My faith rests in the one sovereign God, Creator and Keeper of the whole vast Universe. He personally cares for me and has power to accomplish His very best in my life forever. For the Lord is my Shepherd -- today and forever. "He "is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
This great assurance doesn't mean freedom from conflict. As God's ambassadors in this world, you and I live in the midst of a battlefield. Dangers, deprivation and disappointments assault God's people around the world, for the enemy to our peace wants nothing more than to defeat us and destroy our confidence in Him. Day after day, darts of discouragement, doubt, and despair bombard bombard our minds and emotions. But when we remember to lift up God's shield of faith, they don't reach their mark.For when I forget, I am bombarded with thoughts and temptations that ignore or deny Your greatness, sovereignty, wisdom, and love. Teach me to be still and remember that You are God -- each moment of the day.
Precious Lord, train me to take and carry Your faith as a shield every day.
Living by Faith
Caught in the unyielding crawl of five-oíclock freeway traffic one evening, I cried out to God for peace and patience. There was nothing else to do -- other than churn inside. Immediately the Spirit reminded me of Godís perspective:
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-3
What a tiny trial this was! I laughed as the tension faded. I remembered times when a phone call or an unexpected visitor delayed my leaving for an appointment while, at the other end, God adjusted (usually by some sort of delay) the other personís timetable. My King reigns! His program aims primarily, not to fulfill my plans for the day, but to transform me into His likeness through the exercise of faith.
The word "faith" has multiple meanings in today's world, and some have nothing to do with our wonderful, sovereign God. But Biblical faith is unique. It...
has one object: God.
implies an intimate personal relationship with Jesus, my King
prepares my heart to receive and enjoy all Godís wonderful resources.
encourages me to act
has an eternal perspective
The world tells us that "seeing is believing" or "I'll believe it when I see it." God says that "believing is seeing" and "You will see when you believe..." Many years ago, Elisha and his servant watched the mighty Syrian army approach their shelter. The servant trembled with fear, but God's faithful prophet stood firm and confident on God's promise of protection: "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16). Turning to God, the prophet prayed and the Lord revealed the horses and chariots of fire to his servant.
Fortunately, God seldom provides sight into the unseen to help us believe. If He did, we would need no faith and receive no reward. Remember Jesus' encouragement, "Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." John 20:29.
When faith assures me that God in His eternal wisdom has planned each day of my life, I walk forward with confidence and anticipation. When Jesus and His invisible kingdom become more real to me, the peace of God's presence reigns in me. Out of this faith grows a spiritual alertness.
Learning from the Faithful
Ponder these examples of active faith:
Genuine faith is born in humility and need, grows by the Word and obedience, and is tested in the crucible of suffering. It produces peace, patience, and perseverance as it looks forward to eternal union with Jesus. What a victory!
Will I step out in reckless, confident faith when He calls me away from the familiar?
The same paragraph in Hebrews II that lists the great feats of faith concludes with an equally awesome account of terrible earthly tragedies that became fantastic heavenly victories:
"Others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword." Hebrews 11:35-37
Which is the greater triumph - faith to live or faith to die? Which brings my heart closer to Jesus?
Paul's faith focused on the unseen, eternal riches of oneness with Jesus. He could rejoice in the midst of suffering, for he knew that from human weakness and pain would flow eternal triumph and glory.
Consistent faith-life demonstrates God's triumph by trusting when nothing makes sense, thanking when everything hurts, and walking when I feel like fainting. It guards against fear, hopelessness, anger - feelings that often spring from the lack of eternal vision and purpose. It builds in me the character of Jesus.
Do you believe you are being watched? Have you fixed your hope on the "joy ahead"? Do these realities motivate you to faithfully live the message of God's unconditional, reconciling love before the unseen viewers?
When my faith remains fixed on Jesus and His purpose, I receive the needed power to love as He did. Useless is the wavering belief that draws no power to follow. The faith that follows Jesus begins with accepting all that God tells me about His unconditional love and grace for me. I am a new creation, precious and beautiful in His sight, worthy to enter His presence, equipped to conquer every enemy, mighty to win the battles of the kingdom.
Next, it carries the same message of love and victory to others. For through the eyes of faith, I see each person - my husband, children, friends, salespersons, bankers - as precious, loved, worthy, and needy.
The Faith of Jesus.
Have you ever felt crushed rather than comforted by wonderful promises such as, "With God all things are possible"? (Matthew 19:26) 1 have. Aware of my own failing faith, I have cried out like the man who came to Jesus, "I do believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:2 1). Then Jesus helped me to see that it was His life in me, not my own, that brought victory. When I take the shield of faith, I appropriate the life of my King, including His mighty faith.
The shield of Faith.
