Repairing the Fish Gate

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The smell would gag a maggot. From the odor it was obvious we had made a huge mistake. My wife, son, daughter-in-law and I were shopping for fruit, vegetables and fresh tuna steaks at a large Davao City open market on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. But we had waited too late in the day, and the smell of non-refrigerated, day-old fish, was overwhelming. To say the least, the smell diminished our appetite for seafood. We should have shopped earlier.

A similar odor must have greeted Hassenaah and his sons as they struggled to lay the beams, set up the doors and locks, rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3:3).  Maybe Hassenaah realized that somebody had to repair the fish gate, and after all, at least he wasn’t assigned to work on the dung gate (verse 14)!  The odor there must have been unbearable during the heat of the day.

Despite the obviously disagreeable smell, hard labor, danger and difficulty, teams of builders at every gate worked together to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Strong walls were needed to defend their city, secure their homes and honor their God. Teamwork was required to accomplish the task. In the third chapter of Nehemiah the term “next unto him repaired,” or “after him repaired,” is used 28 times to describe forty-one teams of workers who, as one man, repaired the walls.

Nehemiah used great wisdom when he assigned people to work on the walls that were nearest their own houses (Neh. 3:21, 23-24, 26, 28-30). The obvious purpose of this was to get the workers personally involved and motivated to do good work. They would want the wall in front of their house to be strong. Also, in case of attack, they would be less likely to leave their posts, but stay and protect their families.

The remarkable feat of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was a great accomplishment, especially in view of the constant criticism aimed at them. The enemy would say, “What are these feeble Jews doing?” (Neh. 4:2); and, “Even what they are building—if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!” (verse 3).

Nehemiah and his workers labored under constant threat of physical harm, as their enemies, “conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance against it” (Neh. 4:8). The threat of violence scared the people, so Nehemiah encouraged them saying, “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses” (verse 14). The Lord was great and awesome—but they had to be prepared to fight.

Imagine the difficulty of working under adverse conditions as “those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built” (Neh. 4:17-18). This meant fewer bricklayers were on the job, but the work was well defended!

While the tireless laborers rebuilt the walls, there were no 8 hour days or 40 hour work-weeks, for they carried on the work “with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared” (Neh. 4:21). Additionally, they were so intent that Nehemiah said, “neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water” (verse 23).

As the teams worked together, the wall around Jerusalem was finished in an amazingly short time—52 days!  The testimony of such unselfish labor for the glory of God made an impression on the enemy:  “It came about when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (Neh. 6:16). Get this: those who knew not God, recognized that God was at work among His people!

This kind of teamwork is based on a powerful biblical principle: When God’s people work together for His glory, great things may be accomplished, and God’s presence and power become visible to unbelievers. This principle underlies Christ’s command about loving one another: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It makes a powerful impression on the lost world when God’s people love one another and work together for His glory!

This unity of heart, mind and effort may have been the reason the early church was so effective. Acts 2:1 says the church was “all with one accord in one place.” After the day of Pentecost and the salvation of three thousand, “they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:46-47). Later, “the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32).

Whatever your area of service, do it with all your might for God’s glory!  Paul encouraged the Colossians and us, with these words: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23, 24).

If you will honor God by serving with your best, even if it seems you are assigned to the fish gate, God will be glorified and the unsaved around you will be influenced. We are to serve at His direction and command. When we do, He will be uplifted and the lost will be positively affected.

 

 

 

The Stunning Conjunction

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Do you remember the joy of learning the eight parts of Speech? What a blessing!

My favorite part of speech is the conjunction. So, what makes it beautiful?

Conjunctions are words that link other words, phrases or clauses together to form a sentence. Without them, speech would really be dull, like: I love pizza. I love sweet tea. I don’t like cleaning up the mess. However, when you sprinkle in some conjunctions, things smooth out: I love pizza and sweet tea, but I don’t like cleaning up the mess.

There are common conjunctions we use every day, like: for, and, nor, or, yet, so and but. However, not all conjunctions are created equal because my favorite conjunction is “but.”

The word “but” is a conjunction because it connects two clauses together, but it may also inject a contrasting thought. For example: “I was going to church with you, but decided to go by myself.” If you made that statement, the word “but” reveals you decided to do the opposite of what you said first. The word “but” turned the thought, plan and flow 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

So, where in the world am I going with this, you ask? Please keep reading.

