Our Faith Response
When God tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jer. 29:11, Is 41:10, Jer 33:3) Beautiful, wonderful promises and soothing affirmation, BUT, do we believe it? Do we believe Him? We are called not only to believe IN God, but we are to BELIEVE God!
This week at bible study we looked at faithfulness, what it is and how to walk it out. First we determined that faith and faithfulness are not the same, the first precedes the latter. Faith is a firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth. Faith is the assurance in our heart and mind of what we hope for, the certainty of what we do not see. (Heb. 11:1) Though not directly in front of us, we visualize what God intends to do in a given situation and faithfulness is acting in harmony with it. It is not fantasy or pretending, it is taking what we know of God and applying HIM to our circumstance. Faith is the assurance that He is Who He says He is and will do what He promises to do. My actions convey that I truly …BELIEVE Him! I know that I know and it is evident.
Faith is our reception of God’s word. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Ro. 10:17 Faithfulness is our response to His word. We live our life in such a way, clearly declaring a firm assurance, God is Who He said He is and will DO what He says He will do. Our walk of faith is lived out in faithful response. Faithfulness also carries the idea of trustworthy and of giving someone credit. Confidence in the person’s character and motives and the task we have entrusted to them. Do we trust God’s character and His motives?
Paul writes to Titus, exhorting him to teach good sound doctrine in the church, teaching the women, men, and slaves, “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” Titus 2:9,10 I like the rendering of verse 10 in the King James: “but showing all good fidelity” (track with me) this is the same word (fully trusted & fidelity) Paul uses in Galatians 5:22, for faithfulness.
Fidelity is faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, being demonstrated by continual loyalty. I found it interesting that ‘fidelity’ is a term used in sound recording and reproduction. It denotes how accurately a copy reproduces its source, so accurate; it is as if you are THERE! How accurately a copy reproduces its source. If we are to walk this Christian journey in FAITH, how well are we representing our Source, God. Are we offering a true ‘sound’ (if you will) Does our choices, behavior, words resonate we believe God is Who He says He is, He will do what He promises He will do? Or are we distorting it. Distorting the sound? Like Paul wrote to Titus, are we behaving in such a way that we make the teaching of our God attractive, or are we turning others off or completely misrepresenting God and God stuff all together?
Sadly many feel that their ‘faith’ is a private thing. No, No it isn’t. Nowhere in the bible does it say or imply or even etched quietly in code that we are to tuck God in our back pocket, or leave Him as a bookmark in our bibles sitting on our night stands. We are called, commissioned, commanded to live and tell. Live our life in such a way, clearly declaring a firm assurance, God is Who He said He is and will DO what He says He will do.
In Hebrews 11 the author poetically describes the Hall of Faith, those who ‘By faith… offered, built, left, blessed, kept, marched and protected.” He continues on in verse 32 saying, “And what more shall I say, I don’t have time to tell about…” Listing those who “Through faith conquered kingdoms…whose weakness was turned to strength…” (v33,34) Who through faith conquered kingdoms, faith always goes through, may I encourage we always associate through with faith.
“But now, this is what the LORD says– He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass THROUGH the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass THROUGH the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk THROUGH the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3 (emphasis mine)
Notice He says ‘when’… not ‘if.’ We have to go through to get to the other side. Yes, that sounds so basic, common sense logic, but how many of us are going through something right now, whether a situation, or even a season. In the midst of it we are tired, discouraged and so very tempted to give up!
I am reminded of a story of a young Jewish man, who from early childhood learned to read and study the Jewish bible. He decided to pick up a copy of the King James Bible and began to read, Genesis 1:1, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (period) PERIOD! He was astounded. (Period) In the Hebrew Bible, it is read from right to left, with no verse or paragraph breaks. For him to find a ‘period’ caused him great distress, “There is MORE.” We can’t stop here! Hebrew thought is you read until God’s thought is complete. In this instance, you would read until God rested on the 7th day.
God wants this of us too; when we are going ‘through’ don’t stop! He has something for us, there is purpose in it. Keep going until God’s thoughts are completed. In our weakness, as we go through, we are stretched, strengthened, we grow in faith, we learn to trust God’s character and His motive.
I was taken to John chapter 4, how going through changed the life of a woman, a village and the disciples, even the church. This is the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman.
“He (Jesus) left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now He had to go through Samaria.” (v3,4)
Interesting in the original language it says, “It was necessary” for Him to go through Samaria. It was needed of Jesus to go THROUGH. There were other ways to get to Galilee. The most devout of Jews avoided Samaria. The Samaritans were considered half breeds. Centuries prior, that territory was taken over by the Assyrians, the Jews left there inter-married. They established their own church and teaching.
“Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about the 6th hour (noontime) when a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give Me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (vs 6-9)
The woman came to the well at the hottest part of the day, instead of morning/evening as was the custom, it was probably because she was shunned and rejected for her immoral lifestyle. She went to avoid, we might say she ‘snuck’ to the water. Jesus knew her history but still engaged her. In this encounter Jesus broke 3 Jewish customs. 1st) He spoke to a woman, 2nd) she was a SAMARITAN woman and 3rd) He asked her to get Him a drink that would make Him ceremonially unclean from using HER cup or jar.
Through the conversation, Jesus reveals He knew about her ‘home’ life (married 5 times and the guy she was with was not her husband) this amazed her. They continue an in-depth conversation, soon the disciples return, the gal leaves and goes into town and tells them about Jesus, the town folks come and urged Jesus to stay, He stayed 2 days, they believed He was Who He said He was, (verse 43) “We know that this man really is the Savior of the World.”
