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Our journey with God requires faith – and not just faith, but courageous faith – that is willing to go, sometimes to go back, to pray big prayers, to abide in Christ and to ENDURE. Sometimes having courageous faith means holding on to Who God is and what He has promised.
Our Christian journeys are not without their detours, bumps in the road, traffic jams and dead-ends. All of us get discouraged from time to time. Sometimes our lives don’t go the way we think they should. Sometimes our reality seems too painful to bear. Sometimes God seems silent or far away, but in those times, we are called to have a faith that endures.
The author of Hebrews reminds us:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2
There is a lot that distracts us or holds us back. There is a lot that causes discouragement and pain, but don’t allow it to hold you. Have the faith to endure and to run with perseverance the race marked out for you, fixing your eyes on Jesus.
Paul is a good example of someone who had the faith to endure. He sang in prison cells and calmly prayed through shipwrecks. He endured beatings and imprisonment, he fled for his life on numerous occasions and yet, he persevered, with a deep conviction that his comfort was less important than the work of the Gospel of Christ.
What are the things that are causing discouragement and disillusionment for you? Will you have the faith to bring them to God, to deal with them and to courageously persevere with the work God has given you?
Have the courageous faith to hold on, knowing that He who called you is faithful.
A life that pleases God has to be a life that is built on faith. Sometimes this faith means going boldly where God leads us, even when the destination is uncertain. Sometimes, courageous faith means going back and persevering in the calling God has given us. Sometimes this faith means asking and praying big prayers, trusting that God really can do the impossible, and sometimes, our faith means just being still in the presence of God. It is easy to think of faith as something that is very active and busy – doing, going… and that is often right, but sometimes what God needs most from us is the faith to simply abide in Him and seek Him.
In John 15 Jesus reminded His disciples that unless they remain in Him like a branch remains connected to a vine, they could do NOTHING. We can accomplish nothing of true significance if we don’t stay connected to Jesus. We are reminded of this truth in the story of Mary and Martha that we read in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus was visiting and there was a lot to be done, so Martha was running around doing things, but Mary took the time to simply engage with Jesus. She had faith that this was her most important work and priority and that everything else would fall into place and get done as was required if she put her relationship with Jesus first, even above the ways in which she could practically serve Him.
When Martha complained about the situation, Jesus said to her:
“’Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42
Few things are needed, but we so easily get distracted from that reality and truth. Will you have the faith to abide… to keep your relationship with Jesus as your first priority, even in the midst of all the demands on your time and the things that need to get done?
Those who follow Christ need to walk by faith and not by sight. Sometimes faith means being willing to go where God is leading, sometimes it means going back, repenting and starting over and sometimes, it means the courage to ask. Jesus Himself said (Matthew 7:7): “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…”
God desires that we should ask Him for what we need and for the deepest desires of our hearts. A striking image of the faith to ask is found in Joshua. In Joshua 10 we read about perhaps one of the boldest prayers ever prayed. He had faith to ask something most people would not have dared to dream was possible, and yet, because he asked, God did a miracle.
The Israelite army was engaged in a battle against the Amorites and Joshua realised that they needed more time. The sun was going down and in order to ensure that his army was not caught disadvantaged in unfamiliar territory, he needed more daylight. He needed the sun to stand still and so, he asked.
We read in Joshua 10:12-14:
“On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’
So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!”
What miracles have we missed out on in our own lives because we didn’t have the faith to ask? It’s sometimes easy to fall into a mundane, routine kind of Christianity that forgets Who we really worship – a God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:21). Will we have the courageous faith to pray big, “sun-stand-still” prayers in our own lives and open up the possibility of seeing God’s glory and power revealed in our world and lives in ways we never thought possible?
God calls all those who follow Him to have faith – courageous faith – that dares to believe in Him and believe Him. Sometimes, this faith means going where God leads us, even when the road ahead isn’t clear, and sometimes, this faith means going back…
Moses and Peter are both good examples of this. We read in Exodus 3 that God called Moses back to Egypt to lead His people to freedom, but there was a reason Moses wasn’t living it up in a palace in Egypt and was rather chasing a bunch of sheep around a desert. He had run away because he was afraid and he had murdered someone. And yet, God calls him to go back – to return to the place he fled and to take up a role he didn’t want. It took incredible courage and faith for Moses to go back and face the Pharaoh, with whom he must’ve been acquainted from his former life growing up in the palace.
Similarly, we read the beautiful account of the restoration of Peter in John 21 where Peter comes back to meet with Jesus after His resurrection. Peter had denied Jesus just a short while before. He had failed Him in the worst possible way, denying that he even knew Him, and deserting him in his darkest hour. And yet, Peter had the courageous faith to go back that day when he was out fishing and saw Jesus on the shore. He lept off the end of the boat and raced to Jesus. Despite everything that had happened and all the betrayal and denial in the past, he had the courage to come back to Jesus and reach out to him… and that made all the difference. Peter was restored by Jesus and recommissioned to go and feed His sheep.
