Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Hebrews 11: 1-3

 

This is the sort of thing that is hard to accept. Somehow God makes this world out of a substance that is not visible or even tangible. By some means, it was all spoken into existence, and that word gave it its form, function, and set into motion the forces that keep it all moving onward. These actions occur outside of our cognitive world, and they are too great and wonderful for our simple minds to fully understand. There are times when God truly defies reason and logic. So, there are many aspects of God, of His nature, character, and actions that require for us to engage with them with a form of acceptance, hopefulness, and anticipation of what the Lord might do. There are many times and situations that ask for us to operate out of faith.

 

As the writer of Hebrews describes it, this is not a new idea when it comes to living out life in a relationship with God. People have done this since the earliest days of our existence. Instead, living in faith, with it as a primary guiding principle, and granting that faith is essential for people to engage fully with the spiritual realm that is God’s dwelling place is something that followers of God, His people, do as a natural part of knowing our Creator and Lord. So, this thing called faith may be natural and normal for us to experience, but it is not so native and normal in our world. Skepticism is high in the world around us as most people would much rather put their trust in things that they can touch, manipulate, and control than they would like to do the same with an unseen character and a person who attaches a moral and an ethical code of righteous thought and action to all that He says and does.

 

We enjoy good outcomes such as healing of illness, resolution of conflict, and prosperity and provision of what we need to live comfortably; however, we are not as at ease with trusting these things to God’s hands and in holding that all that we have in this world is a gift that comes from God. Yet, faith grants to us a form of peace that is deep and lasting. We can stop striving against the forces of this world in order to attempt to control and to subdue them. In faith we can know that God has a view of things that far exceeds any that we can gain and that He desires for us to prosper in spirit and that our souls are protected from all forms of evil. Faith gives us the sure knowledge that God does heal our brokenness and that He does remove all of our pain and sooth all forms of grief and loss. Faith is the element that allows us to trust God with all of this in His perfect time and to accept that these desire outcomes may happen in this life or that they are assured in the next. It is in faith that we pray to God, and through faith we anticipate His responses. As we walk in faith, we are transported out of the worldly and the temporary and we carried into the halls of glory where our great Lord and King dwells with love, grace, and redemption as the words that He speaks into our needy hearts.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16: 13, 14

 

Although it is really easy to get caught up in the contemplative aspects of connecting with God through prayer and meditation, it is important to take what we learn in this manner and to put feet onto it throughout our day. These words are filled with the action of a life lived in a close relationship with Christ. Faith is not something that we hold quietly inside. It is not a passive quality of our lives as Christians. It is the fuel of the words and the actions that are the substance of what we do and of how we are perceived each day. Faith in the God that we have come to know and who knows us deeply, who made us to fulfill the life purpose that we are faced with each day, this is the faith that provides the strength and that opens our hearts and our minds to the ways that the Lord will use us this day.

 

We are to continually look for and to be attuned to the needs of others, and we should seek out opportunities to speak and to act in the name of Christ. We are also to be alert for the satanic attacks that will go with a life lived for Him. It is important to prepare to stand up for what we believe. Sometimes this is in words; more often it is in the actions that we take and in the way that we treat others. This takes courage and strength. We may be required to do and to say things that the world around us will look at as irrational or just plain dumb. We still need to be ready to do it; for, we need to be ready to set aside the rational processes of considering our personal risk and be willing to let the Holy Spirit take charge of the moment. As the famous add campaign says, “Just Do It!”.

 

One final thing to consider, action can be very powerful and a bit addicting. We can get caught up in the adrenalin rush that comes from our desire to live fully for Christ; therefore, the final instruction here is that we should do everything with one, singular and overarching motive. Faith tells us that we can trust God’s love for us as his primary motive in relating to us. Perhaps the most courageous quality that we are called upon by God to employ in our daily living for Him is that of love. Faith gives us the strength that is needed to drop the sword that we naturally want to let lead our way through life and to open our hands and our arms in order to embrace the lost and the hurting people that Christ will place into our paths.

