My wife and I enjoy watching period movies and TV series. Recently, we stumbled across another British-clergy-as-crime-fighter TV series on PBS called Grantchester. The series takes place during the 1950s and 60s in the eponymous real-life village close to Cambridge University. The protagonists are an Anglican parish vicar and a hardened police inspector who develop an unlikely mystery-solving partnership and close personal friendship. The series appears to be alive and well with Season 7 currently in production for release in 2022.
What led me to write this article was a major story arc running throughout the first 3 of the 6 seasons:
- The vicar (Sidney) and a close female friend (Amanda) have fallen in love with one another, a relationship pre-dating the first episode.
- Sidney feels unworthy of her because of his wartime experiences as a Scots Guards Army officer during WWII, so he has never proposed.
- Because of his silence, Amanda reluctantly goes along with her wealthy and snooty father’s wishes for her to marry within her class/station-in-life.
- Amanda still loves Sidney during all this. She later realizes she is terribly unhappy with her emotionally distant husband, so she abandons her husband while pregnant with their first child. This was scandalous behavior in those days, especially for upper-class women.
- During all this, Sidney is struggling to come to grips with his love for her versus his calling as a priest because the Church of England will not tolerate his marrying a divorcée.
- The choice is clear: her or the ministry.
- He repeatedly claimed his constant prayers for guidance went unanswered.
Those first 19 episodes document this struggle as the star-crossed lovers repeatedly attempt to reconcile their passion for one another with the demands of the society/times in which they live.
As Sidney vainly tries to work through his struggles using unredeemed human reason with zero scriptural foundation, he slowly but inexorably flounders spiritually and morally. Drunkenness and sexual immorality with both Amanda as well as other women become more and more frequent as he wrestles with his dilemma.
Trust me, after 3 seasons, this particular story arc got a bit tedious. Spoiler alert: in the Season 3 finale, he reneges on his decision to leave the ministry and bails out on Amanda permanently. Sidney was written out of the series in the first episode of Season 4 when he meets a black female activist from Alabama involved in the U.S. Civil Rights movement. He inexplicably “falls in love” with her, they sleep together, and (mercifully for us as viewers) exits the series to be with her in the United States, ultimate destiny unknown. Personally, I cannot fathom why the show-runners had him abandon the love of his life for the ministry in one episode and then in the very next one abandon that ministry to run off to another country with someone he barely knew. It was a completely unsatisfactory departure; they should have at least had him end up with Amanda once and for all.
Of course, because this show is produced by an ultra-liberal British network and and aired by PBS in the US, itself a bastion of all things ultra-liberal politically and theologically, there is not even a hint of true Christian faith exhibited in the entire cast except one, a minor player. The Alphabet Mafia has their token gay person on board in the character of the curate, a man constantly torn between his unscriptural sexual desires and his calling as a minister. He gradually emerges to defy both theological and societal standards in his behavior, that process celebrated more and more as the series continues.
Tragically, the new vicar has also proven to be incapable of taming his own heterosexual desires, either. His homilies (they do not rise to the level of sermons content-wise) are replete with theological half-truths — enough truth to plausibly sound like orthodox Christian doctrine, but the other half being a toxic mashup of wishful thinking and man’s religion.
As a theologue, watching TV is getting tougher by the day. Sheesh!
It’s otherwise a fairly good show we’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching, so I don’t want to portray it as a total waste of time. There is much humor to be had, especially the antics of the vicarage’s housekeeper who is something of a force of nature in her own right not to mention there are some cracking good mysteries (as the Brits say) to be solved.
Why Am I Writing This?
I spent much of those first 3 seasons wishing Sidney would get born-again so he could obtain the elusive spiritual clue he so desperately sought. But I cannot judge him as “less-than” because the real-life circumstances of my own mid-life crisis in 2001 were not all that drastically different from his fictional one. Even with the New Birth and having been baptized in the Holy Spirit checked off in my plus column, I spent more than a few years getting my head screwed on straight over several of the same issues he faced.
In all honesty, more than a few of my decisions ranged from bad to terrible. God’s limitless grace and inexhaustible mercy are the only reasons I’m here to write this article for you instead of shivering under an overpass somewhere, sleeping in a cardboard box, and wondering where my next meal was coming from.
I’ve said all that to say this: both Sidney and I suffered from bad cases of double-mindedness.
Where do we get that term? There are several verses in both testaments either directly using or implying this concept:
I hate the double-minded, but I love Your law.Psalm 119:113 (emphasis mine)
Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!”1 Kings 18:19-21 NLT (emphasis mine)
For such a person ought not to think or expect that he will receive anything [at all] from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable and restless in all his ways [in everything he thinks, feels, or decides].James 1:7-8 AMP (emphasis mine)
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.James 4:7-8 (emphasis mine)
I’m fascinated by the Hebrew word in that 1 Kings passage translated as “waver, hobbling.” It literally means “limping about on crutches.” And that is precisely the predicament double-minded people find themselves in: crippled.
- Their faith
- Their prayer life
- Their morality
- Their faithfulness to their own principles
- Their love-walk with others
- Their earthly business endeavors
In summary, every area of life!