Perhaps today, God is calling you to go back to a place that is difficult for you… to go back to a broken relationship and seek to restore it; to go back and say you’re sorry and make amends; to go back and finish what He asked you to do? Will you have the courageous faith to go back?
God calls all of those who follow Him to have faith. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that without faith, it is impossible to please God. We are not just called however, to have faith, but to have courageous faith… faith that dares to believe that God can do what He says He can do and that believes that He will work in our world and through us… faith that believes that our world can be different and that our everyday lives can shape and impact eternity. Courageous faith is something every Christ-follower requires, but it looks different for different people and in different seasons. Sometimes, it looks like the faith to GO:
The life of Abraham reminds us that sometimes faith means simply being willing to obey and follow God into the unknown, even when we don’t understand God’s plan and things don’t make sense. God called Abram and told him that He would make him the father of His nation, but his call starts simply with: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)
Abraham receives a call to a place God will reveal to him along the way. It is not clear at all. There is no blueprint or plan – just an invitation to be a part of what God is doing in the world and to trust Him. Abraham responds in faith, despite everything he had to sacrifice in order to do so. He left his home and his family, everything familiar and certain and ventured out into the unknown with God. He had the faith to simply go, even though the destination was not clear.
Often, when God calls us, He does not call us to a clear destination – although that is what we would likely prefer. He calls us to relationship and to take the next step with him, without assurance of what the future will hold. But when we, like Abraham have courageous faith that is willing to go with God, God can use us in amazing ways and take us to places we never imagined. Abraham’s journey was one in the end, that was less about his final destination, and more about who he became along the way. The same is true for us – that God is more concerned about who we are and who we are becoming than exactly where we end up. So will you have courageous faith to go and join him on the journey to wherever He is leading you?
A shocking revelation
In Ezekiel 37 (1-14) we read about a startling vision the prophet had as God opened his eyes to see that he was standing in a valley of dry bones: a valley filled with nothing but death and emptiness. As we look around our nation, we may feel like we see a similar vision – that we are standing in a valley of dry bones. Our nation is dry in many ways. Ephesians 2:1 reminds us that those who live separated from God are actually living dead in their trespasses. Spiritually, as Christ followers, we are the alive, living among the dead. We stand in a valley of death, but just like there was hope for the fallen in Ezekiel’s vision, there is hope for those around us.
Christians should not live in a state of passivity in which we are comfortable to simply co-exist with the “dead” around us. Jesus gave us two very important commandments: to love others and to make disciples. The Early Church was anything but passive, and so in Acts 2:47 we read that God added daily to their number and that the community around them loved the church. Can this be said of us?
The world is in need of a Saviour. Our nation, and all the nations of the world, are desperately in need of love and grace. The spiritually dead are not free. They are trapped in their sin and transgression. We must let this sink into our hearts and be moved out of our apathy to action. We have a solemn responsibility to do something about the valley of dry bones in which we stand. We all have the responsibility to speak the word of God in whatever capacity we can and wherever we find ourselves. There is no distinction between the sacred and the secular – everywhere is an opportunity to bring God’s life-giving Spirit. Imagine if every organisation, business, classroom, school, and individual represented Jesus in their sphere of influence?
The Spirit gives life and God is the God of resurrection. We have to allow the brokenness and dryness of the world to break our hearts – to see the world and people through God’s eyes, and then we have to ask God’s Spirit to breathe life into us so that we can be ministers of that Spirit to others.
Let the bones live!
God has been stirring something in my heart about prayer. We are called to be interceding people. God has declared that His house will be a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13), and yet so often, we are distracted and busy – even busy doing good, Godly things, and we don’t pray like we should. Today, on Human Rights Day, I am reminded that prayer and justice go hand in hand. There are many issues facing our world and many ways in which human rights are violated in the most appalling ways, and often, we are lulled into apathy or paralysed by the enormity of the problems around us because we think there is nothing we can really do. We are surrounded by corruption, oppression and injustice, and we feel helpless.
I am reminded at times when I feel helpless of Ezekiel 22 and God’s desperate plea to the people of Israel. Their nation and world was also full of extortion, robbery, oppression, xenophobia and injustice and God was anxiously seeking someone to make a difference…
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says”– when the Lord has not spoken. The people of the land practise extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and ill-treat the foreigner, denying them justice ‘I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so that I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.’
We are called to stand in the gap. We are called to be people of intercession – to be the go-between between God and humanity. We are called to PRAY and we are called to ACT.
Pete Greig and Dave Roberts say it like this in their book about prayer, Red Moon Rising: “Maybe this is what prayer is all about. One minute you’re kneeling in quiet contemplation, the next you’re kneeling by an unconscious girl; one day you talk to God about people and the next you talk to people about God. This marriage of intimacy with active involvement in the mess of life makes sense of the literal word ‘intercession’. To ‘stand in the gap between God and his world must surely mean having a foot in both camps, not standing on God’s side and yelling at the other…”
On this Human Rights Day, may we be challenged again to stand in the gap for our world and to pray with everything we’ve got – continually, unceasingly and boldly… and may our prayers move us to action to make a practical difference wherever we find ourselves.
