EVIDENCE OF FAITH

We need rain!  In East Tennessee we currently have multiple fires burning sending smoke into the air in a spreading blanket of contamination across the area.  While we have needed rain for several months, it was only of passing general interest.

I drafted this post before the air quality alerts went into effect and the need for significant rain became obvious on a daily basis.  The initial focus of the post is rain,  but its application relates to faith in all areas of our life.  May it be a blessing and a challenge to you, my dear Reader.

 

A friend sent me a modern parable that goes something like this:

It was especially dry, and the village needed water but no rain was in the offing.  In response to the situation, all the villagers decided to pray for rain.  On the day of prayer, all the people gathered and prayed, but only one boy came with an umbrella.  That’s FAITH.

This parable reminds me of an Old Testament story illustrating faith.  There had been no rain in the land as a judgment by God on the people and evil King Ahab, and this act of judgment was to be relieved only by Elijah’s word.  I Kings 17.  After winning the challenge between Baal and God on Mount Carmel, the people repented of their sin in going after other gods, and they said that the Lord would be their Lord.

Thus, the prophet prayed for relief from God’s judgment.  After petitioning God for rain, the following discourse occurred between Elijah and his servant.

And he [Elijah] said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he [the servant] went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he [Elijah] said, “Go again,” seven times.  And at the seventh time he [the servant] said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he [Elijah] said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.'”

1 Kings 18:43-44. 

rain-in-mississippi
A massive rain storm in Mississippi. Rain is visibly falling in several places as we were heading toward the storm.

Elijah sent his servant to look for the rain cloud … 7 times.  And, that 7th time the servant saw “a little cloud like a man’s hand”.  Although no rain had yet fallen, Elijah told the servant to go tell the king to get ready to run now, otherwise you will be stuck in the mud because of the rain.  That’s FAITH.

What is scriptural faith?  In the Bible, the writer of Hebrews describes faith as follows:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. … And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:1, 6.

It is not faith in everything that comes along, nor is it a blind faith that has no foundation. Your faith is misplaced if you sit in a small plastic chair for it will collapse under the weight of a 250 pound person.  Clearly, the amount of your faith is not in question — you acted on your faith by physically sitting down.  The problem was that the object of your faith was seriously deficient. 

Faith in God, the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, the Lover of our souls, and the foundation of our salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord is the faith that provides peace, support, and salvation.  Faith alone in God, through Christ Jesus, is the path to eternal life.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

John 14:6.

Paul testified:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17.   Note, the King James Version of verse 17 uses the more familiar language “The just shall live by faith.”   The meaning of the two translations is the same – God justifies and declares us righteous through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:1-2.

Jesus repeatedly told persons during His ministry that the faith of those He healed had made them well.  For example:

Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

Matthew 9:22

Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.”

Matthew 9:29

And He said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:19

These people had faith that Jesus could heal them, an event that had not occurred but was to be in the future.  Because of their faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, they were healed so that God would be glorified.  It was at that point that their faith became a reality.

So, when you pray, do you have faith that you will receive an answer to your prayer?  The answer may not come immediately, and it may not come in a form that you expect; but there will be an answer.  David understood that God would answer his prayer according to God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

But as for me, my prayer is to You, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of Your steadfast love answer me in Your saving faithfulness.

Psalm 69:13

Praise God that He is faithful, that He abounds in steadfast love.  He is in control, He is the Almighty God, and He will respond to the prayer of faith in His time and in His way.

By the way, do you know where your umbrella is?

Father, I pray that I would have more faith so that I would be the one who brings the umbrella when prayers are raised up for rain.  I pray that my prayers would not just take up my time but that they would come before you in your majesty and power.  And, I pray that I would not be faint when the answer seems to be so long in coming; may I trust in your unfailing love and mercy and may I rest in your grace, through Christ my Savior I pray.

PRAISE THE LORD!

 

Have you ever just wanted to haul off and shout or sing – as loud as you can – because you were so happy about something?

Baby newborn in hospital bassinet (C)
Newborn baby ready to come home from hospital

A grandchild prompts thanksgiving and praise to our great God for the blessing of children.

Have you ever just jumped for joy – for me, physical jumping is definitely out of the question, but inside I can jump really high!

 

hummingbird hovering (C)
Ruby Throated Hummingbird hovering before getting a drink.

The Ruby Throated Hummingbird has no problem soaring, hovering, flying or reflecting God’s glorious beauty.

 

Azalea in full bloom (C)
Azalea bush in full bloom.

There is infinite beauty in the profusion and detail of azalea blooms.

 

Has praise for your Lord ever just erupted and spilled over into your countenance and conversation after seeing God’s majesty in His creation?

