Shining Faith

True faith shines the brightest when we reach our lowest low.

I’m realizing something. The more I study the Bible and read about all the different people in the Bible, I see a pattern. All God’s people who were known for their great faith were not perfect people. They didn’t have perfect lives. They didn’t instantly have the faith that can move mountains. But they did have one thing; a strong resolve to follow God and obey God’s voice in every circumstance.

At my church the pastor has been preaching through the book of Hebrews and he currently is in chapter 11. The great chapter about faith. This chapter in Hebrews speaks of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David… to name a few. All these men went through many long seasons of waiting and suffering. All of these men also made some very bad choices that lead to some terrible sins. How is it then that these men are all listed in Hebrews 11 as great men of faith?

I think that we all wish somehow that we could attain such great depths of faith without doing all the hard work of trusting God through every circumstance. That would be everyone’s dream goal, right. To know God deeply without having any of the hard trials and suffering in our life. It’s a great idea but it isn’t really realistic. Because I’m beginning to see that the reason all these men are remembered for their faith is because of all the trials God took them through. They walked with God through the fires of life and never stopped choosing God even when things were hard. They came out with shining faith and even though they sometimes made mistakes, they always turned back to God.

Here’s the thing about faith. Suffering and trials make faith grow. When God’s people cling to God through the hard days and rough waters of life, they become stronger. God grows their character and makes their love and resolve for obeying God even stronger than it was before. Suffering and trials cause God’s people to draw nearer and dearer to God. Here are just a few verses from the New Testament to shed some more light on the purpose of suffering and trials;

"Count it all joy my brother when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4
"In this you rejoice, if now for a little while, if necessary, you have been tested by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:6-7

Shining faith is something that is made, not given. Granted, there may be a few cases where God gives people supernatural faith through the work of His Spirit. But more often than not, having great faith is a process. If we want to be remembered for having great faith then we should be prepared for trials and suffering. And there will be times when we make mistakes and fail, just like all the men in the Bible did. Oh what a wonderful thing it is that God promises to only remember us for ways we serve him!

So let us be encouraged that God doesn’t remember us for our mistakes. All the great people of faith in the Bible were sinful people and they sinned. They were broken people. But God remembers them by their faith, not their mistakes. God will remember us for our faith too!

To be broken is only the beginning of being used by God for great things. Trials, suffering, and seasons of waiting in our life are the building blocks of great faith. When trials come, rejoice. When suffering comes, draw near to God. Whatever path God takes you down, stay focused on God. This is how your faith is grown. If you simply allow God to lead you through the trials of life, before you know it your faith will be shining for all to see, just like the great men of faith in Hebrews 11. So let us strive each day for this shining faith that God gives to his dearest of children.

Still Hoping

Is it okay to hope while surrendering?

I was driving in the car with my mom the other day. Just talking about some things and I was sharing about some of the hopefull news I was hearing. As we were talking my mom curiously asked if it’s possible to hope if you’ve surrendered the outcome to God. She was wondering if hoping too much could be dangerous.

Well, that question made me think, and think, and think some more. I got real quiet for the rest of the drive as I went over all the thoughts that were playing out in my mind. I finally came to a conclusion. Hoping is a good thing. The Bible never says we shouldn’t hope, rather the Bible encourages us to hope and put our hope in God. But I think that we need to be careful though about where we are placing our hope. Are we placing our hope in unrealistic fantasies and desires of our heart? Or is our hope rooted in truth and centered on a true desire to see God’s glory displayed in the outcome?

God created us to be beings who hope. When we experience rough times, what is it that gets us through it; the hope we have for better times. We are always hoping for something, and that’s the way God made us to be. But if we don’t know God then we’ll only be able to put our hope in things that don’t last. Without God this life is an endless journey from one hope to the next. When we put our hope in God, we have something solid that won’t disappoint. God is what we were created to put our hope in.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

So how can it be wrong to hope? Again, it think depends a lot on the where we our putting that hope. I don’t believe it is wrong for me to hope that my relationship will be restored when that hope is rooted in desiring to see God’s glory displayed through the restoration process. But if my hope is simply rooted in my own desire to have what I want back then I should be careful. When our hope is in God’s glory being displayed in the situation, then whatever the outcome, we will be able to praise him and look forward to it. If we hope specifically for something because we want it and it ends up not being part of God’s plan, we will probably end up feeling even more hurt or upset. Hope is a good thing. But hope needs to be rooted in the only one who is good; our good God.

And then the question comes, can you surrender and still hope? I believe the answer is yes. If you truly have surrendered and have given the situation over to God, it is not wrong to desire God to use the situation to bring Him glory. If you hope for something because it will bring God glory, you can do that and still be surrendered. Because God will be faithful to take you down whichever path is going to bring Him the most glory.

So yes, it’s okay to hope. It’s okay to still be hoping for God to bring restoration and healing to our situations. It’s okay to hope for good things that will bring glory to God. But we must keep our hope fixed on God even if things don’t turn out how we want, or if the waiting takes longer, or if God doesn’t seem to answer us at all. Because we must remember that God will do what brings Him the most glory, which may not look the way we think it should look. But since our hope wasn’t in our situation, it was in God and His glory being done, we will be able to praise Him whatever happens.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame

Romans 5:3-4