by Roland W. Keith
As mentioned last week our faith is completed by our works of obedience (not of the law), that is belief plus works = the faith that God is looking for in His followers. God demands that we be men and women of action. We are all familiar with Jesus’ exchange with His apostles recorded in Matthew 16:13-17: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”. Each of these men believed, but unlike the Jewish leaders discussed in our previous lesson (John 12:42-43), they did not deny Christ, moreover unlike those James decried in his letter (James 2:17-26), Jesus’ apostles were men of resolve and action. In order to please God, we, like they, must put our faith on the line every day by putting it to work for all to see in everything that we do.
We find a man willing to do just that in the account of Daniel. A man who risked his life and defied a royal decree for his faith, trusting God’s will in the lion’s den (Daniel 6). Even today we receive accounts from around the world of believers who stand up for Christ upon pain of torture and death. Little attention is paid in the western news, but it is happening. A question we must each ask ourselves is “how much am I willing to give up, and do, for my Lord?”
In Hebrews Paul spends a good deal of time analyzing the faith of some of the Old Testaments most famous men and how they put their faith to work, along with discussing what they gave up in the process. Abraham gave up his home and all that he knew to go into a foreign land when God promised him an inheritance there (Hebrews 11:8-10). Later he was even willing to sacrifice his own son, the heir of promise, trusting that God would be able to raise him up again (Hebrews 11:17-19). Paul also reminds us that Moses, when he was grown, left the house of Pharaoh, aligning himself with God’s people against the abuses that they suffered at the hands of the Egyptians, eventually returning according to God’s command to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land (Hebrews 11:24-28).
According to Paul “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). These men all died in their faith without receiving their reward. At least not on this earth. However, each looked forward to what awaited them on the other side of death. I think of this more often now that I am older, than I did when I was young. In fact, I was a lot braver then, in denying God’s will for my life, than I am now. Instead, over the years I have tried to replace that misplaced bravado with greater strength in the Lord, understanding now how brief the breath of life is and where my treasure truly lies.
In addition to these Old Testament accounts we can add the names of Paul and the other apostles, along with the many first century disciples. Men and women who gave everything, looking to the skies for Christ’s return, only to pass without their generation being witness to His second coming. Today the anticipation they felt is not as acute. Maybe it should be. If we thought Jesus was coming back in our lifetime would we be more diligent in preparing for Him? Well, guess what? Whether we ever see Him in the clouds or not the day of reckoning, in fact, does come for each of us in our lifetime. All of us have an appointed time when our lives end, and so do our chances to obey the Lord. Are we prepared? Paul wrote these words to Timothy, “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (II Timothy 1:12). Have we entrusted our souls to the Lord?
What do we have to gain by putting our trust, our faith, in God? Someone once said that “the person who denies God has everything to lose and nothing to gain, while the person who believes in God has everything to gain and nothing to lose.” That is a powerful statement. In comparison John wrote, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” The person who believes has everything to gain, but as John pointed out, that person must not only believe, but must also “obey.” That is faith. And the person who has faith gains everything that God has promised His followers. Not because of our faith alone, nor our works (Ephesians 2:8), but because of God’s love (John 3:16) and grace we may come to Him in faith and obedience and receive the gift of salvation.
In describing his encounter with Christ to King Agrippa Paul told the King that Jesus had sent him “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” In response Agrippa asked, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:18,28). Paul’s response? “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains” (Acts 26:29). As Christians we must grow our own faith even as we seek to bring others to Christ— that is part of our call to obedience, to share our faith.
John’s first epistle contains these words, “For this is the love of God, that we keep
His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (I John 5:3-5). When we have faith, our lives change. The world and its problems do not disappear, but we have a different view of them, and a different way of coping with them when they come upon us. We can overcome the dreariness and weariness of the world while enjoying the grandeur of God’s creation in part because we know that heaven awaits. As Peter put it we have “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:3-5).
If we believe that these things are true we will act on them— we will exercise our faith, giving all that the Lord asks of us. As Paul once told the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). To love Christ is to obey Him. He gives us life, but never are we more alive than we are when we let Christ live through us.
There is a day coming for each of us. A day that we pass from life to life. A day we pass from the earth to eternal damnation or an eternity with God. Do we want to stand with Paul at the end of our lives and say with him, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Timothy 4:7-8)?
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.