Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.Hebrews 11:1 New Living Translation
I am not a mother and it is not Mother’s Day. It is Good Friday but I want to salute all women because the experience of giving birth to a child is nothing to be taken lightly. Child birth is usually an experience of excruciating pain and trouble for the woman. When Judah was beseiged and taunted by the King of Assyria, King Hezekiah of Judah sent this message to the Prophet Isaiah:
This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby.Isaiah 37:3 New Living Translation
It was a day of trouble for Judah. The King of Assyria sent men to insult and disgrace Hezekiah and the entire nation of Judah. After experiencing trouble, insults and disgrace Hezekiah remembered child birth. he remembered the great trouble a woman experiences to give birth to a child, especially when that woman does not have the strength to push when it is time to push.
How is this relevant to Good Friday? Good Friday is the day we remember the suffering, the pain and the ultimate death of Jesus Christ on a wooden cross. Today is the day we remember how Jesus was insulted and disgraced. Today is the day we remember how the Son of God was treated like a criminal even though he was as innocent as a newborn baby.
However, Good Friday was not only a day of death. In the same way a woman has to experience pain to give birth to a child Jesus had to experience pain to give birth to something special.
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.Isaiah 53:5 New Living Translation
On Good Friday salvation for all mankind was born
On Good Friday a new way into God’s presence was born
Without Good Friday there would be no Christians. Jesus experienced the trouble, insults and disgrace so that mankind could be healed. Jesus experienced the excruciating pain and suffering so that human beings could become children of God through faith.
The world is experiencing a time of trouble. To some this trouble seems to be never ending. Today I want to encourage us to remember what Jesus experienced at the hands of the Roman soldiers. It was the sacrifice of Jesus that enabled us to become who we are. It was the sacrifice of Jesus that made the way possible for us to become children of faith.
Jesus overcame that time of trouble. As a child of faith you can overcome this time of trouble also.
HAVE A BLESSED GOOD FRIDAY!
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.Ephesians 2:8 New Living Translation
Do you know who you are? Every person born into this world was born under a certain set of circumstances. Some were born in times of war. Some were born in times of peace. Some were born in a palace. Some were born in the humblest of places.
If you heard the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ and you believed what you heard then you are a child of God. Your physical birth may not have occurred under the best of circumstances but your spiritual birth occurred through the greatest of circumstances; through faith in Jesus Christ.
After we are born and we start to live in this world, our experiences start to shape you we become. Even when we are adults, we still live according to what people said about us when we were young. When we have only experienced negativity in our lives we start to have a negative outlook of life. We start to have a negative outlook on those around us. Then we find ourselves in a never-ending storm.
It is the same in our spiritual walk with God. Our negative experiences before we became Christians can shape how we relate to God as Christians. When trouble comes while we are Christians we start to remember the negative experiences of the past. We start to believe that God is not with us. We start to think that we are not worthy to follow Christ. However, it is in these moments that we must remember that we are children of faith.
The grace of God gave us the opportunity to be saved. The grace of God opened the door of salvation. Faith caused us to walk through that door. The Apostle Paul reminded us:
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.Romans 5:8 New Living Translation
While the storms of sin were raging in and around us God opened the door of salvation. While we were haunted and running from the storms of our past God made a way of escape.
We became new persons when we walked through the door of salvation. We became children of faith. When the storms of life come before us we must remember who we are in Christ. The storm of the coronavirus is raging all around us and affecting us in many different ways but even in these moments you must remember:
You are a child of faith!
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.Psalm 107:28-29 King James Version
What causes the perfect storm? Conditions and circumstances must be perfectly aligned to cause the perfect storm. The perfect storm is a rare event. It does not happen everyday. The perfect storm happens unexpectedly. What can human beings do in the face of such a perfect event?
In October 1991 three storms converged in the Atlantic causing 40-80 foot waves. The Andrea Gail, a fishing vessel with a six-member crew, was caught in this unusual event. Tragically, the fishing vessel and her crew were lost.
