Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is it, Will God? or God Will!

As I continue to look at faith in (and towards) God, I think back to a message I heard during the early years of my life as a Christian, husband and father. The minister spoke on the topic of prayer and how he kept a two-column ledger listing the prayers he and his family submitted to God. In the left column was the heading, We Asked and in the right column was the heading, God Answered. I thought it was a good idea and so I launched a feeble attempt of my own family’s prayer ledger. I can’t remember when I stopped logging entries in that ledger but I remember even now, how often God answered our prayers. One ought to never forget the faithfulness of God.

Since last week, I’ve begun to read blogs authored by Christians and two which provided me with much to meditate on were Days Of Our Lives (by Jane) and Blessing In The Storms (by Kimberly Anne Sanderson). Jane’s recent post (Doing Right Doing Wrong) discusses “4 men who carried their friend, a paraplegic to Jesus for healing” (found in Mark 2:1-12). As I read her post, I thought about the determination it took to reject discouragement; to not see an obstacle as a viable excuse. Their friend needed healing and they believed Jesus would heal him. All that was lacking was opportunity. They seized it!

Kimberly’s post (Death, burial, and Resurrection LIFE) discusses “Every area of our life is meant for life because of what Jesus did for us.” She shares about her personal loss and how the Lord answered her prayer. It made me realize that the resurrection power of Christ seeks to penetrate every facet of my life. That is an awesome realization of what God desires for me; to raise from the dead my thoughts, words, behavior, marriage, relationships, health, finances…everything that pertains to my life.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever…1

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever…2

Your right hand will do everything for me. Yahweh, your love is everlasting…3

The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Thy lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting…4

God is faithful, eternally faithful.

Establishing that truth in me means that no obstacle is too great for God when it comes to my life. It also means that I surrender my will to God in every aspect of my life; allowing Him to fulfill His purpose.

Recently, one of my grandsons had (for him) a frightening asthma attack. He was worried, scared and afraid as both his grandmother and I sought to help him through this episode. I asked him to, “calm down and close your eyes”. In that moment, I began to pray, asking God to heal him of his asthma. I’m thankful that he has not experienced an episode similar to that. I fully expect that when he is examined by his doctor, there will be no residual effects of that condition.

When I told him that his uncle (my oldest son) was born with asthma and had to be hospitalized on several occasions due to asthma attacks, he asked me why he no longer has asthma. I told him that, “we prayed”, that “others prayed on his behalf” and that "God healed him. I believe this is why Moses, Joshua and others reminded the nation of Israel to remember and teach our children, who God is and what God has done for us.

There is a passage in Mark that for me addresses the question of Will God?

Peter, James and John had just witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus Christ and were returning to the other disciples. As they arrived, they could hear an argument between the disciples of Jesus and the teachers of the law. Jesus asks, “What are you arguing with them about?5

“A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech…I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not…But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.

If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’”6

Many times we are like this father, we believe but we are tormented with the question, Will God? We just don’t know if God will…we doubt the character and faithfulness of God. Not always openly but certainly subconsciously. We doubt the will of God, usurping it with a mixture of mistrust and uncertainty. We either don’t know or we’ve forgotten who God is; so we seek assurance elsewhere.

Kimberly said something which rung so true in my spirit:

What I thought was dead, God birthed life eternal into. I had to relinquish this though through the process of death, burial, and resurrection.

For me, this is similar to what occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus said:

Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.7

What this says to me is that I can ask anything of God because of the relationship established (by Christ) for me. I ask because I believe God is faithful to fulfill His purpose for me and in me. I trust God and this is why I can ask, believing everything is possible for him who believes. It also means that I won’t attempt to usurp God’s will. Instead, I will trust His will for my life. I can do this because I am willing to put those things on the cross to die; in order for God to raise in me a new man. I may cry, “Abba Father”, but I will not lose confidence in the faithfulness of God.

Some people live healthy lives while others are afflicted with illness or physical impairment. Despite the circumstances, God is faithful to resurrect in them, a life which resonates the faithfulness of God. For them, it is not a question of Will God? They know God is faithful, just and true. This is a lesson I’m learning.

