Faith and courage
“You will be hated by all
on account of my name. But
he who endures to the end will be saved.”
-Matthew 10.24, Mark 13.13
You say you believe in God. You say it with total certainty. But what does that mean? God is a giant in a white robe living in some palatial estate above outer-space and surrounded by little babies with wings playing harps? I feel like many of those who consider themselves Bible-believing Christians have that vision of God.
To me, I think that is because that is something like what many church pastors teach. I remember a church I attended for a while, the messages seemed to be more like self-help, God has a great plan for your life, feel good messages. All you need to do is ask Jesus into your heart and all will be hunky dory. They were not the Joel Osteen type messages, shoveling nonsense like God will give you a great big mansion or make it so you never get sick at you. But there was little call to repentance and asking for forgiveness. I can only remember one message I heard there in three or four years in which the pastor called upon us to seek forgiveness.
“Don’t listen to your pastor. Read your Bible.”
-Steve Gregg (The Narrow Path)
I think so many people are content to go to church, listen to their pastor’s messages and take them as “gospel,” when they are so often not.
I must thank my spiritual advisor, whose identity I will not divulge, for encouraging me to read closer and study more for myself. I eventually left the above-mentioned church because I could no longer stomach what they taught.
Faith comes by hearing. Hearing by the word of God. -Romans. 10.17
Even Jesus Himself, had to acknowledge the lack of faith when He said, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own hometown” (Matthew 4.44). The people were content to take the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ word for the truth, rather than seek the truth on their own. Jesus’ own family called Him crazy for preaching the Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ disciples continually lost faith, even after being with Him and seeing the signs and miracles He performed. In Matthew 8, while stuck in the middle of a storm in their boat, they rebuked Jesus for sleeping. “And (Jesus) said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’ Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the sea and it became perfectly calm” (Matthew 8.26).
Blessed is a man who preserves under various trials, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. -James 1.12
I wonder if it is because many people are scared to say what they really think or believe. When any real test of their faith comes up, they backtrack and shrink back into what is mainstream or traditional. We may not all have the gift of gab that most pastors have. That makes it hard to articulate our beliefs as they do. Even then, we must stay strong. Do not let those who question you or try you get to you!
I remember a time when a co-worker went off for ten minutes about YHWH allowing slavery in the Old Testament. He said he could not follow a God like that. Then he went on about the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality. I did argue with him, or really say much of anything. I felt bad I did not, but I did not want to get into an argument at work, just to keep the peace. Should I have said something? Some kind of defense? Back then I did not know enough, to formulate that great of an argument. Today I am sure I would be able to do much better in a situation such as that.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. -James 1.2-3
I may not have been able to stand up at the time, but what I do in situations like those is tell myself that the person just does not know the scriptures. I do not let them shake me or my faith. People can talk all they want, but no one can ever tell me that YHWH our God and Jesus Christ do not exist. That will not ever happen. My faith will remain strong and intact. And I will continue to fulfill the commandments – to love that person and show them the love that God showed this world through His Son Jesus Christ. To live out the life, to keep the faith, are what is important.
I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. -2 Timothy 4.7
To the teaching and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them! -Isaiah 8.20
But the real hard part in all of this is: is what we believe and speak real? Do we know what we believe and is it what the Bible says?
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4.24). If what we allow ourselves to believe and say is not what YHWH’s will is, we are not true believers. I think people can be sincere in their beliefs but if they buy into false teachers without studying for themselves, they are just as lost as those who do not believe at all. “Study to show yourself approved” (2 Timothy 2.25 KJV).
“Enter through the narrow gate. The way is gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and those who find it are many. Small is the gate and narrow is the path that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”
There is much more in the way of guesses and made-up scriptures than there is real truth. Human philosophy has etched its way into the Christian faith for so long that it has warped what was the truth in the days of, and shortly after, Jesus. The doctrines of hell, the trinity, and the eternal soul are all beliefs formed after the pagans began to culcate the church.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deception, according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. -Colossians 2.8
“Trust but verify” is a Russian proverb that Ronald Regan held to (so it is said). When we are children in the faith, we need help getting going. In Acts 8, Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch answered, “How could I know unless someone guides me?” He was reading from Isaiah at the time of their meeting. The eunuch was fortunate he had one of Jesus’ own disciples as his first teacher…
But when we begin to understand “the basics,” we must study and pray on our own for understanding. If you rely on someone else always, you could be led down some awfully wrong paths. Listen to your teachers. Trust they know what they are saying, but do your diligence and see for yourself. They may have the best intentions, your best interests in mind. But everyone has an agenda. Trust but verify. If you find them out to be incorrect or flat-out lying, do not continue down their road to destruction, the wide path…
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. -2 Peter 2.1
Be careful who and what you listen to and believe. As John wrote, “Test the spirits, to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4.1)
Heck, you may not want to listen to or believe me. If you do not believe me, we can talk or you can shut me off and walk away. All I want for you is to get into the word of God and find the truth for yourself. I want you to believe in the One true God and Jesus Christ, whom He sent. That is eternal life (John 17.3)
This discussion can, and will, go on much longer. So I ask you to stay tuned. I am not going to cram theology down your throat (not now, anyway). I want to encourage you to get in the word. Read the scriptures. Grow in your faith so that your courage may grow, and you may not shrink back when your faith is tested (Hebrews 10.39).
***Dear Lord God YHWH, please be with us all, to help us grow in our faith, and therefore in our courage. Give us strength and endurance to stay in your word. Give us understanding, wisdom, and knowledge. Help us to know your truth – who you are, who Jesus Christ is, and how you work together in your children. Help us in this that we may all be pleasing to you.
YHWH God, I thank you for calling us to you in Jesus Christ, giving us the opportunity for reconciliation and salvation. Thank you for the great sacrifice, giving your Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment that we deserve for our sins. Repeated sacrifices are no longer required, but only faith and obedience to your word. Your word is great and powerful, and it is truth. Help us always keep searching and living out that truth, that we may glorify you and be more like Jesus Christ every day. I pray this all in the great name of Jesus Christ, Amen.***