Asking in Faith

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6

When we ask God for something, sometimes we get a yes, sometimes we get a no and sometimes we get a not yet, because His timing is way better than ours. But one thing you can always count on a yes from God if you ask Him for, is wisdom. But you have to know that He will give it. You don’t doubt Him for this one. He will give you wisdom to walk out your circumstance or situation. He will give you wisdom to understand His word. He will give you wisdom wherever you need it. But you must ask and you will receive. 

I remember in my early adult years when I really began to study the Bible. I would read it at times and I had no clue what I had just read. That is also back before you had dozens of translations at your fingertips. I would read and I really had a hard time understanding. Then I found this verse. 

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” Psalm 19:7

And I truly started praying for God to give me understanding of His word. I am a simple minded woman and I needed His wisdom to decipher and to understand. And His word said He would make wise the simple! I would never be so bold as to say I understand fully. But His word really began to open up to me. And not only did I begin to understand it more, as I understood it more, I fell in love with His word more and more. I love God’s word, I love reading the Bible, I get excited when the written, God breathed words breathe fresh life into me!  It never gets old! God has given me a love for His word and it really is my desire for all to have the same love. 

God has also given me wisdom in circumstances and situations. When I reign myself in and ask God to direct my steps, and my thoughts, he will do it. He does it every time. But I can’t doubt that He will give me that direction. James’ description of being tossed by the wind is exactly how my insides feel when I am not leaning into Him for wisdom in my circumstances. 

I like to read other translations just to get different perspectives. I always stick with a translation like the ESV, NIV or NKJV at the beginning of my study. But I will support it with the Message, or NLT or The Passion Translation. I read these to get a different wording. I really liked the Message translation of these verses. 

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves.” James 1:5-7 (MSG)

I just like the plain English that this translation puts it. Many times I ask for His help when I don’t know which way to turn. And yes sometimes it’s hard to ask Him and then not “worry my prayers”. But that is not how we are supposed to ask. We should ask Him, lay them at His feet and then wait in FAITH for His direction to show us what we need to do next. 

Faith Grows

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

We have been talking about faith. Many people want to know how to build their faith. Faith is one of those things that will build over time as we follow Jesus. But there is something you can do to help build it. And it is really very simple. It’s this. Open the word! 

I became a Christian in my teens and I went to church and I would fall off, and I would come back to church. I truly believe that I gave my heart to Jesus at that time, but I had no clue what it meant to follow Him daily at that time. Reading the Bible was hard for a girl who had only attended church on Easter Sunday, Christmas and VBS for most of her life, with occasional short seasons of going regularly. When I was younger, I would decide I was going to go to church but since my family didn’t attend regularly I would walk down the street to the church right around the corner. I would have to get special permission to pass the stop sign as that was our boundary and the church was on the next corner. But usually after a VBS that I had attended I would feel the pull to start attending and I would walk to church. But it seems all it would take was a rainy or a cold Sunday where walking was more of a hindrance and I might fall off of my church attendance. Until the next big event they had that I would get invited to and my passion to attend church would be renewed. But in my teens when I could drive to things and attend more regularly I remember giving my heart to Jesus and being baptized. Then I would go more regularly but still I really knew nothing of walking daily with Him. That didn’t come until my adult years. 

But even as a young adult for many years I was a Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night Christian. My Bible might lay on a shelf from Sunday to Wednesday, Wednesday to Sunday and might get opened but might not. Over time, I began to teach Sunday school classes and/or children’s choir and different things around the church and I would at least have to study a bit to know how to teach it. I learned a lot of Bible stories that way, out of necessity. 

I remember when God really began growing my faith though and it came through some tough times and some things that I really began to seek His direction for my life. And the way that faith grew was from studying His word and hearing His word and seeking His word. You see it’s us that complicate this Christian life so much. It’s us who beg God to grow our faith and to show us the way but many times, it’s a wonder if we even open the word and seek. I am so grateful to the grace of God on my life. You see all of the little jaunts I made, not attending church, before and after I became a Christian could have taken me over the rails. But God in his love, grace and mercy kept drawing me back to Him, to His church and to His people. My faith grew because I kept returning to hear the good news. My heart knew what my head didn’t. Many times as I was drawn to the church and the people of God, I found God! I found my faith because I kept opening my ears and eventually His word. 

If you need your faith to grow, the first thing you do be sure you are attending a church that preaches the gospel. I remember a pastor saying in a sermon one time “it is just as much your responsibility to know if what I am preaching is true as it is mine to preach what is true.” That was probably one of the things that set my heart to His word more than any other thing because I realized at that point in my life he could have preached anything and I would not just know if it was in the Bible or not. That brings us to the second thing you do. Get in the word. Study it for yourself. If you don’t understand it, ask Him to give you understanding. I promise you if you hear the word and study the word your faith will grow!

Faith and Joy

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

This is the first time and may be the only time you will hear me say THIS is not one of my favorite passages of scripture. In fact if I am being truthful, I have struggled with this scripture a lot over the years. I have honestly shook my fist at it at times. I do not want to count the trials and hard things that have come my way as joy. In fact I have felt like this so much to the point I almost skipped it when talking about faith. But I really know that I can’t. 