Yosemite mountain view vertical 100_3480
Yosemite National Park scenic view.

Yosemite National Park showing God’s majesty and power in His creation.

 

Mt. McKinley from train to Denali National Park
Mt. Denali from train on the way to Denali National Park.

Mt. Denali [formerly Mt. McKinley] in Denali National Park, Alaska evidencing God’s glory in creation.

 

If not, why not?

 

Praise for the Lord is scriptural and is a natural outpouring of thankfulness for the working of God in our lives.

In Exodus 14 we read of the escape of the Israelites from the hand of the Egyptians as they crossed the Red Sea on dry land.   In Exodus 15, we read the song of Moses as he and the people of Israel praised the Lord for their deliverance.

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. … Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” – Exodus 15:1-2, 11

 

In 2 Samuel 22, King David sings a song of thanks to the Lord for delivery from his enemies and from the hand of Saul.

And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. … For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. ”  2 Samuel 22:1-3, 50

 

When David brought the ark to Jerusalem, he appointed the singers to praise the Lord.

“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!”  1 Chronicles 16:6-11

 

The prophet Isaiah says:

“O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”  Isaiah 25:1

 

The writer of Proverbs says:

An evil man is ensnared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices.  Proverbs 29:6

 

Praise and singing is not just for Old Testament folks.  In the New Testament, we remember Paul and Silas being in prison for preaching about Jesus. In Acts 16:25 we read:

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

 

Imagine, singing hymns to God after being beaten and thrown into prison. Not only were they praying and singing, they were singing so loud that the other prisoners could listen to them. They were not gloomy guys bemoaning the wrongfulness of their imprisonment. They were not complaining to God, arguing that this unjust imprisonment should not have come when they were obeying the command to carry the gospel to others.  No — they were rejoicing – praying and singing to the very God who allowed them to be imprisoned.

 

And, the story continues.  The conclusion of this story is that the jailer became free from his sins.  The keeper of the prison asked what he should do to be saved and Paul and Silas told him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul and Silas were released from jail and the jailer attended to the wounds of the former prisoners/now brothers in Christ.

 

How could Paul and Silas rejoice in those circumstances?   Can we praise God when things are dark and circumstances are far from happy?

 

I suggest that we can praise God in any and all circumstances.   Paul and Silas had a correct understanding of who they were in contrast to who God is. We, as sinners, cannot come into God’s presence. A holy God cannot even look on sin. Our very best is as filthy rags before God. We have absolutely nothing that we can offer to Him to seek His acceptance.

 

But, we have been redeemed by Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection. And this redemption is all about His grace and mercy, not one iota about how good we are.  We have experienced the love of God in a way that the heavenly beings cannot imagine. Jesus, the spotless Son of God, paid the price for my sin – for all of it – and has claimed me as His, bringing me into the family of God:  granting me access to God through Jesus righteousness, not my own.

 

Beloved, this is good news and it transcends any negative circumstance that we encounter in this world.  We should fall at the feet of our Lord and thank Him nonstop for His grace and mercy, for His forgiveness and cleansing, for His love and atoning sacrifice on our behalf, for our adoption into the family of God.

 

Praise and thanksgiving are inexorably connected.   Thanksgiving flows directly into praise and there can be no heartfelt praise of the Lord if we are not thankful to Him.

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

 

By the way, no audition is necessary before you can sing in praise to our God! The quality of your voice is completely irrelevant, but the condition of your heart is paramount!

So,

  • Have you lifted up your voice in a song of praise to your Savior?
  • Have you expressed your thanks to the Lord for the gift of today?
  • Have you praised Him for His loving kindness and longsuffering toward you?
  • Have you praised Him for His compassion and forgiveness?
  • Have you praised Him for His mercy and His grace?
  • Have you expressed your love to Him by obedience to His commands?
  • Have you worshiped the Lord today?

 

If not, why not?

 

The Centurymen is a group of over 100 musicians who serve in the music ministry of various churches and who praise the Lord in song. As you think of praise and thanksgiving, listen to the Centurymen sing Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee. I pray you will be blessed by it and that praise to the Lord would come to your lips and heart.

 

Father, thank you for your Spirit that enables me to give you praise, honor and worship. Thank you for your Son who provided the atoning sacrifice for me so that I can be cleansed of my sin and can come into your presence through prayer, reading your Word and worship. Forgive me when I have taken your blessings for granted, or when I have thought that I was entitled to your blessings.  Forgive me when I have focused on outward circumstances rather than on your steadfast love and overwhelming mercy and grace.  Forgive me, Father, when I have ignored your Spirit and when I have sinned in thought and deed.  May my praise and worship be glorifying to you.