Doesn't that title just make you want to jump for joy? I mean, who in their right mind would actually desire suffering? Well, in a sense, no one does. And, in another sense, we all do. I would argue that we certainly don't long for suffering, but we do in fact long for the "fellowship" of suffering. The Apostle Paul certainly did. "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in death" (Philippians 3:10). This verse is the basis for our understanding of how to find peace and comfort in the midst of even the most trying of circumstances.
Katie did an excellent job in Monday's blog of introducing our Word of the Week and emphasizing FELLOWSHIP as truly sharing life together, the good and the bad. For whatever reason, the Lord immediately brought the above verse to my mind when I thought about the word "fellowship". It may be because it's hard to think about any other truth in the gospel that is as crucial to our lives and as relevant to people of all ages and cultures as this one. It's just like the old saying "misery loves company". If you think about it, it's so true! Why do you think groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups are so popular? Whether you call it a "disease" or you call it sin, there is something comforting about knowing you can walk into a room and interact with complete strangers who are enduring the same struggle as you. Knowing that there are others who understand makes a big difference. There are support groups for victims of just about every addiction, infirmity, and crime there is. Beyond these groups, people generally look for a close friend or family member who can understand what they are going through just to ease their pain. The truth is, no painful circumstance is as bad as feeling like you must face that circumstance all alone. I was reminded of this just today. A female Christian friend of mine called me to ask me to share with her the story of God's grace in my life and how I overcame the breakup of my engagement to my then-fiance about a year ago, and then shared with me that she is now going through a very similar time of trial. A male Christian friend of mine did the same thing about 3 weeks ago. While their circumstances may seem unbearable to them, nothing is worse than feeling like no one understands and nothing is more comforting than knowing you are not all alone in your struggle.
For Paul, his most important fellowship with Christ was in "sharing in his sufferings". Paul talked about it quite a bit throughout his letters. Why was this so important to him you might ask? Well, if there was ever a Christian other than Jesus himself who knew what it was like to suffer for his faith, it was Paul. He wrote most of his letters, including the one to the Christians in Philippi quoted briefly above, while in prison. He was severely flogged often, deprived of food, sought after by authorities who wanted to kill him, and more. For the Apostle Paul, suffering was as common as breathing. I think it's fair to say that he probably would've given up the fight and not finished the race without the hope of knowing that his suffering brought him closer to fellowship with Christ than any of us have ever been.
So how can we know the fellowship of sharing in Christ's sufferings in America in 2012 when we don't suffer in the same way that Paul did? Well, to tell the truth, we must take the same attitude toward Christ that we do toward others whom we feel might "understand" what we are going through. We know the fellowship of sharing in each other's sufferings, but rarely realize that no one has more credibility in that area than Jesus, the Great High Priest himself. Check out this amazing verse from Hebrews 4 and I urge you to go there and read the verses around it as well: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). You and I might be able to share in CERTAIN sufferings, but cannot relate in others. Jesus, however, can share in every single suffering you have ever had or ever will have. We hear that word "tempted" and only think about the temptation to sin. But the Greek word there can also mean "tried" or "tested". In other words, Jesus can understand every trying circumstance you go through. If you don't believe it, read the gospels. He knows what it's like to be deserted by close friends and family members, go through unbearable physical pain, be publicly mocked and humiliated, be falsely accused, and much more. Only in a relationship with Jesus will you find someone who can share in every suffering you are asked to endure. If you have known that relationship, I encourage you to take comfort in whatever trial you are presently enduring. If you have never known Jesus in that way, I invite you to freely enter into the fellowship with the only One who will always know what you are going through and will comfort and guide you through all trying circumstances.
The word for the week this week is koinonia (pronounced koy-no-NEE-ah). But wait - isn’t it supposed to be “fellowship”? Yes, exactly!
Koinonia is the Biblical Greek word that’s commonly translated as fellowship. It has a richer meaning than simply fellowship, however; it also means a close mutual relationship, participation, sharing in, or partnership.
In basically every church I’ve attended or Christian organization I’ve been a part of, fellowship is the Christian-ese word for people hanging out together. After Sunday service, we all stick around to fellowship. If you get to a church function early, that’s extra fellowship time. And my favorite - having a time for fellowship during the church service as a reason to greet people! Outside the church, people hang out or spend time together. Inside the church, we fellowship. It’s pretty much the same thing, but fellowshipping has a connotation of somehow being more “religious.”
