Assurance of our Faith (Hebrews 11:1)

Hebrews 11 1

The writer of Hebrews begins chapter 11, a chapter filled with heroes of the faith, by stating that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. The word translated assurance is an interesting word. In one sense, it has to do with the guarantee of ownership of something – in other words the title deed to something one possesses, much like a house or vehicle has a deed. The title deed for the things we hope for in Christ is our faith.

Faith is the essence of the Christ-follower’s walk with God. We have faith in the fact that Jesus, very God in the flesh, came to earth, lived a sinless life, died a horrible death, was raised up from the dead, and is now in heaven preparing a place for us. That’s the essence of the gospel message – the core foundation of our faith. For the Christian, there is no greater truth.

Yet, while we believe that truth, we can’t see that truth with our own eyes. Instead, we have to first rely on the character and trustworthiness of the writers of Scripture, themselves inspired with the very words of God. When we read the eye witness accounts about Jesus and his resurrection, when we read the accounts of the many miracles of God, and we see not just fairy tales, but real life, historical events that took place on earth. We recognize the miraculous workings of God and we are encouraged in our own faith because we see a glimpse of who God is and what he is capable of.

When we look back into the pages of Scripture, it is helpful for us to remember that the God we serve is the same God Moses, Abraham, and Paul served. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is the constant source of truth and love. So when we are anxious, confused, or downright distraught, we can reread the pages of Scripture to strengthen our faith.

While we cannot see God face-to-face, we have the experiential and Scriptural knowledge that he is living within each one of us who believes. If God now lives within us, though we cannot see, we can have faith, which gives us assurance in trying times. The Holy Spirit within us should give us comfort, peace, and ultimately faith; faith in Christ and faith that he will get us through everything that comes our way.

Play Offense (Isaiah 41:13)

Isaiah 41 13

Today’s verse is just a few verses past yesterday’s verse in context. The Israelites are in exile, foreign lands, under foreign powers, and they are afraid of what is to come. They wonder if God can help them and if he wants to help them. Here, God reminds them – rather, promises them – that he will help them.

Up to this point in the passage God has been content with telling them how he will protect them and keep them safe. Shortly after our verse, however, the tone shifts to offense. God is not only going to protect his people, he is also going to fight for them.

It’s incredibly encouraging to know that the God of the universe protects us and is with us at all times. Just as it is comforting for a child to know his parent is going to do whatever possible to protect him in times of distress. But in addition to protection, God is also going to fight on behalf of his people.

There is an enemy out there who is hellbent on destruction. He wants to destroy the world, and he particularly wants to destroy the faith of the followers of Christ. The enemy wants to plant seeds of doubt in your mind about who God is and what God can do for you. And when those seeds are planted, watered, and allowed to grow, loss of faith is the result.

What God is telling you today is that he will protect you from the enemy, yes, but he will also fight the enemy on your behalf. In fact, God enlists you to his army to fight the enemy with him! Paul talks about putting on the armor of God so that you can fight the battles that life throws at you. Jesus talks about the gates of hell no prevailing over you. In His Spirit you are powerful!

You have within you, by the grace and love of Jesus, the power to defeat the enemy and fight for truth. I encourage you today to claim this powerful truth and suit up! The battle is raging all around us and with God YOU have the promise of victory! Don’t just sit around waiting for the enemy to attack – read Scripture, spend time in study and prayer, and be ready to take the fight wherever God may lead.

Commands? (Psalm 112:1)

Psalm 112 1

Have you ever been commanded to do something? Sure, we all have. Whether it was to put our dishes in the dishwasher, do our homework, or have a report ready for work, we have all been commanded to do something at one point or another. In fact, most of us are commanded to be at work at a certain time of day, so we are dealing with commands on a daily basis.

The problem with commands is that we typically don’t like them. Even if they are good and decent commands, most of us simply don’t like being told what to do or when to do it. We want a sense of autonomy over our own lives and decisions and someone else’s commands don’t fit well within that framework. Just consider how people have reacted to stay-at-home orders during this pandemic!

But in our verse today, the Psalmist says that those who “delight” in obeying God’s commands will be blessed or find joy. The word delight means in the Greek basically what it means in English – to take pleasure in. So are you telling me that we should find pleasure in doing what God has commanded us to do?

The simple answer is yes!

God has laid out his commands in Scripture for us to follow. Granted, we are no longer under the Old Testament Law, but we still have commands and precepts that God has laid out for us. One of those commands is to not fear what the world or our enemies may throw our way.

God has given us the guidance we need to live our best lives following and serving him – when we actually do what he has said, blessings and joy will follow. So instead of rejecting God’s plans for us – rejecting God’s commands – let’s embrace the truths of Scripture and praise the Lord in the midst of our circumstances as we seek to trust and obey him in all areas of our lives.

