Jesus' Footprints

Archive for August 2012

Fight the good fight of faith” – 1 Timothy 6:12

Faith should be a way of life, not an occasional pastime.  We can’t say we accept Jesus as our Saviour and refuse to follow His example.  Noah and Abraham are the kind of Christians we should aspire to be.  People who did evil things in God’s sight surrounded both men but they never sinned against God.

Faith becomes a habit or an accessory instead of heartfelt conviction and way of life.   People carry their Bible, wear their crucifix and Jesus pin to church but once they leave the church, the Bible goes back on the shelf, the crucifix and pin go back in the jewellery box.  Faith is not something you put on display to impress others.  Faith should be a commitment, a necessity.

Faith should not be a feeling.  It is a belief. We can’t say I feel like being faithful to God today and then tomorrow, we say, the opposite.  We should eat, sleep and drink faith.  We should embrace faith and be steadfast in it.  We should have unwavering faith like Abraham and David whose faith got them through the toughest of times.  Faith is our lifesaver, our anchor, and our hope in good things to come.  Faith is an expression of love for God.  Faith is relying on God to meet our needs, it is to believe that He will take care of us—that He will keep His promises and that He will come through each and every time we turn to Him for help.  Faith should be a long-lasting experience not a quick fix.  Faith is what gets us through tough times.  Faith should be growing stronger not weaker.

People are convinced that they can’t live the way Jesus did because they are ignorant of God’s Word and the power He gives us to live out genuine Christian lives.  They think their behaviour is acceptable because of how other Christians are living—they are looking at their friends, not at Jesus.  God promised that we can do all things through Him. (Philippians 4:13)  He encouraged us to “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9)  Among the rulers there were many believers but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Jesus because they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue.  They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)

People are more concerned with following the example of others than following Jesus.  Jesus warned His disciples about the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:5-12)

Some Christians are more committed than others in their walk with God.  They behave differently than those around them.  Their lives are completely surrendered to God and they stand out from the rest of crowd.  They are God’s peculiar people.  The apostles did not fit in with the rest of the people because they ate with tax collectors and sinners; did not fast; picked and ate grains of wheat on Sabbath; did not wash their hands before they ate.  They gave left their fishing nets, boats, families and homes and followed Jesus.  They gave up everything to follow Jesus.

Other disciples left Him because the things he said to them when they were in Capernaum were hard for them to understand. (John 6:53-66)  However, Peter and the other eleven disciples remained.  When Jesus asked them if they wanted to leave as well, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69)

We should be like Peter and the other apostles who remained steadfast in their faith.  They stayed with Jesus because they believed that He was who He said He was.  As Christians, if we accept Jesus as our Saviour and believe that He died for our sins, then we should accept all the trials and blessings that come with the faith.  We can’t give up at the first sign of trouble.  We should trust God to see us through hard times just as He did with Paul and the other apostles as they preached the gospel as they were commanded to.  It is better to be persecuted for following Jesus than for committing sin.  It is better to fit in with God’s wonderful plans for our lives than to fit in with the crowd.

Our aim should be to stand out—as one of Christ’s committed followers who are more interested in God’s wisdom than worldly knowledge.  We should want to please God not man or ourselves.  We should enjoy Christianity especially when it calls for real sacrifice because it is our opportunity to show God how much we love Him.  We are God’s children and should start acting like it.

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As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all [men], especially unto them who are of the household of faith” – Galatians 6:10.

Do we share what we have with others whether or not we think they deserve it?  We were sinners when Jesus came into the world and saved us.  We didn’t deserve His forgiveness but we got it anyway and now we can share the good news of Jesus with others.  Did Paul deserve to be saved after mercilessly persecuting Jesus’ followers?  Jesus saved him anyway and Paul became a crusader, spreading the gospel and encouraging other believers to be steadfast in their faith.  Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman about living water which if she drinks of it would never be thirty again.  The woman went and told the others in her village about Him.  And because of this woman, many Samaritans from that town believed in Him.  (John 4:1-39)

When Jesus healed the deaf and mute men, He commanded them not to say anything but the more He did, the more they kept talking about it.  What had happened was too exciting for them to keep to themselves.  (Mark 7:31-37) At the time that the transfiguration took place when Jesus was speaking with Moses and Elijah and John, James and Peter saw this and heard God’s voice, they said nothing of it because Jesus told them, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)  But, later in one of his letters, Peter writes about it. (2 Peter 1:17-18) and it is written in Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels (Luke 9:28-36), (Matthew 17:2-9)