The perfect storm occurred at the height of the Atlantic hurricane season but no one could have predicted that it would occur. No one could have predicted that the Andrea Gail and her crew would encounter such a horrific event in the middle of the sea. A book was written about the events surrounding the Perfect Storm. A movie was made to bring the account to life.
In the Bible, the Psalmist tells us about the terrifying experiences of those who work on the seas:
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.Psalm 107:23-27 King James Version
The Psalmist paints a very distressing picture. Those who work on the seas can encounter such great storms that the force of the winds and the height of the waves cause their souls to “melt” and their mental state to be shaken to the point where they are at “their wits’ end”.
The Psalmist tells us that while these men and women are being tossed to and fro, surrounded by a force over which they have no control, their focus starts to change. They see the high waves, they feel the strong winds but even in their great distress they start to remember God and they cry to Him:
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.Psalm 107:28 King James Version
The Lord God can match and out match any storm. The greatest obstacle must give way to the Great God. The highest wave must bow to the Most high God. The perfect storm must obey the Perfect God. Adversity can cast a dark shadow over our perception of the character of God or whether God is present with us but it is in the times of adversity that we must remember the Perfect God.
In the face of the Perfect Storm Jesus remembered the Perfect God. In times of trouble let us remember the Perfect God.
Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”Luke 8:25 New Living Translation
You have heard of fair-weather friends; friends which are only around when everything is going well. In spiritual matters there is a fair-weather faith; faith which is only around when everything is going well. Fair-weather faith is the worst kind of faith to have because it leaves you at the first sign of trouble. Fair-weather faith leaves you at the first sign of distress. Fair weather faith leaves you at the first sign of pain.
The children of Israel had fair-weather faith in the wilderness. When they did not see any water they complained to Moses about dying of thirst. When they did not see any food they complained to Moses about dying of hunger. When they heard of the high walls and the giants in the Promised Land they complained to Moses about bringing them out of Egypt to die.
God does not want our faith to change when the weather changes. God does not want our faith to change when our home environment changes. God does not want our faith to change when our work environment changes. God wants our faith to be steadfast and unmovable no matter what is happening around us.
It is Christmas! No other season motivates persons like the Christmas season. The Christmas season motivates persons to shop more, to clean more and to give more. The Christmas season motivates persons to decorate their homes and properties with lights and Christmas-themed items. The Christmas season motivates families to spend more time with each other. The Christmas season motivates persons to show love towards each other.
The Christmas season is indeed a wonderful season. However, let us not forget that there would be no Christmas if there was no Christmas story. There would be no Christmas if God was not motivated to send His Son to live on the earth. There would be no Christmas if God was not motivated to chose the virgin Mary to carry His Son, Jesus Christ.
There would be no Christmas if Mary did not believe the message from the Angel Gabriel. There would be no Christmas if God did not motivate Joseph to take Mary as his wife even though he found out that she was pregnant before they were married. There would be no Christmas if Caesar Augustus was not motivated to declare that “a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire” (Luke 2:1 NLT). There would be no Christmas if Joseph was not motivated to travel to Bethlehem.
There would be no Christmas if Joseph and Mary were not motivated to use a stable as the place for Mary to give birth to Jesus. There would be no Christmas if the Angels were not motivated to announce the birth of Jesus to the Shepherds by singing:
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”Luke 2:14 NLT
There would be no Christmas if the Shepherds were not motivated to leave the field and go see Jesus. There would be no Christmas if the wise men were not motivated to follow the star to the place where Jesus was.
Let us think about it for a moment. The songs (Hark the Herald Angels Sing and others), the wise men and the star and the nativity scene. All of these things make Christmas special. All of these things motivate us during the Christmas season to celebrate Christ and to spread love and cheer. None of those things would be present without the Christmas story and there would be no Christmas story without the One Who put the story together.
What is your motivation? God was motivated by His great love for us to put the Christmas story together and God wants us to be motivated by that story to live an overcoming life of faith, hope and love.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!
In the beginning God said:
Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation–every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened.Genesis 1:11 New Living Translation
God designed plants and trees to produce seeds which would produce other plants and trees. As human beings we expect an apple seed which is planted in the ground to grow into an apple tree. We expect the same result with other seeds. God also expects the same result because that is the way He designed it.
