As I was recently reflecting on Hebrews 11 (the “faith chapter”), I enjoyed viewing it from 3 different angles:
- What Is Faith? (click here to read)
- What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (click here to read)
- What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? (this post)
And so, we continue…
What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith?
Similar to, “It’s about the journey, not the destination” stepping out in faith isn’t about the results you get.
Instead, stepping out in faith towards God is about the relationship with God, not the results.
This is very important for us to remember.
All throughout Scripture and history, we see a mixed bag of “results” when it comes to stepping out in faith.
Because it’s not about the result, it’s about nearness to God, and transforming you more into His likeness.
Warning: Difficulties Ahead
Rather than expecting an easy path ahead, it’s necessary to recognize that putting your faith in God pretty much guarantees a difficult life ahead.
- We’re told to expect difficult situations and trials that God will use to help make us more like Him (Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:28, James 1:1-13, 1 Peter 4:12–13)
- Realize that Satan (and even your own sinful self) does not want you to put your life in active obedience and faith towards God and will do anything he can to make that more difficult and undesirable. (Luke 22:31, Romans 8:7, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Corinthians 2:11, Galatians 5:16–18, Ephesians 6:11, 1 Peter 5:8, Revelation 2:10)
- If we are to ever experience miracles and God working in our lives in supernatural ways and in ways that we couldn’t have done on our own… that means we first have to be put in difficult and even heartbreaking situations that require us to rely on God and be at the end of our rope.
Mixed Results, And That’s Ok
I hope I’ve been clear that putting faith in God will not always result in an easy life.
Furthermore, God promises a good END, but does not promise specific results here on earth.
The examples at the end of this post from Hebrews 11 show an extremely mixed bag of God “coming through” in a dramatic way, while others suffered great difficulty, some even to the very end of their life.
But that is NOT the end.
The “end” is eternity.
And God promises a good final end for those who put their faith in Him.
He doesn’t promise good things on earth
But He does promise to work all things out for our ultimate good.
Not Everyone Gets A Miracle
I recently read a book on Miracles by Lee Strobel; and in the mist of telling stories and defending the reality of miracles, he dedicates a chapter to what happens if a miracle doesn’t come.
And in that section, he quotes from two other authors who I feel nail this issue.
Here’s what they said:
“Some claim that strong faith is defined by throwing our energies into begging God for a miracle that will take away our suffering and then believing without doubt that He will do it. But faith is not measured by our ability to manipulate God to get what we want; it is measured by our willingness to submit to what He wants.”Nancy Guthrie
“There’s no formula we can count on for when Jesus says yes and when He says no. That’s the catch with sovereignty: He gets to decide yes, no, if, when, and how. We can’t figure out what He’ll decide, and we can’t base our own confidence on His favor. We can, however, base our confidence on His faithfulness. Miracles are temporary, but the Word of Jesus, His teachings – they bring eternal life. Real life. Your faith in Him, your belief that He is real, even when the miracle isn’t yours, even when He doesn’t say yes to you – this is what brings eternal life.”Tricia Williford
Part of what allows our faith to truly be faith is the fact we’re willing to continue to trust, even if it doesn’t work out.
As I mentioned in my last post, [“What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith?”][https://travissinks.com/what-does-it-look-like-to-step-out-in-faith-hebrews-11-part-2/], faith is not a vending machine to get what we want. Faith is a relationship building experience with God.
Trusting God In The Results
Hebrews 12 begins with a call for us to stay strong in our own faith. The examples we’ve been reading in the other two posts, and the examples you’ll see below are real people who really experienced God and put their faith in Him to the very end. And if they were alive today, they would tell you to do the same. Active and daily faith in God is worth it.
Here’s how it reads:
“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Hebrews 12:1
Since we have so many examples of people who put their faith in Jesus
Since they would all agree and tell us it’s worth it
Let us also set everything else aside
Anything that is keeping us from following God in faith
And run with endurance
Live life fully devoted
And follow God
Wholly and completely
In faith in Him.
Examples of Faith In Hebrews 11
Below are the results of faith we see in Hebrews 11. Some are incredible and encouraging, while others are difficult to even read and we all secretly hope isn’t what God has for us as well.
But rest assured that all of these people would agree on one thing:
It is worth it.
Abel’s sacrifice was accepted (Hebrews 11:4)
If you’re familiar with Abel’s story, he was shortly after murdered because from his brother’s jealousy, and so although his faith led towards a close relationship with God, it caused a rift in other relationships and even a horrible end to his life.