God blesses people with gifts that range from music, art, science, medicine, education, and religion to care giving and generosity.  We can share His love simply by smiling at someone, listening to someone’s troubles, lending a hand, giving them our time, encouragement, making a difference by donating to charities, running for the cure of cancer, signing a letter that could stop a young mother from being stoned to death in Nigeria, helping to stop violence against women, helping the poor, feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, protecting physically and sexually abused victims and simply being kind to people.  Let’s follow this advice, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16)

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD” – Psalm 31:24

Is there any hope?  Yes.  Jesus is our hope for a better life, a life not marred by sin.  Jesus’ death on the Cross gave us hope of having our sins forgiven and having a relationship with God.  Hope for everlasting life—eternal life made possible by Jesus shed blood.  I have hope in the Lord who is faithful and keeps His promises.  I have hope in the Lord because nothing is impossible for Him.  I have hope in the Lord who has plans for my life and who promised that He will guide me.

I have hope in the Lord who never forsakes His children.  I have hope in the Lord who loved us so much that He sent His Son into the world to die for my sins.  God has said and done many things to make us hope and when we hope for something it means that we believe they can happen—that they are possible.  God has taught us that anything is possible and that we can do all things through Him.

  • To hope is to have faith that the thing we hope for is not out of our reach.
  • To hope is to be confident that we can achieve anything we set our hearts on.
  • To hope is to believe that we can have what God means for us to have.
  • To hope is to be assured that we can get what God plans to give us.
  • To hope is to be encouraged because it seems that what we dream of is possible, promising.
  • To hope is to trust that it can and will happen.
  • To hope is to expect it to happen.

Hope springs eternal.  To hope is to trust in the Lord, to look on the bright side, to be optimistic.  As Paul writes in his letter to the church in Rome, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

Hope is the same as faith.  Faith is to believe in that which we cannot see and so is hope.  We don’t know what our futures hold but we can each hope for a bright one.  God promised that He has plans for us so we have those to look forward to and what makes this more exciting is that what God’s plans for us are always beyond our wildest dreams.  Look at how blessed Abraham was after Isaac was born.  He became the father of nations as God promised.  Hannah prayed for a son and was blessed with Samuel and other children.  Leah was blessed with six sons and a daughter and God’s favour.  Ordinary men became great apostles whose gospels and letters we read to give us inspiration and a better insight to who Jesus is.

It is exciting to hope when you read how the lives of these people and others in the Bible changed when they came to know Jesus.  As Paul rightly says, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Romans 8:25)  Hope makes us steadfast and more focused on God.

Knowing who God is and what He has done makes it easy for us to hope in Him.  He is loving, kind, merciful, faithful and compassionate.  In Psalm 145:9, David says that the Lord has compassion on all that He has made.  This is true.  He had compassion on Leah who was unloved by her husband.  He had compassion for Hannah who was barren.  He had compassion for the woman who would have been stoned for committing adultery had He not been there.  God does indeed take care of His children and as long as we hold on to that fact, we will always have something to hope for.

That it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God” – Jeremiah 42:6

When Jesus told Simon Peter, James and John, “Do not be afraid.  From now on you will catch men,” they must have trusted Him enough to leave everything behind and follow Him.  They had seen with their own eyes what miraculous things He could.  All night the three men had been fishing and had caught nothing yet when they cast down their nets as Jesus bid them, they caught so much fish that the net holding them was breaking.  The two boats began to sink under the weight of the fish.  How was it possible that the same lake where the men hadn’t caught any fish a moment ago and the minute Jesus told them to cast their nets in, they were bursting with fish?  Jesus had done the impossible.  When, the men saw this, they were astonished.  They probably never caught so much fish in all the years they had been fishing and here Jesus had done it in such a short time.  Possibly ashamed of his reluctance earlier, Peter fell to his knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

Jesus told Simon Peter not to be afraid and that from now on, he would catch men.  Simon Peter’s days as a fisherman were over and he was now a follower of Jesus who had great plans for him and the others.  Just imagine how differently things would have turned out if Peter hadn’t decided to literally drop everything and follow Jesus.  He could not have imagined in all his wildest dreams what miraculous things he would be a witness to or that he would be preaching the same gospel he heard Jesus preach to the people from Peter’s boat or that he would be walking on water or that he too would be healing people.  None of these men could ever have imagined that their lives would change so dramatically because they had put their trust and faith in Jesus.  Just like these men, we should leave our worries behind and follow Him.  Catching the fish that had seemed nonexistent a short while ago was Jesus’ way of showing the three men what is impossible for man is not impossible for Him.  And that He could help them to catch bigger and better things if they just allow themselves to trust Him.

