September 17: Focus for Living by Faith

Read 2 Peter 1:3-11 and Revelation 6:9-11

As we approach the end of our journey through this great Hall of Faith, we are faced with a challenge of our own. Tempted to remove the faith glasses and leave them for recycling, we notice a sign that reads

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40).

We find ourselves to be included in the faith challenge with those who have gone before. All of these have lived by faith. They have died by faith. They have run to God by faith for what they would not receive. By faith, God showed them what they could not otherwise see.

Now it’s time for us to follow suit with the faith eyes He gives.

The very God who called Abraham and Rahab and Elijah and Daniel to trust Him no matter what gave us the same kinds of promises He gave to them. He did it so that we might live the way He created us to live just as they did. Real life can only be lived by faith.  Real life can only be lived by the faith that God gives for our righteousness (Ephesians 2:8). This is faith in Jesus Christ to be the true Lord of our lives.

Through Him alone we have “everything we need for life and godliness” so that we can truly live. So that we can live by faith. It’s the kind of faith that trusts God to deliver even when we don’t see how. It’s faith that believe He knows best, even when everything around us is crumbling into teeny tiny little pieces. This is faith to follow His ways even when they seem to lead straight into what looks like a whole lot of trouble.

I was with a group of college students in Kharkiv, Ukraine when I met a church whose people saw with faith eyes. We had ministered to them during a Sunday evening service, and it was their turn to encourage us. I don’t remember the exact Scripture they read, but I know it was completely unexpected. The normal encouraging Scriptures that we Americans often share with each other usually focus on God’s goodness and His grace, but the verses they shared with our groups that evening spoke of persecution and suffering. Confused as we were, we all thanked them with smiles and said our goodbyes.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized the poignancy of what had happened. Those people who had known hardship most of their lives, found encouragement in the truth that they were in the midst of God’s plan. They were focused on eternity and the promises He gave, so they lived accordingly.

Are you living like that? Can you see God’s truth no matter what? Maybe it’s time to reset your focus on the One whose perfect plan never fails.


September 16: When We’re Exhausted

Read I Kings 19:1-18 

“They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground” (Hebrews 11:37-38).

Elijah knew a lot about caves. He spent much of his career in them. In fact, at one point God led him to a ravine to drink from a brook and get his food from ravens. Yes, nasty filthy birds to bring him food. That was God’s provision for him. Then he stayed there until the brook dried up.  (See I Kings 17.)

Elijah was, quite frankly, spent. Begging God to let him die, he had had enough. So he gave it up to God, exhausted. Then he fell asleep.

What a sweet picture we have of God’s personal understanding and provision when He sends an angel to wake Elijah up and there right next to him is freshly baked bread and a jar of water.

Elijah was exhausted, so he ate and slept again only to be awakened a second time with even sweeter understanding.

“Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you” (v 7).

And Elijah found strength. He found strength to keep going. He found strength to run from Jezebel, the wicked woman who made his life a literal living hell, were it not for God Almighty. Elijah found strength, and he ran to the Mountain of God.

It was the same mountain upon which God imparted the Ten Commandments to Moses.  The same place where God had passed by and hid Moses His servant in the cleft of a rock.  It was called the Mountain of God (Exodus 33).

Elijah was burned out and exhausted, with nothing left to give. He was destitute and penniless, so he ran to the Mountain of God. His faith showed him that God still saw. Still provided. Still wanted him. Even now.

And when he got to that mountain, God met him there. Not angry that he’d run or upset with him for wanting to give it all up, all-powerful God met destitute Elijah right where he stood. On His mountain. Then Elijah, by faith, went on.

Where do you run when you’re spent and exhausted? It’s hard sometimes to faithfully pursue a relationship with Almighty God when we’re worn out. God knows, though. He knows exactly where we are and what we feel. He sees our exhaustion, and He wants to renew us. But first we must run. We must run straight to Him.


September 15: Even Then

Read 2 Chronicles 24:16-27

I wonder if Zechariah got nervous as he went to stand before God’s people and deliver His message. Perhaps he held out hope that Joash might turn back to the ways of God. I wonder if the thought of being killed that day ever even crossed his mind. For it was the Spirit of God Himself that had given him the message to tell and sent him to tell it.

“Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands?  You will not prosper.  Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you” (v20).

He knew the promises of God. He had seen the kind of living He allows when His commands are lived out in full obedience. He knew the faithful covenant God who keeps His promises no matter what. He knew the one who even keeps the promise of His burning anger if Israel were to violate their part of the covenant. That’s the reminder he had for his people from God Himself.