 

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?

Galatians 3: 5

 

Life is miraculous. Being alive in the sense that God views it is even more so. All of us, although dying by virtue of nature and the passage of time, are already dead when we start out in life. Our souls are separated from God and our natures are owned by the sin that is the true bringer of death. So, we come into soul-deep life and into the eternity with God that is its result by virtue of nothing less than the miraculous work of that same God in the person of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice and victory over death grant to all who believe the gift of a new existence that is fully alive.

 

This comes about through the gracious gift of God’s love. There is nothing that we can do to earn it, and none of our efforts will secure it. It is ours through faith in Christ, and the new life that is granted to us is also lived to its fullest by and through that same faith. It is faith that empowers us to enter into the realm of the miraculous in our daily lives. Faith speaks to the heart and says to it to have courage and walk boldly into the day with Christ on our lips and love in our hands. This thing that we call faith is a quality that focuses the mind on Christ and that helps to shut out the voices of doubt and the images of fear that come at us from all sides.

 

Although Paul was speaking about other forms and types of miracles here, I know that he was more than aware of the greatest of all of the miracles that God works in and among people in that it is absolutely miraculous to me that God chooses to come and to dwell in me. He grants to me and to every one of us who believes in Him the miracle of this new life. Then Christ takes a broken and lost soul and fills it with the presence of His Spirit so that this new life has a purpose that is to be a part of God’s redemptive plan for all of creation. This is the miracle of new life in Christ!

Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,

but the righteous shall live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2: 4

 

The prophet Habakkuk is engaged in a dialogue with God in which Habakkuk is complaining bitterly to the Lord and wondering about how long he must wait until justice and fairness will become visible in God’s dealing with people and with nations. These words are those of God in response to the prophet’s lament, and the actor in line one is probably either Babylon or its king. So, there is a contrast established between the way that people who were not following God, the Babylonians, rely upon their own wisdom and strength to navigate their way through life and the way that a follower of God gains the same direction and fortitude by virtue of faith in God.

 

This theme of faith in God as foundational to living life well is as old as is the existence of humanity. Its lack is a fundamental problem behind the rebellion of the first people in the garden, and it is my problem today. In simple words, God has the capability and the capacity to accomplish anything that fits within His will and desire, and I have none of this capability and even less capacity. God possesses all wisdom and knowledge, and I am severely limited in both. The Lord cares about my outcome and calls me into the most meaningful service possible in order to bring glory to Him while granting to me a life of eternal worth.

 

Faith in God is the difference maker in my life and in the lives of all people. As we seek to know our Lord and let Him into the deepest recesses of our soul, He enlightens our heart with His love, mercy, grace, and wisdom. This is the truth that truly frees us from the oppression that our soul was held under by sin’s grasp upon our lives. As my faith grows and infuses more and more of my being, I have an ever decreasing need to hold onto my own prideful competency and skill. I am also able to come out from under the heavy shadow of doubt and fear. Faith in God clears away the mountain that blocks my view of His glory and that cuts off my path into service to my Lord.

 

 

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11: 36

 

All is a really big word. Those three letters carry with them a wide range of inclusion. Although we often say “all” when indicating that something is exceptionally expansive, we seldom actually mean it. For example, “All you can eat” rarely means exactly that, for there are limits that the restaurant has established in order to survive. Yet when God inspired Paul to say “all”, I believe that He absolutely meant it. He is saying that there is nothing that we can touch, see, hear, or experience that does not have its origin and its terminus in God. Our world is populated and furnished by the hand and by the word of God. Also, all of God’s workmanship is intended to be dedicated and committed to Him. It is all, this includes people too, here to bring glory to the name of the Lord.

