowing that you are now safe, why would you be acting as if you are unsafe? Because the intensity of your faith (in your mind) is about a two, whereas feeler is still demanding its way at level ten. Will is choosing to go along with feeler’s assessment of the situation, even though will knows better. Feeler’s recommendation is five times stronger than mind’s at this point. Will is intimidated and chooses to go along with feeler’s demands in order to relieve the pressure. But remember who’s boss – will can overrule feeler or mind simultaneously, no matter how intensely the apply pressure to sway his choice – will is in charge.
With the passage of more time in the cabin, you will arrive at what the King James version calls “works”. That means performance, activity, behavior. You’ve got to put some action to your faith if it’s ever going to benefit you. Mind is going to say, “That bear can’t get into this cabin! Here I am with sweaty palms, dry mouth, heart palpitations, and shaky knees. I am going to have a heart attack if I don’t get my act together! Get off this wall! Sit down on that floor and relax!”
Will is beginning to act on mind’s suggestion instead of feeler’s and is starting to slap feeler around a little. “Now, relax,” you tell yourself, “shake it out. Breathe slowly and deeply. Close your eyes. Don’t look at that bear. That’ll just get your emotions all bent out of shape again. Plug your ears; don’t listen to him. Unclench your teeth, and let your tongue unstick from the roof of your mouth. Now, imagine some relaxing scene in your mind like sitting in the sun out on the creek bank in the springtime. Relax!”
You are choosing – forcing yourself – to “live like a safe man lives.” You are bringing your behavior into line with the truth, according to your faith. God’s Word calls this “walking in the light.” You are choosing to go against feeler’s recommendation because your mind has gotten more information about the security of your situation. You might say your faith has increased as a result of becoming better acquainted with the object of your faith (the cabin). Will has now determined that it would be the wise thing to overrule feeler’s intense recommendation in favor of mind’s weaker one. You have thus arrived at Step 3 – Live like a safe man lives. Act like a safe man.
As will forces all your members (except feeler) to relax on the floor and insists on exercising the authority that is his by God’s edict, Step 4 will evolve – I finally begin to feel safer – sort of.
In other words, you can never get complete control over your emotions. True, you can exercise some control over them, but never total control. It is humanly impossible to do so. God has created us to be unable to control the emotions. As a saved person, you can control your mind and will, but not your feelings. God’s plan is for us to believe Him and choose to submit ourselves to His loving care and authority regardless of how we feel.
As you have probably guessed by now, the cabin is a type of Jesus. If the believer is in Him, then aren’t we more safe than in this scenario even if we don't feel like it?
God is committed to training you to walk in the Spirit by faith, and a critical part of that training is to teach you that you cannot trust your feeler, but you can trust Him. At times, He will give you all the zingy feelings you can handle, but He won’t let you build a tabernacle there. Sometimes it will feel as though He has gone to Mars for a summer vacation. He will withdraw all experiential evidence of His presence in order to train you, indeed, to box you in and force you to walk by what you know rather than what you feel. Your job is to keep believing He has everything under control. It’s just that He’s allowing a testing time to come upon you. Don’t be anxious about it. Keep operating by what you know.
Adapted from "Lifetime Guarantee" by Bill Gillham as originally told by Chuck Solomon
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