The Staggering Question

by Mike Ratliff

1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”(Ezekiel 37:1-3 ESV)

As Christians walk through their days that turn into weeks that turn into months that turn into years that turn into decades that turn into the length and breadth of their lives, they are continually put into circumstances where they must either believe and obey God or disbelieve and disobey Him. Most believers I know have a horrible habit of limiting God by their lack of faith. Tragically, these decisions can result in walls of spiritual blindness to become erected in their hearts. With this spiritual blindness can come apathy or, worse, apostasy. Their decision to limit God with their lack of bold brokenness is based in idolatry. This idolatry consists of self-protection that, at least in the beginning, seems to alleviate the fear that comes from their timidity that keeps them from believing God and obeying Him. Timidity is a product of pride that masquerades as humility. The world sees a timid person and believes he or she is humble when, in fact, they are full of pride and will not take risks that could involve them to suffer from some perceived threat if they obey God.

The Christian who walks in unbelief is a spiritually blind person. They do not believe what God says. It does not help that he or she may not be well discipled. Most of those I have known, including myself for many years, who live this way believe that their salvation came at their own hands. They believe that they are Christians because they did the right thing at some point in their past and their spiritual growth is in their hands as well. When suffering comes into their lives they invariably run further from God and will not participate in their sanctification. Therefore, they remain mired in bondage to their flesh with walls of spiritual blindness separating themselves from God’s goodness and Grace. They are convinced that they will never change and their “Churchianity” is their way of getting right with God. When they encounter a believer who obviously lives for God in all parts of their life they think it is simply emotion and it will eventually wear off, after all, it did for them.

These “Christians” are not entirely convinced that a sinner can be turned into a saint. They don’t believe a criminal could ever be saved unless he or she cleans up their life first. However, if we look at the passage I placed at the top of this post we have God asking Ezekiel if a valley of dry bones could live. What was Ezekiel’s reply? He answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.” That is the right answer to whether a twisted life of sin can be made new by God. Some religious people would look at a great sinner and say, “Just start going to Church with me and we’ll get you straightened out in no time. Just sit at the feet of Brother xyz and you will…” We think we can do things to be made right with God, but we are wrong unless we do the one and only thing that will work and that is to trust Him.

There are many Christian workers who work for God, but there are very few who work with God. It is far easier to work for Him than it is to work with Him. Why? To work with Him we must believe that God will do what we cannot do. That is, that He will actually use us for His glory. He will put those who work with Him in positions requiring faith everyday to continue. However, on the plus side, the one working for God is starving for inspiration while those who work with Him simply obey believing with eyes wide open as God works through them in ways no one can explain. To struggle with inspiration is a warning sign that their role has changed. If they become stuck and are void of inspiration then they are now working for God instead of working with God. Repentance and much prayer and worship are in order.

The one who works with God is fully aware that outside of God’s grace they are simply graves full of dead men’s bones. If he or she slips into self-focus mode, working for God instead of working with God, then they have forgotten what their nature is really like apart from God. God has to remind those who work with Him this truth from time to time. This is not a bad thing. It is God revealing to them that it is a tremendous miracle that they who were totally dead in their trespasses and sins are now alive in Him and He actually works through them in ways they could never imagine. The Spirit of God will also give them the vision of what they are truly like apart from His grace. When this happens it means that the Holy Spirit is at work in them. They see their open grave in their heart full of dry bones, controlled by the flesh where no good thing dwells and it results in a deeper devotion to Him and a commitment to live for His glory alone in bold brokenness.In these last days we must obey our Lord in all things.

We must not flee from obeying Him. Why? To do so would open us up to deception and spiritual blindness. We must not become too wrapped up in minor theological issues, but should be alert and ready to obey Him in every occasion. We must remain humble and gentle yet firm against apostasy and heresy. We must not believe the lie that the truth cannot be known. We must stop working for God and start working with Him. Soli Deo Gloria!