Julie Ackerman Link wrote a great devotional for “Our Daily Bread,” that was published on August 1, 2012. It began: “Howard Sugden, my pastor when I was in college, preached many memorable sermons. After all these years, the one titled, ‘But God…’ still makes me stop whenever I come to those words in the Bible.” She then shared some of those “But God…” verses that encouraged her to remember God’s righteous intervention in human affairs. With appreciation to her article, here are a few thoughts that cheer my soul when I see that stunning conjunction standing before the word for deity—But God….

“You meant evil against me; But God meant it for good, in order to . . . save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20)—Reminds us that God’s providential care can overcome evil intentions.

“Their beauty shall be consumed in the grave . . . . But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He will receive me” (Psalm 49:14-15)—Reminds us that God’s promised resurrection is stronger than physical death.

“We…were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:3-5)—Reminds us that God’s rich mercy can save us despite our sinful nature.

The nations shall rush on like the rushing of many waters; But God shall rebuke them and they will flee far away, and shall be chased like the chaff in the mountains before the wind” (Isaiah 17:13)—Reminds us that, though nations seem mighty, God will rule over them.

“My flesh and my heart may fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26)—Reminds us that though we die, God is our eternal Savior.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1Corinthians 10:13)—Reminds us that though we face temptation, God will faithfully provide an escape.

“I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry. But God said to him, You fool! This very night your soul is required of you” (Luke 12:19-20)—Reminds us how foolish it is to seek material possessions and ignore God.

You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner, or to visit him; But God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. (Acts 10:28)—Reminds us that it displeases God when we discriminate against others.

“And Jesus said to them, You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, But God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15)—Reminds us to seek to please God, not men.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard…the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)—Reminds us that God has unimaginable things in store for all who love Him.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)—Reminds us that only God should receive the glory for our service.

“For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8)—Reminds us that Christ’s love for sinners was demonstrated when He died on the cross for every one of us.

“They took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 13:29-30)—Reminds us that we serve a risen Savior.

Whenever you feel discouraged, look up some “but God” verses and be reassured of God’s involvement in your life as you love and serve Him. Let His promises light up your life!

For Such a Time as This

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On July 3, 2010, Pat and I were on Lake Hamilton, preparing to celebrate the Fourth with our family. While mowing the yard on that hot day, I stirred up a nest of yellow jackets and five or six stung me good. I didn’t think much about it, until a few minutes later I started seeing stars and passed out, dead as a hammer, in anaphylactic shock. It just so happened that our good neighbor had some guests for the Fourth, among who were an Emergency Room Nurse, and two other Registered Nurses. After Pat’s scream, they were there within seconds, administering CPR for fifteen minutes, until the EMT’s arrived. Lucky for me, huh? Well, luck had nothing to do with it. I believe it was the right people, in the right place, at the right time, and I am forever grateful to Pat, to them and to Him!

No doubt you too have experienced a similar “chance” happening, when, just in the nick of time, your life was spared or changed forever by a circumstance you had, or by a person you met. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign, even in His plans and dealings with us, and there is no such thing as luck or chance. This truth, though only comprehensible to us in hindsight, is very comforting.

During the fifth century Before Christ, the nation of Israel faced complete annihilation. Persians ruled the known world in a kingdom that covered almost three and a half million square miles, from India in the East, to Libya and Greece in the West. A death-sentence, decreed by King Xerxes (Ahasuerus in Hebrew), hung over the head of every Jew in the empire. Israelites were scurrying underground, becoming deathly silent about their lineage, and were probably hiding their genealogies. From the human view, things seemed hopeless.

However, there was a savior waiting in the wings—one who, if she chose, could deliver—but not without great personal risk. An undercover Jewess was Queen of Persia. But if she broke her silence and spoke up for her people, it could mean her death.

Queen Esther was moved to action, despite the danger, by Mordecai’s words: “Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Her Jewish roots were unknown to her husband, the king, who had in ignorance and greed, commissioned their genocide. Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, knew it was not mere chance that she had become queen of Persia under the most unusual circumstances imaginable (Esther chapters 1—3).