God will!

  1. Psalms 138:8, NIV
  2. Psalms 138:8, KJV
  3. Psalms 138:8, The Jerusalem Bible
  4. Psalms 138:8, NASB
  5. Mark 9:16, NIV
  6. Mark 9:17-27, NIV
  7. Mark 14:36, NIV
  1. Days Of Our Lives, blog authored by Jane
  2. Blessing In The Storms, blog authored by Kimberly Anne Sanderson
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  4. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  5. The Jerusalem Bible, Edited by Alexander Jones, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, ISBN 0-385-01156-3
  6. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Dark Room

Having examined the biblical description of belief and faith, I turn inward now to ask myself a question. I have heard many Christians described the events which led to their personal conversion (the how) but I want to address the question of why I became a Christian.

Up until that point in my life, I would not characterize myself as a religious man, I did not own a bible and the few occasions that I attempted to read, biblical passages left me bewildered and unsatisfied. To simply state my answer, I heard and I believed. What was it that I heard? The oration of four biblical scriptural points:
  1. First, I heard that God simply loved me
  2. Second, I heard that God loves me despite the reality that I didn’t love God.
  3. Third, I heard that I didn’t love God because I didn’t know God (this was a result of being separated from God by sin).
  4. Finally, I heard that God offers a way for me to be reconciled to a spiritual relationship with Him through the sacrificial death of His son, Jesus Christ.
Once I heard this, I believed it to be true; I still believe it today.

Faith to me is like being in a darkened room, unable to see anything. In this room, a light is revealed to me; it is the light of God revealed in scripture. The bible says that no one has ever seen God, so I can offer no conclusive evidence to what God looks like. The bible does cite instances (primarily in the Old Testament) of people hearing the voice of God. I have never heard God’s voice, so I cannot say what God looks or sounds like. There have been those who have claimed to have heard God but subsequent actions by these people refute that claim.

In any case, I live in a world which for me spiritually speaking, is a darkened room. I have been given light, illumination and visibility through the revelation of biblical scripture. I am aware of the various kinds of light in this world but find little benefit in applying these forms of light to my spiritual journey. It has taken me many years to discover that my journey involves a daily communion with God; even though I can’t see or hear Him. My faith compels me to believe that God will direct my path for me because I need direction.

It is a humbling admission to say, “I’m incapable of doing what’s right, knowing what’s right or saying what’s right.” I have learned that more often than not, I just foul things up in such a complete way that brings hurt, pain and sorrow to those I genuinely care about. It’s not my intent to hurt. I can’t help it, I’m predisposed (inclined) to think, say and do the wrong thing. I want to be a better man and so I ask God to direct me today. After years of relying on my intelligence and failing miserably, I’ve come to realize that I just don’t know the answers; I never did but I believe God does.

So each day, I pray to the God which no man has seen, asking for wisdom and understanding to correctly apply biblical scripture in my life. I can honestly say that reading the bible has shown me something which I never acknowledged until now, I didn’t trust God.

Trust is not something earned, it is given. You do or you don’t; there is no wait and see with trusting. For years, I waited for God to prove Himself to me. Over time, I became frustrated and discouraged; until I could no longer trust God. I didn’t understand that God had no need to prove Himself to me. God was not under obligation to my needs, wants and desires. I have discovered (to my shock and amazement) that God really is sovereign, God is without peer; God stands alone. God will do what God chooses to do. God can bless and extend mercy to whomever He chooses.

God established a covenant with me through Jesus Christ and I can find no flaws in the execution and maintenance of that covenant. If there are problems, I have discovered that it is I who am at fault.

My faith in Christ requires dependence upon the light of biblical truth each day and every moment of my life. I am thankful that though the room is dark, God gives me light.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An examination of Belief and Faith

The Old Testament introduces us to the biblical word believe when it speaks of the action of Abraham. The Hebrew word aman (aw-man’) is used as a primitive root word meaning, to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse. In a figurative sense, it means to render or to agree on.

And he believed in the Lord…1

Simply put, to believe is to agree something or someone is truthful.