When we follow Jesus we are in for a treat.  As He pointed out, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  Peter and the other apostles believed that casting the net in the lake was hopeless because they had been trying all night to catch fish.  Fishing was their livelihood when they weren’t catching any it must have been very frustrating for them.  Then, Jesus came along told them to cast the net in and when they did there was an abundance of fish.  He wanted to show them what would happen if one doesn’t give up every time things don’t go well or as expected.  Jesus wanted to demonstrate through these men that He could penetrate the murky waters of our limited imagination and bring forth treasures that are possible only when we have faith in Him.

Jesus is the Light and when we trust in Him, we will no longer be in the dark about who He is and what He is capable of.  “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known.  I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight.” (Isaiah 42:16)  Jesus led Peter and the other disciples out of spiritual blindness into spiritual awareness.  On that fateful day on the lake, He opened their eyes to His magnificence.  He took them on a journey that forever changed their lives.  They went from reeling in fish to reeling in people.  Jesus taught them everything they needed to know and after His resurrection, He sent them into the world to finish His work.  “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

Just as He had promised, He was always with them, in person when He was here on earth and in spirit after He had returned to His Father in Heaven.  He is with us in spirit and when He calls us to do His work, He is right there alongside us, giving us guidance and all the tools we need to accomplish the task.  He left behind the Holy Spirit who would guide them into all truth; speak only what He hears and tell them what was to come.  In Acts 2, the disciples were gathered in one place on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled them and they began to speak in other tongues.  The Holy Spirit enabled them.  Peter addressed the non-believers, reminding them of Jesus and the miracles He performed before them, His crucifixion, and His resurrection.  He called them to repent and be baptized.  That day, about three thousand people accepted Christ and were baptized.  A fellowship of the believers was started; they broke bread, gave to those in need, and praised God who increased the number of people saved.  Jesus was with His disciples throughout their ministry, helping them, as they became fishers of men.

When we obey God we are blessed and through our obedience other people are blessed.  The apostles obeyed Jesus and they were blessed with His teachings, His love and with the Holy Spirit.  They were blessed with the task of spreading the gospel and as a result, others were blessed because they came to know Jesus.    When Moses obeyed God’s call to free the Israelites from Egypt, he had no way of knowing that he would be remembered as one of the greatest prophets of all time.  When Abraham obeyed God and went to a strange land, he had no way of knowing that he would be the father of many nations or that one of his descendants would be one of Israel’s greatest kings or that one of them would be the Messiah.  When Peter and the other fishermen followed Jesus they had no way of knowing that they would be witnesses of miracles or doers of miraculous signs.

O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust” – Psalm 7:1

 

The more we know someone the more likely we are to trust that person.  The more we spend time with God in meditation and reading the Bible, the more we will know about Him.  I have learned that He listens to me, He answers my prayers and He helps me when we ask Him and He keeps His promises and He disciplines me when I need it. 

I trust Him with my life because I know that he wants only the best for me.  He Himself declared, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I trust God because of what He has done.  He has demonstrated His love for us through Jesus’ death on the cross.  Jesus died for our sins and reconciled us to God and now we don’t have to worry about anything.  God will take care of us just as He took care of His Son while He was here on earth.  Peter encourages us to, “therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7) 

When we let go and let God, we are releasing ourselves from constantly worrying about the future and things we have no control over.  By letting go and letting God, we are showing Him that we trust Him to do what He has promised to do and that is to take care of us.  “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17)

So when it comes to faith we need to walk the walk. To walk with God is to follow His ways, to surrender to Him, to do as He commands and to follow His example.  As Christians, it is expected of us.  “And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)  It means that we should give Him lordship over our lives and that we should move forward in faith.  Abraham walked with God and when God told him to pack up his belongings and move to a strange land, Abraham went forward in faith.  Noah was a righteous man who walked with God.  Enoch walked with God.  By faith the disciples followed Jesus when He called them and by faith they stayed with Him when the others no longer walked with him.  Their reason for staying with Him was, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  (John 6:68-69)

By faith they continued to walk in Him—sharing the importance of Jesus death on the cross, the promise of salvation and the good news of His resurrection.  By faith they trusted God to see them through the many tribulations they faced during their ministry.  They were steadfast despite adversity because they were walking in faith and had dedicated their lives to Jesus.  “But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.  For to this you were called because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” (1 Peter 2:20-21)

Jesus had warned them that they would be persecuted, put in prisons, brought before kings and rulers for His name’s sake.  He warned that parents, brothers, relatives and friends would betray them and that some of them would be put to death.  “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.” (Luke 21:12-17) But, Jesus also had this assurance for His disciples, “But not a hair of your head will perish.  By standing firm you will gain life.” (Luke 21:18-19)  As long as we walk by faith we will never be lost or alone.  God is with us.

