Welcome, and thank you for joining this adventure of building our faith together!
For the next twenty-one days we are going to try to reflect, and apply in our lives what we have learnt about living by faith in the last few weeks. Every day, for the next 21 days, we are going to take five minutes to engage in some reflection, activity, or application to train our faith muscles. Don't worry if you missed the message series. You can still join in this adventure. While it is not necessary, you can always catch up on the message series on Facebook if you like.
Faith is not a guarantee of an outcome, but an opportunity to join God in an adventure. When Peter stepped out of the boat to walk on water, the storm did not disappear. But he enjoyed the thrill of an adventure that no one will ever have! If we do not look at faith as God asking us to trust him and join him in an adventure, then living by faith can actually be quite stressful because we are focused on the outcome we want. Instead, genuinely living by faith should make our life exciting. We can be sure that when our willingness to trust him intersects with what He is out to accomplish, we can live with joyous anticipation.
I love the story of Esther. Not once is God and his intervention explicitly mentioned, but as Esther and Mordecai, her uncle, live by faith, trusting Him, and living in anticipation, God, organizes, events that look like coincidences, manages perfect timing, and delivers His people. What a thrilling adventure!
This week, can we practice living in this anticipation as we trust Him? Here is a specific thing we can anticipate - that God will bring someone in our path this week that will give us an opportunity to share the hope we have in Christ with them. I assure you that when we are willing, and trusting in anticipation, God will bring that person across our path - and we can join God in the adventure He has for us!
One of the unexpected names in Hebrews 11 hall of faith is that of the man named Jephthah. His story is found in Judges 11:1-12:7. His story starts in a dysfunctional home as an unwanted, rejected child, and ends in a rash vow that separates him from his only daughter he loves so much. Yet, he is mentioned as one of the heroes of faith. Yet while his bad theology and rashness have serious consequences, God overlooks it and he makes it in the great hall of faith because he demonstrates an unflinching trust in God.
Read his story today, and find some ways he demonstrates this faith.
This week as we get close to ending our 21-day challenge to building our habit of faith, we have been focussing on action instead of just reflection. Yesterday we committed to thinking of three people to bless this week. I am praying that God has started bringing the people to your mind.
As you continue to do that this week, let's add one more action to think about today that we can commit to that will help us live out our faith - the action of tangible giving. Generosity is an act of faith! It is an action that shows that ultimately God has given us all we have and owns everything, so we can freely give without fear.
This week to build our faith think of what we can do to tangibly give to someone of our time, talent and treasure - hopefully all three! Find someone who can benefit from your time - even if it is a few minutes, or perhaps someone whom you can loan your talent to, or think of a charity, a person, or a cause you feel strongly about, and give of your money. None of this has to be a big, "newsworthy" event. It can be as little and inconspicuous as the widow in Luke 21:1-4. It is just us building a habit of generosity to build our faith.
Do you know what the first words about God in relation to humanity after He created Adam and Eve are? They are found in Genesis 1:28 and it reads, “God blessed them.” The nature of God at the very core is to bless. His desire is too bless. So if want to imitate Him at the very core, then one of the overflows of our faith is to bless others.
You may ask what does it mean to bless? Michael Frost, pastor and author, says that part of the origin of the word is from the idea of “adding strength to another’s arm.” That is, “to bless” is “to do anything that that lifts their spirit or alleviates their distress.” (Frost 2016, 30). It can be as small as an encouraging word or note, or as big as meeting a significant need.
So, to build our faith, let’s practice that this week. Can you think of three people - at least one of them who is not an attendee of the church, and at least one who is. The third can be either category. are not Christian, and one who is - and think of a way to bless them this week?
Eugene Peterson, known for the “Message” Bible paraphrase wrote, “No life of faith can be lived privately. There must be an overflow into the lives of others.” He is right. Faith is the unflinching trust in God, and it must therefore flow out in our lives into others’ lives. In this last week we will hope to do just that as we build our faith.
For today, read this excellent article on the five principles of talking about our faith to others. It is a slightly longer read, but well worth it as it will give us a framework for sharing our faith.
Day #13/14 - Weekend Reflection
It is the weekend again, so let's pick two names from the 16 names that the writer of Hebrews 11 specifically lists as examples of faith. You can pick any two, but here are my picks for this weekend.
Enoch - Enoch is an especially interesting one. There are two Enoch's in Genesis. The one the writer of Hebrews is talking about is found in Genesis 5:21-24. Read the short account in Genesis and reflect on what made Enoch's faith stand out. How can we apply that to our life?
Noah - He is familiar to most of us, and his story is found in Genesis 6-8
Although I was not aware of this when I started this 21-day challenge of building your faith, when I did a search on the internet, I found that there was a book titled “21 days of faith” published by a Shelley Hitz about seven years ago. Since we are doing something similar, I bought that book, and today, I want to borrow something that she writes that struck a chord. I believe will be helpful for us as we build our faith together.