Faith on the other hand, comes from the Hebrew word eemunah (em-oo-naw’) meaning literally, to have firmness in one’s position, figuratively it means being secure. Moreover, it implies fidelity or loyalty to another; to the degree that one is committed and will not stray away or betray.

…but the just shall live by his faith.2

In the New Testament, we find believe in the form of the Greek word, pisteuo (pist-yoo’-o) which means to credit something or someone as true, to recognize, acknowledge or know the truth.

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, 'Have mercy on us Son of David!' When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ 'Yes, Lord', they replied.”3

The Greek word for faith is somewhat similar to believe. It is the word pistis (pis’-tis) meaning to have a reliance on (Christ), to have an assurance that convinces one to act with conviction that something or someone is true. It implies that one lives a life of fidelity and honesty with the truth. Such as having one’s life bound to truth (Christ).

But someone will say, You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that---and shudder.4

One can believe someone or something to be true and yet that belief has no power to change a person’s view of himself or the world they live in. For example a person can believe there is a God but that person sees no reason to submit to the authority of God.

On the other hand, faith compels one to act based on a truth or set of truths. Faith ventures beyond the realm of our senses and intellect, so that we touch, commune and worship at the very throne of God. Your faith touches the faithfulness of God producing a result. Faith does not merely agree that something is true, faith acts on that truth.

…A large crowd followed and pressed around Him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak, because she thought, 'If I touch His clothes, I will be healed.' Immediately her bleeding stopped…At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from Him….and asked, 'Who touched my clothes?'...Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at His feet…told Him the whole truth. He said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has healed you.'”5

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.6

Faith then is a marriage that defines our position in Christ Jesus. There are three aspects of that position: saving faith, sanctifying faith and serving faith. Through marriage with Christ we are saved, we are sanctified and we serve.

On the one hand you have (1) saving faith; the result of the finished work of Jesus Christ, His miraculous birth, His death on the cross for the sins of the world and His resurrection. This is the faith which binds you to Christ.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.7

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith---and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God---not by works, so that no one can boast.8

Like the woman with the issue of blood, we heard about Jesus and we believed. The result of that belief is faith in the finished work of Christ. Christ saved you, faith in what Christ did binds you to that truth.

(2) Sanctifying faith understands the knowledge of as well as having a trust in our position in Christ; one has the experience of being a vessel of Christ, the life and nature of Christ in you as you live each day of your life.

Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace into which we now stand.9

Sanctifying faith enables you to take possession of the power of God in order to conform your position in Christ. Sanctifying faith gives structure and meaning to what was once the vacant lot of your life. You have a position in Christ now; that is your home address.

(3) Serving faith acts upon the truth of what God has given you. It is a personal, individual matter and yet it does in no way allow one to deviate from the truth of living for Christ.

Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.10

Serving faith is the sustaining power to serve God and others in the name of Christ Jesus. It is the power of God unto salvation but it is also the power to live in a way that constantly seeks to please God.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.11

As I look closely at my life I recognize how I believed the testimony of Jesus Christ and as a result, I made a confession to God asking for salvation.  This marked a transition point in my life. It didn't not mean I became a more patient person, it simply meant that I began the arduous journey of learning to be patient. Over the course of my life I would discover ample opportunities to learn patience. I am still learning patience. I am a tree bearing fruit which one day I hope is plentiful. This then is my faith in action; emulating the life of Jesus Christ in my life.

  1. Genesis 15:6, KJ
  2. Habakkuk 2:4, KJ
  3. Matthew 9:27-28, NIV
  4. James 2:18-19, NIV
  5. Mark 5:24-34, NIV
  6. Hebrews 11:6, NIV
  7. John 3:16, NIV
  8. Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV
  9. Romans 5:1-2, NIV
  10. Romans 14:22, KJ
  11. Colossians 3:23, NIV

  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The Abingdon Bible Commentary, Edited by Frederick Carl Eiselen, Edwin Lewis, David G. Downey, Abingdon Press, Nashville/New York
  4. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  5. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  6. The Layman's Parallel New Testament, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  7. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  8. The Jerusalem Bible, Edited by Alexander Jones, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, ISBN 0-385-01156-3
  9. Matther Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6