The concept of fellowship was prevalent in the early church, but it was definitely much more than just people hanging out together. It was people sharing life together! We read about this in Acts 2:42-47. The koinonia they shared was more than just shaking someone’s hand and saying “good morning” to one another. It was being a true community and sharing everything with one another. Koinonia is what happens when people agree to share the good and the bad of life with one another, and to mutually support each other through thick and thin out of love as Jesus loves us. It doesn’t have to be a living together sort of community like the early church had in Acts 2, though it can be. True koinonia is when a group of people agrees to love each other as Jesus loved, for the sake of furthering the Kingdom.
Jesus showed us the ultimate koinonia when He was on this earth. He loved everyone, regardless of their status in society. He loved the outcasts and desired to share life with them; not only His life on earth but the eternal life He offers to each one of us.
What can you do in your life to model that koinonia?
Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, June 21, 2012 0 comments
One of the best discussions about forgiveness that I ever got to be a part of was back in October 2011. I was in Buena Vista, CO for some intensive counseling with a man named Pete Kuiper, a well-known figure in Christian Counseling. I learned many lessons during that time, but one in particular came to my mind when I saw the topic for this week. Pete was talking about injustice and how we respond to it. He taught that "injustice activates all of our judicial functions". He then went on to describe how our way of dealing with injustices, especially the ones done to US, is like a criminal trial. If I am the victim, I then become the detective, the prosecuting attorney, the jury, the judge, and the sentencing judge! After I make my decision on the case, I turn the defendant (anyone who has ever hurt me) over to the executioner, which also just happens to be ME! Many of you are probably reading this right now and realizing that you have done this. Some of you have probably just gone through this process in your minds. Others have probably been more vocal about your decisions about other people and what they've done and the result has likely been broken relationships. This type of evaluation, judgment, and revenge satisfies our flesh by giving us the illusion that the scales of justice have been brought back to proper balance. However, as Mr. Kuiper pointed out to me and others in a group session, there's one major problem with it. In Kuiper's words and following the theme of a criminal trial, "We don't have jurisdiction!" The reason why we don't have it is because "justice is God's domain, not ours". Wow! That's powerful!
To our flesh, this doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make us feel any better about what has been done to us. It doesn't give us a sense of victory when we feel we desperately need it. But if we step back and think about it logically, it actually makes perfect sense. When was the last time you sought revenge and actually felt you got it? Typically, that which we are tempted to think will make us feel better ends up making us feel worse. Instead of easing the pain we are feeling, we now carry that pain while also adding onto it the guilt of hurting someone else. God is the only One who knows what punishment those who have hurt us need to suffer. He is the only One who can make something beautiful out of pain. He is the only One who knows what the people who hurt us has already gone through in their lives to bring them to the point where they hurt us. We make our decisions about our perpetrators while knowing very little and in some cases nothing about what is happening in their lives. When we realize the stupidity of trying to get something (justice) that God is way better at getting that we are, we're left with no other logical choice except to forgive and leave the rest up to God. I'm not saying this is done just as easily as it is said. I agree with Katie that forgiveness is impossible without the Holy Spirit working through us to show us that we can trust Him. What I am saying is that forgiveness is not excusing what someone did or letting them go without appropriate consequences. It is simply choosing to put that part of the equation in God's hands because we recognize that He's the best there is at it! It works the same with forgiving yourself as it does forgiving others. To choose to forgive yourself means to stop punishing yourself and accept that whatever consequences God chooses to give you are appropriate and ENOUGH.
I want to finish by going back to the idea of forgiving others, since I know for me that is the most difficult. Paul hits this issue directly in Romans 12. "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord" (v. 19). Think about what Paul is saying here. He's basically saying that to take revenge ourselves is to take God's place and BLOCK His wrath. Isn't that the opposite effect of what our flesh actually wants? God gives us free will and does not stop us from taking revenge if we are hell-bent on doing so. But Paul warns us here that doing so only prevents God's wrath from working its course. Paul quotes in this verse from Deuteronomy 32:35, where God is speaking through Moses. Just a few verses earlier, we get a glimpse of God's heart. "I said I would scatter them (the Israelites) and blot out their memory from mankind, but I dreaded the taunt of the enemy, lest the adversary misunderstand and say, 'Our hand has triumphed; the LORD has not done all this'" (Deut. 32:26-27). So, God himself is concerned about what the enemy will think if justice is not done! We often act as if it is up to us to "set things straight". But in truth, all we are really worried about is ourselves. God has His name and reputation to protect!