Enoch was taken up to be with God (Hebrews 11:5)
Such an encouraging and beautiful result of faith!
Noah and his family was saved (Hebrews 11:7)
Yet another incredible blessing of faith. Though, consider the many friends they lost and difficulty having to start completely over from scratch after the flood.
Abraham was given the land he was promised (Hebrews 11:8-9)
Again, his faith required much sacrifice, but he was blessed for it, even to be eventually be given the title “the father of faith.”
Sarah received a child (Hebrews 11:11)
After a life of difficulty and wondering how God would provide what was promised, she and Abraham received the promise by continuing to trust and follow God.
Abraham received his son “back” (Hebrews 11:17-19)
Again, after much testing of their faith, God continued to show Himself faithful to His promise.
Moses got to see the Children of Israel saved from Egypt (Hebrews 11:23-29)
It was a long road: 40 years in Egypt and then 40 years as an outcast, shepherd and in the wilderness… Moses got to see God rescue the children of Israel; and he was given the blessing of being used by God in such a miraculous way.
Rahab got to join the Children of Israel, and [even became part of Jesus’ family tree (read more on that at this link)][https://travissinks.com/jesus-family-tree/] (Hebrews 11:31)
What an incredible honor to be part of Jesus’ family tree!
Many others… Conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, received back those who had died (Hebrews 11:32-35)
There are so many historical accounts of God rescuing and blessing those who put their faith in Him.
Many others… Were tortured, refused to accept release, suffered mocking and flogging, even chains and imprisonment, were stoned, sawn in two, and killed with the sword. They were destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. Wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:35-38)
In comparison to the many people who saw blessings on earth when they stepped out in faith, there are arguably even more who suffered much because of their faith in God.
But as Jesus said, we ought to lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matthew 6:19–20) and there is no better way to do that than to put daily and practical faith in God.
May we have the same mindset as Paul who wrote:
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
May you put aside what keeps you from putting daily and practical faith in Jesus.
And may you receive the life and nearness to God that He created you for.
As I was recently reflecting on Hebrews 11 (the “faith chapter”), I enjoyed viewing it from 3 different angles:
- What Is Faith? (click here to read)
- What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (this post)
- What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? (click here to read)
And so, we continue…
What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith?
If you remember last week’s “What Is Faith?” we summarized that faith is essentially living right now in light of what is promised but not yet.
The standard definition from the beginning of the chapter is that faith is the “Assurance of things hoped for, the conviction (or “substance”) of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
And, so the easy way to tell if something you’re doing isn’t faith is that…
It’s not faith if…
the only reason for what you’re doing
is based off what you can see and know right now.
Faith In… What?
This brings us to something important: what, or who is your faith in?
Because you can have faith in a person to fulfill a promise…
Or faith in a thing or system to fulfill it’s “vending machine” type promise (you do “X”, you get “Y”)…
Or faith that things will just work out because of karma or good vibes…
And so on…
But these “faiths” are imperfect because they either rely on things that aren’t true, or people/situations that are imperfect and will sometimes let us down.
God, on the other hand, tells us that we can have faith in Him
A perfect God Whose track record is completely perfect since the beginning of time.
Things don’t always work out the way we expect, want or hope, but He promises that He will work out all things for good according to His purposes.
What Does It Look Like To Have Faith In God?
So, you want to have live out faith in God.
The difficulty is that there’s no specific action step you can take to make that happen.
Having faith in God isn’t a specific process to follow or actions to take, otherwise we would begin to have faith in that system instead of God Himself.
You can, and should…
- Pray for wisdom and grace in your decisions…
- Do your best with what is in front of you…
- Seek godly wisdom and counsel from other Christians…
- Sometimes even fast before a big decision…
But the overall thing we have to do is simply stay connected to God.
You can’t trust in Someone Who you don’t know. And you can’t know Someone Who you don’t spend time with.
And that reminds us of God’s ultimate goal for us: a relationship with Him.
He wants you to walk through life listening to Him, seeking His will, and desiring to follow Him in the decisions you make. To put your trust, your faith, in Him.
The Will Of God
Some things are clear. The Bible says things such as: do not sin, grow in holiness, stay sexually pure, etc, but there are many decisions in life that don’t fit in these easy categories.
And God wants you to seek His will for your life,
Accept wisdom and input from others
And to ultimately move forward in whatever way you feel glorifies Him the most,
In faith that He is with you.
What Faith Looks Like In Real Life
One of the interesting things about the times people had to step out in faith in the Bible is that there are so many different ways.
