Monday, January 5, 2015

By Faith

The Holidays have come and gone.  I rang in the New Year with my church’s youth group at a two-day-long Christian extravaganza.  We enjoyed great music, awesome speakers, fun activities, and prepared our hearts for the new year.  When midnight hit there were fireworks on stage.  Balloons dropped from the ceiling as eight thousand teenagers celebrated.  Many resolutions were made for the new year, and many have probably already been broken.  What about you?  One of the reasons we break these resolutions is that we approach them with will power instead of faith.  Will power fails when challenges get tough, but faith is something entirely different.  Faith isn’t relying on your own will, but trusting in the will of God that works itself out in you.

In Faith Is, Pamela Reeve wrote, “Faith is resting in the fact that God has an objective in leaving me on the scene when I feel useless to Him and a burden to others.”[i]  Hebrews 11.1 (NASB) puts it this way:  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Faith says, “I don’t know what’s ahead in 2015, but I know that whatever it is, God has me in his arms.”  I heard an old story that illustrates it this way:

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, “Jump! I’ll catch you.” He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you.” But the boy protested, “Daddy, I can’t see you.” The father replied, “But I can see you and that’s all that matters.”  (Source Unknown)

            That’s all that matters.  God’s got you.  You can jump.  The eleventh chapter of Hebrews, called the “Roll Call of Faith,” is a list of people in the Bible who couldn’t see what was ahead of them, yet through they jumped into the waiting arms of God. 

            Hebrews talks about Abel, who by faith offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain.  As you look to the new year, rather than making resolutions, consider what sacrifices you can make to God.  What can you give Him—besides your money, which is too obvious an answer?  Can you give God your business?  Can you give God your retirement plans?  Can you give God your talents, and use them for Him?

            By faith, you can walk with God as Enoch did.   By faith, you can be like Noah and listen to the warnings that God speaks to your heart, sharing them with those around you.  By faith like Noah’s, you can make preparations based on what God has told you.  By faith like Noah, you can reject the attractions the world has to offer, and build something better.

            By faith, Abraham went somewhere that God called him, even though he didn’t know where he was going.  Is there someplace that God is calling you to go, even though there’s uncertainty?  Faith says “yes” to God’s call, and follows.  Abraham and Sarah, who were well beyond childbearing years, received the promise of God and conceived a son.  What kind of faith will your marriage take this year?  How can you sow seeds of love into one another, letting that love take root and grow?  How can you take something that is barren, and create new life in it?  Not by an act of your own will—but by faith!

            By faith, Abraham offered his son Isaac on an altar.  Though God did not ultimately demand this sacrifice, Abraham was willing to follow through.  Writers have a phrase: “Kill your darlings.”  This means that sometimes, for the sake of the book, you have to be willing to cut out your favorite chapters or characters, if they don’t push the storyline or really add anything to the depth of the text.  In the same way, we’ve got to be willing to give up what might be most precious to us, trusting that God will perfect our story for us—and we may even receive back alive that which we offered up to God.

            By faith, like Isaac, you can invoke future blessings on your family.  By faith, like Joseph, you can speak prophetically to your family, instructing them in the way that they should go. 

            Hebrews mentions Moses’ parents, who preserved his life, and the blood of the lamb that preserved the lives of the Israelites from the Death Angel at Passover.  Like them you can say, “By faith I will believe that there are hidden blessings that cannot be killed. By faith I will refuse to be called a son of Egypt (sin), but will identify as one of God's chosen... even if it means suffering. By faith I will leave sin behind, not being afraid of the devil's anger.  I will endure as seeing Him who is invisible. By faith I will trust in the sacrificed Lamb and keep my household anointed with His blood.”

            Like the Israelites at the Red Sea, you can stand against any barrier by faith, raising your staff against it and trusting that you will see the wonders of God.  Like they did at Jericho, you can march around those obstacles in your life, praying through and shouting praise to God who makes the walls fall before you.  Like Rahab, you can welcome God’s messengers who come to you, and the message that they bring—and by that truth you can be saved through faith. 

            Like the heroes of old, you can say, “By faith I will go into battle for my family.  By faith I will see God overcome. By faith I will not speak negativity but will be a positive voice to those around me. I will endure pain, and, like Jesus, will offer up no defense. I will bear the blame, never turning blame back on anyone else. And I will leave it all up to God, whether or not I received what I hope for in this life—because I will receive the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises in the next.  By faith I will acknowledge that I am a stranger and exile here, but that I’m looking to a better country, my heavenly homeland.”

            The truth is that life is hard.  Hebrews 11 recaps the heroes of the Bible, who all knew life’s struggles.  Your life is hard, too.  And will power just doesn’t cut it.  But faith does.  Again in Faith Is, Pamela Reeve writes, “Faith is engaging in the deepest joy of heaven, knowing His unfathomable love for me as I walk through the thorny desolate now.”[ii] 

            Sometimes it’s hard to see how God is going to make it work.  The thing that lies before us seems impossible.  Faith knows that God will bring it to pass, and trusts God for it.  One common story goes:

Todd, a three year old boy from Rhode Island went down to the seacoast to fly a kite. Never having flown a kite before, Todd had obvious doubts. His father assured him that all was well, and the kite would go up as planned. As Todd unravelled the string, and watched the kite go up, he was heard to say, "I knew it would fly, daddy. You said it would." Simple statement, profound implications.  (Source unknown)

            What are you trusting God for this year?  What is God calling you to do this year?  Are you having a difficult time seeing how it’s all going to work?  God calls you to faith.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11.1).”  I pray that in 2015, you’ll forget about resolutions and will power, trust God, and take a step of faith.

[i] Swindoll, Chuck.  Tale of the Tardy Oxcart.  Word Publishing: Nashville.  1998.  Pg. 195.
[ii] From Swindoll, Chuck.  Tale of the Tardy Oxcart.  Word Publishing: Nashville.  1998.  Pg. 197.


Gin said...

This was helpful for me. Thanks for posting it.

Gin said...

Thank you for posting this. It was helpful!