We might never know the kind of courage it took for Zechariah to stand and rebuke his people. Afterall, his father had grown up with King Joash. They were cousins. Zechariah’s grandma had rescued Joash as an infant from Queen Athaliah’s tyrade when she killed the entire royal family and took over the throne. So their families were tight. Or at least they used to be. Surely their family history couldn’t hurt. Perhaps God would use Zechariah as He had used his grandfather — to restore Judah to right relationship with Himself.

But God had different plans. When His Spirit came upon Zechariah and used him to deliver His message, Joash did not like it.  He didt like it one little bit. In fact, the family history flew right out the door of King Joash’s memory and thoughts of murder took their place.

So there Zechariah lay, Spirit-filled and dying. Yet hope came to mind and out it poured.

“May the Lord see this and call you to account” (v22).

He knew where true justice came from. True justice came from the hands of God alone. It still does. Even as he lay dying, Zechariah trusted God’s promise.

I don’t know what it’s like to be persecuted for my faith in Jesus Christ. Maybe you don’t either. But most of us likely know the experience of facing hardship when we expected resolution and peace. Therein lies the question that Zechariah’s life (and death) answered without words: will we trust the I AM God anyway? Will we trust His promise with such certainty that even in our dying breath we might look to His promise and know He is true?


September 14: Quenching the Fury

Read Daniel 3:1-30

What they did not see were the details.

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand . . .” (Daniel 3:16-17).

But faith eyes made Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego sure of what they hoped for. That was the faith that showed them just enough to conquer flames and quench fury.

We find fury throughout this story of three men and their unwavering faith. Their refusal to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s huge trophy made him furious (v13). Later, their immovable stance filled the king with such fury that his entire countenance changed (v19). Then there is the fire. The flames were so furious they killed any and all who even came close. Any and all, that is, but our three heroes of faith.

The fury failed to touch any part of the trio, though. We learn from Hebrews 11:33 that their faith is what quenched it. “(W)ho through faith . . . quenched the fury of the flames . . .” (Hebrews 11:33).

Dropped into a raging fire because of a tyrant’s raging jealousy, these three knew that they knew that God would take care of them. They knew He would come to their rescue, whether on this side of eternity or the other. So they stood strong and did not forsake the God they served.

“But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (v18).

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew that their God would not forsake them. And by faith they chose to see that truth. They chose to see the truth and live accordingly.

I wonder if they got nervous when King Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace seven times hotter. I wonder if their stomachs turned a little bit as they were tied up. Did they wonder why God had not rescued them from the heat? Did they scream as they fell into the furnace?

I don’t know.

I know this, though: God did rescue them. He just didn’t rescue them from the flames.In fact, he let them fall straight in. He let them fall into the furious flames fully clothed. Then He rescued them from the fury which He used their faith to quench.

Faith does that. It extinguishes fires of all kinds. Sure, it might enrage the fury of some, but faith that chooses to see like God sees quenches the fury inside that terrifies us and make us want to run the other way. If only we would live with certainty of what we do not see, we would live fury-free, untouched by the rage of what the eyes on our faces see.


September 13: Faithfully by Faith

Read Daniel 6:1-28

When Daniel’s jealous enemies got the king to make an edict against worshiping the one true God, they were not trying to turn Daniel into a pagan. In fact, their intention was quite the opposite. They wanted to fault him for his faithfulness because they knew that his faith was immovable. His righteousness that came by faith in Almighty God. Day after day, Daniel served his God. Faithfully by faith. And his enemies didn’t like it one little bit.

So for Daniel, it might have appeared that his faith brought him trouble when the decree was made known. Had Daniel used his own eyes to see, he might well have given it up. The kneeling to pray three times a day. The giving thanks to God Almighty whom he served. Clearly, though, he chose not to use his natural eyes to look at his circumstance.

No, Daniel seemed to have 20/20 vision when it came to using his faith eyes. And so he proceeded, faithfully by faith, to go before God and trust Him wholly. No matter what the king said. No matter what because he trusted his God.

And Daniel’s no-matter-what faithfulness was not out of compulsion. It was by faith. Faith alone. Daniel trusted the eyes of the One who sees what he did not.

In the end, the king, who by his own decree sent him to the pit of hungry lions, saw the faith in Daniel’s faithfulness. That’s why King Darius couldn’t sleep that night. He didn’t just really like Daniel, he respected him. He was learning to revere Daniel’s God. The one true God.

When it was all said and done, King Darius, who only days before had decreed that all his subjects bow only to him, proclaimed the sovereignty of God the Lord before all the people of the land. Because, by faith, Daniel was faithful.

God brought glory to Himself through Daniel’s trust. He spread His Name throughout a Gentile nation and made Himself known because of Daniel’s faithfulness by faith.

Sometimes, God works the same way with us. He uses our trust in Him, our genuine faith, to bring others to Himself. When someone opposes us at work, our boss might see our genuine unruffled faith and notice God in us. When a neighbor shuns us for sharing the truth of Jesus Christ in our neighborhood, another one might notice the faithfulness of our faith and somehow want to know more about the one true God.

