FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE

1 Cor.13:8-11 – Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten. Our present knowledge and our prophecies are but partial, but when love’s perfection arrives, the partial will fade away. When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways.

This is one of those misunderstood passages that has effected much of the church for many, many years. Paul is describing the motivation of the gifts of the Spirit as being the love of God. He says that one day all of the imperfections of this life will be swallowed up by the perfection of heaven. Love will continue because God is love and is eternal. The gifts will be no longer necessary because all of our imperfections will be put off in heaven. The gifts of the Spirit will continue as long as suffering is present on the earth. God’s love pours into us as we drink of His Spirit and flows out of us in ministry. Here are some thoughts on God’s love from the Passion Notes.

“Faith and hope both spring from love, which makes love the greatest virtue of all. Faith and hope are temporary, but love is eternal. Paul gives us ten characteristics of divine love in this chapter. Love (1) is patient under stress, (2) is kind at all times, (3) is generous, not envious, (4) is humble, not self-promoting, (5) is never rude, (6) does not manipulate by using shame, (7) is not irritable or easily offended, (8) celebrates honesty, (9) does not focus on what is flawed, and (10) is loyal to the end.”

Faith and hope both spring from God’s love. Tasting God’s love gives us an assurance (faith) that the Lord will meet us. This assurance is the hope that keeps us pressing forward in difficult times. Faith, hope, and the gifts of the Spirit will no longer be necessary when we are in God’s kingdom for eternity. These things are necessary in an imperfect world. When perfection comes we will no longer need to speak in tongues, prophesy, or pray for the sick. There will be no more tears or sickness when Jesus comes for His bride.

PRAYERS THAT ARE ANSWERED

James 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

There are two things that jump out at me in this verse. First, the Lord hears and responds to the prayer of the righteous. So that has to be answered first, am I a righteous person that the Lord responds to? This goes to the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How is a person considered righteous by God? This is the very foundation of the message of the Apostle Paul. A man is considered righteous not by his own efforts but simply by his faith in Christ. Righteousness is a gift that I receive the moment I put my trust in the Lord. That brings us to the second part, prayer is supernatural and has great power when it is released in us. Again, I have to walk by faith and actually allow the Lord to pray His effective, fervent prayers in and through me. We enter this life by faith and then we begin to walk it out by faith. Here are some thoughts from Adam Clarke on this verse.

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. The words δεησις ενεργουμενη signify energetic supplication, or such a prayer as is suggested to the soul and wrought in it by a Divine energy. When God designs to do some particular work in his Church he pours out on his followers the spirit of grace and supplication; and this he does sometimes when he is about to do some especial work for an individual. When such a power of prayer is granted, faith should be immediately called into exercise, that the blessing may be given: the spirit of prayer is the proof that the power of God is present to heal.”

I love that explanation, “the spirit of prayer is the proof that the power of God is present to heal”. Getting my eyes off of my own worthiness and on His worthiness is the key to righteousness. Getting my eyes on His sufficiency and off of my insufficiency is the key to answered prayer. The Lord is not looking for perfect vessels, He is looking for yielded vessels. Like it says in the Passion Translation, ‘for tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer’.

EL SHADDAI

Gen. 17:1 – When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.

Abraham is called the father of faith. We can see glimpses of why this is true in this passage from Genesis. First, Abraham had a revelation of God that was different from what others had previously. He was the Almighty to Abraham, El Shaddai, the all sufficient God. Abraham had learned total dependency on the Lord in all things, this is how he could leave everything and go to a strange country with no support systems. El Shaddai was his source. Here is how AdamClarke describes this.

“I am the Almighty God. El shaddai, I am God all-sufficient; to shed, to pour out. I am that God who pours out blessings, who gives them richly, abundantly, continually.”

Abraham had come to know that he could trust the Lord for absolutely everything. This brings us to the next glimpse, Abraham had learned to walk with God through whatever was thrown at him. Again, Adam Clarke shares about this.

“Walk before me, set thyself to walk — be firmly purposed, thoroughly determined to obey, before me; for my eye is ever on thee, therefore ever consider that God seeth thee. Who can imagine a stronger incitement to conscientious, persevering obedience?”

We can learn from Abraham that we are never alone. He is with us in every moment through every challenge in life. Abraham was carrying on the testimony of Enoch, they both walked with God. This leads us to the final goal, perfection. The Lord was calling Abraham to a new standard of life. Here again is Clarke on this verse.