God designed human beings to produce human beings which would produce other human beings. As human beings we expect children to grow into adults. God also expects the same result because that is the way He designed it.
God also designed human beings to produce spiritual fruit which would cause them to grow spiritually. God designed human beings to receive the Word of God in their hearts to produce spiritual fruit. God designed human beings to receive the Word of God in their hearts to produce faith. Faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Word of Salvation) produces salvation.
God expects the gospel of Jesus Christ to produce persons who believe in Christ. God expects the gospel of Jesus Christ to produce persons who grow into the image of Christ. God expects that result because that is the way He designed it. The Apostle Paul told the Church at Rome:
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.Romans 8:29 New Living Translation
Are you a Christian? Then your spiritual growth was designed by God. Your spiritual growth was designed by God from the beginning of the world. A stove is designed to produce a flame or heat which can cook food. A fridge is designed to keep things cold. God expects you to grow spiritually. God expects you to grow and grow until you become like Christ. This is the expected end that God has designed for all Christians.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.Jeremiah 29:11 King James Version
It is said that a drowning man will clutch at a straw. I like the Collins Dictionary definition of this idiom:
Sometimes we find ourselves drowning in the sea of life and immediately we clutch at the first thing we see even though it is the proverbial straw. A straw is not stable. A straw is light and can be blown away easily. There are some people who are drowning in loneliness and they hold onto the first person that comes their way. They place their trust in the first person that shows any interest in their life. As time goes by that lonely person recognizes that they were actually holding a straw.
They are some who are drowning in debt and they hold onto the first sign of hope that comes their way of paying off that debt. Maybe it was a ‘get rich quick’ scheme or some new investment deal with a high payout. In the end they find themselves in the same place or in an even worse position because they placed their hope in something which could not give them deliverance.
I know what it feels like to be drowning in debt but I also know what it feels like to be delivered from debt. In those moments when the issues of life are strangling us and burying us we need to know where our hope lies. We need to know where our deliverance will come from. The Bible records that Peter found himself sinking in the water in the midst of a storm. Even though he was faithfully walking towards Jesus he allowed the circumstances around him to disrupt his faith and he began to sink. Even though he did not have the faith to continue walking on the water; even though he was sinking in the water, he did not clutch at a straw. In that moment of despair Peter knew where his hope lied:
But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. (Matthew 14:30 NLT)
Peter shouted three words “Save me, Lord”. Peter knew his hope did not lie in the boat with the other disciples. He knew his hope was in Jesus. Jesus is our hope. He is not only our hope of eternal life. He is our hope of salvation in this life. Jesus is our hope in the darkness. He is our hope in the storm. He is our hope when we are depressed. He is our hope when we are stressed. When there is nothing in our life that we can hold onto and receive salvation, Jesus is always standing there waiting for us to call on Him for help.
The Bible also records that as soon as Peter shouted for Jesus to save him, Jesus “immediately reached out and grabbed him…” (Matthew 14:31 NLT). Jesus did not hesitate. Jesus saved Peter as soon as the words left Peter’s mouth.
We have a Saviour that is “always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1 NLT).
We have a Saviour that has promised: “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NLT)
We have a Saviour who said “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)
OUR HOPE LIES IN JESUS CHRIST!
It is impossible to know God without trusting Him. Sounds strange? It is impossible to know God as your Healer without trusting Him to heal your body. It is impossible to know God as your Financial Provider without trusting Him to provide you with finances. It is impossible to know God as a Deliverer without trusting Him to deliver you or your household. A very close look into the lives those men and women in the Bible who overcame obstacles, trouble and afflictions would reveal one thing:
THEY ALL TRUSTED GOD
Lets look into the life of Abram (later called Abraham). Abram lived with his family in Haran. The name ‘Abram’ meant “exalted father” but Abram had no children because his wife was barren. He had no land to call his own. He was not famous and he was not rich according to the standards of the world at the time. One day Abram heard the voice of God. God told him to leave his country, his family and his father’s house and go to another land. God said what He would do for Abram if he obeyed:
And I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.
