Bible Ballistics: Vol. 12 No. 10 Real People Of Faith???
What is “real” faith? I want us to examine that question in light of scripture. Is real faith simply being giddy all the time, with no problems, being as the old proverb says, “healthy, wealthy and wise”! Or does real faith turn to God for the answers? That’s what I want us to spend our time doing today. I would like to start in a place that many turn to when they talk of faith, but with a twist that many miss.
“Now faith is the substance
of things hoped for,
of things not seen…..
5 By faith Enoch was translated
that he should not see death;
and was not found,
because God had translated him:
for before his translation he had this testimony,
that he pleased God
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him:
for he that cometh to God
must believe that he is,
and that he is a rewarder
of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:1 & 5-6
We must believe “that he is”, that HE is The Almighty God who created “all things” and that He not only created us, but has provided for our redemption because man chose to sin rather than obey and trust God. Faith is placing our confidence and future in God’s hands, based on the cross of Jesus and His substitutionary (in my place), atoning (paying a debt He didn’t owe, because I owed a debt I couldn’t pay apart from death and hell), sacrifice (giving up Himself for me, even though I was unworthy!) for MY sin. Paul describes this so aptly as he wrote to the Roman believers.
“For when we were yet without strength,
in due time
Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man
will one die:
yet peradventure for a good man
some would even dare to die.
8 But God
commendeth his love
in that, while
we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
Christ died for me/you—and HE is what/who our faith is in. Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed—and Jesus is the only place where saving faith rests.
As we see in the first part of Hebrews 11, faith is having our heart and mind set on Jesus! Yet so many take the examples that are shared in this chapter, and conclude that all who have “faith” will be prosperous. But when they make this claim, it is evident that they have missed the last part of the chapter! Faith doesn’t mean that we will have a life of ease and/or prosperity, but it does mean that whatever we face, pleasant or unpleasant, our confidence is always in our God and His faithful promises, for our God is ever faithful.
“In hope of eternal life,
that cannot lie,
promised before the world began;” Titus 1:2
God didn’t lie to those who suffered in the past, and He hasn’t lied to us when suffering comes, for He is working a great work of power, grace and spiritual maturity in us.
“The Spirit itself beareth witness
with our spirit,
that we are the children of God:
17 And if children,
if so be that we suffer with him,
that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings
of this present time
are not worthy to be compared
with the glory
which shall be revealed
19 For the earnest expectation
of the creature
waiteth for the manifestation
of the sons of God.” Romans 8:16-19
Did you see verse 18—“the sufferings of this present time”? We will experience suffering in this life, but don’t miss the wonder of the “sufferings”—“the glory which shall be revealed in us”! Our faithfulness to God as we undergo suffering and trials, will reveal His glory “IN US”—the “sufferings” of this life reveal HIS glory ‘in us’ both when we are with HIM, and for others to observe in us today! Since Jesus suffered as the perfect God-Man, Son of God, why would we think that being HIS follower and servant would be any different in the world that seems to hate God more every day; and they certainly don’t want to hear truth, even as Jesus said:
“And ye shall be hated
of all men
for my name’s sake:
but he that endureth to the end
shall be saved.
23 But when they persecute you in this city,
flee ye into another:
for verily I say unto you,
Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel,
till the Son of man be come.
24 The disciple is not above
nor the servant above
his lord.” Matthew 10:22-24
So how are we to walk? By faith which is seen in our devoted obedience to God. Let’s look at a few faithful servants of God from scripture, and see what kind of things they endured. I would like to begin our study by looking at two young men from the Old Testament, who have nothing negative recoded about their character.
Without going into the detail of Joseph’s story, I just want to hit the highlights due to time and space. Joseph was the next to the youngest son of Jacob—the first son of his beloved wife, Rachel—and Jacob favored him (not a good practice within a family, creating hard feelings just as it did with Jacob’s family) leading to his brothers to hate him.
“And when his brethren saw that their father
loved him more than all his brethren,
they hated him,
and could not speak peaceably unto him.
5 And Joseph dreamed a dream,
and he told it his brethren:
and they hated him yet the more.” Genesis 37:4-5
Not only did partiality cause problems in this family, but it also seems that Joseph had a heart for spiritual things of God, and God had granted him a special gift of dreams. Now while some beat Joseph up for telling the dreams, if he hadn’t related the dreams—that they were of God, and that they seemed to involve this family—how would these brothers have seen God’s hand at work when they came to pass? Joseph’s brothers were also jealous.
“And he dreamed yet another dream,
and told it his brethren,
Behold, I have dreamed a dream more;
and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars
made obeisance to me.