How do I take up and carry the shield of faith? I choose to think, believe, and act according to truth. I choose to count on all He has promised and all that He is. I choose to rely on His unchanging Word, not my weak and unwavering human nature. If I forget to choose, I run the way of the flesh which will lead to disappointments, frustration, hopelessness, and despair. To choose faith, I must consciously choose the path that leads to peace, hope, and victory.
I can choose the way of faith by whispering a few simple words to my King: "Jesus, I am yours. Please take over." "Jesus, I need you. Reign in me." "Jesus, I love you." Actually, the words themselves are not all that important. God doesn't want mental formulas. He wants hearts that are fixed on Him -- and words that reflect our true desire to trust Him and be filled with the Spirit-given faith of our King.
This kind of faith is built on God's Word. I have already filled my mind with the truths of God's character, purpose, and love relationship with me. I have accepted His righteousness, and I am trusting Him to nudge me whenever I forget to take "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).
When I remind myself of past triumphs, Christ's life flows into me, and faith grows to match the present challenge. On days when faith burns dimly and my memory bank brings up failures rather than spiritual feats, I read my praise journal, a diary of thanks to my King for specific miracles and love-touches. Its reminds me of past delights with Jesus to fan the flame of faith and bring me back on the track of triumph.
God's school of faith includes tests which consistently reveal the track I have chosen - self or God. Self will complain, despair, and give up. But when I follow God, I remember to speak words of faith. Immediately my heart sees beyond the visible circumstances to the Heavenly King whose purpose for this moment is far higher than my human sense can perceive. Before an invisible host, I have the opportunity to glorify God through my simple response of faith. Each time I "keep the faith" throughout the test, I take a step closer to the triumphant faith-life of constant peace, surrender, and communion with my King.
More about Faith
Review the armor in Ephesians 6:13-17. Ask God for special insight into verse 16.
1. What promise do you see in verse 16?
What must you do to obtain the promise?
2. Why must you wear the preceding parts of the armor before you can hold up the shield of faith?
3. Define faith. See Hebrews 11:1 and a dictionary.
4. Describe any of your recent thoughts or actions which expressed the opposite of faith. What effect did these have on you and possibly others?
Read Matthew 14:24-33. The disciples experienced some very human reactions to their circumstance. Can you identify with them? As you answer the following questions, relate each to your own life.
5. What caused fear in the disciples? What has dismayed or frightened you recently?
6. What comforting words did Jesus speak? Hear Him say this to you.
7. Describe the expression of Peter's faith (vv. 28-29).
8. Genuine faith is expressed in positive choices. Describe a choice you made in genuine faith this week.
9. Why did Peter begin to sink? Why might you begin to sink?
10. Compare the rescue described here with the way Jesus, your Shepherd, lifts you up after a defeat.
Review the message of Galatians 2:20.
11. What comfort do you find in those words?
12. Ask God to speak to you about the life of Jesus. Then describe the faith of the Son of God - the faith which now is in you.
Read 2 Chronicles 14:11.
13. All of us are involved in some form of personal battle every day. Whether it is a painful "impossible" circumstance or simply a matter of disciplined choice-making, God offers victory. Pray with King Asa the words of 2 Chronicles 14:11 and expect God to act on your behalf.
14. Who does Asa recognize to be the participants in the battle? Who do these antagonists represent to you?
15. In the second half of his prayer, what four steps of action does King Asa take?
Of what is Asa confident?
Read 2 Chronicles 16:1-3, 7-9. After his victory, Asa became self-confident and fought a different kind of battle.
16. Where did Asa turn for strength this time?
What were the consequences of putting his faith in man rather than God?
17. What have you learned from Asa's example? Can you identify with his failure or his victory?
Read 2 Chronicles 20:12.
18. As you face the "great multitude who are coming against" you, as Jehoshaphat did, what must you recognize about yourself and choose to do?
19. Personalize I John 4:4 and 5:4. Keep these verses hidden in your heart. They are great swords in any battle.
20. In the next few days, be ready to fight and win even in the smallest conflicts of your life. A small battle is training ground for bigger battles. Describe one of these battles. How did you take up the shield of faith?
Wearing His Wardrobe
Be aware of your own thoughts. You are not responsible for every thought that comes to your mind, but you are responsible for handling each thought God's way. Satan and your flesh may seed thoughts to your mind, but you can reject the ones that contradict your Shepherd. Then, when you claim truth and act on it, you manifest faith.
Ask God to help you discern and filter your thoughts and words through His unchanging truth. To prepare your mind and heart, you may want to set your mind or meditate on some of the Scriptures on this page: Live with a heavenly perspective
Then lift up the shield of faith by writing God a love-letter telling Him who He is to you. Give Him thanks.
Next: Chapter6 - Clothed with Salvation
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