The hardest part of the Christian life

“The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11)

“Without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Whoever would follow Jesus Christ in this world must plan to do a great many things by faith.

Believers will not have all the evidence they would like, cannot see the obstructions and blessings awaiting them, and will not learn until Heaven what their obedience accomplished.

We will live by incomplete evidence, partial information, and spotty results, or we will not make it.

The person who walks and lives by faith may be asked to do things that make no sense to outsiders, take stands that are understood and valued only by the Almighty (and later by history), and become a spectacle to people who do not know the Lord and see everything through the prism of today’s culture.

We will be considered foolish by some, naive by others, and misguided by many, or we will not accomplish His purposes for us. We will be labeled and libeled, persecuted and prosecuted, for nothing more than telling the world of the love of God and attempting to live out that love’s demands.

It’s all about faith. However, living by faith–thinking, acting, reacting, speaking, working, fighting, and loving by confidence in the living God–is the hardest part of the Christian life.

It’s so hard, in fact, that many who start out following Jesus cannot handle it and eventually drop out.

“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7).

Sight is so much easier than faith. We cry out, “Lord, show me the way.”  He answers, “I am the way. Follow me.”

Proof makes obedience so much more reasonable. We say, “Lord, how can I know?” He answers, “Believe in me.”

We say, “How can this be?” He says, “With God, all things are possible.”

We want to say, “Unless I see, I cannot believe,” to which He would respond, “Until you believe, you cannot see.”

There is, of course, an easier way. It’s to remain in the dark and do nothing.That’s why untold millions choose it. To “trust and obey” is too hard, too demanding, too contrary to earthly wisdom.

But once we have come to know the Living Christ, remaining in the comfortable dark is no longer an option that makes sense. We want to serve Him and bring others to Him. And that means believing in Him and acting by faith.

Everything about the Christian life will be about faith.

In the amazing 11th chapter of Hebrews, we read of Old Testament believers who acted on far greater faith than any of us will ever be required to possess. They went out not knowing where they were going (11:8), looked upward and forward without having received the promises (11:13), took life-or-death risks without knowing about the resurrection (11:19), turned their backs on riches to endure a lifetime of misery and miracles (11:24-30), and brought great pleasure to the heart of God (11:16,38).  And they did it all by faith, which is to say, seeing dimly and understanding poorly and knowing slightly.

“All these gained approval through their faith” (Hebrews 11:39).

That’s how it has always been and shall always be in this life. We will live by faith in Jesus Christ in every area of our existence or we will not make it as Christians.

We are saved by faith–without knowing all the facts.

I didn’t want to be saved that way. I wanted to be overwhelmed by proofs and knocked down by the evidence, to be literally dragged into the kingdom by facts. I wanted to see Him and know beyond any doubt this is right, He is real, and all is well.

Instead, He gave me Scripture that captivates my heart but leaves me with questions, testimonies of others to destroy my defenses, and the convicting/assuring presence of the Holy Spirit to woo me to Jesus.

I have met some who intend to come to Jesus as soon as they get all the questions answered, when they get a certain feeling, if they can ever get their life arranged and in order. They cannot see that they will never be saved unless they are willing to come by faith, which means with questions still on the table, feelings notwithstanding, and life still in disarray. “Just as you are without one plea but that His blood was shed for thee.”

We confess Him by faith–without knowing what will happen next.

What will others think of my becoming a disciple of Jesus? How will my parents take it? Will it affect my job? Will I lose friends? What will He ask of me now that I am saved and a born-again Christian.  How will I ever get the strength to stand before the entire church–and following that, the world!–and admit that I am a sinner saved by grace?

I don’t know. But this is how it works; it’s what He requires.

“For by grace are you saved through faith….” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

I have met people who are unwilling to follow Jesus for fear of becoming religious fanatics, forced to give everything away and without a lick of sense. The enemy messes with their minds and they hold onto their sins. Not until they can say “Here am I, Lord” and “Wherever He leads, I’ll go” will life change for them.

We obey Him by faith–without knowing the consequences.

Scripture gives us command after command that goes against the natural inclination of sinful humans….

–to love my neighbors, including my enemies (Matthew 22:39; Luke 6:27).

–to forgive my brother again and again without limit (Matthew 18:22).

–to stand before anyone–including the highest courts in the land–and speak out boldly for Jesus (Matthew 10:18).

–to be generous with anyone who asks from us (Luke 6:30).

Whoever has to know the end before he is willing to begin will never follow Jesus.

We bring our offerings by faith–without knowing where they will go or what good they will do.

Few things are more of faith than writing a check and dropping it into the offering plate. You will not be able to trace its route beyond your church office and along the many paths it will be taking. You will never see the portion that buys gas for a pastor’s car to enable him to call on the sick and troubled. You will never learn that some will purchase Bibles for VBS children in Tanzania, or a mo-ped for a worker in India who goes from village to village with the gospel.  You’ll have to take this by faith.

Not everyone can give by faith.

I have known church members willing to write sizeable checks for the Lord’s work only if they could personally see what their money accomplished. Church leaders learn to work with such members and call on them to help fund a building or sponsor a local event, something tangible and visible. We applaud their desire to see that the money is used wisely, but they are squelching the Holy Spirit’s plan to use them on a far grander scale.

We pray by faith–without seeing what our prayers achieve.

“When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)

Nothing we do as Christians will be more of faith than praying.

In prayer, we speak to a God we cannot see and are unable to prove, thank Him for blessings and gifts which someone else claims credit for doing, and ask Him to do things in others without ever learning whether He did them or not.

You pray for the President of the United States–see I Timothy 2:1-2. Good. You have no way of knowing that because of your prayers the President received insight to change a program he had been planning, he found just the piece of information he had been seeking, or made a decision which improved the lives of countless thousands. What if you quit praying because you see no answers to your prayers for the President?

You pray for a missionary friend across the world (see I Thessalonians 5;25). Excellent. You have no clue that because of your prayers, Missionary Bonnie met a lady in the market that day and began a relationship which resulted in a church being formed, that because of your prayers, Missionary Tom was saved from a traffic accident when he happened to notice an obstacle in the highway at the last second and was able to swerve around it, or that because of your prayers, Missionaries David and Jaime were able to get into their war-torn country and begin a new work.  You are not there with them; you have no way of knowing that it was your prayers that made the difference. What if you quit praying because you saw no results?

The Lord Jesus said to his fearful disciples, “Why did you fear? Where is your faith?”

Where indeed.

It’s hard walking and living by faith.

But, in this world, that is how it’s going to be or it will not happen at all.

Mustardseed faith will do, for starters.

“Lord,” they said, “increase our faith.” The Lord said, “If you had the faith of a mustardseed, you could do miracles.”

We must not sit here by the roadside waiting for a larger faith. Faith grows only by action, as we obey by the little faith we have and then see it grow.  “From faith to faith” is how Paul expressed it in Romans 1:17.

So, no excuses are accepted. No faith is too small, so long as it’s faith.  We in this time-period know that powerful forces often come in small packages. We began this age learning about the power of uranium and split atoms, and have lived long enough to see a world of computer power reduced to mechanisms the size of one’s fingertips. I think of the question Zechariah asked, “Who has despised the day of small things” (Zech. 4:10). Our age knows the power of smallness.

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is Who He said He was?

Then, you are in business and have enough to go on.

 

 

 

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