Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Count on It!

Based on Hebrews 11

What are you counting on in life? What do you think, hope, and believe will get you through? What is your firm foundation in life? What is most important to you, the thing you hold on to above all else?

One way to discover what is important to a person is to listen to how they talk. This same principle applies to reading and studying the Bible, so take some time to read Hebrews 11 in your Bible or at www.biblegateway.com (the link is found in the Web Steps list to the right). Look for repeated words or phrases as you read.

What did you discover as you read through the passage in Hebrews 11 for yourself?

Were you, like me, struck by the number of times you read the word faith and the phrase by faith?

I counted 23 uses of the phrase "by faith," plus another four uses of the word "faith" (v.1-Now faith is…, v.6-And without faith it is…, v.33-who through faith…, v.39-…commended for their faith…).

One thing I noticed was that each time the phrase "by faith" is used, it is followed (in every case but one) by a person’s name or a personal pronoun. It does not typically say “by faith problems disappeared” or “by faith circumstances changed” or “by faith life was easy and carefree.” Instead, the writer told the stories of people who lived by faith in the face of great challenges—people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and his parents, Rahab, and countless others, many unnamed—which leads me to wonder:

What would it look like if my name—or your name—followed the words “by faith”?
Would your story look like any of the people whose stories we read in Hebrews 11?

Each of these people had challenging situations that required them to exercise faith in God, to live their lives based on who they knew God to be, regardless of the difficulty before them. Many of their stories are found in Genesis and Exodus, if you want to look them up and get the details. The thread that ties them all together is found in the first few verses of Hebrews 11—

1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for….

What do you think they hoped for?

What do you hope for when times are rough?

What kind of hope do these Scripture passages offer? What hope do they offer you in overcoming the challenges you face today?

No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.—Psalm 25:3

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.—Psalm 31:24

We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.—Psalm 33:20

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.—Psalm 33:22

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.—Psalm 42:11

What is the source of the writer’s hope in Psalm 119:43, 74, 81, 119, and 147?

What do you do to find hope from this source?

What difference does it make in your life for you to find hope in this way? How does finding hope in this way increase your ability to live by faith?

Living by faith, being sure of what we hope for and confident of what we do not see, is not a one-time event; it is a way of life, a lifelong journey.

All these people were still living by faith when they died.—Hebrews 11:13

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."—Romans 1:17

How does faith relate to the lives of those who follow Christ? Faith gives us courage to live like who we are, people loved by God, able to draw upon His Spirit and reflect His transforming work in our lives, in the way we treat others, in the way we rise to challenges, in the way we walk through difficulties.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.—Galatians 2:20

What does it mean for you to live by faith in the Son of God?

How is your relationship with Jesus changing you, transforming you, giving you power to live a life of selfless love and sacrifice? A life of integrity and obedience? A life of humility and courage?

The writer of Hebrews speaks of many others who lived by faith, who counted on God, who counted on His character and His word, who counted on Him to see them through. Are you one of those?

Are you on the journey? Is it time to begin? What words would you like to be written about you? Do you trust Him enough to take the journey of faith? What will it look like for you to live by faith today, this week?

By faith (insert your name and write your story here)…

No comments: