Faith in Time of Crisis

June 14, 2016

“So do not throw away your faith; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised… For he that is righteous shall live by faith.” (Hebrews 10:35-38)

As the author of the book of Hebrews continues giving doubting disciples reasons why they should not throw away their faith, he says they should keep the faith because they need faith for living.  Authentic disciples know they are saved by faith, but the disciples to whom he was writing had forgotten that they are also called to live by faith.

He quotes the key verse of Habakkuk’s prophecy written to suffering people.  When we are suffering we need reminders that God has given us the faith to persevere and do the will of God in our crisis – until we receive what God has given us, the faith to believe will ultimately happen according to His promises.

I have observed a direct correlation between spiritual growth and suffering.  The Greek word translated “persevere” in these verses is a quality God grows in those who are living by faith while they are suffering, according to the Apostle Paul (Romans 5: 3-5).  Other authors of the New Testament agree with Paul.

The immediate response of many authentic disciples when they find themselves in a difficult situation is: “Lord, get me out of here!” When that doesn’t happen they are sometimes tempted to throw away their faith.  The message conveyed by these verses is “Don’t throw away your faith.  You need your faith to live through your crisis.”

Is this a message you need to hear today?

Dick Woodward, 03 December 2010


Living in Christ by Faith

September 23, 2014

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

Three times in this verse Paul tells us he “lives,” and each time he tells us he lives, he tells us why and how he lives.  If we consider his three explanations for living, we discover a good summary of the book of Romans.

First, Paul says he lives because he is crucified with Christ. When Paul gets to the application in his letter to the Romans he tells us we should surrender ourselves to the Christ Who has done so much for us, and become “living sacrifices” for Him.  He tells us this is our intelligent worship when we understand all that God has done for us, in Christ.

Secondly, Paul tells us he lives because Christ lives in me. That summarizes the second section of his Roman letter where he tells us how the Christ Who saved us from where we are going (which is straight to hell), can save us from what we are doing, and from what we are.  We can be saved and live like saved people because Christ lives in us!

Thirdly, Paul tells us that he lives by faith – by faith in the Son of God Who loves him and gave Himself for him.  That summarizes the first section of Romans, which concludes, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

…The proof that we understand and are experiencing Paul’s message to the Romans will be for us to say, because we have really understood him, “I live, I really live! I live by faith, I live because Christ lives in me, and I live because I am crucified with Christ.”

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook (p.284-285)

 


Look and Live

December 10, 2013

“… Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:9)

When the children of Israel complained and griped about Moses God showed how He felt about the gripers.  He sent snakes to bite them.  (Some pastors may wish they could do the same.) Then God in His mercy directed Moses to erect a pole at the center of the camp with a bronze serpent on top of it.  The good news was proclaimed: If any of the snake-bitten gripers would get to the center of the camp and look at the bronze serpent they would be healed of their snakebites.

Some of them said that defied all the laws of medical science and they died of their snakebites.  Others said it didn’t make sense but it was the only hope they had.  With help they somehow got to the center of the camp and looked at the bronze serpent on the pole.  When they looked, they were healed and lived!

This story takes on much greater meaning when Jesus makes His most dogmatic declaration: He is God’s only Son, God’s only Solution and God’s only Savior (John 3: 1-21).  As He told a Rabbi named Nicodemus about Moses lifting that serpent in the wilderness, it is a picture of something in the future.  If we will look to Jesus on His cross with faith we will be healed of our sin problem.

Jesus made it simple.  Just look and live.  When you want to solve problems that demand a supernatural solution, look and live.  Have you ever done that?  Why not do it now?


How Can I Know the Will of God?

May 18, 2013

“Prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of spiritual maturity.” (Romans 12:2 JB Phillips)

When someone questions me, a pastor, about the will of God, they might be referring to a fork-in-the-road decision or sometimes the issue has been the broader question, “How can I know the will of God for my life?”  While answering that question many times over many years, I have come up with twelve steps I believe you should take when you are seeking divine guidance.  These twelve steps are not a precise formula that will immediately and clearly lead you to the specific will of God, but they do focus some issues that should be visited, or bases you should touch, when you are trying to establish an alignment between your will and the will of God.

THE FIRST STEP:  Believe there is such a thing as the will of God for your life.

“Every time a tiny sparrow falls dead from a tree, God goes to the funeral!”  Observed a preacher from another generation, referring to the teaching of Jesus that not one tiny sparrow falls dead from a tree apart from the Father’s plan.  The application Jesus makes is that since two sparrows are sold for a penny and we are of far greater value to God than a sparrow, if God has a will regarding the details of the life and death of a sparrow, then we can be sure He has a will regarding every detail of our lives (Matthew 10: 29-31).

According to the Bible, God is our Shepherd and our Father.   God is personal and has a plan for our life we can know and experience.

 


Why Believe?

February 1, 2013

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.  He that would come to God must believe that He is and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The author of these words is telling discouraged believers why they should not throw away their faith.  He writes that they must believe because without faith we cannot come to God, we cannot please God, and we cannot experience the beautiful reality that God rewards those who diligently seek Him.

When Jesus died on the cross a great veil in the Temple that separated sinners from the divine presence of God was supernaturally torn from top to bottom.  The significance of that miracle was, and is, that we can now go directly into the presence of God.  We no longer need the intercession of a priest.  The door into a relationship with God has been wide open since our High Priest Jesus opened it for us 2,000 years ago.  How could we not come to God through that door by faith?

We must believe because we are not only saved by faith – we are to live by faith.  As we live by faith our chief purpose in life is to glorify God.  To glorify God means to please God and we cannot please God without faith.  As we live our life in this world the greatest fact of life we know is that God is, and He blesses, enables, and rewards those who come to Him by faith.

The author then gives us what we call A Hall of Faith which exhibits for all time great examples of people who did not throw away their faith.  In spite of great challenges they believed that God is, they came to Him, they pleased Him and God rewarded their faith.


An Applied Formula for Living

October 12, 2012

“Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.”  (Matthew 7:26)

As we apply the previous formula for living blog, Jesus is clearly teaching that if we base our belief system on His teachings we will have a rational belief system that can weather the storms of this life. When a counselor is disputing the belief system of a depressed person, a favorite disputation question is: “What are you telling yourself about the fact they you lost your job that has you so depressed?” That is the question you should ask yourself when you are experiencing irrational emotional consequences like depression.

The medical director of a large mental hospital for the entire state of Virginia told me the purpose of psychiatry is to find the unconscious explanation for the conscious behavior of people.  He lamented the hard reality that so often today the psychiatrist is a pharmacologist who medicates the person’s depression without ever getting to the cause of the depression.

The word “psychiatry” means “the healing of the soul.” Was there ever a greater healer of the soul than Jesus?    I’m convinced that Jesus was the greatest Psychiatrist who ever lived.  I also believe that the values and the teachings of Jesus will give us the healthiest belief system for living we will ever discover as we pass through this world.

However, it is critically important that we implement that belief system as we respond to the storms we encounter.  In this era we have gone bonkers over knowledge.  According to Jesus, it is not the knowledge of His teaching but the application of that belief system that builds the house that survives the storms.