The Eleventh Day of Christmas
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:1-6
Of all the things that we are called or commanded to do faith is the foundation of all. First, we are saved by faith, then, we are to live by faith. We know by faith. We believe by faith. We obtain by faith. We receive by faith. We speak by faith. We understand by faith.
Since faith is not a subject of the 24-7 news cycle, nor the subject of average, daily conversations, it tends to be an elusive concept for many people and far too many who claim faith in Jesus Christ. Some kinds of faith are easy to exercise and others are perceived to be more complex and less accessible to the average person.
But according to the Scriptures faith is neither complicated nor elusive. It is a choice and there is tangible resistance to it. Whoever would live by it must also resist the devil who seeks to steal it from us by all kinds of subtleties, deceptions, lies and wherever possible adverse circumstances.
What then is our means of appropriating faith in our lives and being obedient to God’s call to live by faith, walk by faith and believe by faith? The simple answer is, just do what God says to do and don’t do what He says don’t do. It is easy, yet so many including this servant finds that there are times when our lives are upended in such a way that we can lose focus and begin to doubt, to fear and to be sorrowful despite the call of God to be more than conquerors.
The issue is not so much understanding faith as it is extending our trust to God more than we do to ourselves. Nobody I think would openly posture that they trust themselves more than they trust God. But in actions and words that is exactly what they are saying.
Growing up I would frequently hear someone say, “God helps those who help themselves” as though they were quoting Scripture. And they believed they were righteous in their affirmation. But that cannot be found in Scripture because it is not there. I’m not sure of its origin but I am sure it is not God’s way.
The whole message of the Gospel is God through Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves, and Jesus affirmed it not only in matters of eternal salvation but in daily living, what we will eat, what we will drink what we will wear, where we would live are all matters of concern to God and provided for us by His hand.
All that we have comes from His hand. Our jobs, our food, our clothes, our very existence is by His grace on us. What then, do we have to boast in? God warned Israel not to fall into the human trap of thinking that when prosperity comes it has come by their own hands.
“Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; and thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 8:11-18
Our human nature resists submission to God therefore trusting Him becomes a matter of some difficulty when we really come down to it. This is particularly true of the academic, the so-called learned and highly educated, because they have so many rational ways of dismissing the simplicity of faith as parochial at best and irrelevant in the “real” world at worst.
Then there is the matter of our own lusts and passions that pressure us to surrender to them.
The Apostle Paul, like every man, struggled with the same temptations and base desires that war against us living by faith.
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!...” Romans 7:18-25
The thieves of faith are real but they are no match for the heart that will simply accept God’s grace and mercy and believe His Word, first, last and always, giving no regard to our lusts, passions, doubts and fears, no place to the enemy by giving into his lies more than trusting God’s love.
We live by faith when we live by love‑love for God, love for our neighbors and love for ourselves. This is the key to all faith living and the fulfillment of all the Law.
“Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
As we celebrate this eleventh day of Christmas let us consider the enormity of God’s love for us and the trustworthiness of His sovereign Word with a joyful determination in this New Year to center our faith squarely and exclusively in Him to the end that His kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in Heaven.