Ask for Wisdom (James 1:5)

James 1 5

A verse about wisdom may seem to be out of place in a series of devotions about fear. But wisdom is the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight. True wisdom, of course, comes from God, and in our times of fear, it does us good to ask God to share his wisdom with us.

When we are in a place of uncertainty, when we are focusing on the wrong things, it is critical that we turn to the Author of true Wisdom to guide our hearts and minds back to the truths of Scripture. In Scripture, as we have studied thus far and will continue to study, we see God over and over telling us to not fear because he is with us. This knowledge comes from Scripture and from our experience with God in the past. When we find ourselves spending time, energy, and mental focus on things that are not in line with what God’s Word has said, we need to ask God to give us his wisdom to get us back on track.

When we ask for wisdom, God has promised to give it to us. What a great promise given to us when we are in need of reassurance about the truth of God’s Word!

The next verse says, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). When we ask God to give us his wisdom, we should ask with full confidence that he will answer our request. If we doubt that God could or would give us the confidence of his wisdom, then James says that we are like a wave blown and tossed by the wind. Instead of making us fearful, however, that verse is meant to give us courage and boldness when approaching God’s throne.

And if we still have doubts, then we can do as the man who was asking Jesus to heal his son did, when he cried out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). When we face doubts of any kind, we need God’s wisdom to pull us through. Relying on God’s wisdom means that we remember the knowledge he has given us in Scripture as well as the experiences we have had with God when he has been faithful to us in the past. When you forget those things, ask God to remind you and believe that he will.

Being on the Visiting Team

When you visit a NFL stadium as a football fan, like myself, it’s usually a great experience – at least when you’re the home team. As a Seahawks fan I have been able to watch them play in 2 different stadiums for away games – in Kansas City and in Dallas. Overall, the Dallas experience was great. The Kansas City experience, not as wonderful.

It was a cold day and it was a close game that the Seahawks eventually lost. Some of the fans, however, were not keen to the idea of my family and I being there in all our Seahawks gear. There were many rude comments sent our way, and it really bothered my daughter, who was about 5 at the time. She couldn’t understand why people would be so mean to us, and particularly the Seahawks players, just because we were cheering for a different team.

For her, she couldn’t separate the Chiefs’ fans’ feelings towards the Seahawks and their feelings toward her as a person. To a little girl, it was an attack on her, not on the team she cheered for.

In Mark 14:66-72, we read about Peter denying to be a follower of Jesus. I think Peter could be seen as the visiting team going into a hostile home field. Jesus and his disciples were the outcasts, the ones hated by the majority. Jesus was taken into custody, and Peter followed from a safe distance. When he arrived in Jerusalem, however, he wasn’t wearing his Jesus jersey – he tried to blend in. He went so far as to lie about who his “team” truly was.

For us, looking back, we might fault Peter for betraying his friend and not standing up for who he was and what he represented. But we might also feel sympathy for Peter, for when it comes to standing alone for something, particularly when the home crowd is against you, it can be frightening. Peter succumbs to the fear and denies Jesus three times.

He “swears” that he does not know Jesus.

And then the rooster crows the second time and he remembers Jesus’ words that he would betray him. Peter weeps, for he knows that he has chosen the easy way out. He knows that instead of proudly standing with Jesus, he has covered up his true allegiance and sold out his faith for a sense of security and acceptance.

The truth is, by lying about being a follower of Jesus, he may have saved his own life. He very well could have been hauled into the courts with Jesus and crucified with him if he had admitted his true identity.

I wonder though, if when looking back, Peter regretted not taking that stand? I believe he did.

When you look back at your life, will you regret not taking a stand for something you believe in, or will you be content with being an imposter in a sea of conformity? As a follower of Jesus we are to live our lives differently. We are to hold different values than the culture at large. Yet many of us, when push comes to shove, simply blend in and try not to ruffle any feathers.

If I had gone to Arrowhead wearing a Chiefs jersey, I could have avoided any adverse reactions. I would have been accepted into the sea of red without anyone batting an eyelash. But when my friends and family saw photos of me, they no doubt would wonder what I was doing. No doubt some of my friends would call me out on social media, claiming that I was a traitor.

And they would be right to do so! I would be claiming in one space to be a one thing and in another space be acting totally contrary. It makes no sense for us when we talk in terms of sports, but when it comes to something that really matters – our relationship with and faith in Jesus – we make excuses.

One day we will stand before God and have to give an account of our lives. I don’t want to have to explain why I was wearing the wrong jersey.

Don’t spend one more day pretending to be a fan of the world when you claim to be a follower of Jesus. It’s just not worth it.