Friday, September 30, 2011

By Faith

One of my favorite chapters in the New Testament is Hebrews 11: (NLT)

Great Examples of Faith
1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. 2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.

3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.”[a] For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. 6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed[b] that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.

13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.

20 It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.

21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.

22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.

23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.

24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. 27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. 28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.

29 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.

30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.

31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

It is hard to live in the present- letting the Lord shape and mold us into the daughters and sons He has called us to be. I, for one, am not a very patient person. I have my moments and I learn from them... usually the hard way. Often, when things aren't moving the way I'd like, I have been known to do everything in my power to change the circumstances I am in so that I do not have to deal with the pain that comes from waiting on the Lord. My faith, at times, seems very shallow and muddied with false truths that say, "I am capable to stand on my own, to make my own choices, to do what I need to get done." I feel disappointment with God's plan for my life when I look at friends that seem to have the life I want. I become jealous at the seemingly successful marriages and the new families, wondering if and when it will be my turn. In my rebellion, with a quick turn from the Lord's promises to me, God suddenly becomes a big bully rather than a suffering Savior. Yet, He gently calls me back to himself, and reminds me of the ways he has and continues to use me. I am humbled and find myself back on my knees time and time again, begging Him to cleanse my heart and to help me trust Him and His plan for me.

I am comforted by the characters of scripture that waited and trusted the Lord, especially in times of trouble. The men and women that God has used in significant ways in the Bible weren't superheroes either (Praise the Lord!)- they struggled with patience and faith throughout the scriptures. Yet, the Lord put His hands on them and gave them purpose in those years of waiting on the Lord, by letting them take part in an even greater story. None of them have seen the completed story. Neither have we.

Rinehart writes, "If you have traveled far at all in this journey with the Lord, you know the significance of that phrase- to smile at the future. How do you do that when you are staring in the face of what's been lost along the way? How do you look with hope to the future, if the present is vastly different than you anticipated? Smiling at the future is possible if it holds all you've longed for." Your faith is not a story you made up so you could sleep better at night. The fairy tale does come true. It's just not now. Not here. And not yet. We smile because God always has more to this story. We live in hope because whatever tragedy strikes (and believe me, it can strike hard), it CANNOT usurp the blessing of God on our lives as we walk with Him.

I am reminded of David, who said "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13) Have faith, dear friends, for this adventure you and I are on actually leads somewhere! Whatever you are struggling with in your heart, know that the King has something beautiful planned for all of us in the end. He uses the suffering we experience to grow us and to act out the Gospel for the world to see. Rinehart writes, "God takes us down some narrow paths, full of briars and thorns. Would we come, by any easy route, to those broad, open spaces where his grace is poured out through our cracked pots into the lives of others? Would we find our dancing shoes any other way?"

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