The Long, Hard Journey of Faith
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
When I became a Christian, I thought all my problems would go away, and God would take care of everything with a snap of His fingers.
The truth is, my life fell apart within weeks of being baptized. Suffice it to say, accepting Jesus and asking Him to be Lord of my life didn’t obliterate the garbage I’d pressed down in the compactor of my heart.
In His mercy and grace, God didn’t bring up all my sins, sinful habits and sinful ways of thinking at one time. I’d have likely despaired if He had.
Instead, He opened my eyes over time. Through His Holy Spirit, I saw the painful truth. I agreed with God about my sins. Even before I was a Christian, I knew when I did wrong. My conscience told me. But the heart is deceitful, and the mind can rationalize and justify any behavior. And we tend to surround ourselves with like-thinkers. I can’t cast blame. Wrongs are done to us by others, but that never excuses us from doing wrong ourselves.
Thankfully, God created us as His masterpiece — His work of art — and He has destined us to accomplish great things in our lifetimes: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10). God knows who and what we are. He offers one way to be saved for all eternity: Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. No other way. While seeing and acknowledging the truth about myself, I also experienced the amazing grace and love of God.
Coming to Jesus opened my eyes to who I am. I am a sinner. I am human. I am weak. I stumble and fall, even now that I am saved. I am also a daughter of the King. I am loved by God. And He is strong. He is faithful. He keeps His Word. He will never abandon me. He helps me stand again. He gives me the will to keep walking in the steps of Jesus.
But honestly, it can be very hard, working out our salvation. By working, I mean living it, not earning it. As the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2:12b, we are to “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” (NLT)
Friends, the faith journey isn’t easy. Believing is only the first step onto the narrow pathway. The next steps put a believer on the road of trial and blessing as we walk out a new life as a disciple of Christ. We must stick close to Jesus, read His Word, lean in and listen. We need to obey, even when it means personal, painful sacrifice. That’s the long, hard journey of transformation. That’s the kind of faith that impacts the world.
Dear Lord, sometimes I wish this journey of faith were easier. But I know You are with me, guiding each step I take. Nudge me back onto Your path when I wander off. And give me strength to continue pressing on every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
God did his most deadly work to destroy hopelessness and futility and provincial cowardice. He gave up his Son to torture and death. A perfect life, a perfect death, and the decisive work was done.
But there are millions who are numb to hope because of the God-belittling things they have done and how ugly they have become. They don’t lift lofty arguments against God’s Truth; they shrug and feel irretrievably outside. They don’t defy God consciously; they default to cake and television. Except for the periodic rush of sex and sport and cinema, life yawns. There is no passion for significance. For many, no passion at all.
There is a Christian version of this paralysis. The decision has been made to trust Christ. The shoot of hope and joy has sprung up. The long battle against sin has begun. But the defeats are many, and the plant begins to wither. One sees only clouds and gathering darkness. The problem is not perplexing doctrine or evolutionary assaults or threats of persecution. The problem is falling down too many times. Gradually the fatal feeling creeps in: the fight is futile; it isn’t worth it.
Along with this hopelessness and futility, especially since 9/11, provincial cowardice captures many Christian minds. They fear that it may sound conceited to call every people group in the world to trust Christ or perish. It seems too global. Too sweeping. Too universal. To say it takes their breath away. And, worse, it brings down the wrath of the tolerant. What could be more arrogant than to think that the infinite variety of need in all the cultural groups of the world could be met by a single Savior!
It is astonishing that the Biblical gospel of justification by faith alone answers these three human failures: the hopelessness of unbelievers, the feeling of futility from falling down, and the fear of making global claims for Christ.
To the numb and listless sinner, feeling beyond all hope of godliness, the Bible says, “To the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). God justifies the “ungodly.” This truth is meant to break the back of hopelessness.
The connection between the sinner and the Savior is trust, not improvement of behavior. That comes later. It’s this order that gives hope. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). The basis of this wild and wonderful hope (the ungodly justified) is “Christ for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, literal translation). Through faith alone God counts the ungodly as righteous because of Christ. “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Let all who are paralyzed by the weight of sin and the powerlessness to change turn in here.
To the fallen saint, who knows the darkness is self-inflicted and feels the futility of looking for hope from a frowning Judge, the Bible gives a shocking example of gutsy guilt. It pictures God’s failed prophet beneath a righteous frown, bearing his chastisement with broken-hearted boldness. “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light” (Micah 7:8-9). This is courageous contrition. Gutsy guilt. The saint has fallen. The darkness of God’s indignation is on him. He does not blow it off, but waits. And he throws in the face of his accuser the confidence that his indignant Judge will plead his cause and execute justice for (not against) him. This is the application of justification to the fallen saint. Broken-hearted, gutsy guilt.
For the squeamish fellow afraid of making global claims for Christ, the biblical teaching on justification explodes his little world. It says: the deepest problem to be solved is the same for every human being, because every human is a descendant of Adam. And the problem to be solved is that “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” “One trespass led to condemnation for all men.” The only solution to this universal condemnation is a “second Adam” who provides “the free gift of righteousness” to all who hear the gospel and believe (Romans 5:17-19). Therefore Christ, the second Adam, the giver of righteousness, is the only global Savior.
Embrace as your treasure the gift of justification. There is no part of your life where it is not immeasurably precious.
Streams IN The Desert
By: L,B. Cowman
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ . . . and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6).
This is our rightful place, to be “seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” and to “sit still” there. But how few there are who make it their actual experience! How few, indeed think even that it is possible for them to “sit still” in these “heavenly places” in the everyday life of a world so full of turmoil as this.
We may believe perhaps that to pay a little visit to these heavenly places on Sundays, or now and then in times of spiritual exaltation, may be within the range of possibility; but to be actually “seated” there every day and all day long is altogether another matter; and yet it is very plain that it is for Sundays and week-days as well.
A quiet spirit is of inestimable value in carrying on outward activities; and nothing so hinders the working of the hidden spiritual forces, upon which, after all, our success in everything really depends, as a spirit of unrest and anxiety.
There is immense power in stillness. A great saint once said, “All things come to him who knows how to trust and be silent.” The words are pregnant with meaning. A knowledge of this fact would immensely change our ways of working. Instead of restless struggles, we would “sit down” inwardly before the Lord, and would let the Divine forces of His Spirit work out in silence the ends to which we aspire.
You may not see or feel the operations of this silent force, but be assured it is always working mightily, and will work for you, if you only get your spirit still enough to be carried along by the currents of its power.
–Hannah Whitall Smith
There is a point of rest
At the great center of the cyclone’s force,
A silence at its secret source;
A little child might slumber undisturbed,
Without the ruffle of one fair curl,
In that strange, central calm, amid the mighty whirl.
It is your business to learn to be peaceful and safe in God in every situation.