I want to encourage you to actively and consciously choose to trust God with the injustices you experience. Stand firm in your knowledge that God will do whatever is necessary to protect His name. He sees the big picture when all you can see is what's right in front of you. Rest assured that those who cause you harm will suffer, either from unrepentance and its consequences or from repentance and the initial shame, guilt, and regret that comes with realizing the harm for which you are responsible. All will be called to account before our God and He will make sure justice is served in His way and His time. And if you are reading this and thinking you are more concerned with protecting YOUR name and getting justice YOUR way rather than honoring God, then it's probably an indication of where your heart is at this point. Either way, there's hope. And I encourage you to seek the Lord in the ways you struggle in this area.
Since we are the “Worldview Warriors,” our number one aim is to instill in people a “worldview” that is consistent with the teachings of Christianity. One of the most foundational issues concerning worldview is the topic of origins. Most people are familiar with the “Creation vs. Evolution” debate. What may be confusing to some people is what is meant by “Creation.” That is what I will be discussing in this post.
The simplest way to explain the term “Creation” is that it implies that there was a “Creator.” This is where the topic of Creation becomes unexpectedly complicated. Those that believe in a Creator can typically be broken down into two camps: 1) Creationists and 2) those who believe in “Intelligent Design.” Despite how the media portrays the two camps, Creationism and Intelligent Design are two different concepts.
To make a long story short, Intelligent Design does not promote a specific God and does not acknowledge one specific creation account. It actually does not intend to prove that a god is the Creator, but that someone or something designed life and maybe the universe.
Creationism is most easily defined as the belief that the God of the Bible created the universe and everything in it according to the method he used in the book of Genesis. It can be broken down into two groups: Old Earth Creationists (OEC’s) and Young Earth Creationists (YEC’s).
OEC’s are broken down into two main groups: Those that believe in “Gap Theory” and those that believe in “Day Age Theory.” Gap Theory typically teaches that there is a “Gap” of millions and possibly billions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Day Age Theorists believe that each day in Genesis is actually representative of an age in history or a long span of time (the days of creation are therefore meant to be poetic). These two perspectives have reinterpreted Biblical information based on the beliefs of popular science. YEC’s do not allow such leeway.
YEC’s believe that Genesis should be understood literally, as it is written and in its context. Because of that, they base their scientific interpretations off of the Bible. For instance, they believe that the “Geologic Column” was a result of Noah’s Flood and that fossils are animals that were caught in it and covered by mudslides. The term “young earth” is derived from the belief of YEC’s that the world is only 6,000 years old. This belief is a result of a literal reading of the genealogies provided throughout the Bible.
My posts will be from the perspective of a Young Earth Creationist because I believe in the YEC model of creation and, more importantly, the authority of Holy Scripture above all other authorities, including popular scientific interpretations. There are many strange ideas about YEC that I think need to be debunked and unpacked. Some of the most popular misconceptions about YEC’s are that they believe that the world is flat, that dinosaurs never existed, and that the entire universe revolves around the earth. I assure you that very few YEC’s believe in such teachings and that the origins of those teachings are not Biblical. I hope you all join me in my next post as I will seek to explain why it is more theologically beneficial to believe in a young earth.
In recent weeks, two new songs on forgiveness have been hitting the Christian radio airwaves, so that’s what first popped into my head when pondering this topic. The two songs are “Forgiveness” by Matthew West and “Losing” by Tenth Avenue North. The goal of both of the songs is to explore what forgiveness is and how it affects us as humans. In fact, shortly after I wrote that, the DJ on the radio station I was listening to commented on those songs. What does the fact that they’re both popular right now say about us as a people?
So, what exactly is forgiveness? According to Merriam-Webster, it’s “the act of forgiving.” That’s not really helpful, so I looked up the word forgive. It means, “to give up resentment of or claim to requital for,” “to grant relief from payment of,” or “to cease to feel resentment against an offender.” All of those things are way easier said than done!
We as humans are resentful by nature. If somebody takes something that’s mine or hurts me in some way, I’ll naturally be resentful of that person. We think it makes us feel better to keep that grudge and continue that resentment, but does it really?
My friend Shelley Hitz (of christianspeakers.tv) speaks a lot about forgiveness, and I heard her talks again at a women’s retreat I attended back in March. One of her analogies for forgiveness is as spiritual Drano! When your shower drain is all clogged, none of the water can drain and it just keeps backing up in the tub. When that happens, you need Drano to clear out the clog so the drain system functions properly. Similarly, when people hurt us it clogs us up with negative emotions. We need forgiveness to be our spiritual Drano to relieve us of all of that hurt. Forgiveness doesn’t say that person’s actions were ok, but it says that we’re ok with not holding onto that resentment any longer.