“Be thou perfect. Be just such as the holy God would have thee to be, as the almighty God can make thee and live as the all-sufficient God shall support thee; for he alone who makes the soul holy can preserve it in holiness. Our blessed Lord appears to have had these words pointedly in view, Matt. v. 48. Ye SHALL BE perfect, as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”

The beauty of God’s call to perfection is this, total dependency allows the Lord to display His life in us. It is not us living this life, it is Christ in us. Our part is to walk with Him or yield to Him. After that, He does all the rest.

Jesus the Healer

Mk.6:53-56 – They made landfall at Gennesaret and anchored there. The moment they got out of the boat, everyone recognized that it was Jesus, the healer! So they ran throughout the region, telling the people, “Bring all the sick—even those too sick to walk and bring them on mats!” Wherever he went, in the countryside, villages, or towns, they placed the sick on mats in the streets or in public places and begged him, saying, “Just let us touch the tassel of your prayer shawl!” And all who touched him were instantly healed!

It’s far too easy to read a passage like this and just gloss over it. If you stop and really take notice some amazing things will jump out at you. First, Luke uses the phrase “those too sick to walk”. Being a medical doctor Luke’s words about healing carry a special weight about them. What kind of ailments could Luke be describing? Maybe some were crippled or paralyzed. Some may have been maimed, missing limbs. Others had diseases in their last stages. Could have been things like malaria, dysentery, or cholera that brought people to the place of total hopelessness. These sick folk had no hope until Hope Himself came to their region. The other phrase that caught my attention is that they brought them on mats. Can you imagine the scene? There were people carrying sick family or friends for miles to receive their healing touch. The sick and injured were placed on both sides of the street and would touch the tassel of His prayer shawl as many as had touched it were healed. Albert Barnes made an interesting comment speaking about the woman with the flow of blood touched Him. Check this out.

“Her faith, her strong confidence in Jesus, had been the means of her restoration. It was the power of Jesus that cured her; but that power would not have been exerted but in connexion with faith. So in the salvation of a sinner. No one is saved who does not believe; but faith is the instrument, and not the power, that saves.”

So faith becomes the vehicle that the power of God flows through. Jesus exercised faith as He ministered healing, the friends portrayed faith as they carried their sick friends to the Lord, and the sick released faith when they reached out to touch the Lord. So whether we are in need of healing or are longing to see others healed, the answer is always the same, get as close to Jesus as you can reach out and touch Him.

THE DOG WOMAN

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table. Matt.15:27

We’ve all read the story of when Christ didn’t respond to the Syrophonecian women, and when he did, it wasn’t very nice. Even the disciples were put off by her making a scene and just wanted Jesus to fix it. Make it all go away Lord please! Somehow women and hollering go together I suppose! We know there are two types of people in this world. The sick and the not so sick, as Mary’s Song says, “The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away,” Lk 1:53. And if you have ever been in the “sick group” things can get just a little desperate. I like to call it “living in the world of the miraculous” when anything can happen.

This woman had quite an ear to the latest news at her village of hope and was desperate to find it. I am not sure just how many townsfolk knew of the condition of her little daughter. Imagine day after day being hit, punched, cursed at with a dark force inside your child. She was desperate and she just heard of a way out. Christ the son of David was coming to her town.

When she meets Christ he “answers her not a word”; and she cried all the more. If you read the passage at first she is crying for her daughter then she cries “Lord help me”-the more she looked at him the more she realized this was about her. His sharp reply was yet another push away. He will not give the food that is meant for the children to the dogs. What I love about this woman is that she is undaunted. The Bible even says, she followed him into the house. You know she could feel it in the atmosphere-hope swirling, love pouring down. The moment was for here and for now. She has learned as Jacob to wrestle for the blessing. She had heard to much about him and wasn’t giving up. Did she catch the twinkle in Christ’s eye or the gentle tone? Christ was creating a web that would entangle herself and take her faith captive! He was chasing her faith down developing it to its fullness. She takes the sword out of Christ’s hands and catches him with his own words. He was calling her a “little puppy” and thats when she caught it. The outside dogs were never allowed in but the children at the table always fed the little pups. She wasn’t asking for the children’s food but knew a crumb was amply enough to take care her of situation.

