Thought for the Week - 11th MarchPastor Gareth Watkins
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for;
it is the evidence of things we cannot see.
Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.
By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command,
that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.
It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did.
Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man,
and God showed his approval of his gifts.
Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.
It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying –
“he disappeared, because God took him.”
For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.
And it is impossible to please God without faith.
Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists
and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
Paul was possibly the most spiritually fruitful man in the Christian sense, underneath Christ, on this earth. He accomplished incredible things. We’ve already seen us showing us keys to his faith and spiritual life – his prayer life, and being thankful to God in all things.
The third key Paul shows us is that he had incredible faith itself. The faith that he had to continue onwards from the time called he was called by God, right up to the time he was martyred. That faith seemingly didn’t stop or waiver. Paul knew that faith and lived it as he went.
The passage above is a great passage about faith. The book goes on to speak of Abraham and Noah. It tells us a lot about what faith actually means – faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. It gives us assurance about things we can’t see.
Paul, as our example, has the confidence that what God has shown him will actually happen. That’s the starting point of Paul’s faith – that what God shows him on the road to Damascus will actually happen. Paul is a life of exemplary faith. What about our journey? What about our faith? We all have to have faith. Faith isn’t for the one moment, it’s for all of our lives. Paul is a great standard for us to look at in terms of our faith. He did more to establish Christianity than anyone else, other than Christ Himself.
Some examples of his faith can be seen in his journeys. Many bibles have maps of his journeys and where he went.
His first journey was to Cyprus and Turkey (Acts 13-15). He travelled about 1400 miles with John, Mark and Barnabas. The journey took him four years! That’s a lot of faith! He had to walk, ride horses, travel on terrible roads, and across perilous terrain. His faith would’ve wavered through this time, he would have been tired at times. There would have been times when he wanted to turn back, or was irritated with his companions.
His second journey was with Silas, Timothy, Luke, Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 15 to 18). They went to Syria, Turkey and Greece. They travelled 2,800 miles which took them two years. His third journey was with Timothy and Luke, when they travelled to Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee (Acts 18 to 23). They travelled 2,700 miles and it took them five years. His last journey took him to Rome via Crete, Lebanon and Malta, which took a year.
Travelling in those days wasn’t straight forward. The faith it must have taken to start twelve years of travel!
These men have got so much that God has given them. It’s there persistent faith that keeps them going to where God takes them. It starts in the very beginning when God calls them by name. There is no accident about these things – God has called you and me by name. He draws us, He changes us, and He draws us into a place of usefulness. Our faith goes on.
One of the keys of Paul’s life was his faith. What God revealed to Paul in the beginning, He added to and took Him on to. Paul had to hold on fast.
One author wrote of Paul’s vision that Christ brought him into the realisation that it was only Jesus’ death and resurrection that could bring righteousness to him. It was only Jesus’ death and resurrection that could give him the transforming power in his own life. By doing that and by showing him that, it made him into a new person that could accomplish so much in God’s hands.
Paul was a man that rounded up the Christians, and probably had them tortured. He collected the clothes when they stoned Stephen to death. The shame on him and the knowledge of what he did – he calls himself the chief of the sinners – didn’t leave him because he became a Christian. It stayed with him all his life. But still he walked on with God and let those things be transformed by the power of God himself. The guilt and other things weren’t supposed to hold him back; he had to put them before God and let God transform him.
The question is do you believe that this life of faith that was revealed to Paul, can be revealed to you and me too? Faith is the substance of everything we’re about. Our life of faith isn’t to stop – it’s to go on in spite of the troubles, the problems, the difficulties, and ourselves – to the place that God takes us. Who are the likes of me and you? We are nobodies. Paul and God uses that to accomplish His purposes in the world
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. What has God shown you about your church and your life? God has called you. It’s not a non-purposeful life. It’s a purposeful life. Many Christians have no purpose in their Christian life. Paul wasn’t called for nothing. He was called to something. You and I are called to something. We are either a goer or a sender. Paul was a goer – a person who went. Behind Paul – in faith – were the senders. How many people sent Paul? He couldn’t pop into a cashpoint. He had to take food, money, organise his transport and ships etc. The church would have had to be behind him.
Paul had heard from God himself, but the Church had to be the ones who sent him. They needed to be part of that. They were the ones who financed him, prayed, and upheld him through that work. God’s family weren’t just residing on their own, scattered. They came together as a Church, and as a church they accomplished much. Paul was essentially a figurehead of what God and the Church were doing.
See your part in that. Your part in your church is far greater that what you give yourself credit for. Your part is important. Your part in faith, and the faith of the church, is important. Have you got a life of faith? Paul knew that life of faith included a purpose.
We have to expect God to bring about His plans. It’s not our plans. We have to conform to God’s plan that He has for our lives and within His church. We must then expect God to fulfil it. We must expect god to do it – faith shows the reality of what we hope for. It gives us assurance in the things we cannot see.
God delivered Paul to go all over the known world preaching the Gospel and starting up churches. Paul couldn’t do that in his own strength. But with God in it, the Church behind him, and those who prayed and supported, God fulfilled His plan. Those who were in the background – those who encouraged and whose names we do not know – they are equally part of the work that Paul did. That’s the life of faith that the whole Church is a part of; to accomplish the things we cannot see. Paul expected God to bring about the things he couldn’t see.
Along the route in Acts, we see Paul’s desire that righteousness will be held in his life. He knew that in order for God to move, he needed to have a consecrated life. Paul knows what it is to be a sinner. He knows he’s a sinner that doesn’t always live up to the standard of God. He knows he needs Christ to bring righteousness to his life. He knows that if he hasn’t got a Holy life, then this life God has put ahead of him won’t happen.
Consecration is a word that affects all of us. Consecrations means our time has got to be put under God, our talents, our influence etc. So many people miss out of the blessing of God because they move on too quick. Consecration in Paul’s way meant he had to have faith in the Holiness that only God could bring to Him, that the action of God would come. Mr Black used to say that God doesn’t work through dirty vessels. That is what Paul brings – the consecration of our whole life under God.
We must persevere in the faith that God has given us. We must persevere in the measure of faith that God has given us. Persevering is not something you can turn the tap off and it stop. Persevering is waiting for the thing that God has for you, or your church, with the assurance that it is going to happen. That is part of our life of faith. That is the purpose of God calling us to stand on that truth and act accordingly that it’s going to happen. Daniel prayed for twenty one days that a blessing would come. That’s a long time to pray. He persevered in prayer that God would accomplish and bring about something.
There are four things about faith that Paul teaches us:
- Faith must have a purpose
- Faith must cause us to expect God to move
- Faith which sees God move and we must keep ourselves Holy within it
- We must persevere
What hinders us? What causes us to switch off?
There’s work for us to do in terms of our own faith – to see what we’re a part of, to see what part we have in the bigger picture and the kingdom God has given us – and quietly work out God’s purposes. Paul lived like that every day.
hearing the Good News about Christ.
Paul knew these things. He wrote about it, he lived it. We can speak about it in 2018. The life of faith is key to who Paul was. He knew how to pray, how to thank God in all things, and how to live a life of faith.
Seek God for more faith. We have been called for a purpose.