Some were simply offering the usual sacrifices to God, while others were great steps of faith against all odds and logic.
The important thing is that all of these people had an ongoing relationship with God and took these steps because they felt it was what God wanted them to do next, and it didn’t contradict something God had previously said not to do.
Below are the examples found in Hebrews 11 of people taking steps of faith to follow God. There are many more throughout scripture, but it’s interesting seeing the list that the writer has collected for us to reflect on.
Abel offered a sacrifice of his things (Hebrews 11:4)
Sometimes, simply obeying what God has told us to do is a simple act of faith. Faith in that what He has said is what we ought to do, even when it seems boring, unfruitful, or a waste of time.
Enoch walked with and pleased God (Hebrews 11:5)
Such a simple story. His relationship with God was one that God enjoyed so much that He considered it faith to live such a way.
Noah constructed an ark, in spite of never having seen or experienced rain (Hebrews 11:7)
In the face of opposition and ridicule, Noah had to have great faith, for multiple years, in order to continue the work that God had told him to do.
Abraham moved far away from family and into a new land because God told him to (Hebrews 11:8)
Abraham didn’t know where he was going, but because He trusted in God, He obeyed Him and took the difficult road away from family, friends and the security of home.
Abraham offered Isaac up to God in spite of him being his only son (Hebrews 11:17-19)
After years of desiring a son, Abraham was finally given one in His old age. But then God told Him to sacrifice him, and he showed that was willing to, by obeying until God told him to stop and that He would make another way. Through it all, Abraham showed that he was willing to give up even his most precious son for God.
Isaac proclaimed prophetic blessing on his sons (Hebrews 11:20)
He trusted the words that God gave him to speak that would predict the future of the lives and descendants of his sons.
Jacob also proclaimed prophetic blessings on his sons (Hebrews 11:21)
Just like Isaac…
Joseph prophesied the exiting of Egypt (Hebrews 11:22)
Just like Isaac and Jacob…
Moses parents rejected the order to kill their son (Hebrews 11:23)
Moses parents went against the law of Egypt in order to keep the law of God and not murder. The 10 commandments were not written yet, but it was clear from Cain and Able that murder was not right.
Moses refused to remain as Pharaoh’s grandson in order to free the Children of Israel (Hebrews 11:24-28)
Instead of enjoying the wealth, power, influence and prestige as the Pharaoh’s grandson, Moses chose to do what was right and what God had called him to do.
Moses and the Children of Israel sprinkled blood over their doors during Passover (Hebrews 11:28)
As weird of an action as it was, they chose to trust God’s at His word and do what He said.
The Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land (Hebrews 11:29)
Although they had just witnessed a miracle, I bet it was a little difficult to walk across the Red Sea with walls of water on either side. They had to trust that God was going to keep the water from crashing down on them.
Marched around enemy walls for seven days with no intention of attacking (Hebrews 11:30)
One of the oddest battle plans ever. And yet, they took God at His word and sought to bring down the wall of a massive and fortified city without a single weapon. Just imagine what days 5, 6 and 7 must have felt like.
Rahab hid the Isrealite spies in her city (Hebrews 11:31)
Had she been caught, she could have been killed as a traitor. Instead, she got to become part of Israel and even part of the bloodline of Jesus.
Enforced justice (Hebrews 11:33)
Sometimes, having faith in God is being willing to stand and do what’s right.
Refusing to accept release (by dropping their faith in God or by disobeying Him) (Hebrews 11:35)
So often, we’re given the opportunity to be released from ridicule, contempt, or in some places, even jail or death, by simply renouncing our faith in God. But many in scripture and all around the world today have chosen to keep their faith in Him to the very end through extremely difficult circumstances.
After reading those great steps of faith, consider what God might be calling you to do.
And be ready for next week when we cover what to expect when you step out in faith.
As I was reading through Hebrews recently, the faith chapter (Hebrews 11) really encouraged me and I wanted to pass on the encouragement to you. As I reflected on the passage, I enjoyed viewing it from 3 different angles:
- What Is Faith? (this post)
- What Does It Look Like To Step Out In Faith? (click here to read)
- What Should I Expect When I Step Out In Faith? (click here to read)
And so, first…
What Is Faith?
Hebrews 11 is commonly referred to as the chapter of faith, and rightfully so. It gives us one of the best and most simple definitions of faith you will find anywhere, and then it expands on it throughout the rest of the chapter pulling examples from throughout scripture.
