Boots Madden. He’s the answer to the question: “Who do you know that walked by faith?” He has been gone for over a decade, but his influence lives on. His name is still brought up in conversations. Memories of his words and deeds are fresh yet among those who knew him well. Stories of his ventures seem to grow, rather than diminish, with time.
He left an indelible mark on people for one reason—he walked by faith. Did he live a perfect life? No. Was he errorless? Hardly. But he lived his daily life near to God, trusting Him—walking in faith. He pastored churches in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and California—always seeming to be led to the church that had fallen on tough times. He would dig in, preach hard, work tirelessly to see it grow, then move on when it became self-sustaining. He simply trusted God to take care of him, his family and his church, during the process.
Later in life Brother Madden became Treasurer of Missions for an international Baptist Association. His ministry was to raise funds, encourage missionaries and report to participating churches. One of his regrets was not being able to dispense the million-dollar balance in the mission fund. He wanted to spend every penny on missions and missionaries. He would often say, “We are going to be ashamed when Jesus comes, with unsaved people all over the world, while we are sitting on a million dollars!”
When you answer the question: “Who do YOU know that walked by faith?” your mind will probably run to a man or woman who demonstrated to you what it was like to live a Christian life. That person probably impacts your own Christian life, even today. What you are able to see in them is the product of Christian living. Walking by faith begins with the prelude—personal saving faith in Jesus Christ. It continues as a process of trusting the Lord daily, seeking to please Him. Then it ends with a product—a life pleasing to God and persuasive to people.
Most of us, though, want the product and not the process. But it is the process of walking with Christ in the daily trials of life that produces the results: An obedient Christian life. And truthfully, you can’t have the product without the process.
The walk by faith is a blessed, but not an easy one! When Paul wrote, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), he was referring to the confidence of believers that when they leave this world by the door of death, they will immediately arrive in the presence of the Lord of life.
The Old Testament prophet Elijah went through God’s boot camp of faith-training three years before his victorious confrontation with the 400 prophets of Baal. Elijah was able to overcome by great faith on Mount Carmel because he had endured great tests of faith in the valley, by Cherith and in Zarephath.
Elijah learned to trust God by the brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:1-7). God’s prophet told Ahab there would be three years of drought. Baal worshipers believed their god was the god of rain, but God proved He was in control of the weather, as a drought baked the land. Elijah’s faith was stretched while God sustained him with food brought by ravens at Cherith. Imagine being dependent on a wild bird to bring your meals. Elijah’s faith was tested again when the brook suddenly dried up.
God’s prophet then learned to follow in the city of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-12). God pointed Elijah ninety miles west to a widow in this Gentile city on the Mediterranean. It must have seemed strange to Elijah when he went from being fed by an unclean bird, to being sustained by an unclean woman, but that was part of God’s faith-training program for His prophet. God was preparing Elijah for greater service, by teaching him to walk in faith.
The next character in this drama was the widow of Zarephath, who learned there was blessing in obeying God (1 Kings 17:13-16). Though she was a pagan, the widow knew the LORD God was the one living God (verse 12). When Elijah commanded the widow to fix him a cake, though she had only a handful of meal and a little oil, she obeyed and fixed a little cake for God’s servant first. As she put God first, He put her first! Because of her faith, God promised: “The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth” (1 Kings 17:14). God kept His word, sustained His prophet, the widow and her son.
As Elijah learned to trust God for small things at Cherith and Zarephath, he later knew he could trust Him for greater things on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Walking by faith is blessed! Whether it is trusting God for food by a brook—or trusting Him for heavenly fire on a mountain—God blesses when we walk by faith!
Believers are saved “by grace…through faith” (Ephesians 2:8, 9)—then are to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). They are saved through faith, and serve by faith. They have life through faith, and they are to live by faith. In his commentary on Hebrews 11:11, John MacArthur summed it up well: “Faith sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, touches the intangible, and accomplishes the impossible” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Hebrews, c. 1983, p. 332).
We do not always understand how God leads, or why He permits events in our lives, but we can always trust Him as we walk by faith. In those tough times of life, when events surround us that are beyond our control, then we must trust God and continue to walk by faith, not by sight. Are you walking by faith?