November 3, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

Putting confidence in an unreliable person is like chewing with a toothache or walking on a broken foot.

--Proverbs 25:19 (NLT)

 

Today's Text

 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

--Hebrews 11:1

 

Faith Is Substance, Not Mist

By Don Meadows

Faith is not a part of Christianity.  IT IS CHRISTIANITY!

 

Hebrews 11:1 has been a source of confusion to many Christians.  That “faith is the ‘substance of things hoped for’” can lead one to unfortunate assumptions.  Faith is not some hope that some thing or circumstance will change positively to your desired-reality.  This puts faith in the tooth fairy genre.

 

Faith, which appears in 213 verses of the King James Version of the Bible, is not a misty dream which will evaporate as one awakens in spiritual maturity.  It is founded not on the unexplainable but on that which can be understood.  It gives foundation for the building of Spirit-guided living.

 

As I have explored the many contexts of faith, I have come to realize that the fathers of our faith did not have wishy-washy, pie-in-the-sky fantasies about their God.  Abraham is, of course, is one of the Bible’s primary examples.

 

Paul said of him, “. . . we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.”[1]  And, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”[2]

 

Faith is action based on established and accepted and experienced truth.  Abraham knew God.  He had talked with Him. He walked with Him. When he went to a foreign land, when he stood, holding a knife, to sacrifice his son Isaac, Abraham was obeying.  He did these things because he trusted the One who had proven himself trustworthy.

 

When one declares that his or her faith is weak, what they really are saying is that they have not fully surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is, I realize, a stinging accusation; but it’s a true indictment of all of us at some point or in some circumstance of our lives.  Total surrender to God is among the hardest things to do in this life.  It goes against the human grain.

 

That it goes against the human grain gives us insight to it true origin.  Satan says, “You can’t trust God in this.  He’s just an illusion -- this is real.  Depend on yourself, your influence, your money, your intelligence, your or someone else’s knowledge and skill.  If you don’t take care of it, no one else will.”

 

I appreciate what one commentary said about faith. “Two words describe faith: sure and certain. These two qualities need a secure beginning and ending point. The beginning point of faith is believing in God’s character—he is who he says. The end point is believing in God’s promises—he will do what he says. When we believe that God will fulfill his promises even though we don’t see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith (see John 20:24-31).[3]

 

I would add one tiny, but significant, element.  When we believe, we will act in obedience to God’s revealed will in that circumstance.  Intellectual assent to possibilities is a weak excuse for faith; obedience based upon having seen God work in other things is authentic faith.

 

My acceptance of God’s love, power, grace and mercy was not learned easily.  Once I was broken.  I felt abandoned and suffered exhausting emotional pain – pain that hurt my gut.  I cried out to God, really, for help.  What I understood about God, learned as a child and during my “growing-up,” kept me from physical death.  I began to experience love – from Christian friends, my family and a son.  I began to live hopefully again, clinging to every morsel of happiness I gleaned.  More and more I began to surrender to God, to find happiness in Him and attribute these healing moments to Him.

 

Today I am happier than I ever thought possible.  My wife is a wonderful Christian woman; I have special relationships with three sons and, most of all, a growing walk with Jesus.

 

For sure, there are moments of anxiousness in my life.  These, however, I have come to understand are attempts by Satan to take my eyes off Jesus and look to myself or others for help.  I refuse.  I flat-out refuse, because anchoring me to the Lord is a scripture my dad gave to me as he was dying:

 

“. . . For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”[4]

 

One who knows Jesus personally may have times of weakness.  It’s natural.  What’s not natural is the peace and strength that can’t be defined adequately.  It’s not natural; it is of God.

 


[1] Romans 4:9b (KJV)

[2] Hebrews 11:8 (KJV)

[3] Life Application Bible Commentary Notes (Heb. 11:1)

[4] 2 Timothy 1:12b (KJV)

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November 12, 2011

Proverbially Speaking

 The earnings of the godly enhance their lives, but evil people squander their money on sin.

--Proverbs 10:16 NLT)

 

Today's Text

 

"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.[1]

 --1 John 4:35 (NASB)

 

The Fields White at Night

By Don Meadows

The bright sunlit days of November and the mild (60s) temperatures wouldn’t leave me alone.  I looked out upon the Back 40 (actually 30’X30’), and my heart started to pound.

 

Stubble from this summer’s garden stared me in the face; weeds had started popping their ugly heads above the ground.  “Might as well do some work,” I told Janet.

 

It took a fresh-filling of gasoline, a bit of starter fluid (no use pulling something out of place when pulling the start cord) and several yanks and the old Green Thumb front-tine engine came to life.  I started work.

 

That’s when I began wondering:  Am I finishing this year’s gardening or starting next year’s?  It’s an interesting question.  About that time, the Lord began to talk.  Oh, I didn’t hear him audibly, but he spoke, nevertheless.

 

“You’re doing both, Don. Learn a lesson.  You’re doing both!”

 

I thought about that for a while; then I understood.  I was putting to rest what had been done; I was preparing for what was yet to be done.

 

Soil, I am told, needs rest, too.  As the tines turned and dirt kicked up and a few earthworms came to the surface, it was almost like I was putting a blanket over the ground.  Have a good rest, friends, you deserve it.  You gave more than 50 quarts of green beans, a few tomatoes, a bunch of green peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, corn and potatoes.  You earned a rest.

 

I hoped that uprooting the weeds would help come spring. Up a row, down a side and along the little plot I worked...  Rocks were kicked out of their hiding places; there were not as many as last year or this spring, nor as large.  Before I knew it, darkness had fallen; but I kept on working.  God kept on speaking.

 

“What are you doing, Don?” he asked.

 

“Just tilling, Lord.  Just tilling.  I want to finish this before really cold weather sets in, or snow flies.”

 

“Look at the dirt,” he said.  “What do you see?”

 

“I see black dirt, that I’ve just turned, and I see lighter colored dirt that has yet to be broken, Lord.”  The different shades were made possible by the full moon.

 

“Go where it’s light, Don.  Finish the job.  The field is white!”

 

I’ll turn the soil at least one more time before spring.  I’ll toss a bit of fertilizer on it first and let it lay awhile so rain or snow or both will soak it into the ground.  Then, on a mild day next year, I’ll drag the tiller out and do it all again.

 

“What have you learned, Don?”  the Lord asked.

 

“O, Lord, Thou knowest!” I said.  “I learned that there is no end to working Your fields.  There is a time for clearing away obstructions, a time for feeding, a time for breaking up and a time planting.  There is a time for doing the work of caring and protecting.  There is a time for claiming the harvest.

 

“Lord, I am not speaking about this plot of dirt.  I see that You’re talking to me about people – your people.  You’re reminding me, aren’t You, Lord, what You told the disciples: ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’?”[2]

 

Finally, about 7:30, the tines clawed at the last of the unbroken ground.  It was done.  I dragged the tiller to the outbuilding, locked things securly and went inside for supper (or dinner, depending on where you were raised.

 

I thought of Nathan Reincheld, in Kenya with African Inland Mission.  I remembered Steve Telfer, in Lancaster with Youth for Christ and in the Juvenile Corrections Center.  Pastors I have known all my life coursed through my mind.  So many who have worked and are working to win folks to the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

And my own ministry, even though I might say I am retired, is not over.  I must till, I must work in the fields where sent by God to prepare for or take in the harvest.

 

So must you!


[1] New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation, electronic edition

[2] Luke 10:2, NASB, The Lockman Foundation, electronic edition.

 

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