Faith is the…
“Assurance of things hoped for, the conviction (or “substance”) of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Or put another way:
Faith is when you hope in,
and take action on,
something you look forward to
that isn’t here yet.
For the Christian, this thing we “hope for” and look forward to is an eternal relationship with God starting now and eventually continuing after death and on through eternity.
The many facets of faith
One of the things I find amazing about Hebrews 11 is that throughout the chapter, we see faith rephrased in different ways.
Kind of like how you can put a concept “in your own words” once you fully understand it.
I find these rephrases extremely helpful. Kind of like looking at a block from different angles, the different descriptions (rephrasings) of the definition of faith, helps you find a deeper appreciation and understanding of it as a whole.
I’ve put together a few that I found from the chapter, and I encourage you to read them and reflect on them.
“Believe that He [God] exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Faith in God requires us to not just believe in Him, but in His character that He has clearly revealed in scripture.
“Considered Him [God] faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11)
Part of faith is putting your faith IN something (or someone).
A classic example: When you sit down, you’re putting faith in the chair you sit on.
God wants us to take strong consideration of WHO He is asking us to put our faith in, to consider His faithfulness.
One of my favorite quotes sums this up pretty well:
“God’s past faithfulness demands our present trust.”
As you reflect on God’s past faithfulness, it’s much easier to put your trust (and faith) in Him for today.
“Not having received the things promised, but having greeted them from afar.” (Hebrews 11:13)
This is a solid reminder that faith can only be in something that isn’t here… yet.
When we have faith, it is something “out there” and not here yet.
But I loved this phrasing: “having greeted them [promises they hadn’t seen fulfilled yet] from afar.”
Similar to trusting in the faithfulness of the One Who we put our faith in, we can be so certain in our faith in Him that we can “greet them from afar.” The fulfillment of God’s promises may not be here yet but they’re as good as here.
“Considered that God was able to even…” (Hebrews 11:19)
When we reflect on God’s past faithfulness, we are essentially saying this very thing.
“If God was able to even __ then surely He will fulfill His promise now.”
“Considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt…” (Hebrews 11:26)
Having faith in God requires us to look at our alternatives and weight them out.
Is what God offers truly better than what the world offers?
The answer is of course YES, but it’s important to step back and make sure our heart understands what our mind does.
Do we consider the faith we have for something “not yet” more valuable than what is in front of us?
The decisions we make will reflect what we truly believe.
“Endured as seeing Him Who is invisible [God].” (Hebrews 11:27)
Similar to “greet them [coming promises] from afar”, this is a very cool and unique way to describe faith.
Enduring can be difficult even when the prize is in sight,
How much more difficult when you can’t see the prize yet?
The great examples of faith we see in Hebrews 11 are people who lived as if they had seen the prize. They had endured as if they had physically seen God and knew that He was worth it.
You may not get to physically see Jesus this side of heaven,
To physically look at the prize for following Him,
But I pray that you can have spiritual eyes to see the prize and know that He really is worth it.
And to live a life that has faith in Him to the very end.
Having Faith Today
As we are told in this chapter, let us live today in faith as many have before us.
May you… Believe that He [God] exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
May you… Consider Him [God] faithful who has promised
May you… Not have received the things promised, but as if you have greeted them from afar.
May you… Consider that God is able to even…
May you… Consider the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt…
May you… Endure as seeing Him Who is invisible [God].
Yesterday, I got to teach the kids class at church, and the section we were in was Mark 11:25–26 where Jesus teaches us the importance of forgiving others. Below are some of the main points and ideas from this passage.
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.Mark 11:25–26
It’s no surprise that this passage on forgiveness ends the story of Jesus calling people in the temple out on having the appearance of godliness, but having no fruit or substance of a relationship with God.
Jesus finishes this section with a reminder of what the fruit of godliness looks like. It’s not just outward actions, but inward heart change.
Specifically, Jesus tells us that a true disciple of His will forgive others.
Simply put, people who are forgiven by God will, in turn, forgive others.
The Importance (And Necessity Of) Forgiving Others
Jesus pulls no punches in this verse. He starts out by saying that forgiving others is so important that you should even pause your prayer to do so.
And then He goes as far to say that “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.“
But what does He mean by that?
We see throughout scripture that God was the first to act on our need for forgiveness and salvation, and that He did so in spite of all we did and who we once were…
God saved us when we were still enemies of God (Romans 5:10)
We only love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)
None of us were even seeking God to begin with (Romans 3:11)
So, what does it mean that God will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others?