She asked Mordecai to assemble her kinsmen to intervene and fast before God on her behalf. The king’s law stated that “any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned…be put to death unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live” (Esther 4:11). So Esther knew she could be executed for her actions. But she also knew the price was worth the risk.

Esther made a commitment to intervene, against all laws and customs, with the words, “Thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). When Mordecai heard these words and saw Esther’s determination, he “went away and did just as Esther had commanded him” (verse 17), spreading the news and enlisting people to intercede with God on her behalf.

“If I perish, I perish.” Some things are worth the risk. Esther must have realized the uniqueness of events that had brought her to this position, made her the right person, in the right place, at the right time. Surely she was there “for such a time as this.”

The rest of the book reads like a fabricated drama. But it is not fiction. It is the true story of God miraculously preserving His people because of the bravery of one young Jewish woman who stood up for what was right.

So, what does that twenty-five hundred year old Bible story mean to us?

Like Mordecai and Queen Esther, we too live in very difficult times. Often, wrong prevails, cruelty abounds, immorality assails and righteousness flails. Many Christians lose hope in the fight. Some think it is useless to witness, to work, to reach out in this pagan world.

These ministers of dejection and defeat seem to think things are hopeless. But not so! Is the world crueler today than when it crucified Jesus? Are things more corrupt now than when idolatry, persecution, wickedness and perversion prevailed in first century Rome? Is the gospel less powerful than when enemies claimed that the followers of Christ “turned the world upside down”? (Acts 17:6).

I think not. Could it just be that God placed us here “for such a time as this”? Now, I am not advising that we put on rose-colored glasses. We must face the brutal facts of our current reality. But more than that, we must remember that carrying out the great commission is still the highest priority of obedient churches (Matt. 28:19, 20)–And  the One who indwells us is still greater than our enemy in the world (1 John 4:4)–And the gospel is still the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16)–And the lost are just as in need of Jesus as ever!

Let us praise God because we are here, the right people, in the right place at just the right time! Let’s say with Esther, “if I perish I perish,” and get busy sharing the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ because we are here “for such a time as this.”

The Big Picture

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A king asked six blind men, who had never seen an elephant, to tell him what one was like. The blind man who felt its leg said an elephant must be like a tree. Another who felt its tail surmised that an elephant was like a rope. The one who handled its trunk said an elephant was like a snake. The man who felt its ear reported that an elephant was like a fan. Feeling the elephant’s side, another blind man said an elephant was like a wall. Finally, the man who felt its tusk reported that an elephant had to be like a spear.

The king acknowledged they were all right, but only partially. He revealed that each blind man had touched a different part of the elephant, but that not one understood what the elephant, the sum of all those parts, was really like. Each one could only discern part of the whole, whereas the king could see the big picture.

This old story from India illustrates that it is possible to focus so much on details that we miss the whole picture. Like the blind men, if we only concentrate on what we see, apart from the big picture, we will draw erroneous conclusions.

Have you ever been so consumed by small details, that you were distracted from the main objective of what you were doing? It is possible for us to become so engrossed in day-to-day activities, jobs, recreation, business, family, stresses and deadlines that we lose sight of the big picture—the main thing. The big picture is the complete view, not just the partial scene.

God wants His children to live for Him daily, but not lose view of the big picture—His overall kingdom plan. Zig Zigglar used to say, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” You don’t want to live your life like a blind man and miss the main thing.

So, what is this big picture? Peter’s inspired words help with the answer. He reminds us that, though it had been many years since Jesus promised to return that, He will come back as He promised. In AD 33, Jesus confirmed, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). Then, 30 years later, Peter wrote that “in the last days mockers will come with their mocking…saying ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

To correct that error, Peter reminds us that, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (verse 9). God’s timing is always perfect and purposeful—never negligent and tardy. His seeming delay returning is to extend His mercy, allowing more people to come to Christ.

None of us should lose sight of the promised return of the Lord Jesus as we live our daily lives this side of eternity. His return is the big picture you need to see, over everything else you do. The Scriptures plainly teach that Jesus will return, and if you believe the promise, it should motivate you to live for Him every day.

Peter went on to prophesy, “The earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). He believed that the reality of the Lord’s return and the destruction of the present world system should be the major motivation for God’s people to live holy lives for Him. Peter wrote, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (verse 11). If we believe the Scripture that everything we see now will be dissolved then, we should focus our energy, income and effort on that which is eternal, not merely on the temporal. Do we need the temporal? Yes. Everyday we live in temporary housing, drive temporary cars, and work at temporary jobs. But earthly things are temporary! The Christian lives in a temporary world—awaiting an eternal home. That is the big picture. “Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live!” (verse 11, NLT).