I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you. (Gen.12:2-3 NLT)
Abram heard the voice of God but he did not know God until he decided to trust the Word of God. Abram obeyed God and left his family, his father’s house and started to travel towards the land that God would show him. Abram was on his own in a dangerous world but he trusted God with his life, family and possessions. Towards the end of his “sojourn” God had “blessed him in every way”. (Gen.24:1 NLT)
- A man who left his family without children was blessed with many children and became the “father of many nations” (Gen.17:4-5).
- A man who left his family with few possessions was blessed with an abundance of gold, silver and cattle (Gen.13:1).
- A man whose name was unknown to the world when he left his family was blessed to the point where his name was known by the Kings of Egypt, Babylon, Gerar and all of the wealthy men of the region. (Gen. 12, 14, 20, 23)
- A man who came from a heathen family inherited the Kingdom of God. (Matt.8:11)
Abraham knew God because he trusted God in everything. Anyone can live an overcoming life but they must learn to trust God in everything. David was a young shepherd but he overcame a lion and a bear because he trusted God with his life and his father’s sheep. When the giant, Goliath, showed up dressed in armor from head to toe with a spear, sword and a shield David knew that God would deliver the giant into his hands because he knew the God of Deliverance.
I join the writer of Hebrews:
How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. (Heb.11:32-35 NLT)
Knowing God is our armor against the troubles of life. All of those men and women overcame obstacles, troubles and afflictions because they knew God and they knew God because they decided to trust God in the face of their obstacles, troubles and afflictions. We can decide to do the same because with God:
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IF A PERSON BELIEVES (Mark 9:23 NLT)
Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!” (Luke 8:25 NLT)
In the midst of the storm we saw Jesus responding in a manner that was totally opposite to the manner in which His disciples responded. In fact, one could say that Jesus’ response was unbelievable or impossible by human standards. How could God expect human beings to be at peace in the presence of strong winds and raging seas when we know the destruction that they can cause? Yet that is exactly what God expects of His children. Jesus expected His disciples to respond to the storm in the same way He responded. Jesus even seemed surprised that His disciples were so fearful. Was Jesus unreasonable? The answer is no.
Jesus was not the only man Who responded with faith in the midst of fear. The Bible records that one day the Army of Israel faced the Army of the Philistines. However, on this particular day, a nine foot, 9 inches man came out of the camp of the Philistines and challenged Israel to a duel. This man was not only a giant but he was a champion. This giant had plenty of experience with fighting and winning battles. This was Israel’s response to that challenge:
When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken. (1 Samuel 17:11 NLT)
The camp of the Israelites was filled with fear. Then a boy entered the camp. This was boy heard the words of the giant. This boy saw the stature of the giant. This boy saw the armor and weapon of the giant but this boy responded to what he heard and saw in a manner that was totally different to the King of Israel and his army:
“Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”…“I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.
I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” (1 Samuel 17:32-37 NLT)
David was in the same camp as King Saul and his army. David saw and heard the same giant that they saw and heard but David did not respond in fear. David’s heart was in a place called faith. David was in a place where those who trust in God live.
The Apostle Paul was in a ship in the midst of a furious storm. There were about 276 men in that ship. The storm was so fierce that they had to throw things out of the ship to lighten it. The storm battered the ship and the sky was filled with darkness. The men saw and heard everything that was happening because of the storm and they gave up hope.
Paul had a totally different response:
Finally, Paul called the crew together and said…take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.” (Acts 27:22-26 NLT)
Paul was in the same ship with those men. He experienced the same things that those men experienced. Paul was no experienced sailor but he had an experience with God in the midst of the storm. This experience caused Paul’s heart to enter into the place of faith while the others remained in the place of fear.
Jesus was in the place of faith when he was on that boat in the storm. Jesus wants His disciples to live in that same place no matter what happens. Jesus wants us to live in the place of faith. Jesus wants our hearts to be rooted and grounded in the ever-abiding presence of God and the exceeding abundant ability of God. We may be human beings but through the grace of God we can enter into that confident place of faith. We can do that because:
FAITH IS WHERE THE HEART IS!