To answer that, it’s best to look at another parable from Jesus in Matthew 18:21-35.
Here’s the general story…
A man owed a VERY great debt and his lender forgave him of that debt.Read the full story in Matthew 18:21-35
Shortly after, this man refuses to forgive someone else’s much smaller debt and threatens him with his life.
The previous lender finds out how cruelly this man treated the other and renounces his forgiven debt as a consequence for treating the other man so poorly.
What we learn from this parable is that God takes our life change very seriously. We are not saved by our works, but God’s grace and forgiveness is purposed to bring about a heart change.
God’s plan is to save us from the punishment for our sins (Romans 6:23), to give us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), to fill us with new motives (1 Corinthians 10:31), and new empowerment (2 Timothy 1:7) to live a new life that He has called us to (Titus 2:11–14).
And, this new life is not an option. It flows supernaturally from our forgiveness.
Which leads us back to the question:
Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Does God forgive us because we forgive others? Or do we forgive others because God forgives us?
What we can learn from Jesus’ parable and the rest of scripture, is that God forgives us and empowers us to forgive others.
But, if we are not actively trying and asking God to help us to forgive others… then, how can we possibly say we’ve been forgiven by God and love Him? (1 John 4:20)
Or, to put it another way:
Forgiving others is a sign that we’ve been forgiven by God.
And a lack of forgiveness towards others is a sign that we have not experienced God’s forgiveness.
(Also, check out Luke 7:36–50 for a real life version of the parable described above).
Forgiveness vs Reconciliation
Forgiveness is always possible,
But reconciliation is not.
It’s important to note that Jesus calls us to forgive others, but that doesn’t mean things will always work out.
Simply looking at Jesus’ life will tell us that we won’t be on good terms with everyone, but we can still forgive everyone.
Paul reminds us in Romans 12:18 that we are to “live peaceably with all” but only “so far as it depends on you” recognizing that sometimes the issues we have with others are simply on their end and there is nothing we can do about it.
This doesn’t give us freedom to ever write someone off as a lost cause, as we are called to love generously and especially those who hate us, but we also shouldn’t bear the weight of a two-way relationship all on ourselves.
We can forgive others and still not receive reconciliation between ourselves and the other person, if they refuse.
Empowered To Forgive
Although we talk about our empowerment coming from God, we often constrain ourselves to only self-help methods and motivational talks which is the exact opposite of “empowered by God”.
And, as a side note, not only does self-help and self motivation only last temporarily, but God also tells us that nothing we do can be pleasing to Him without our actions coming out of our of faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6). If our motivation is one of self attainment and simply doing better, we’ve completely missed the point.
In regards to forgiveness, I’ve heard people encouraged to think about how much God loves the person you ought to forgive and that if God can forgive them, then so should you.
But this is nothing more than hype and motivational talk (and also not found in scripture).
Of course God loves them, He’s perfect!
But how does that help me to love them?
Here’s what the Bible tells us to do:
Instead of focusing on the people you ought to forgive,
You need to focus on the God who has forgiven you.
Scripture tells us that our forgiveness doesn’t come from seeing God forgive others, but as an overflow of God forgiving us, as we talked about above.
But there’s one more piece.
And that’s God’s Spirit.
When God forgives us, He doesn’t simply wipe our slate clean and then tell us to try harder.
God gives us His Spirit to teach us (John 14:26), help us (John 14:26), encourage us (Acts9.31) and empower us to follow Jesus (2 Timothy 1:7).
The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to all believers, when we are saved. And it is through Him that we become more like Jesus – including our growth in forgiving others (Acts 2:38).
There’s no better application than this:
Is there someone you need to forgive?
Do it now.
Is there someone you need to ask forgiveness from?
Because Jesus said pretty much the same thing about that (Matthew 5:23–24)
Go ask for forgiveness.
Do your best to bring reconciliation, as much as it depends on you.
Love others like Jesus.
If you’re interested in more on this topic, below are links to my series on the fruits of the Holy Spirit:
We Need God’s Spirit to Bear the Fruit of the Spirit
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Love
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Joy
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Peace
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Patience
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Kindness
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Goodness
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Faithfulness
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Gentleness
The Fruit of the Spirit Is… Self-Control
You may have heard the saying: “If a person is breathing, he needs encouragement,” and that can’t be more true.
If you Google “words of encouragement”, you’ll find dozens of websites that offer encouraging words and shareable quotes… but the reality is that most of the encouraging words you’ll find (and what most of what we say to encourage others) are simply skin-deep phrases that give empty hope.