Are you willing to let God God will use our faithfulness to do His bidding and attract someone to Himself? May it be so. Faithfully by faith.


September 12: Given to God

Read I Samuel 1:1-28; 3:1-21

All that Samuel did by faith begins here — at the temple of God in Shiloh.

A woman’s desparate plea for a son followed by a promise to give him to God once she gets him.

While Hannah is not mentioned in Hebrews 11, her faith played a crucial role in Samuel’s faith living. The kind that got him an exhibit here in the first place. So today we look at the faith of Samuel through the filter of his beginnings.

Given over to God before his conception, we might be tempted to think Hannah’s faith was what saved Samuel. But the Word of God is clear. It is with our own mouths that we must confess Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives — not the mouths of our parents.

Samuel could have chosen a different way. In reality, he could have run away from the temple and refused Eli as his guardian. Later on, when God called him into His service, Samuel could have chosen to turn a deaf ear. But he didn’t.

When Hannah took Samuel to his new home at the temple of the Lord at Shiloh, she brought along a fellowship offering. She faithfully gave both the offering of a bull and the fulfillment of her vow to the Lord. In faith, she gave so that in faith he would live.

Hannah did everything in her power to ensure that her son would walk in faith for all of his life. Afterall, she vowed that, “For his whole life he (would) be given over to the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:28).

Still, the fact remains that Samuel would one day have to make the choice for himself. With her faith-filled prayer, her radical hope-filled promise, Hannah prepared the way for her son’s faith. But when God called Samuel into His service, she was nowhere near his side. Neither was Eli, his guardian. It was just God calling Samuel straight up. And Samuel had a choice to make. By faith.

While Hannah’s faith did not ensure her son’s, it certainly impacted him greatly. He could have become bitter. He could have turned his back on the God who had accepted his abandonment as a gift. I have to believe, though, that Hannah’s praise-filled, faith-filled sacrifice opened the way for the faith-filled life that Samuel led. Its forces ,e to ask some questions.

Questions like: Am I doing all that I can to prepare the way for my children to live faith-filled lives? Have I given them over to God and truly trusted Him with not just my kids, but with what I hold most dear?

Maybe you have the same questions for yourself. Why not take a few minutes and think them through. Then ask God to strengthen your faith so you might help strengthen your children.


September 11: A Heart That Sees by Faith

Read I Samuel 16:1-13

When we started our walk through this great Hall of Faith, we discovered a challenge to see differently. To “be sure of what we hope for . . . certain of what we do not see.” Since the first time I read that in Hebrews 11:1, I have intuitively italicized do not so that as I read it I heard “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Our walk through this Hall of Faith is teaching me to shift the italics a bit, however. I’ve just recently started to move them just one word to the left. So now, in my head, it reads “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Subtle, sure. But it reminds me that, although I might not see it, someone does. SomeOne.  The One who knows what we don’t. He sees it all. So walking through this great hall of Hebrews 11, we learn to see as God sees. We learn to live accordingly. I call it seeing through faith eyes.

Today, as we approach the David exhibit, we gain some insight into this seeing — God’s eyes that see what we do not. Here, God Himself tells us exactly what He considers when He looks at a man. So that we might regard the same — with His eyes. Faith eyes that trust what He sees, rather than what we see.

In all truth, David could probably have his own wing in this great Hall of Faith. For we know from Scripture that God considered him to be a “man after (His) own heart” (Acts 13:22). By faith, David did many, many things.

Our reading today, though, shows us more of the eyes that God wants us to use than it does of this great man of faith.

We find David in a field with a bunch of stinky sheep, the rest of his family attending what would turn out to be his own coronation banquet with Samuel, the priest of Israel. And as David tends his father’s sheep, God paints a word picture of what He looks for in a man.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

When God looks at you and me, what does He see? Furthermore, what eyes are we looking through when we see others? When we see life? The ones on our faces or the faith eyes that only come from trusting Him as the Lord of our lives?


September 10: Jephthah

Read Judges 10:6-12:7

Known as a mighty warrior, Jephthah’s leadership skills attracted others.

When his half-brothers banished him because he had a different mother, Jephthah went elsewhere and became a leader in his own right. But when his brothers came into war against the Ammonites, they un-banished and begged him to lead them to victory. He finally agreed. Before the Lord.

Jephthah agreed before the Lord. ( See Judges 11:11) This man did not take words lightly.

By faith he used words to remind the Ammonites that it was Almighty God who had given His people this land (Judges 11:24). But the messages and words made no difference to the Ammonites. So the two sides went to war.

“Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah. He . . .  advanced against the Ammonites” (Judges 11:29).

