“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.” Hebrews 11:1 (TLB)
God expects faithfulness from us. He expects us to trust Him, to believe in Him, and to live knowing that His promises are real. Whatever He tells us, we need to believe that it’s going to happen.
Faithfulness is like an apple: after you bring it home from the market, the fresh juicy bite is crisp and new. But as it sits for days, weeks… sometimes even months in the fruit basket… the skin wrinkles and the apple dries… but it’s still good. You can still enjoy the benefits of the “apple a day”. Whether you cut it up in a salad or you bake it in an apple crisp or pie… it’s still good. An apple will last until you need it.
Hebrews 11:6 “Without faith no one can please God. Whoever comes to God must believe that He is real and that He rewards those who sincerely try to find Him.” (ERV)
Confession time: This past week Lacy asked me for some Godly advice; the matter of the subject isn’t important. The lesson I learned is what I’d like to focus on in this blog. When Lacy asked me, I decided to check the various Bible scripture apps that I like to use on occasion. It’s often the way I seek God’s counsel when I find myself in need of His guidance. The result was overwhelming for me.
First I checked the YouVersion Holy Bible. The verse of the day was Romans 12:12, which says to “Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer.” (CEB) “Oh good,” I thought. “That’s what I’m doing now- devoting myself to prayer.” So I thought about the issue at hand… and realized that these past few weeks have been pretty discouraging for Lacy and me. We haven’t had inspiration for our work. When we tried to work anyway, every time our attempts seemed to crash and burn into troubles, always ending in failures. It made us want to give up. And that’s not exactly being ‘happy in hope’ or ‘standing your ground’, since it almost felt like all of our dreams were coming to an end.
I recognized that something needed to change, so I opened my next app, the Bible Gateway: Isaiah 55:8-9. My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My plans than your plans. (CEB) Lacy and I often get this verse as God encourages us in the dreams and promises that He’s given us; it’s a reassurance that what God promised may not happen in the ways that we expect, but He’s in charge and He is faithful. With that in mind, it brought my thoughts to the dreams that -lately- we’ve been struggling with.
I always try to stay level-headed. “God’s plans are for all to be saved through Christ Jesus,” I reasoned with myself, 2 Peter 3:9 in mind. “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (NIV) So… “what do I do next?” I asked myself.
1 Timothy 2:1-7 (MSG): The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us-Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.
After asking myself what in my life today is helping God further His kingdom, I realized that our discouragement is NOT the answer. I opened another app, the Inspirations app, to see another verse: Psalms 16:1-2. Preserve me, God, for I take refuge in You. My soul, you have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord. Apart from You I have no good thing.”
“Seriously… no good thing?” I wondered as I contemplated the verse that I was given. Ecclesiastes tells us that all things in life are futile and meaningless- so that could be true, I decided. After all, God is love. What, aside from love, is good?
So I pondered, how can I possibly bring God further into my life? Lacy and I are writing a religious blog every week, I write in my prayer journal daily, and I strive to read the entire Bible in a year’s time… what more can be done?
While questions filled my head, I came to my last scripture app, Jesus Speaks. I like this app because it always shares scripture in which Jesus is speaking, sometimes to His apostles, sometimes to the Pharisees, sometimes to the church or to the multitudes who followed Him. I like to imagine myself sitting at His feet, listening to His words as I read the verses given in this app.
This time, the verse given in the app spoke loudly to me. Revelations 2:1-7 (NET Bible) said: To the angel of the church in Ephesus, write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who has a firm grasp on the seven stars in his right hand – the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands: ‘I know your works as well as your labor and steadfast endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have even put to the test those who refer to themselves as apostles (but are not), and have discovered that they are false. I am also aware that you have persisted steadfastly, endured much for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have departed from your first love! Therefore, remember from what high state you have fallen and repent! Do the deeds you did at the first; if not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place – that is, if you do not repent. But you do have this going for you: You hate what the Nicolaitans practice-practices I also hate. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will permit him to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.”
I sat back in my place. “What does that mean, God?” I felt convicted, as though God were speaking directly to me when the verse said ‘I have this against you…’ “What have I done, to depart from my first love? How do I come back to it?”
When Jesus told this to the Ephesians in His letter, He meant that their love for God and their neighbor had left them. It doesn’t mean that they weren’t doing their work for God, or that they weren’t kind when they did it, or that they had stopped caring for His laws. But as much as they were doing for Him, their excitement was gone. Possibly, they didn’t believe in what they were doing anymore. They were losing their faithful fervor for God. They needed to do what they did in the beginning: be excited to do God’s work.
The book of Hebrews talks about faithfulness, and how we need to stay faithful to God. In chapter 3, we are told to think of Jesus and be like Him, because He was “faithful to God who appointed Him High Priest.” (v.2) We need to be faithful to God, but what does that mean?
Hebrews 3:12-15 “Beware then of your own hearts, dear brothers, lest you find that they, too, are evil and unbelieving and are leading you away from the living God. Speak to each other about these things every day while there is still time so that none of you will become hardened against God, being blinded by the glamor of sin. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.
But now is the time. Never forget the warning, “Today if you hear God’s voice speaking to you, do not harden your hearts against Him, as the people of Israel did when they rebelled against Him in the desert.”
“If we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians…”
We need to have faith in miracles. It’s our faith that allows God to work in our lives, and if we don’t believe, then we remove God’s ability to show us His awesome power.
“Today if you hear God’s voice speaking to you, do not harden your hearts against Him…”
If we’re willing to listen, then God speaks to us, and warns us when we’re doing wrong. Like His telling me that “you have departed from your first love”, He will correct us and lead us back to righteousness.
Hebrews 12:4-8 (TNIV) “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as children? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his child.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined-and everyone undergoes discipline- then you are not legitimate children at all.”
God’s message to me: He wants me to keep believing in His promises. Not only the promise of everlasting life with Him, but also the promises He’s made to me, personally in my life. The promises of success, and of meaningful friendships, and of general happiness in the hope of Jesus. He wants me to continue what I’m doing, but He wants me to dream again; dream the dreams that He’s given me. Reset my attitude. Reinvent my faithfulness. Feel the same way that I felt in yester-years, full of enthusiasm and life. Be like an apple- though I may be wrinkled with weariness and age, He can use me in a sweet pie and I’ll be just as delicious as I ever was, because I stayed faithful to Him.
To end my story and conclude my lesson of the day, I’ll mention that I humbled myself and asked God to forgive me for the terrible discouragement that was poisoning my attitude. The next morning, I received a notification reminding me to daily read in Jesus Speaks. This is the verse that Jesus spoke to me through the app:
Luke 15:17-20 (NET) “But when he came to his senses he said, “How many of my father’s hired workers have food enough to spare, but here I am dying from hunger! I will get up and go to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired workers.” So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way from home his father saw him; he ran and hugged his son and kissed him.”
God is faithful. He wants to treat us like His children. He wants to discipline us, and He wants to hug us and kiss us when we come back to Him, too. But we have to realize, we cannot receive God’s mercy if we don’t hold fast and stay faithful to Him. That is why God wants us to have faith.
Romans 12 (WEB) “Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith. For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members don’t have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, if prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or service, let us give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; or he who exhorts, to his exhorting: he who gives, let him do it with liberality; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil. Cling to that which is good. In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate to one another; in honor preferring one another; not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; enduring in troubles; continuing steadfastly in prayer; contributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless, and don’t curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Don’t set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Don’t be wise in your own conceits. Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.” Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”