They can be encouraging for a moment, but they don’t last, because they are built on emotions and ideas that easily come and go.
Even the ones that promise more are nothing more than hopeful thoughts because they come from someone who cannot give you more than simply wishing the best for you; they can’t actually do anything about it.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to encourage people by saying “it’s ok, things will turn around” but think about what we’re saying: what if it doesn’t “turn around”?
We live in the present, and none of us can foresee the future.
So, what can bring us a permanent and solid foundation for encouragement?
Or better asked: Who can do this?
The simple answer is: God.
The One Who created everything (Genesis 1:1),
Who breathed stars into existence (Psalm 33:6),
Who holds our very breath in our hands (Job 12:10),
And Who loves us more than we can imagine.
God has the ability to give true encouragement.
So, if you are looking for something to keep your head up,
To get you through a difficult time
To have something in your back pocket (because difficult times will come)
Or you simply want to have encouraging words ready for others…
The Bible is full of truths that we are called to rest in and so there are many more, but here’s just a few of my favorites for you to reflect on.
I’ve broken them into a couple sections based on topic.
God Has A Plan
Sometimes, it’s simply comforting enough to know that none of this is random, but that God (Who loves you very much) sees the pain you’re going through, can relate to it, and has a plan in mind.
This first verse is one of my favorites because it spells out the two most important things:
- Our plans, thoughts, and ideas are different from God’s
- God’s plan is better (just in case we thought our, different plan was better)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8–9
Your Suffering Isn’t Wasted, God Will Use It
Difficult times and suffering are hard enough, but suffering without a worthwhile purpose or result is even worse.
Think about it this way: If you saved a child from being run over by a car, but you broke your arm in the process, most of us would say it’s worth it. But if you suddenly woke up one day with a broken arm, that would be much harder to deal with. It’s the same pain and inconvenience, but one of them felt worth it.
In the same way, when we suffer in life, God tells us that everything we go through will be worth it in the end. We don’t see how now, but He tells us to trust Him, and that in the light of eternity we will see Him use everything we suffered as part of a worthwhile plan…
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”James 1:2–4
“If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.”2 Corinthians 1:6
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”2 Corinthians 4:17
Don’t Give Up, Keep Trusting God
The most important thing is to simply keep going. Emotions and feelings will come and go and discouraging times are temporary. As the saying goes, “Don’t trade what you know about God for what you don’t know about what He’s doing.” Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. I’ve personally been through some extremely discouraging times but have seen the worthwhile result of continuing to do what I know is right even when that’s the last thing I want to do.
This first verse was actually sent to us by 2 different people in the same day during a time when my wife and I were going through a very difficult season in our lives (thankfully, not difficult towards each-other, but outside factors) and so it has remained particularly encouraging to me and I hope it is to you as well.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”Galatians 6:9
These next verses form one of my favorite passages of scripture to look to when I need encouragement. It is such a beautifully sounding verse and so inspiring, but when you look at the situation he’s describing, it’s terrible.
Habakkuk is painting a picture of starvation and hopelessness. There is no food for today (no “fruit on the vines”), there is no harvest on the horizon (fig trees would blossom before producing their fruit), and there’s not any hope of new animals being born for food either (no herds in the stalls and the flocks are gone).
Yet, in this “it’s bad, and there’s no chance it will get better” situation, Habakkuk finds it possible to trust God and even find joy in Him. And so can we.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”Habakkuk 3:17–19
God Wants You To Go To Him With Your Problems
This one is most important. We can believe everything correctly, but we can still miss the most important part: God Himself. He wants a relationship with you and you can know everything I’ve written above without ever going to Him or talking to Him about your situation. He is the “God of all comfort” and wants you to come to Him with all your problems.
He might not fix everything going on, but He wants you to go to Him for comfort, strength and provision in the mist of every difficultly and problem in life. He is the Giver of all life and can sustain you even in difficult times.
But you can’t simply know that to receive His grace,
You have to go to Him to receive it.
And He’s waiting for you to do just that.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”Isaiah 26:3
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”Isaiah 40:31
“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”1 Peter 5:7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:6–7
May you rest in God and go to Him in the good times and the bad, so that we might live like the “man who trusts in the Lord” that Jeremiah described:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”Jeremiah 17:7–8
A couple weeks ago, I got to teach the older kids class at our church, and as you might guess, our text was Mark 10:17–27 about the Rich Young Ruler. I thought I’d share it with you, so below I’ve put the highlights from our study that we had together…
What must I do?