Living life in view of the big picture is not all gloom and doom. Peter goes further to write, “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (verse 13). For the child of God, in that day, the temporary things of earth will be transformed into beautiful, fully functional, eternal things in the heavens. What a glorious day that will be!

Seeing the big picture means, “since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (verse 14). If you see the big picture in life, anticipating the return of Jesus to set things right—then diligently work to be at peace, spotless and blameless in your life. Aim to live daily with the big picture in view.

The gospel songwriter, John Peterson (1921-2006) summed it up perfectly when he wrote:

Standing before Him at last, Trial and trouble all past,

Crowns at His feet we will cast, Jesus is coming again!

Coming again, Coming again, May be morning, may be noon,

May be evening and will be soon! Coming again, Coming again;

O what a wonderful day it will be—Jesus is coming again!

(copyright 1967, John W. Peterson Music Co.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking by Faith – the Product

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

Walking by Faith – The Process

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The Bible is the best-selling book in history with estimated sales over five billion. But, can you name the best-selling book of all time, written by a human author? Neither Hemingway, Clancy, Mark Twain, J. K. Rowling or Stephen King wrote it. It never appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list, because it pre-dated that newspaper by 300 years.

Would it help if you knew it was written by a man who truly walked by faith? Remember: the Prelude to walking by faith is personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Then, following saving faith, the walk of faith begins–the Practice–by trusting the Lord daily and seeking to please Him in your life. As you live your life in faith, by convictions founded on biblical principles, you begin a life-long process that, at times results in suffering, but always ends in glory.

The second best-selling book of all time is “Pilgrim’s Progress.” One hundred thousand copies of this book were in print by 1692 and millions have been printed since. This book is an allegory of the Christian life, written by John Bunyan (1628-1688).

John Bunyan and his wife were destitute and penniless, living in Bedford, England. He was a tinker, a tinsmith who traveled, repairing household utensils. John came to faith in Christ in his early 20’s and afterward became a preacher of the gospel. But because of persecution in those days, he was imprisoned for 12 years, for preaching without a license. If he would have just promised not to preach, he would have been released, but by faith he adamantly refused to disobey God’s command.

Walking by faith is not easy. Neither does it instantly follow saving faith. Walking by faith is just that—“walking”—a process that requires direction, discipline, action and time. But walking by faith through difficult times is rewarding, as Peter wrote, “you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). If John Bunyan had not been imprisoned, he would never have written “Pilgrim’s Progress” – the book that is called “the second-best book in all the world.”

However difficult it is at times, walking by faith is something God desires from His born-again children. Jesus expected such from His disciples on the ship in the storm, because He said, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26). Their fearful actions betrayed a huge lack of faith—a faith Jesus expected from them. And, as you grow in your Christian life, He expects you also to walk in faith.

God’s Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11—the short biographies of many of His faithful servants—reveals how much God values His children who walk by faith. The inspired record shows an amazing pattern as the noun “faith” is followed by various action verbs that reveal how faith became visible in godly activities in the lives of these Bible heroes.

Notice the actions produced by a life of faith:

Faith SacrificesHebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice” – Abel’s faith was manifested in the sacrifice he gave (Genesis 4:4).

Faith PreparesHebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah…in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household” – Noah’s faith was seen in the ark he built (Genesis 6:13-22).

Faith ObeysHebrews 11:8, “By faith Abraham…obeyed by going out” – Abraham’s faith became visible when he obeyed God and left his homeland, following God’s command (Genesis 12:1-4).

Faith BlessesHebrews 11:20, “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau” – Isaac’s faith was seen in his prophetic blessings of his sons (Genesis 27:27-29).

Faith Chooses RightlyHebrews 11:24, “By faith Moses…refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Exodus 2:10-11). Though the riches of the Egyptian empire were rightly his, by faith Moses chose hardship with the people of God.

Faith EnduresHebrews 11:27, “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Exodus 10:28). Moses endured Pharaoh’s attacks and Israel’s complaints by his faith in the unseen God.