 

This idea is troubled by all of the sadness, loss, oppression, disease, death, and hatred that we run smack into as we live in our world. No one can escape the pain, hurt, and frustration that life will without exception provide. So, how does all of this come from a God who is loving and caring, the perfect Father? Where does brokenness fit into the handiwork of the Great Creator? How does suffering allow us to have the ability to sing songs of praise to the glory of God? These are among the questions that trouble the hearts and the minds of all people. The way that life goes is hard to understand, and God can seem to be far away and uninvolved when evil rules those days. Yet, Paul says, “All”, and he ascribes to God the glory for it all.

 

In order to make sense of it, we need to do some spiritual time traveling. We need to look at the two ends of the great story of Creation that God has given to us in His Word. There was a point when God brought our world into existence in which He proclaimed that it was good. Everything that He made was perfect and without the damage that sin causes. There is also a promised and foretold time to come when Christ will reclaim all of Creation from Satan’s destructive influence and presence; so, that original perfection will be restored to all. We live in the time that is between these two great epochs. Living in these days requires people to have faith in God. We also need to allow that faith to bring us to a place where we trust Him completely and with all things. Faith and trust lead us to hope and to obedience. These qualities then lead God’s people to a place in life where we desire to bring glory to His name by living in a manner that is righteously and graciously redemptive in all aspects of our daily lives.

The tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1: 7

 

This world is full of valuable things. Our tendency as people is to set aside some of this treasure as our security against whatever the future may bring. Savings are a good thing, but they are not the answer to either true security or to our legacy. Gold is generally the standard by which valuable things are measured. It packs a lot of worth into a very small package. It is also durable as there is not much that can harm it. However, even gold has a melting point at just over 1,000 degrees C, and it does boil off and evaporate at about 2,800 degrees C. So, there are conditions, trials if you will, when even our gold will become vapor.

 

There is only one thing that makes it through the fires of all forms of testing, and that is our faith in God. It is what will remain after the end of times when all that we know now perishes and all people face God’s final judgment. Faith also creates the only legacy that lasts. It is the aspect of our existence that carries forward into eternity as the lives that we touch with the love and grace of Christ are themselves committed to following that same faith in the God who saves.

 

God may be pleased by many of things that we do. He does care about the good works that we perform in His name. However, there is only one motivation for those works that matters to God. He wants us to do all that we do out of our love for Him and because of our faith in Him alone. All other reasons for living and for acting in a particular manner are based upon our own understanding and are the things that will not endure. Pure faith goes through the hottest of flames and stays fully formed and radiant in its glory throughout all of time.

There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4: 4-6

 

The church that I attend doesn’t look like the church that many others attend. The buildings are different and the way that we worship is too. The body of Christ speaks many languages as it also enfolds any and all races and nations of people. I believe that this rich diversity is a reflection of the great creativity of God. Yet, the many things that set us apart should not be allowed to divide us; however, sadly, they do.

 

Too often people make church affiliation into something that defines us. So it becomes an issue for pride and a reason to view ourselves as superior to those who don’t share our particular affinity. We define non-essential ideas of man as absolute divine revelation and make them into sifting points for determining true belief or faith and for separating from those who don’t share that understanding of God’s word. These are just some examples of the many ways that people seek to emphasis our differences and that we focus on our distinctives as a means to proclaiming ourselves as “true believers”.

 

This manner of thinking and acting misses the essential point. All that God ordains is from Him, under His authority, and ruled by His will. There is nothing that people can think or do as it relates to our faith in God and our worship of Him that can have its origin in any source other than God Himself. We should hold no pride in a particular church, no ownership of a form or style of worship, and no superiority that comes from a specific set of doctrines or beliefs. In order to live in this reality of what is truly church, that is, what constitutes the body of Christ; we need to be humbly yielded to God and submissive to His authority and to His Word. From this perspective we can delight in the many ways that God is active in our world, and we can rejoice together with the multitudes of brothers and sisters who are filled with the same Spirit of Christ that sets the rhythm for our heart’s beating.