Shelley also describes a lack of forgiveness as carrying a dead body around on your shoulders. You may be ok with it for a little while, but soon it will be heavy and start to stink. A lack of forgiveness does the same thing to our lives - we start to “stink” toward others because we carry around the burden of all the hurts that have happened to us in our lives.
Now don’t get me wrong, forgiveness is not easy. It goes against everything in our human nature. We can’t forgive others on our own; we need Jesus’ help to do it. It is only through Him that we can experience the power of forgiveness. We need to forgive others and ourselves for the hurts we have experienced in our lives.
This is all summed up in what Jesus tells us: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Your challenge for this week is to check out the lyrics of the songs I mentioned above, see the information available on Shelley’s website, and ask God to help you see where in your life you need to grant forgiveness - whether it be to others or to yourself.
Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, June 15, 2012 0 comments
Just recently in our local newspaper, there was a big story (in the sense that it took up an entire page) about a local pastor who has a goal to give away one ton of food to those who are without in our community. It's certainly a good story about a man putting his faith into action to serve the less fortunate and calling on his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same. His initial vision was for "one ton", but he has since partnered with our city's homeless shelter and the goal now is to go beyond the one ton and actually open up a store where all of the food is free and people can come in and "shop". While the idea is Christ-like because it provides a basic necessity for individuals and families, there was one part of the article that stopped me in my tracks. The pastor is quoted as saying that "the nice thing about the store idea is that people can pick and choose what they want". He went on to say that "we are a picky people by nature". Is this really something we should just accept?
Now I am not trying to put down this pastor's vision because he is clearly living out the gospel and doing what he feels God has required of him to do. And truthfully, he's right that we are a picky people. But I worked at the local homeless shelter for several years and I knew how hard the cooks and their volunteers worked to prepare well-balanced, healthy meals, only to have many of the guests simply throw away the items they did not want to eat and load up on the items that gratified them. I also dealt with ungrateful residents who complained about the choices (or lack there of in their eyes) they were given at snack time, as if they were entitled to receive the snack we offered in addition to 3 meals. I often thought to myself, "How in the world can they say that they are truly needy or hungry when they are still at a point in their lives where they feel comfortable turning away food or throwing it away and wasting it?" Let me be clear again. I'm not saying that we shouldn't continue to feed those who come to be fed, particularly given that God has blessed us abundantly. I simply bring this up because it's relevant to our Word of the Week for this week. Because we are so used to having so much that we actually have CHOICES, we have lost sight of the difference between NEED and WANT. In some places in the world, hungry children are perusing garbage dumps to see if they can find ANYTHING edible. They don't have homeless shelters to go to and pick from the wide variety of choices provided by generous donors.
Quite frankly, the point of fasting is to remind us of the difference between what we need and what our flesh craves, and also to remind us of who it is that supplies our every need. In the story of the Exodus in the Old Testament, the people of Israel cried out to Moses because they were hungry and thirsty and they were waiting for God to show up. When God did, He provided water out of a rock (who knows how it tasted?), manna (a flaky bread-like substance), and quail (when is the last time you desperately craved quail?). My point is, God allowed them to become so hungry that they accepted when He provided for their needs and didn't complain about the choices. While they got angry with Moses, to the point they wanted to stone him, and were likely very irritable otherwise, God allowed all of it to happen to teach them the difference between their fleshly cravings and daily physical needs. He also showed them that He would never let them get to the point where their basic needs were unmet. When you and I fast, we willingly allow ourselves to become hungry and dependent on our Father so that we can train our flesh and gain power over its cravings. We remind ourselves that we must depend on Him alone for strength, and not our own futile methods of self-gratification and self-preservation. And finally, we remind ourselves that having choices is a privilege that we must never get too comfortable with because we don't know how long we'll have them. Just ask someone you know who either lived through the Great Depression or who had immediate family members who did.