10 And he told it to his father,
and to his brethren:
and his father rebuked him,
and said unto him,
What is this dream that thou
Shall I and thy mother
and thy brethren indeed
come to bow down ourselves
to thee to the earth?
11 And his brethren envied him;
but his father observed the saying.” Genesis 37:9-11
While I don’t think that Joseph understood what these dreams meant (yet), and his father didn’t understand either, he did take note of it, while his brothers “envied him”—like many today who hear from God! When we share the message that God gives us with others, often, rather than receiving the message that God has given us to share, they resent, reject or ignore the message, or even become jealous of the one who has been called to share it—the messenger, if you would. But there’s more.
“And the man said,
They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan.
And Joseph went after his brethren,
and found them in Dothan.
18 And when they saw him afar off,
even before he came near unto them,
they conspired against him
to slay him.
19 And they said one to another,
Behold, this dreamer cometh.
20 Come now therefore,
and let us slay him,
and cast him into some pit,
and we will say,
Some evil beast hath devoured him:
and we shall see
what will become of his dreams…..
26 And Judah said unto his brethren,
What profit is it if we slay our brother,
and conceal his blood?
27 Come, and let us sell him
to the Ishmeelites,
and let not our hand be upon him;
for he is our brother and our flesh.
And his brethren were content.” Genesis 37:17-20, 26-27
Joseph was hated because of the love of his father (over which he had no control), and also for the gift of dreams, from God—which none of them understood at the time—so they hated him so much they decided to kill him. Doesn’t sound much like a life of “ease and prosperity” does it. But they relented (by chance, right? NOT—but God’s providence is ever at work here!) and chose to sell him into slavery instead of killing him, meanness with a profit! So we find Joseph in Egypt.
“And Joseph was brought down to Egypt;
and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian,
bought him of the hands
of the Ishmeelites,
which had brought him down thither.
2 And the LORD was with Joseph,
and he was a prosperous man;
and he was in the house of his master
3 And his master saw
that the LORD was with him,
and that the LORD made all that he did
to prosper in his hand.” Genesis 39:1-3
God was with Joseph—this young man of 17 years old, the favored son of his father, is now a slave in Egypt—but his new master saw that “the LORD was with him”! Joseph was a godly young man who was trusting God to care for him—but he was still a slave, a favored slave, but nonetheless, a slave. And skipping forward, Joseph was once again treated poorly and cast into prison, being falsely accused by his master’s wife. What about those dreams now? What was going on? If God was “with him”, why all this suffering? Well, to cut to the chase, God had a different plan, and Joseph saw God work on his behalf, but 13 years later—while we want “instant” insight and maturity! Joseph was raised to prominence by this very gift from God for interpreting dreams.
Yet after his promotion his heart was still set on God, and when he had the opportunity to take revenge he kept trusting to the God who was in charge, not vengeance!
“And Pharaoh said unto his servants,
Can we find such a one as this is,
a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph,
Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this,
there is none so discreet
and wise as thou art:
40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled:
only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
41 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph,
See, I have set thee over all
the land of Egypt.” Genesis 41:38-41
As ruler of Egypt, he exercised the mercy of God toward those who had mistreated him. In response to his brothers who experienced the “fulfillment” of his dreams, he extended grace, not revenge—and he credits God for it all.
“And Joseph said unto his brethren,
Come near to me, I pray you.
And they came near.
And he said,
I am Joseph your brother,
whom ye sold into Egypt.
5 Now therefore be not grieved,
nor angry with yourselves,
that ye sold me hither:
for God did send me before you
to preserve life.” Genesis 45:4-5
Joseph knew that faith was trusting to God’s plan even when he didn’t understand it all ‘yet’! What about us?
“And Joseph said unto them,
for am I in the place of God?
20 But as for you,
ye thought evil against me;
but God meant it unto good,
to bring to pass,
as it is this day,
to save much people alive.
21 Now therefore fear ye not:
I will nourish you,
and your little ones.
And he comforted them,
and spake kindly unto them.” Genesis 50:19-21
Now let’s go on to another young man who found himself in bondage to a pagan king—Daniel. I could spend months on Daniel, he was an amazing young man, but for our purposes, we’ll just peruse the highlights of some of Daniel’s encounters.
“But Daniel purposed in his heart
that he would not defile himself
with the portion of the king’s meat,
nor with the wine which he drank:
therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour
and tender love
with the prince of the eunuchs.” Daniel 1:8-9
Taken into Babylonian captivity, Daniel determined to be faithful to his God, no matter the cost! It’s also interesting that God blessed Daniel with the same gift that He gave to Joseph—dreams and interpretation of dreams. Because Daniel and his friends determined to be faithful to their God—their God honored their faithfulness.
“Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in,
then the prince of the eunuchs
brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
19 And the king communed with them;
and among them all was found
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
therefore stood they before the king.
20 And in all matters
that the king enquired of them,
he found them ten times better
than all the magicians
that were in all his realm.” Daniel 1:18-20
Daniel and his friends were faithful to God, and God blessed them so that the king found them “ten times better than all” the other ‘wise men’ in the kingdom! Yet that blessing caused them no measure of conflict with their pagan peers! Just like Joseph, they suffered for their faith—yes they were in a position of authority and even luxury of a sort, but they were still captives in a pagan land–yet they remained faithful even under fire! (Literally for his three friends.)
“Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound ….. and all kinds of musick,
ye fall down
and worship the image
which I have made;
but if ye worship not,
ye shall be cast the same hour
into the midst
of a burning fiery furnace;
and who is that God
that shall deliver you
out of my hands?
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king,
we are not careful to answer thee
in this matter.
17 If it be so,
our God whom we serve
is able to deliver us
from the burning fiery furnace,
and he will deliver us
out of thine hand,
18 But if not, be it known unto thee,
that we will not serve thy gods,
nor worship the golden image
which thou hast set up.
19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury,
and the form of his visage was changed
against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake,
that they should heat the furnace
one seven times more
than it was wont to be heated.
20 And he commanded the most mighty men
that were in his army
to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
and to cast them
into the burning fiery furnace.” Daniel 3:15-19
These three faced the fire, and while God did deliver them out of that fire, they were willing to go into the fire, trusting that whether God delivered them out of the fire, or through it—our God “will deliver us” for their good and HIS glory. Daniel and his friend left a footprint of faith before those who loved them as well as those who hated them. Even his enemies had to admit in chapter 6 that the only fault they could find with Daniel would be in regard to his relationship with his God.
“Then the presidents and princes
sought to find occasion
against Daniel concerning the kingdom;
but they could find none occasion
forasmuch as he was faithful,
neither was there any error
found in him.
5 Then said these men,
We shall not find any occasion
against this Daniel,
except we find it against him
concerning the law of his God.” Daniel 6:4-5
Daniel was a faithful man in all his ways—even in captivity, even when he was facing a den of lions. Yet because of his faithfulness, others saw God in him! Suffering and opposition in the life of the faithful is not a popular message, but it is still truth!
“16 Then the king commanded,
and they brought Daniel,
and cast him into the den of lions.
Now the king spake and said unto Daniel,
whom thou servest continually,
he will deliver thee……
19Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. 20 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel:
and the king spake and said to Daniel,
servant of the living God,
is thy God,
whom thou servest continually,
able to deliver thee from the lions?
21 Then said Daniel unto the king,
O king, live for ever.
22 My God hath sent his angel,
and hath shut the lions’ mouths,
that they have not hurt me:
forasmuch as before him innocency
was found in me;
and also before thee, O king,
have I done no hurt.” Daniel 6:16 & 19-22
Daniel was found innocent before God and man—he had been faithful for some 70 years and while he faced opposition, God vindicated him and honored his faithfulness. So what about you and I? Is our faithfulness an assurance of ease and prosperity? Or have we realized that it is the assurance of God’s purposes being accomplished in and through our suffering and trials? Amen!
If we have time, we could look at Paul, at Jeremiah, at the prophet Macaiah, at King Jehoshaphat and others, all with the same conclusion that faithful servants trust The Master in all kinds of situations, no matter the difficulty, trial or inconvenience, even when we don’t understand. God has called us to keep our eyes on Him, and that last part of Hebrews 11 is the icing on the cake!
“And what shall I more say?
for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
33 Who through faith
stopped the mouths of lions,
34 Quenched the violence of fire,
escaped the edge of the sword,
out of weakness were made strong,
waxed valiant in fight,
turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
35 Women received their dead
raised to life again:
not accepting deliverance;
that they might obtain
a better resurrection:
36 And others
had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings,
yea, moreover of bonds
37 They were stoned,
they were sawn asunder,
were slain with the sword:
they wandered about in sheepskins
38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:)
they wandered in deserts,
and in mountains,
and in dens
and caves of the earth.
39 And these all,
having obtained a good report through faith,
received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:32-40
Think on these faithful things!!! Let’s be sure we know that real faith isn’t measured by ease or $$$! Amen and Amen!!!