I’ve been reflecting a great deal over the last few weeks of the account of the healing of the paralysed man in Mark 2. The story about the healing and about how this man’s life was changed forever, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about Jesus and His power, but it’s also about the friends of the paralysed man who brought him to Jesus. I think they are unsung heroes of faith because they displayed incredible compassion and amazing determination.
The truth is that our faith journey requires determination and a “whatever it takes” kind of attitude and these friends of the paralysed man display just that. These guys had a mission… to get their friend well and healed, and they were going to see it through no matter what.I believe that we can learn a great deal from them about what the mission requires and what it means to have determination in our faith.
The mission requires faith
We don’t know anything about the paralysed man or his friends’ background. All we know is that they had decided to bring him to Jesus to be healed. They must’ve seen a miracle Jesus had done or heard Him preaching… or maybe they had only heard about Him. Either way, they had FAITH that Jesus could and would heal their friend. They made the decision to take him to Jesus, even though it was difficult and even though they encountered obstacles along the way because they believed that He could make a difference in their situation. Do you bring your situations to Jesus? Determination starts with faith and a deep-seated belief that when we draw near to God and seek Him, amazing things can and will happen.
The mission requires persistence
The four friends had decided to get their friend to Jesus and so they carried him, who knows how far, to get to where Jesus was teaching and when they got there they encountered what some might have seen as an insurmountable obstacle…. Jesus was out of reach. There were too many people and there was no chance of them getting close enough to Jesus to get Him to notice or heal their friend.Many people would’ve given up at this point and just turned around and gone home, or maybe waited in the crowd in the hopes of catching Jesus’ attention as He came by. But not these friends. These guys were not going to let anything stop them from completing their mission. They climbed up on the roof of the house and started to take it apart so that they could lower their friend down to Jesus. They remind us that persistence is a necessary part of being on mission with God. It is one thing to have faith, but our faith cannot simply be a once-off decision or short-lived commitment. It must go hand in hand with perseverance.
The mission requires community
The paralysed man would never have been able to get to Jesus and receive healing on his own. He needed those four friends to carry him there, to persevere and make a plan when things didn’t go the way they thought it would and to get him to the feet of Jesus.
In the same way, each of us needs a community of people around us who help us get to Jesus.Sometimes we are like the man on the mat and we need to be carried into the presence of Christ when we are too weak or broken to get there on our own.And sometimes, we are like the friends who have to do whatever it takes to help others get into God’s presence when they are to weak and broken to get there on their own.
Those who lead also need to carefully consider the way these friends went about their task. It would’ve been impossible if each one didn’t stick to their corner of the mat they were carrying. So often we try to push ahead and carry things on our own, but the reality is that we need each other and we need each person to simply carry their corner of the load so that we can see Jesus’ miracles revealed.
May we have the faith, the persistence and the people around us to help us do whatever it takes to keep pursuing Jesus with all our hearts.
Isaiah 43:18-19 reminds us that God is a God who does new things. He brings rivers out of deserts and beauty from ashes. He speaks light into darkness and He makes all things new.
At the start of this new year, here are some things I’ve been thinking about and challenging myself to do in order to make sure that I make the right start and make the most of this new beginning…
S – Stop making excuses
“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” – Proverbs 28: 13
Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Often, we know exactly what’s preventing us from living the abundant life God intended for us or what is hindering our growth or our relationship with Him, but we’ve become so masterful at justifying our sin that we don’t ever stop making excuses long enough to just get real with ourselves. So this year, let’s commit to just stop… to stop making excuses and to do what we need to do to become the people God wants us to be. Let’s surround ourselves with people who are honest with us and can tell us the truth about ourselves.
Let’s also stop making excuses as to why God can’t use us. We need to remember that we are the messengers, not the message, and that no matter what may have happened to us or what we are facing, God can and wants to use us.
T – Take Inventory
Spend some time taking stock of your life, and particularly, your spiritual journey.
What aspects of your life and heart need spiritual renewal? What did you learn last year and how can you ensure that your experiences and those lessons are not wasted? What did you learn about God, and about yourself?
A – Act in faith
Once we’ve stopped making excuses and taken inventory to figure out where we are, the next step is to move forward in faith and to ensure that our actions line up with our faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. With faith, anything is possible.
R – Refocus your mind
There are so many things that vie for our attention and so often, our minds and thoughts are consumed by the messages the world throws at us, so let’s commit to ensuring that we are focusing our minds on the right things. Romans 12:1-2 reminds us not to conform to the world’s pattern, but rather to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Commit to doing things that set your mind and heart on God this year. Make time for Him, read, grow, learn, discover and eliminate things from your life that distract you and focus your minds on things other than God.
T- Trust God
Finally, when all else is said and done, trust God. Pray bold prayers that will mean that you don’t just coast safely through 2017, but that will mean you will step out boldly in faith. For what are you believing God this year? Trust Him and leave your worries, burdens and cares in His capable hands. Trust Him to do something amazing in your life and to use you in a way you never imagined.
May you START this year right, run the race with endurance and finish strong.