The answer is quite simple to describe, but far more difficult to walk out in our lives. Let’s return to our verse from James 1 above and examine it in its context:
Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to askof [our benevolent] God, Who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him. But he must ask [for wisdom] in faith, without doubting [God’s willingness to help], for the one who doubts is like a billowing surge of the sea that is blown about and tossed by the wind. For such a person ought not to think or expect that he will receive anything [at all] from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable and restless in all his ways [in everything he thinks, feels, or decides].James 1:2-8 AMP
Let’s unpack this passage phrase by phrase:
- “If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God…”
Truth be told, all of us as human beings completely lack wisdom apart from the Most High — it’s a miracle we can even find our own rear-ends with both hands and a flashlight, especially spiritually.That’s a given.
The sticking point for us as Christ-followers occurs when we approach a serious challenge with the spiritual equivalent of “Here, Jesus, hold my beer. I’ve got this one!”
Self-reliance always leads to disaster!
- “…Who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame…”
One of the most amazing truths found in God’s Word is His clearly-expressed willingness/desire for us to bombard Him in prayer with all our questions/concerns, great and small about all our problems, massive and trivial.Unlike earthly parents who can easily become distracted and overwhelmed by their pestering children, His character and ability allow Him to hear all of us and act on our behalf all at once.
Ergo, we are not annoying to God because He cannot be distracted, cannot be overwhelmed!
This also means He never loses patience with us, saying “Go away, kid! Ya bother me!”
- “But he must ask [for wisdom]…”
As it says later in in the same book, “…you do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2b) God not only expects us to ask, He commands us to do so on multiple occasions throughout His Word. The implication is this: failing to ask is sin! That’s the downside.
The upside is this: all He requires of us to correct the problem is simply begin asking again, initially with a prayer of repentance, receiving His forgiveness, this followed by whatever we should have been asking Him about in the first place.
- …in faith, without doubting [God’s willingness to help]…
This where many Christ-followers shipwreck. Many ask, but not “in faith” believing they have received it when they pray. Rather than resting in God’s promise…
For He alone is my safe place. His wraparound presence always protects me as my champion defender. There’s no risk of failure with God! So why would I let worry paralyze me, even when troubles multiply around me?Psalm 62:6 TPT
…instead, they derail into unbelief with words equivalent to, “You just brought us out here to die!” as the children of Israel lamented with every challenge they faced during the Exodus. As a result:
…God swore an oath that they would never enter into his calming place of rest all because they disobeyed him. It is clear that they could not enter into their inheritance because they wrapped their hearts in unbelief.Hebrews 3:18-19 TPT
- …for the one who doubts is like a billowing surge of the sea that is blown about and tossed by the wind. For such a person ought not to think or expect that he will receive anything [at all] from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable and restless in all his ways [in everything he thinks, feels, or decides].
This is amazing imagery. Some of us have been on the water in a boat or ship during a violent storm and experienced this firsthand. The rest of us have certainly seen movies and TV shows where such vessels are portrayed. The situation is terrifying and overwhelming to those caught in it. Let’s dig into that word “doubts” a bit:
- doubt (diakrino)
- to withdraw from one, desert;
to separate one’s self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, contend
to be at variance with one’s self, hesitate, doubt, waver
A modern-day equivalent is “vacillate”:
- alternate or waver between different opinions or actions
Synonyms include: dither, be indecisive, be undecided, be uncertain, be unsure, teeter, oscillate, fluctuate, keep changing one’s mind, blow hot and cold.
I believe you’re seeing the word picture James is painting for us: when we separate ourselves from God in a hostile spirit and strive with God, we are also at odds with ourselves. We dither, we teeter, we fluctuate. Our minds are all over the map as we blow red-hot when things appear to be going well, then ice-cold when we perceive the opposite. The wind blows one way, then another, the waves rise and then they fall, up and down, back and forth, to and fro, hither and yon, until we get so seasick we cannot think straight — then the devil pounces and we’re sunk!
Back to Grantchester
This is precisely the kind of behavior Sidney exhibited as he supposedly “sought” the Lord concerning his relationship with Amanda. Rather than prayerfully exploring the Bible to determine God’s will for them, his own fleshly desires, the social mores of the era, and the dictates of a godless state church boxed him into a no-win situation, a box he ultimately rebelled against and, with that rebellion, lost both his woman and his ministry.
If Amanda had been God’s perfect will for Sidney, God would have led him accordingly, showing Him a viable path to marriage without social stigma or loss of his ministry. Perhaps a change of venue to remove the stigma? A change of denomination or ministry to take the no-divorceés rule out of play? There were many possible alternatives because God can and will make a way where there seems to be none even remotely visible to our limited reasoning and imagination.
On the other hand, if Amanda was indeed not “the one” in His perfect plan, Sidney would have received the grace required to both make that decision stick and be good with it emotionally, as well. Either way, it would have entailed far less personal and spiritual angst and moral floundering.
There is almost always a time-gap between our prayer and when the answer actually manifests in our lives. There are a variety of causes, but here are the Top 4:
- God needs time to orchestrate our answer.