Some who walked by faith won great victories…these “by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight…” (Hebrews 11:33-34). But not everyone who walks in faith comes out victorious in this life.

Some who walked by faith experienced great sorrow… these “others were tortured, not accepting their release…and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy)…” (Hebrews 11:35-38).

But the summary reads…“And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us….” (Hebrews 11:39-40). Note it says, “ALL these” gained approval through their faith. “ALL” means those whose faith was victorious—and—those who seemed to suffer defeat – they all walked by faith – pleased God – and will yet receive their full reward.

We know that, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The good news is that you can be saved by placing your faith in Christ—and you can please Him by walking in faith. And, then…God has something even better awaiting you in Heaven!

 

 

 

 

 

Walking by Faith-the Prelude

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Walking by faith is not jumping off of a ten-story building or stepping in the path of a Greyhound bus, expecting miraculous deliverance. That’s not faith; that’s foolishness. Walking by faith is trusting God in difficult circumstances when you don’t understand why they happen. Walking by faith is doing the right thing when it is costly or more convenient to ignore it. It is to continue to believe in God when doubt and darkness surround your way. Walking by faith is to trust the promises in God’s Word, though they seem unrealistic. It is living by the guarantee, “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37), which, by the way, was spoken by the angel Gabriel when he announced to the virgin Mary, that she would give birth to the Son of God.

Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th century London preacher said, “Never doubt in the darkness what God has shown you in the light.” He meant that believers in Christ and in the Bible should continue to trust what they know is true about God, His character, His righteousness, His Word and His promises, even when, to the senses, they do not seem to be true.

The verse you sang as a child in Sunday School on beautifully sunny days—“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”—is still true though you may be an adult facing difficult, unwelcome circumstances in life. Jesus does love you, as the Bible teaches, during the joys and also, in the midst of the sorrows you face.

For these reasons, Peter commands Christians to “cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Walking by faith means you bundle up your fears, worries, concerns, with the cares of life, and cast them on the Lord, like you would throw a backpack on the shoulders of a strong companion. You trust God to resolve the impossible issues you face, and to hold and keep you, “because He cares for you.”

The idea of walking by faith, sharing your burden, trusting the Lord with the problems and weights of living life, is also an Old Testament truth. The psalmist commanded believers in God to “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). Casting off the burdens that weigh you down allows Him to sustain you—to hold you up.

Doing the right thing and trusting the Lord for the results is the secret of walking by faith. The psalmist wrote, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4).

For the Christian, faith is a spiritual discipline that results in spiritual and physical action. In the Bible, having “faith” means to believe or trust. So, every Christian is saved by God’s grace (His unmerited kindness) through faith (your belief and trust) in Jesus. Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). When people trust Christ to save them, God’s grace forgives their sins and grants them eternal life as a free gift, undeserved and totally unearned, “so that no one may boast.”

With a firm grip of the meaning of “faith” – to believe – other verses of the Bible make more sense. When Jesus famously said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16), we understand that to “believe” in Jesus, means, not to just believe He exists, but to place your trust in Him alone as your Savior. This teaches that every single person who trusts in Jesus Christ to save him or her, will be saved, shall not perish, but have eternal, everlasting life.

Then, lest anyone misunderstand the whole purpose for His coming into the world, Jesus said, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). Here is the Lord’s summary statement for why He came into the world—why He was born of a virgin—why He was rejected by His own—why He was crucified, buried, arisen, ascended and glorified—“that the world might be saved through Him.” Contrary to what many think about the message of Christ being about condemnation—it is all about salvation….by grace through faith in Him…and it is for the whole world!

The prelude to your walk by faith is salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ. You must trust Christ alone to save you, before you can walk by faith, as a Christian, and live a life pleasing to God. Paul testified about the glorious results of this saving faith in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In addition to being justified before God, one enormous result of being saved is that you then have “peace with God.” God is no longer your adversary and judge, but your Advocate and Savior, for “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2). Jesus is the only sacrifice or offering for our sins that is acceptable to God. And when He saves us as we call on and trust Him, we then have reconciliation, justification, harmony and peace with our perfectly sinless Heavenly Father.

Are you walking by faith? It is the only walk that eventually leads to, and essentially pleases, God. And it begins by trusting Jesus! Next: Walking by Faith—the Process.