And as he [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”Mark 10:17
It’s pretty obvious that the Rich Young Ruler wants to get to heaven on his own merit. Even his question “what must I do” implies he wants a task to accomplish.
And, he’s not alone, we all like the idea of earning things, and wanting to earn our way to heaven is no exception.
But there’s a major problem: none of us are perfect (Romans 3:23).
And as the young man is going to find out, he can’t get enteral life on his own…
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ”
And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.Mark 10:18–22
As we read what Jesus tells him, we realize that was Jesus is telling the young man is that he must be perfect to attain eternal life. Jesus begins by reminding him of a few of the 10 commandments listing the standard given by God for perfection.
The young man tells Jesus that he has kept all of the outward commandments and so Jesus then proceeds to remind him of the inward ones.
Notice that Jesus says “You lack one thing”. He goes from the general laws to the specific issue that this man faces.
And here’s why: Money had become this young man’s functional god. He had broken the first commandment: “you shall have no other gods before me”.
In the case of the Rich Young Ruler, his love of money was at least one of the many things that kept him from God’s perfection (and let’s be honest, how many of us would be willing to give up everything we have if Jesus told us to).
But Money Isn’t Even the Real Issue
Jesus never asks anyone else in scripture to completely give up their money (even more on that later). And because of that, we can infer that He was trying to make a point: We can’t earn our way to heaven because we’re all imperfect.
Jesus chose the thing that He knew the man would not give up, and we all have those things, don’t we? We all hold imperfections in our character and hearts that keep us from the perfection that eternal life with God requires.
In fact, money is simply a tangible asset that enables us to hold on to things as our functional savior instead of surrendering to God.
Here’s a few examples of things that money can “give” us so that we hold onto money instead of holding onto God…
The list goes on…
Obviously, money cannot provide any of these things perfectly (that’s kind of the point), but they can become false substitutes for what only God can give us.
We don’t know what the Rich Young Ruler struggled with most, but it’s no denying that money can take on many different roles in our lives and it can easily keep us from having God be our only and first love.
So, What Did Jesus Really Want From The Young Man?
Ultimately, God doesn’t care about our money, possessions or skills. We are imperfect sinners and so the best we can offer is still tainted with sin.
Jesus wanted him to humbly surrender.
He wanted the young man to stop
To realize he couldn’t measure up to God’s perfection
And for him to accept God’s grace.
The young man was created to enjoy a complete and whole relationship with God and to live in a way that reflected God as a result.
Unfortunately, his (and our) sin gets in the way and we become disconnected from God, Who is the Giver of life. And we cannot be reconnected to Him without becoming perfect.
In this passage, Jesus is essentially telling the Rich Young Ruler that he needs to be perfect to “inherit eternal life”. And so Jesus points out an area of imperfection in his life and says it has to be corrected in order for him to earn his way to heaven, all the while knowing that it would be too much for the man to do.
Unfortunately, it’s not even that simple.
In order to earn our relationship back with God, we must be perfect our entire lives: so even if you “clean up” now, it’s already too late!
What Jesus really wanted from this conversation was for the Rich Young Ruler to realize he wasn’t good enough to inherit eternal life and that what he really needed a Savior, just like everyone else.
“Then Who Can Be Saved?”
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”Mark 10:23-26
After the Rich Young Ruler determines he cannot go to heaven on his own merit, he walks away sorrowful.
Have you ever considered this problem before?
God’s requirement is perfection, and there is no way that you or I are meeting that.
For many of us, just like him, this is the end of the story.
If only he had stayed a little longer.
Because after he left, Jesus told His disciples that it is extremely difficult for wealthy people to enter the kingdom of heaven. And He then follows it up with comparing it to a camel going through the eye of a needle (which is not going to happen).
Their response is what we should all ask: “then who can be saved?”
And that is a very good question.
**Please note that when Jesus said it’s difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God, He is not saying that it’s wrong to be rich. What I believe Jesus was getting at is that when you are rich, you are all the more able to hide behind and hold onto the things in your heart that separate you from relying on God. It’s simply harder to choose to surrender and trust God as first in your life when you have such a tangible ability to “trust in yourself” for all of life’s needs and problems. Jesus is merely saying that it is a natural roadblock to salvation, not that it is wrong to be rich.**
What Jesus Offers Us (And The Rich Young Ruler)
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27
If only the young man had stuck around.
He had finally come to the end of himself.
He had finally realized that he could not earn eternal life.