Jesus himself went through the discipline of fasting. While he was being tempted by the devil after having fasted for 40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS, Jesus quoted Scripture saying, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). In this passage, Jesus is actually quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, where Moses is reminding the people of Israel about why God allowed them to go through the period of hunger. Check the passages out for yourself. But even more than that, really think about the truth of such a statement by Jesus and Moses. Do you realize that every breath you take, every food item you receive, and every other blessing you have that is not owed to you DEPENDS on God's word? I don't mean that it depends on the Bible. I mean that it depends on God allowing it to happen. It depends on God saying that it is so. Just like in ancient cultures where a person lived or died based on the word of the king, so it is with our lives dependent on the word of our eternal King. The purpose of fasting is to intentionally remind ourselves of this truth, which will humble us as it did the Israelites and make us much more grateful for all that God chooses to give us. It may be a lost discipline in the Church today, but that just makes it all the more necessary for us to practice it in our individual walks with the Lord.
I love food. I especially enjoy all the foods that aren’t so healthy - pasta and chocolate in particular! My husband and I used to joke that for a while, almost every meal we ate had pasta, cheese, or both. Not only do I enjoy eating food, but I enjoy sharing meals with others. I often spend my lunch break from my job sharing a meal with a friend or two. Along with that, I have a tendency to get extremely light-headed if I miss a meal, and even eating a meal later than normal makes me rather irritable (just ask my husband!). So when it comes to this topic of fasting - giving up food for a period of time - I definitely get at least a little nervous!
Growing up in the particular church I was raised in, we were not taught about fasting much. It was one of those concepts that people did back in Biblical times but isn’t necessary to practice today. So it came as a bit of a shock to me a few years ago when my current church (a completely different denomination) said we were going to do a church-wide fast for 21 days! It was not a requirement but definitely encouraged. Fortunately, we did not need to do a full fast and abstain from all food (which, incidentally, is not recommended for long periods without working up to it in some way and making sure you’re healthy enough).
There are many options for fasting that still allow you to eat. Skipping one meal a day works for some, and giving up certain food items works for others. There are more strict fasts, such as the “Daniel fast” of basically eating only vegetables. When I have fasted to participate in what the church was doing, my husband and I gave up our favorite “comfort” foods - macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, cheeseburgers, chocolate, and pop. At first I really craved those foods even more than usual, but eventually I got used to not eating them. It was definitely tough at some points though, especially when we had chocolatey treats in the office at work!
So, what’s the point of giving up foods you enjoy? Why would anyone voluntarily do something like this? Well first of all, it is Biblical. Nehemiah fasted and prayed for a number of days after hearing that Jerusalem’s wall was in disrepair (Nehemiah 1). Jesus fasted for 40 days while He was being tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13). Paul fasted after his conversion experience (Acts 9:1-19). Jesus even gives us instructions on what to do when we fast Matthew 6:16-18). There are many other instances of the early church members fasting as they carried out and prayed for their ministry.
Fasting is a way that we can become closer to God by not giving in to the pleasures of this earth. By abstaining from eating a meal (or many meals) our spiritual senses are heightened to be more closely attuned to what God is doing in and around us. This is why the people recorded in the Bible fasted, and this is why we are free to do the same. In our culture that is so focused on food and pleasures, fasting is very difficult but the reward of a closer relationship with God is great.
"In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:17 [NIV]).
The verse quoted above is very important for a couple of reasons. For one, the truth of the verse even if it were to stand alone away from the context in which it is found is very critical to the Christian walk. Having faith is not just something we can talk about or think about. It must be something that is shown in our actions. But secondly, the context of the verse is extremely important. That verse is found right in the middle of an entire section where James is talking about 2 different ways that believers are to ACT on their faith. Before the verse quoted above, James is talking about serving others and meeting their needs tangibly (verses 14-16) rather than just wishing them well, or the more modern way of dismissing the needy that goes something like: "That sounds really terrible; just trust the Lord and I'll be praying for you". His point is that we have to put our faith into action through service. Then, after the verse quoted above, James begins to describe acting on our faith by total trust and obedience, even blindly, to God (verses 20-26). He references 2 Old Testament examples in Abraham and Rahab the prostitute, both of whom abandoned personal desires and safety in favor of obeying God, even if it seemed completely crazy!