“Great is your faith”, Christ said. Let’s have great faith!

THE TOUCH THAT HEALS

Lk.8:43,44 – A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

Lots of people were in the meetings that day, it even says in one account that Jesus was being thronged by the crowds. Sounds like pushing and shoving and touching but who was really touching Jesus? Suddenly Jesus was stopped in His tracks, “Who touched Me”, He exclaimed. Someone had touched Him with the touch of faith and was immediately healed. What does this story say to us today? Is it possible that many who attend church never really “touch Christ”? They sing the songs, pray their prayers, listen to the preaching, and take communion but really never touch Jesus. There was something different about the lady with the hemorrhage that day. It wasn’t that she was sick that made her different, she was ready to receive her touch. Here is how J.C. Ryle describes this scene.

“We are told in these verses that “many people followed” our Lord, “and thronged him.” But we are only told of one person who “came in the press behind,” and touched Him with faith and was healed. Many followed Jesus from curiosity, and derived no benefit from Him. One, and only one, followed under a deep sense of her need, and of our Savior’s power to relieve her, and that one received a mighty blessing. We see the same thing going on continually in the Church of Christ at the present day. Multitudes go to our places of worship, and fill our pews. Hundreds come up to the Lord’s table, and receive the bread and wine. But of all these worshipers and communicants, how few really obtain anything from Christ! Fashion, custom, ritual, habit, the love of excitement, or an itching ear, are the true motives of the vast majority. There are but few here and there who touch Christ by faith, and go home ‘in peace’.”

What brought you to church this Sunday? Did you come out of routine or duty or did you come expecting a touch from the Lord? How will your touch come? It could be from reading a scripture, His presence in a song, a word spoken from the minister, or even through the laying on of hands in the prayer line. There are many ways you can touch the hem of His garment, one touch can change your world.

WHO HAS BELIEVED?

Rom. 10:16,17, 20 – But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “LORD, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. And later Isaiah spoke boldly for God, saying,

“I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.”

Religion and faith can be a tricky business. The Jews had been the “chosen people” for so long in Paul’s day that they just took their spirituality for granted. Jesus had come on the scene and turned over the apple cart. All their pre-supposed rules and privileges suddenly meant nothing. Now, to make matters worse, the former Pharisee, the Apostle Paul, was converting thousands of gentiles to this Christian faith. This was absolutely unthinkable. Now Paul was going even a step further, it wasn’t good enough to be born as a Jew, now you also had to be born again. It seemed to much of the jewish world that the gentiles were taking their privileged place. In today’s passage Paul is talking about this very basic essence of spirituality; you have to believe the report of the gospel. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word. What word? The word of the gospel; that Christ died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and is sitting at the right hand of God as our High Priest. Only those that believe that report can be made righteous before the Lord. Here is how Luther describes this passage.

“I was found of them that sought me not. Isaiah writes this against the Jews who boasted of their merits. The Jews certainly do not like to hear that they have been rejected. When Christ told them that at the time of Elias there were many widows in Israel, but that the prophet was sent only to the pagan widow in Zarephath, they wanted to hurl Him over a precipice. For they perceived that they were rejected before the heathen and regarded as unworthy (of salvation). For them this was an unbearable thought; they were proud of the blood of the Fathers and boasted of the righteousness of the Law. But here it tells them: I have made myself known to them, (the Gentiles), because of my grace and not because of the zeal or merits of any man. Here the word applies: “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased”. All this was written and done in order that the overbearing arrogance of men (in spiritual matters) might be suppressed and the grace of God might be magnified. For “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord”.

So who has believed the report? Those whose ears have been opened by the Lord by grace through faith. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable grace.

FAITH COMES BY HEARING

ROM.10:16,17 – However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Paul has just given us the clear path to salvation in the passage above, Rom.10:9,10 – “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation”.

This is not a formula to get to heaven but rather an observation, our confession with our mouth flows from what we believe in our hearts. Obviously, man’s eyes and ears are closed to the gospel until the day of his new birth. A spiritual blindness blocks every person from the beauty and majesty of the gospel. It is only faith that can penetrate that veil and faith is not in the heart of the lost man or woman. Faith is the results of the sovereign work of grace in our hearts. What Paul is getting at in this passage is how faith comes. He says it clearly in vs.17, faith comes by hearing, an hearing by the word. The word Paul is speaking of is rhema in the Greek language. It means a spoken word. This shows the importance of proclaiming the scripture, that is what creates an atmosphere for our ears to be opened. Here is how Matthew Henry describes it.