Just before Jesus performs the miracle of the loaves in John 6:4-14, he asks a question about feeding the five thousand who had gathered to hear him. Phillip and Andrew had two very different responses to the same question. Shelly writes,
"Phillip looked at the facts and made statements based only on what he could see. “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite! Andrew surrendered the little resources he had to Jesus who then multiplied them to provide above and beyond what was needed. Who do you relate to more in this story? (Hitz 2013, 36)."
I think this is a great question to reflect on today as we build our faith. How do we naturally react? By looking at what we don't have, or looking at what we do have, and surrendering that to God.
How do you answer this question? Is there a circumstance in your life where you are anxious because the resources you have are not sufficient? How about taking the "Andrew" position and humbly giving to God what you do have and asking Him to fill the deficiency?
What we believe about our future will determine how we live today. For example, when Michele and I got married, Y2K was around the corner. Wanting to start our lives together, we were looking for a home. We had dreams of a beautiful home and a future. One of the houses we looked at was an older couple who was selling because they believed that the world as we know it would end when the clock turned to the year 2000. They did not think their future held much promise. They were cashing out to survive off the grid. What we believe about our future determines how we live today. Faith is about seeing the future as God sees it. Faith is therefore built in our lives when we recalibrate our lives to the future God has for us.
Hebrews 11:24-26 says “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” In other words, Moses’ actions flowed out of what he believed about the future.
How do you think about your future? I mean, more than five years from now. Do you think and yearn often for the future God has promised you? Ephesians 1 is a great read to remind yourself of the future God has for you.
So today, let us think about the future God has for us. How is that reflecting in your choices today? Does thinking about the future God has for you make the difficult choice easier today? How are you going to practice this in your life?
We are almost halfway in our twenty-one-day challenge. I just want to pause today for a reminder and an encouragement.
Philippians 1:6 says “I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until this task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.” Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith. As we do this challenge every day, it is possible to think that building our faith is all our effort. It is not. By doing this every day (and it is ok if you, like me missed a day here and there and had to catch up) we are simply bringing our attention to what God wants to and is already doing in our life. We are opening up ourselves to the opportunities, and responding to God to build our faith. So, let us not be discouraged. Let us remind ourselves that Jesus is the author and the finisher of my faith. He is the one who started the good work and will carry it to completion.
Habits are formed best when we build in routines that remind us of the habit we are trying to build. In Deuteronomy 11:18-19 God instructed his people to tie His word as symbols on their foreheads. Some of them took this literally, the point was to build in their normal routines the reminder of their trust in God.
I heard someone suggest something like a “one minute rule.” It goes like this: Throughout the day, pray for the first minute at the beginning of every activity. I know some of us do this at the beginning of every meal. Let’s extend that to the beginning of every activity today - when you get in your car, before you go to a meeting before you start any new activity. Just pray for the first minute. I believe this will reset our hearts and minds, and remind us of putting our trust in God.
The fortitude of our faith is affected by the news we consume. Take Elijah for example. He readily put his faith on the line when he challenged the prophets of Baal, and after God came through in an unparalleled way bringing fire from heaven, and then the promised rain, we would think that Elijah’s faith should have been at an all-time high. And it seems it was so until he paid attention to the “Jezebel News Channel.” He heard Jezebel had sent out a hit on him, and in 1 Kings 19:1-5 we see that he is afraid, hiding, and wanting to die!
The news you and I consume will have an effect on our faith. And, in today’s world this news feed is constantly on, especially on social media and it often is very subtly eroding our faith. I know it is impossible to live in the modern world without it, but for at least one day, would you join me in an experiment. At least for today (ideally for the week if possible), stay away from social media. Turn off the notifications, and every time you have the urge, instead fill yourself with the reminder of God’s good news. Remind yourself of his incredible love that he has shown you through His Son Jesus. I believe that you will see your faith strengthened.
Day #6/7 - Weekend Reflection
There are 16 names that the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 11 specifically lists as examples of faith as he tells us something about their lives that demonstrated their trust in God. As we continue to build our faith through these 21 days, on the weekends we will take the time to pick a couple of those names listed, and reflect on their lives, and what the writer of Hebrews commends them for. You can search the Bible to see where their stories are found. Perhaps there are some you know very well, and others, you do not know much about. You can pick any two, but here are my picks for this weekend.