There is a much larger passage in the Bible that talks not only about Abraham and Rahab, but many other Old Testament "heroes" by faith. I'm talking about Hebrews 11, which is sometimes affectionately referred to as the "Hall of Faith". In this one chapter, the writer of Hebrews chronologically goes through a long list of individuals in the history of God's people who put their faith into action and thus became critical pieces of the great story of God and His plan. Now certainly, God could have used someone else had these people been unwilling. But because they were obedient, they got to be key characters in the plot. I encourage you to read through the descriptions of each one and if you are not familiar with the Old Testament story of any of the individuals, go back and read it. The writer of Hebrews talks about how each one contributed to what God was doing and how each one withstood persecution of the worst kind by remaining faithful to the truth that was planted in their hearts. By the way, that list includes a liar (Abraham), a murderer (Moses), a prostitue (Rahab), and an adulterer (David). This should prove once and for all that God is not concerned with what you HAVE done, but only what you WILL do. You may be wondering how you fit into God's story when you have done so much harm to others or have lacked faith and obedience for so much of your life. No matter what you have done, God is giving you opportunities today to live by faith and obedience. If you choose to surrender to Him, nothing about your past even comes into question.
So you may be asking how we can possibly do that. How can we live by faith? How can we actually begin to take steps forward toward something that seems crazy to our human finite minds? Well, the answer has to do with your heart and whether or not you truly believe that God is sovereign over all things and has your best interest in mind at all times. I'm not saying that means He is always going to do what makes you feel good. But it does mean that even when He does things that we really don't like in our lives, it's still because it is ultimately what is best for us and for others. Rather than having expectations of God and boxing Him into OUR expectations, we must accept whatever He does as His good and perfect plan. This is no more evident than in Matthew 8:5-13 and the story of the faith of the centurion. The centurion, a non-Jew and member of the army which had authority over the Jews, was described by Jesus himself as one whose faith was greater than anyone else's in all of Israel (v. 10). At first, I wondered why in the world Jesus would say this about this one individual when there were many who were healed because of their faith. But I realized that he acted out his faith in a way that very few if any in Israel had acted out. It was customary for the Jews to demand miraculous signs and wonders of Jesus to prove that he was who he said he was. Rather than just believing and obeying, many wanted to see what Jesus would do before they chose to believe. In the story of the centurion, Jesus first offers to go to the home and heal the centurion's servant. However, the centurion shows humility and respect for Jewish culture by stating that he is not worthy to have Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, come under his roof. Instead, the centurion simply asks Jesus to "just say the word and my servant will be healed" (v. 8). The centurion's faith was informed by his realization that Jesus was the Sovereign God, and all Jesus had to do was will that the servant be healed and it would be done! The centurion didn't need to see physical evidence because he knew that Jesus was sovereign and he could put his full trust in Jesus' power and love. What a way to live in absolute freedom!
Matthew tells us that Jesus heard this and "was astonished" (v. 10). Wouldn't that be cool to astonish Jesus? It is possible for you and me. When it comes to your faith, does it inform the way you think, speak, and act? Are you waiting to see evidence and walking by sight rather than by faith when God is calling you to surrender to His will and step out into the unknown adventure that is waiting for you when you trust Him completely? I encourage you to abandon your safety and comfort so that you can experience the reward and all that God wants to give to you and to others through you.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV).
Well that pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? When we have faith we’re believing in something that we don’t necessarily see.
The definition gets more specific when we specify that we’re talking about Christian faith. My Dictionary of Theological terms defines it as, “belief, trust, and obedience to God as revealed in Jesus Christ. It is the means of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9) or eternal life (John 6:40). Faith affects all dimensions of one’s existence: intellect, emotions, and will.”
That makes faith sound a lot harder than just saying “yep, I believe in Christ” - and it is! Faith is not an easy thing. It’s not just believing in the facts of Jesus’ coming to earth, dying, and being raised again to save us from our sins; there are elements of trust and obedience that go along with that. Faith is not only believing the facts of what Jesus did for each of us, but it’s also trusting that because of that, God loves us and will make good on His promises. And because of that great love for us, we need to be obedient to what God asks us to do as His followers.
The next part of the definition is even more convicting - “Faith affects all dimensions of one’s existence: intellect, emotions, and will.” Ouch! Really think about that - does your faith affect ALL dimensions of your existence? Is everything you do in every moment of every day directed by your faith in Jesus Christ? We’d probably all like to think so, but at least with me I know that’s not the case. There are many times I make decisions and choices out of my own knowledge rather than out of my faith in Christ. I let my own intellect take over rather than the intellect of Christ which I have access to through faith. I let my own emotions take control and follow my own will, rather than what Christ would have me do.
What is your faith like? Does it invade every aspect of your life, or is it that thing you pick up each Sunday morning when it’s time for church, or whenever it’s time for Bible study? Read the verses surrounding the Scripture passages referenced above and take a good, hard look at your faith this week. If it’s not up to where it should be, spend some time in prayer to ask God to give you a stronger faith in Him.