He had tried his hardest,
And when he realized that wasn’t good enough,
He figured that was the end of it.
(After all, he was rich and probably didn’t ask for help often)
But he had forgotten about the only One Who could really help.
He Had Forgotten About God.
The Rich Young Ruler, unfortunately, left before Jesus had a chance to remind Him that God’s grace is an option for Him to inherit eternal life.
What’s a little ironic, is that the Rich Young Ruler wanted to know what he could do to “inherit eternal life” when an inheritance is far from earned.
To inherit eternal life, you merely have to become an heir. In this case, an heir of God.
And we once were heirs,
Until sin entered the world and our hearts.
From then on out we were separated from God,
And removed from His inheritance.
There is nothing we can do,
as the Rich Young Ruler found out.
We can’t offer God a complete and perfect heart and life.
But what the Rich Young Ruler missed was this:
There was something God could, and would, do.
To give us the inheritance we could not earn ourselves.
And He was standing right in front of him.
As part of His Salvation plan,
Jesus would take His rightful inheritance,
And would trade it for our lack of inheritance.
The Rich Young Ruler (and all of us as well) wanted to earn his way, but as Paul wrote in Romans “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And that’s not a good wage.
But in that same verse we learn that “the grace of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23).
You want to earn eternal life?
Sorry, that ship has sailed.
That’s not going to happen.
But are you willing to receive it?
Are you willing to accept God’s free gift through His Son?
That Jesus paid your price,
That Jesus accepted the wages for your sin,
And that Jesus gave you His rightful inheritance?
Then you can receive, you can inherit, eternal life.
What Happens If We Receive This Free Gift?
If you accept Jesus’ free gift of life, there’s a few things that happen.
- He gives His Spirit to be inside of you (and every receiver), to be with you, and to transform you to be more like Him. Remember, we were created to worship God, be in relationship with Him, and reflect Him in our lives. By receiving Jesus’ free gift of eternal life, your eternal life starts now. Instead of waiting for eternity, God wants to start now. He wants you to be close to Him, now.
- As you continue to rely on His grace for your inheritance, and on His Spirit for your daily life, you will supernaturally become more like Him. These changes will take place in personal inward thoughts and desires, and also in your outward actions and words. This is a continuation of the first part as mentioned earlier that our relationship and closeness to God is what continues to transform us to be more like Him.
And there is no better example for this story than the rich man who was saved shortly after this passage.
In Luke 19:1-10, we meet Zacchaeus who is not only a rich person, but clearly an unethical one as he was a chief tax collector. To spare you the details, he essentially gets saved and tells Jesus he’s going to repay everyone back what he has stolen from them and essentially obey the Hebrew law that God put in place.
He’s not giving away all his wealth. He’ll actually probably still be fairly wealthy when he’s done.
Yet he is saved, while the other wasn’t.
It’s because his salvation didn’t come from his work,
It came from receiving Jesus’ grace.
Zacchaeus received Jesus’ message of repentance and forgiveness and was transformed because of it.
Is he perfect?
But he was saved, has been given eternal life and now is being transformed by God from the inside out.
Did he give away all he had?
But he joyfully gave back what he had stolen, and I am sure that if he remained in Jesus’ grace and love, he continued to joyfully give, love and surrender in many areas of life, including his finances.
The Difference Between The Two Rich Men
In these passages we saw two rich men.
The first wanted to earn his eternal life.
The second realized it was a free gift.
The first desired to earn an inheritance by being perfect himself.
The second was given an inheritance through Jesus’ perfection.
The first could not be perfect and walked away to continue earning his wage of death.
The second received eternal life and began living a generous and love filled life that reflected the great gift he had been given.
The first left feeling like his life was probably over.
The second left feeling like his life was just beginning.
Which do you feel like today?
Which do you want to be like?
The Prayer Of Salvation
To close this post, I wanted to remind you of another rich man who found eternal life in one of Jesus’ parables. In the chapter previous in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells of a tax collector who went to the temple to pray and left righteous. Here is all he prayed:
“…the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’Luke 18:13
Do you have that same prayer of repentance and humility?
Do you hold to that same mercy that God offers us through Jesus?
It’s your only way to eternal life.
If you already know Jesus, then reflect back on His grace and come back to those first joys of salvation. We all tend to drift away from that feeling and mindset, and it is important to draw near again.
If you don’t already know Jesus, please contact me with any questions you have about what it means to be forgiven for sins, have enteral life, and to know and follow Jesus.