He didn’t just go, however. He also made a vow. Jephthah waited on God’s Spirit to move him into war, but then went ahead of God’s Spirit and spoke words on his own.

“If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return . . . will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31).

I can’t imagine what on earth made Jephthah make such a promise. Clearly he hadn’t thought it through. What did he imagine coming out to meet him? A cow? His dog? We will probably never know.

When Jephthah got home after the Lord gave him the victory, we can imagine his horror when his daughter, his only child, came out to meet him, dancing around celebrating the success. But the horror he felt did not take precedence over the power of his word that he had given to the Lord. The vow he took.

The Lord had given him the victory. Jephthah had given the Lord his word.

And the victory Jephthah saw was overshadowed by grief and unimaginable regret.

If we look through eyes of faith, however, we see Jephthah’s heart for God. His first thought was not, “how can I get out of this vow?” but rather “I cannot break my vow to the Lord!”  I’d be willing to bet the thought after that might have been, “What was I thinking?!?”

It’s a difficult story to handle whether we wear faith glasses or not. It speaks of rash vows, regret and sorrow. But it also tells of the power of our words and the importance of a vow.  From here, the view of Jephthah’s faith is blurred by his reckless vow.

Then again, faith is being certain of what we cannot see.


September 9: The Source of Your Strength

Read Judges 13:24-16:31

 “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell
about…Samson… whose weakness was turned to strength [through faith] . . .” (Heb. 11:32-34).

Where does your strength come from? I don’t just mean physical strength . . . though we dare not ignore that aspect. What about your sense of confidence in life? What about that “sweet spot” where you feel most gifted, skilled, and capable?

Samson was convinced that his power flowed from his long hair . . . the result of a Nazirite vow he had taken.

You may have the feeling that yours is a result of your physical fitness, your education, your technical training, your natural ability, your years of experience, your winsome personality, your good looks, or your commitment to hard work and long hours. If someone would take any or all of those away, you might think you’d be stripped of your strength.

But, did Samson’s strength really stem from hair length? Oh, it’s true that as soon as his long braids were cut, he could no longer overcome his opponents. And yet, there was another force at work here. As he tore apart the lion with his bare hands, when he struck down thirty men, at the time when he killed a thousand men with a donkey’s jawbone, the Scripture tells us in each instance, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power” (14:6, 19; 15:14). You see, God was the source of Samson’s strength and success. And your Heavenly Father is also the spring from which your strength, success, gifting, and skill

Now, here is the tragedy . . . after Samson’s hair had been cut — when his strength was gone — we read, “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” Had Samson been living  so independently apart from God that he couldn’t even notice when God left?  Had he been so operating in his own strength that he couldn’t tell that God’s power had departed from him? Had this man of God become something of a practical atheist?

Chew on those thoughts as they apply to you today and seek to consciously invite and live out this truth: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Eph. 6:10).


September 8: What Faith Did

Read Judges 4:1-5:31

As we approach the next exhibit in this great Hall of Faith, we might notice a special sign that reads “To ensure your fullest enjoyment, please put on your special faith glasses.” We might grab a pair of the funky lenses, like the ones we wear for a 3-D movie (only these don’t cost extra money) and we find an example of faith as God sees it.

Without the glasses, I read the story of Barak and Deborah and tend to focus on the failure. I see what he did not do. I wonder why God, in His perfect wisdom, chose to include Barak in the Hall of Faith rather than Jael or Deborah. Weren’t they the real faith heroes? And yet, the fact remains that Barak is the one we find here, right smack in the middle of this great Hall of Faith.

With the glasses in place, though, I can focus on what Barak did by faith instead of what he did not. Perhaps I should wear these glasses more often. So I don’t get so caught up in what I fail to do and instead see faith as God does. According to Hebrews 11, that’s exactly what God saw in Barak. His faith. And it must be the same today for me. For you.

Our faith hero today could have flat out refused to go. We know he wavered insecurely until Deborah agreed to go with him to summon the troops. But, let’s be real and admit that after hearing a woman would gain the honor rather than him, he could easily have grown bitter and declined the command altogether. He could have backpedaled his way out and not gone at all.

Barak chose, though, to do what God commanded. Not the best way to get it done, yet still he went. Barak acted in faith when he led the men of Zebulun and Naphtali to Mt. Tabor.  And when he advanced, “the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword” (v15).

The faith that moved Barak to obey is the reason we find him here in verse 32 of Hebrews 11.

That truth remains for us today. God sees faith in action. Period. Not failure or shame for what we didn’t do. Because Barak acted in faith, he made it here into this hall. That’s what God saw in Barak.

That’s what God sees in you and me, too. So go ahead and step in faith. Go ahead and do what He’s asked. Act in faith. Forget the failure. Forget the shame. Move ahead and trust that God sees your faith today, not your failure of yesterday.