By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country. (Hebrews 11:8,9.)
In my childhood days, I remember the pastor encouraging our church to share testimonies of what God had done in our lives. He quoted Psalm 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” This is a segment of my story of faith.
It was a year of major disruptions in our home. It is not exaggerating to say, “life was a roaring sea.” (Psalm 107). Then (I) cried out to the Lord in (my) trouble, and He brought (me) out of (my) distress. I had not been employed since having triplets, since they were still preschool age. My husband had not lived in our home for many months. I had been praying earnestly for direction and in my Bible reading, the Lord led me to follow Esther’s request for her people to pray. After the designated three days, God showed me I needed to move.
That surely wasn’t the direction for reconciliation in my opinion. However, that Sunday, Jeff Gill, our pastor at the time, preached about Abraham going to a country not knowing where he was going, in faith. And so, following God’s direction, in faith I moved away as the Lord led and provided.
It is faith that moves us to follow an uncharted direction, and it is faith that God blesses. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, but the closest jobs near where we lived were 45 minutes away (without rush hour traffic conditions). So, we had to move.
As with Abraham, when we stepped out in faith there was no global positioning system to guide us. Every step of the way we relied on God. And He showed us the way. There were many uncertain days, wondering how would our needs be supplied. Suffice it to say, we lived three years by faith before divorce papers were delivered and a job came, but God… Oh yes! But God was never late on His promises (or early). But our bills were always paid and our tummies were fed and God received the glory as three pre-school children learned how God is faithful. (As did a mommy.)
Life Application Questions
Take a moment to listen to “Take Another Step” by Steven Curtis Chapman. A few of the lyrics follow.
“…Then the lightning flashed the thunder crashed
It began to rain and everybody ran
Then the sky went black as midnight
And you couldn't see
Paralyzed by what you just can't understand
And now here you are
You're afraid to move
You don't know where to go
You don't know what to do
Take another step, take another step
When the road ahead is dark
And you don't know where to go
Take another step, take another step
Trust God and take another step…
1 Thessalonians 1: 4-7
People and plants appear to have some things in common. They both need to be nurtured and noticed. Life did not appear to be possible. The plant’s leaves dropped. The May bloom had long faded in June’s drought. The lonely plant sat forgotten on the store shelf. Other plants had been scooped up in the Mother’s Day rush. Gardeners had cleared the shelves by Memorial Day. This bedraggled plant had been forgotten by the store clerks’ inattentive watering. When you see a bedraggled plant on the store shelf, how do you respond? People can feel as abandoned as that plant that was left behind. God’s Word addresses the weary, the lost and the forgotten with a message of hope.
The weary mom balancing the diaper bag, a baby on her hip, and gripping tightly the toddler’s hand made her way into the church. Her kids’ faces held the remnants of breakfast and mom’s shirt had a mysterious stain on it. The mom seemed eager to drop off the kids and plop into a seat. Her weary eyes closed and people chose seats on the other end of the row. She was bedraggled and forgotten like the abandoned plant on the store shelf. How do you respond to the weary mom that you don’t know at church?
The spring bloom had long since left the cheek of the eighty year old. They leaned heavily on their cane to catch a breath as the church’s youth streamed around them, rushing to their classes. Their gnarled hands shook as they took uncertain steps to find a seat in the auditorium. No one noticed them. They weren’t signing up to teach in the preschool class or hurrying off to make the coffee. They had nothing to offer, like the abandoned plant, they felt so useless and unwanted. Have you ever felt like you were invisible, like you had nothing to offer?
As a child of God, no matter your status in life, or the struggles you face, God has not abandoned you. “For we know brothers and sisters, loved by God that He has chosen you…”
(1 Thessalonians 1: 4-7) For the weary mom: God sees you, loves you, chose you. For the one who feels invisible with little to offer to others: God sees you and has chosen you for such a time as this.
The tiny, wizened plants, discounted for a quick sale always found rebirth in Sherie’s home. She chose them, nurtured them and they bloomed as they were intended to. She saw the spark of life in their drooping spirit. Paul saw the heart of the Thessalonians and the spark of the Holy Spirit in them. The Thessalonians “…welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with joy, given by the Holy Spirit.” (1Thessalonians 1:6) Who do you know that needs the message of hope and love and how will you share it with them?
"To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout. . ." (1 Peter 1:1). “. . . we know that God causes everything to work together for the good . . . " (Romans 8:28).
Our new sermon series, CHOSEN, from First Peter reads almost as if Peter had 21st century Christians in mind. “To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces . . .” (1:1). Those 1st century Jesus-followers must have wondered why God had scattered them. Today we wonder what God’s purpose is for his people, especially refugees from the Middle East and the persecuted church everywhere. The answer is hidden in the mystery of the sovereignty of God.
What do you understand about God’s sovereignty?