Abel - His story is found in Genesis 4
Gideon - his story is found in Judges 6-7
It may not be immediately evident to us, but our faith is connected to our ability to forgive others. How so? At the heart of faith is the infallible trust that God is in control, and He is just. Faith is believing, despite the unfairness we experience in life, He will eventually make all things right. Unforgiveness undermines this trust in God's ultimate justice. It harbors the hurt, wants to wrest that justice out of God's hands, and demands a restitution now. In Matthew 18:21 Jesus tells us a parable. about the man who was forgiven a large sum that he had no way to pay off. While outwardly thankful, the one forgiven, immediately goes to his servant who owed him a miniscule amount in comparison, and demands payment. The parable ends with the forgiven man being called to account with the original forgiveness nullified. No wonder the same teaching by Jesus about forgiveness in Luke 17:1-5 causes the disciples to say, "Increase our faith."
So, the question for today is: Are you harboring unforgiveness today? Unforgiveness is a sign that I have not understood how much undeserved grace I have received. It is an indicator of a lack of trust that God is just. Unforgiveness will erode your faith. Today, reflect on this, and start the process of asking God to help you forgive. The best way to do that is to think of your life before Christ, and then reflect on how He brought you into His kingdom. If you have experienced that kind of grace, can you harbor unforgiveness?
Daniel 3:17-18 has one of the greatest statements of faith ever made by three young men as they faced what would be a cruel, and sure death. Their proclamation gives us a unique insight into the real foundation of our faith. The three young men, Shadrach, Mesach, and Abendego as they faced being thrown into the furnace by the king, responded by saying something like this (my paraphrase) - “We are absolutely confident that our God is great enough that he can deliver us from the furnace, but even if he doesn’t we want you to know that we our faith will still stand only in Him." The second part highlights something very important about faith. What the three men were saying is that while we are confident of God's greatness, the primary foundation of our faith is His goodness.
Yesterday, we spent some time on remembering times when God came through. That is, when his greatness was revealed in our lives as we trusted in Him. When he perhaps made what looked impossible, possible. And that is important to build our faith. But our faith will be unbalanced until it is confident in His essential goodness. An unflinching faith says "I believe God can deliver me from the furnace, but I trust Him not just because He is great, but because He is good.
Today, will you join me in reflecting on God's goodness in your life? Are you fully confident that He is good, and He has nothing but good for you? What are the challenges to thinking of God wanting only good for you even if you don't agree with the way you think He is going about it?
We often have a short memory. Especially of good things that happened to us. Times when God came through. We are not alone. The disciples had a similar problem. In Matthew 16, Jesus mentions leaven in the bread, and the disciples wonder if he was trying to scold them indirectly because they forgot to pack some bread. Apart from the fact that they thought Jesus would be passive-aggressive and not just say what he meant, they also forgot something. Jesus rebukes them of their little faith and reminds them that they forgot what had happened just a short time ago - the miraculous feeding. Not once, but twice! Forgetting God's past faithfulness is a thing that weakens our faith, and remembering His past faithfulness strengthens our faith. Today, to build our faith let's remind ourselves of God's past faithfulness!
Psalm 37:3 says, Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Let's feed on His faithfulness and let it nourish our faith today as we write down, reflect, and remember all the times in the past God has been faithful. And, then ask ourselves, "If God was faithful in the past, will he not be now, in my current situation?"
Medical professionals often look at symptoms that clue them into what may be wrong with the body. Similarly, there are symptoms that point to a lack of faith. One of the most common ones that Jesus pointed out was "worry." Worry, or anxiety as we often experience, is so common, and that sometimes it is hard to see it as a problem. Jesus equated being anxious about things that we have no control over as a symptom of not trusting Him (Matthew 6:25-34). So, let's tackle this today as we take steps to build our faith.
List the primary thing that you are worried about. What causes anxiety as soon as you think or talk about it? Why? Now, read Matthew 6:25-34, and hear the words of Jesus again in the context of your worry. Verse 32 says, "Your Heavenly Father knows..." Take encouragement in that. Every time you find yourself getting anxious, bring your mind to these words, and practice reminding yourself that "my Heavenly Father knows." Rest in the thought that He is good, He knows, and He is your Heavenly Father! The more we do this, the more we will be able to build that habit of faith.
Hey, feel free to share testimonies, questions, or comments and feedback - either on facebook.com/bellevuecconline or email, firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the aspects of faith that Hebrews 11:6 reveals to us is that God is a "rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him." That is, faith and prayer are inextricably connected. We trust that He is good, and He rewards us when we earnestly seek Him. As we start on this journey of building the habit of faith, let us do two things today:
1. Read Hebrews 11:1 and 11:6, and write in your own words what these two verses tell you about faith. Better yet, write it on a sticky note, and put it on your car dash, or refrigerator to remind you for the next 21 days about the opportunities that God has to build your faith.
2. Prayer and faith are connected. Write down one thing that you are asking God to do in your life in the next 21 days as you "earnestly seek Him." And, then take a couple of minutes to pray and ask God to open your eyes to the opportunities today to build your faith.