Principle for us, God will do the unexpected, engage us, revealing to us who we really are, even in our attempt to avoid. In the ‘through’ He will help us learn His acceptance, His presence and Who He is.
For a territory that was once ‘DON’T GO THERE’ Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) We see later in Acts 8:4-25, Philip went to Samaria, as the word spread that folks believed and were being baptized, Peter and John too went to Samaria.
Looking at four different scenarios of faith
Great faith: (Matthew 8:5-13) Jesus is in Capernaum, a Centurion (a captain over 100 or so men) came up to Him, stating, his servant is at home paralyzed and suffering. Jesus says, “I will go and heal him.” The captain says, “No need, just say the word and he will be healed.” Jesus responds that He had not found anyone with such great faith. He tells the captain, ‘GO! It will be done just as you believed it would.” The servant was healed! Great Faith! “Just say the word!”
Next, Gutsy Faith: (Mark 5) this is the story of the gal with bleeding issue, she had suffered for twelve years, been to doctors with no results, it says she even got worse. With the bleeding issue, according to Jewish custom she was ‘unclean’ and should have stayed on the outskirts of the crowd, if anyone came towards her or close to her, she was supposed to declare ‘UNCLEAN!’ – but she didn’t, she had heard about Jesus. She not only goes into the crowd, she reaches out and touches the hem of Jesus’ robe.
Interesting, the word used to describe, ‘touched’ (in the Greek) refers to such handling of the material as to ‘modify’ it. Meaning it wasn’t a flippant swipe of her hand, she GRABBED that hem so tight, she may have left her hand print on it. (Verse 28) She came up behind Jesus touched His cloak; she thought “IF I just touch His clothes I will be healed.” Jesus asks who touched Him; the gal comes forward and tells Him everything. Jesus responds: “Daughter, your faith has healed you…”
Another, Little Faith: (Matt 8:23) Jesus had taught all day, as the crowd closes in, He steps into a boat, we pick up later in the evening. With the disciples, He tells them “Let us go to the other side.” Out on the water, without warning a storm came up, the waves were terrible, coming up into the boat. Jesus was asleep, the disciples cry out to Him, “HELP! Lord save us, we’re going to drown.” Jesus responds, “You of little faith, why are you afraid!” He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and they obeyed.
The same event is told in Mark chapter 4, I found something very interesting, verse 36, “Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was in the boat. There were also other boats with Him.’ A furious squall came up…” They weren’t alone. These disciples had just a “LITTLE bit” of faith, but just enough to know to CRY OUT to Jesus! Yes, our faith should be big and strong, but sometimes we may only have enough to squeak out “HELP LORD!” Be assured that even our littlest cry for help – it DOES affect others! It says the wind died down and was completely calm. The water was calm for the others as well. Also, when the Lord instructed they get a move on across the water, He said, “Let us go to the other side.” If they were going to drown in the midst of the storm, He would have offered eulogies along with encouraging words of seeing them later in Paradise. They were going to the other.
Lastly, Struggling Faith: (Mark 9:20) the story of the father with the possessed son. (Picking up at verse 20) “So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asks the father ‘How long has he been like this?” “Since childhood, it has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. 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.” (v24) Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (How many of us have said this!)
Interesting, at this point there was no VERBAL response from Jesus, He didn’t take him aside and tell the father, “There is a really good book you should read, ‘5 Easy Steps to Increase Your Faith’” – Jesus rebukes the evil spirit, “I command you to come out.” He took the boy by the hand and lifted him up.
It doesn’t say it in the narrative, but can you imagine the scene. The father says, “IF you can…” I believe but please help me believe more, increase my faith! Jesus turns with no words, and acts… you can almost hear the divine whisper, ‘WATCH ME!’ He heals the son.
We may have GREAT faith, like the Captain, ‘Just say the word Lord!” Awesome, use it, make it contagious. Or we may need some GUSTY/risky faith. We are on the outskirts, like the gal with the bleeding issue. May we come forward from the outskirts, be desperate enough to reach out and GRAB. Or you have ‘lil’ faith just enough to cry out for Jesus’ help. We may find our faith needs more, ‘I believe, but help my unbelief.’ Tell Him, and watch Him… LOOK for Him to move.
God not only is faithful to us, but faith FILLING. He continually pours into us. He offers opportunities, opportunities that stretch our faith, stretch our response. Just like the ‘fidelity’ when a situation arises, we offer a reflection of our faith.
Do we give a ‘pure audio’ of what we believe about God?
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Heb. 10:24)
Resources: Complete Word Study Dictionary of the OT & NT, Holman Word Treasury of Bible Words, Vines Expository of Hebrew & Greek Words, Strong’s Hebrew & Greek Dictionary, The Hayford Bible Handbook, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vincent’s Word Studies of the NT, The Attributes of God by Arthur W. Pink, Wuest Word Studies of the NT, The Manners & Customs of the Bible, Hebrew/Greek Interlinear Bible, Bible Knowledge Commentary, Bible Background Commentary, Bible History of the OT, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg, Living Beyond Yourself by Beth Moore. Bible Translations: King James Version, New International Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard, New King James Version, Holman Christian Standard Version, The Message, Hebrew/Greek Interlinear Bible, English Standard Version, Complete Jewish Bible. And any other geeky book or article I rummaged around in and forgot to mention.