Addendum: After I posted this last night, my wife and I watched the movie: Facing the Giants. I was stunned as I watched this movie because it was as if everything I said above was being replayed on the screen. I highly recommend that you see it. Follow this link to read about it.Facing the Giants

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20 thoughts on “The Staggering Question

  1. Mike,

    That was really a great message! I was really confused by that works thing. You have really made that so clear! I really do get to that point of I am doing nothing for God! He doesn’t need my help just my cooperation. I am dead to self, he abides in me. I am going to read this over many times. I probably missed a lot. Praise God!


  2. Amen!

    This may sound crazy, but I love to be reproved by my Maker! I love for Him to bring me back to Him and His ways, and not mine! I pray this daily! I love Psalm 51!

    I grieve at the thought of grieving The Holy Spirit…my bones ache! And honestly, I ache in different degrees daily, for I can never give all I desire to give for Him…and please do not mistake this as a “have to” feeling, though it is a “have to” because of the strong desire…I so want to please Him in all I do! Like Ezra, I want to find favor in His eyes.

    In Christ,


  3. Mike,
    You write: “They believe that they are Christians because they did the right thing at some point in their past and their spiritual growth is in their hands as well.”

    Are you referring to the “They believe that they are Christians…” as real Christians? I need to know that to continue what I may talk to you about in regards to this article, later.

    Thank you,


  4. Fishon,

    Actually I was talking about “perception” of where salvation comes from instead of the “reality” of salvation. I am discussing Christians in this post. I was describing myself actually from several years ago. I lived that way. However, when God woke me up to the reality of my salvation being in His hands it changed everything.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  5. “If he or she slips into self-focus mode, working for God instead of working with God, then they have forgotten what their nature is really like apart from God”

    Amen! Very good post, Mike.


  6. Mike,
    Thanks for answering. I will just back out and remain quiet. I agree with so much of what you write and enjoy reading your thoughts.

    I do not want to be disagreeable, so I will take what I agree with and just move on past what I may disagree with.

    MAKE IT a great tomorrow.


  7. Jerry,

    You are welcome. I am far from perfect brother. I sometimes type faster than I think so I do mistype some things sometime that I think are right, but later I see that I have not stated what was really on my heart at that time. Therefore, if I make errors here I would like to know so I can correct them.

    You have a great day as well.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  8. Mike,

    I used to believe that it was up to me, by my works,to be absolutely perfect. My minister had a sermon on salvation one day. He had been researching to see how many people thought they had salvation. Most Christians thought they were. We were the only ones who weren’t sure.

    I fell away from the church as I couldn’t be that perfect. I tried . I didn’t feel accepted because I knew I wasn’t perfect. I felt really bad when I went to church because in my mind I felt that everyone attending was perfect, and I wasn’t. Almost like I wasn’t quite good enough because I couldn’t measure up to those standards that were preached. In my mind of course.

    That was a works based but a very good and sound church other than that one missing thing to me is Grace, by faith, in Christ. It is a gift from God. Thank You God! Praise you Lord! Thank you for bringing me back to your loving arms were I feel safe and loved. amen

    In Christ


  9. No matter what perspective you come from, one truth seems completely evident in today’s western world. Most, and I mean most, people are not interested in following Christ.

    That includes church people as well. The urge we must resist is attempting to draw them to Christ with anything but God’s Word. Otherwise we are making disciples of our method and not of our Master.


  10. The one who works with God is fully aware that outside of God’s grace they are simply graves full of dead men’s bones.

    Oh wow THIS is ME! Mike, reading these posts are just such a blessing to me. I feel like I am listening to an old friend who knows and “gets” me, but also can help me as well. There are very few people like this in this world. I dont know you at all, but the words you write, just make you feel like family to me.

    Oh how WONDERFUL it will be when we will all be home in heaven with Jesus and know such wonderful fellowship ALL of the time.
    Thanks Jennifer


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