This may sound a bit strange when referring to our transcendent, all-powerful, all-knowing Heavenly Father existing outside of time and space, but hear me out on this. Most often, our answers require other people to choose to do something good for us, perhaps something they don’t initially want to do. Because they are limited to space and time (as we are), have limited insight and understanding (as we do), have their free will corrupted by sinful flesh in varying degrees (as we do), and may be deceived by satanic prejudices and emotional bondages (as we sometimes are), they tend to resist God’s influence on our behalf, at least for a time. The length of that timeframe is typically dependent upon all those factors.
- We have an attitude of entitlement.
One of the traps Satan lays for us as we exercise faith in and obedience to God’s promises is our adopting a “now God owes me” mindset. In other words, we treat the conditions of His promises as dead religious works we perform to earn God’s promised results. Such an attitude creates a religious economy — the very essence of man’s religion — where if we perform in a given fashion or to a certain standard (do this, don’t do that; cut this off, grow that out), God will either reward us with blessings or hold tragedies in abeyance.[LOUD BUZZER] Sorry, wrong answer! Thank you for playing!
I’ve said it elsewhere here on Miscellaneous Ramblings and will say again here:
- The only thing we can earn or deserve from God is HELL. Period!
- The only reason we get anything better is God’s abundant grace and mercy. Period!
- The only proper response on our part is “humble gratitude.” Period!
The Creator of the Universe will never allow us to demeaningly treat Him like a cosmic bellhop at our beck and call or some kind of cosmic vending machine where we plug in a good deed or two, push a button, and voilá! we have our little hearts’ precious desires. That arrogant “born-on-third-base-thinking-we-hit-a-triple” schtick we tend to adopt — especially within the Word of Faith movement — is a stench in the nostrils of The Almighty and will put the kibosh on His flow of blessings toward us in a New York minute.
- We ask with selfish motives.
“And if you ask, you won’t receive it for you’re asking with corrupt motives, seeking only to fulfill your own selfish desires.” (James 4:3 TPT) God will never establish us in wrong-doing by blessing any selfish motives we bring to the table. If a delay drags on and one, you might want to get a check-up from the neck up with The Boss concerning your motives.
- What we are praying for has become an idol.
Unlike the previous issue, this one is more slippery to grasp because our idols can oftentimes masquerade as selfless and altruistic in our flesh-corrupted thinking. In all such situations, the #1 question being asked by our Lord is this:
If I say “no” to this desire of yours, will you still love, trust, and follow Me?
No matter how feebly we respond, there is only one correct answer to that question: “yes!”
If we cannot humbly lay our heartfelt yearnings at His feet, leaving them there indefinitely, while trusting that He loves us and always operates in our best interests, those desires have become idols.
I’m not suddenly reversing course here, saying God occasionally decides to not fulfill His promises for some inexplicable “higher good” as Catholicism and Calvinism do; I’ve spent far too many hours in the Word learning — and words here proclaiming! — the precise opposite. What I am saying is our submission to the Most High must be wholeheartedly unreserved and unconditional on our part. In short, our relationship with Him is to be independent of all other external factors.
Since we have an abundance of clearcut biblical accounts of how poorly idolatry plays out with our Lord, I will not belabor this further.
As we’ve already discussed, our solution is to resume asking in faith without vacillating.
So what does “asking in faith look” actually like? If you want to explore that topic in depth, you’ll want to read my 3 articles on faith from my Ask & You Shall Receive series.
But if you want those answers encapsulated within a single bite-sized chunk, here it is:
Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ. Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.Philippians 4:6-8 TPT
So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us. We look away from the natural realm and we focus our attention and expectation onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection.Hebrews 12:1b-2a TPT
This is about focus, not effort.
Rest assured God is never afraid of your negative emotions. Since He already knows your heart and mind, He doesn’t fall off His throne in surprise whenever we get angry or frustrated with Him over what feels like an interminable delay. He said, “in everything” when we pray, not merely those things we think He will approve of. We’re dealing with our loving and gracious Heavenly Father, not brown-nosing a boss.
Finally, standing in faith is never a casual exercise where we toss a few casual prayers His way and call it good.
It is warfare.
That battle demands both our knowledge of the spiritual weapons and armor we have at our disposal and the training required to wield them skillfully coupled with an “I don’t know how I’m going to win; I just know I’m not going to lose” attitude.
Such combat also requires the grace of God because we cannot do any of this in our own strength using our own willpower. If we could do it on our own nickel, Christ died needlessly.
It is never easy.
There are no shortcuts.
There are no substitutes.
Anything purporting to be any of these 3 is a satanic counterfeit.
Stay focussed, stay frosty, stay faithful, stay humble.
God will do it!
My merciful lovingkindness and holy influence provide you with unfailing strength and defenses, and complete contentment because I freely give you My might, My power to perform miracles, My ability to produce moral excellence, My resources for financial prosperity, as well as the military might of the angels of heaven fighting on your side. These gifts are all brought to fullness and completion in the midst of your moral, mental, and physical weakness, your inability to understand yourself and others, and your failure to accomplish goals, endure trials, and resist temptation.2 Corinthians 11:9a (Willis Expanded Version)
Thanks for reading!