“He shows that the word preached is the ordinary means of working faith (v. 17): So then though many that hear do not believe, yet those that believe have first heard. Faith cometh by hearing. It is the summary of what he had said before, v. 14. The beginning, progress, and strength of faith, are by hearing. The word of God is therefore called the word of faith: it begets and nourishes faith. God gives faith, but it is by the word as the instrument. Hearing (that hearing which works faith) is by the word of God. It is not hearing the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but hearing the word of God, that will befriend faith, and hearing it as the word of God.”

Henry says that the word of God begets and nourishes faith. The Lord sets apart men and women as anointed vessels to proclaim His word. In the atmosphere that anointed preaching produces faith comes alive.

THE WHAT IFS

Matt.6:26 – Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

I think too often fear of the future effects our actions. How many wanted to go into the ministry but the what ifs got them? “What if the Lord doesn’t open the doors for ministry? Maybe I should get a business degree just in case.” Then there is the impression to start a business to create wealth for a mission project or a ministry but the what if’s step in again. “What if I fail? What if I go bankrupt?” That’s probably why the Lord said “Make your calling and election sure”. Then there is the desire to start tithing and giving offerings. You guessed it, the what ifs showed up again. “What if the Lord doesn’t give back like the word says He will?” What is the answer to these “what ifs”? Soaking yourself in the promises of God is the sure answer. He says things like “even a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” and “I have been young and now I am old and I have never seen the righteous forsaken or His seed begging bread”. Here is how Charles Spurgeon explains this verse.

“Thought we may take; but anxious, carking care we must not know. Our most pressing bodily wants are not to engross our minds. Our life is more important than the food we eat, or the clothes we wear. God who gives us life will give us bread and raiment. We should much more care how we live than how we eat: the spiritual should go before the bodily, the eternal before the temporal. What we wear is of very small importance compared with what we are. Therefore let us give our chief care to that which is chief, yea, our sole thought to the one all-absorbing object of all true life, the glory of God.”

What if the Lord does come through? What if He opens the door for ministry and thousands are effected? What if He puts His hand on your business idea and millions of dollars actually go into ministry endeavors? What if you begin to tithe and you start to see unexpected income coming your way: raises, checks in the mail, inheritances, and new unexpected sources of income? You will never really know until you respond by faith; launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.

GIVING GLORY TO GOD  

Rom. 4:20,21 – He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

Have you ever seen the athlete after a victory or an actor after receiving an award smugly saying they are giving glory to God? What does giving glory to God really mean? We can learn this from the life of Abraham, he grew strong in faith giving glory to God. Our faith is connected to God’s promises. Taking Him at His word is how Abraham honored the Lord. All his circumstances; old age and barren wife said that God’s promise to have a son would never come true. Abraham decided to hold on to God’s promise no matter what things looked like. How was he able to do that? Abraham had encountered God. He knew God was real. He had left his homeland and his family because of that God encounter many years before. He had a conviction deep in his soul planted there by God that God’s word would come to pass, no matter what. Here is how Matthew Henry describes Abraham’s faith.

“He was strong in faith, giving glory to God, he was strengthened in faith, his faith got ground by exercise. Though weak faith shall not be rejected, the bruised reed not broken, the smoking flax not quenched, yet strong faith shall be commended and honored. The strength of his faith appeared in the victory it won over his fears. And hereby he gave glory to God; for, as unbelief dishonors God by making him a liar, so faith honors God by setting to its seal that he is true. Abraham’s faith gave God the glory of his wisdom, power, holiness, goodness, and especially of his faithfulness, resting upon the word that he had spoken. Among men we say, “He that trusts another, gives him credit, and honors him by taking his word;” thus Abraham gave glory to God by trusting him. We never hear our Lord Jesus commending any thing so much as great faith: therefore God gives honor to faith, great faith, because faith, great faith, gives honor to God. He was fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able to perform…”

Like the scriptures says, as time went on Abraham grew stronger. How was he doing that? He lived a life of giving glory to God. If you are facing obstacles to God’s promises in your life it’s time to get stronger. Glorify God by staying with His word. His promises are sure and will suddenly come to pass.