For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” – Mark 3:35

In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” The operative word here is keep.  I checked the Thesaurus for the word keep and these words were listed:  continue, store, hang on to, protect, honour.  This is how we can apply each word to God’s commandments:

  • We continue to obey them.  God intends for us to always obey Him.
  • We have to store them because we will always need them.
  • We have to hang on to them because they are our insurance for good and productive lives.  They are the bane of our existence.  Without God’s guidelines, we are lost and have no direction in our lives.
  • We should protect these commandments because they are God’s and they are precious. 
  • We should honour them.  They are our lifesavers—they protect us from sinning against God.

As followers of Jesus, we should keep God’s commandments just as Jesus Himself kept them.  In John 14:31, He says, “but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”  Jesus clearly demonstrates here that love and obedience are synonymous.  We obey God because we love Him and we keep His Word.  Jesus related everything His Father told Him to and He kept the word by setting a good example to His followers.  He didn’t just preach, He practiced what He preached.  He taught forgiveness and He showed it when He saved an adulteress from being stoned and said to her “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) He talked about mercy and He showed it to the multitudes because they were weary and scattered like sheep without a shepherd.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners because, “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13, 36)

A friend is someone who is always there when we need him; someone we can confide in, depend on, trust, be intimate with, share things with, seek advice from and have a close and loving relationship with.  Jesus is the embodiment of all these things.  He’s not just our Saviour.  He is our Friend.  And because He’s our Friend, we should show Him how much we care for Him and appreciate Him.  We should be willing to do anything for Him and not want to disappoint Him.  We should be worthy of His friendship.  “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants; for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15) 

We are no longer strangers to the gospel or as Jesus puts it, servants who don’t know what the master is up to.  His commandment is for us to love one another as He loves us.  There is no greater love than for a person to lay down his life for his friends.  Jesus laid down His life for us. We are His friends and friends stick together.  So, out of friendship and love for Him, we keep His commandment.  Commandments are for our own good.  David couldn’t have said it better, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.  The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7a, 8) Just as we follow good advice when it is offered to us, we should follow God’s commandments given to us out of love.

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” – Philippians 2:8.

 

Abraham was told to leave his country and go to a strange land believing God’s promise that, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)  Abraham obeyed and journeyed to Canaan.  Difficult times were ahead for them.  They faced famine; strife between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s livestock; and war which resulted in Lot’s capture.  Abraham and Sarah were childless.  At their age it must have seemed unlikely that they would be parents as God had promised.  But, God kept His promise and Isaac was born.  Isaac became the ultimate test of Abraham’s faith making the earlier challenges pale in comparison.

Abraham was asked to “take now your son, your only son to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2)  One cannot imagine what it must have taken for Abraham to be able to obey such a command.  For years he and Sarah had been childless and now the son God had promised them was going to be taken away and offered up as a sacrifice.  What about God’s promise of an everlasting covenant with Isaac and his descendants?  What must have been going through Abraham’s mind as he bound his son and laid him on the altar?  What must Isaac have been thinking?  As Abraham raised the knife to kill his son, was it his love for God that gave him the strength to go through with such an act?  God explains why He stopped him, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me.” (Genesis 22:12) 

Without question, Abraham obeyed God.  He did not demand to know why God was asking him to sacrifice the child he and his wife had waited so long to have.  He didn’t ask God why he was taking away the child he had promised him, “in Isaac your seed shall be called.”  He did not wonder why God who was faithful and never broke a promise was now asking him to do the unthinkable.  Abraham had no way of knowing that God would stop him.  He had no way of knowing that God would replace Isaac with a ram for the sacrifice.  Abraham’s faith in God was so strong, so powerful that he was able to obey the most difficult command a man would ever receive from his God.  As a result, God, in His loving kindness, spared Isaac and blessed Abraham. 

Obedience is not too difficult to achieve.  Abraham is proof of this and so is Jesus.  Jesus faced many difficulties during his ministry.  He was criticised, rejected, mocked, flogged, deserted, denied and crucified because He was speaking on God’s behalf as He was commanded.  When Jesus was on the Mount of Olives, He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” An angel from Heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him.  And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly.  Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. (Luke 22:41-44)  Jesus had a crisis of faith but, He was strengthened and He remained obedient. 

We too have crises of faith sometimes when faced with difficult times or temptations, but, if we pray to God, as Jesus did in His hour of need, God will strengthen us so that we don’t fall into temptation and remain obedient to Him.  Obeying Him will not always be easy but if we remember that it is the only way we will be able to experience God’s best and become closer to Him, we will be greatly motivated.



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