John Piper offers this helpful thought: "We need to think of God's sovereignty not simply as powerful, but as purposeful." The Apostle Paul made it clear that God has purpose in his plan for his people. He wrote, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Our good is part of God's greater "good" plan for all mankind.
These two passages present one of the great mysteries of our faith: how the sovereign will of God (including the scattering of his people) and the purpose of his sovereignty (the good of those who love him) work together. Throughout history, God's chosen people have lived in situations that belie the phrase "for our good." Whether then or now, in God's providence, it is for our good.
What comes to mind as you see desperate people clinging to the outside of a plane or handing their babies over a fence to an unknown savior in an effort to escape?
As we consider what's happening in the world at this very moment, we may be tempted to wring our hands in despair. But part of the good that God is doing through the suffering and inequities in our world is that he is drawing people to himself. We are told that the fastest growing movement to Christianity today is happening in Islamic countries and places where the church has had to go underground. Praise God!
What difficulty is God allowing in your life right now? Is it causing you to question God's goodness?
In a more personal way, you may be going through a time in your life that is so difficult that you cannot see how anything good could possibly come from it. Paul explains it this way: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).
Thank God today that you have been chosen to be one of his own, and he is allowing “things” in your life to make you more like Jesus. jbd & gmd
Holes in a gas tank, can’t allow that. Holes in a boat, disastrous. Holes in a waterbed, yikes!
How about holes in holiness? Obviously, there are no holes in God’s holiness. Everything he thinks, says, does is perfect, pristine, impeccable, immaculate. It’s heavenly holiness to the highest degree.
How about us? Holes in boats, gas tanks, waterbeds—we want them fixed asap. But holes in our holiness? Maybe we can get by with a few holes here and there, we think.
In his letters to 1st century Christians, Paul says a lot about holiness. And about holes (see, for example, Gal 5:19-21; Eph 4:25-31; 5:3-7; Col 3:3-10).
Might holiness be required for Christ-followers, actually an ultimatum? No holes allowed in holiness?! Paul explains: God saved us through Jesus’ death in order to present us holy, without blemish and free from accusation (Col 1:22). It was Paul’s goal to present everyone perfect in Christ (Col 1:28).
So . . . Jesus not only solves the problem of the consequences of our sin, he fixes the holes. For many Christians, the focus is the good news of what Jesus saved us from—condemnation now and forever. We’re pretty happy with this version of the news, and we’re content to stop at that. But shouldn’t there be an equal focus on what Jesus saved us to—holiness now and forever? No holes! As Michael Horton noted, “Grace is too amazing to save us from sin’s guilt, only to leave us under its cruel tyranny.”
Frankly, we’re not sure what to do about personal holiness. We can’t really be holy, can we? Maybe we’re at least supposed to do everything in our power to be free from sin. Holiness is apparently more than a goal. It’s an expectation.
Kevin DeYoung, in his book, The Hole in Our Holiness (2012), asks whether holiness is actually the chief aim of our redemption, and what’s more, even required evidence of eternal life (p. 11). If the intent is for us to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29), can there be holes?
The gospel is essentially about two things: what Jesus did and what we do. Both entail sacrifice. He willingly sacrificed everything on our behalf. In response, we present ourselves as living sacrifices, willing to become anything on his behalf, holy and pleasing to God (Rom 12:1-2).
This much is certain: godliness, holiness, perfection, is the fruit of our union with Christ. Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you . . . if you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:4, 10).
Life Application Questions
Anticipating each disciple’s need for spiritual provision Scripture explains that each disciple is “…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience…” (Colossians 1:11). We celebrate God’s provision!
Endurance and patience come from God flowing like a river through the Spirit. Divine strength enables all creation to find meaning and purpose through Christ. Without God’s spiritual resources we are left to our own limited abilities (John 7:37-39).
Disciples since the time of Christ have found it to be so; and if someday believers are among those who travel to distant moons or galaxies, the constant truth shall remain: among all travelers in the universe God’s people chart trajectories requiring endurance and patience. We celebrate God’s provision!
Consider your life in comparison to cataclysmic changes occurring in the world’s communities. Recently there was massive flooding in North America for portions of Mississippi. States of the western United States were literally turning the sky red with fire as lives were lost, forests burned and buildings destroyed.
Fires likewise are raging in the nation of Greece. Revolution-like events have occurred in Afghanistan. Syria remains in turmoil. South Sudan and Myanmar suffer profound political turmoil. Venezuela continues experiencing wild inflation. Haiti has widespread devastation because of another earthquake followed by a fierce tropical storm.
If you are a disciple of Jesus, living in any of these or any of the other myriad places where turmoil is the coin of life, how might your need for patient endurance be amplified? Simply put: food and clean water are very spiritual matters.
How do you celebrate God’s provision of spiritual strength?
Among the challenges you face as a disciple, which of them require strong habits of patient endurance?
Are there circumstances that currently diminish your spiritual tenacity?
Are you pursuing lifetime tasks that require specialized endurance or training?