I can’t skip it for many reasons. The first being that I do believe that all scripture is God breathed and you can’t just pull out the ones you like. (2 Timothy 3:16)

But also because I have lived it. First off the passage does not say to count it joy IF you meet trials but WHEN you meet trials. You see, we know that life on earth will be like that. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if life is rocking along and you are not meeting some trials now, the fact is that they will come. But you probably already know that. Life has a way of knocking us down, doesn’t it? All of us eventually will have stuff in our lives that are our trials. They may look different, but the fact is they will come. Life on earth is not perfect because we live in a fallen world. Adam and Eve left the garden a long time ago. So we know they are coming. But I have always looked at this verse and in my mind I wanted to shut down because I didn’t see how I could count the hard stuff of life as Joy. 

But it’s looking beyond the trial that will bring the joy. The verse says the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Some translations say patience, some say perseverance. You see it’s not the trials that will produce the faith, but it’s when we let our faith stand up to the trial that will produce the steadfastness in us, the patience, the perseverance. It’s the faith that we have taken the time to build, the faith we have built through our relationship with Him that will help us to stand up to the trial. This is why it is so important to build your faith when the season is a good season of rest. So you know where to go when the trials come. Because if you have that foundation of faith, the trials will not tear us down and my friends that’s when we can meet those trials with joy. Knowing that Jesus, the one who saved us through our faith, He has whatever we are walking in, in the palm of His hand. 

And when we have built our faith and we can stand up to the trial, and it produces the steadfastness in us, in Jesus eyes we are perfect and complete and lacking in nothing. That’s where the joy comes in, knowing that our Father, our Savior is pleased with us. 

Why did I know that I couldn’t skip this verse, that I have struggled with so many times over the years? Because I really do know that the hard things that I have had to lay at Jesus feet, the things that have tested my faith have produced a steadfastness in me FOR Him. I know that I walk more hand in hand with Jesus every day because of the times I couldn’t take a step without Him. And walking with Him is where my joy is!

Perfect Faith

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Originally I was only going to look at verse 2 for today. But in my mind it is not a stand alone verse. It continues a sentence. When that happens I like to go back and see what the previous verse says. I always loved these verses and as I study and get into them, I love them even more. First note, what is the therefore there for? Well the previous chapter is the faith chapter, where the author of Hebrews lays out of all of the champions of the faith! So we know that he is referring to those champions when he says “therefore”! We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. These stories of these champions of faith are not just there to entertain us. They are not just stories. They are testimonies of real people who served a Holy God and held onto their faith and how they were blessed by that. I love faith stories. I love the faith stories that I read in the Bible and I love faith stories in the present day. They encourage me to keep my own faith. 

Keeping that faith, we are to lay aside every weight, and sin. What is weighing you down? Is it sin? Is it worry (which could be called sin?), is your worry over financial strains, medical diagnoses, the world we live in today, Covid? Is it worry over a family member or family circumstance? Because we hear and know these faith stories we should be able to lay aside our weight of worry and sin. I know it is easier said than done, oh how I know. But that is what this verse encourages us to do. 

And because of these stories of faith, we are to run the race that is set before us. We each have a race. Our races look different but mind you each one is hard. If you aren’t in a hard place right now, praise Jesus for it and keep on keeping on because your life can encourage someone who does happen to be in a hard race. But how do we stay on course, how do we continue to run? 

We look to Jesus! He is the founder and perfecter of our faith. We can have faith because of Him. We are saved through our faith in Him and our faith is perfected in Him. I know that I would be a wretched woman if not for Him and what He has done for me. I know that there are days I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning if not for Him. But my faith in Him, my faith that He has got me keeps me running this race. Jesus endured the cross, He kept His eyes on the joy that would come from the cross. And because he endured it, He is now seated at the right hand of God and we can run our race knowing that He has finished the ultimate fight for us. My faith is found only in Jesus and my faith is perfect because of Jesus! 

Justified through Faith

“Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law because by works of the law no one will be.” Galatians 2:16

In this verse Paul was reminding Peter of some facts about Jesus and works and faith. I know that this verse is one that at times in the past I might have read and just skimmed over because it has so many words I didn’t quite understand. But when you unpack it, it really is not complicated at all. It’s just Paul’s ways of writing. 

Peter had been playing both sides of the fence so to speak between the Jews and the Gentiles. When he was with the Gentiles, he wanted to act like a Gentile and when the Jews came around he pulled back from the Gentiles. Paul has rebuked Peter and let him know that he was not acting in step with the “truth of the gospel” (v. 14). Paul is reminding Peter that we are not saved by our works and by the law, but through our faith in Jesus. We are not justified by our works. Our works for Jesus are not what makes us righteous in Him. We are made righteous only because of our faith in Jesus. 

In other words all this striving for perfection, and keeping of rules and don’t do this, but do that, will never make us good enough. It doesn’t matter how many bible studies you take, or Sunday school classes you teach, or if you sing in the choir or the praise team or just from your place in the congregation on Sunday morning. The thing that will make you righteous before God is your faith in Jesus. Now don’t think I am saying that those other things are not good things. They are, I love bible study, I love singing praise to Him. But if I am taking a bible study or leading a bible study, I want it to be because I want to know Him more, not so I can be seen taking that study. If I am singing, I want it to point to my faith in Him, not so people can think of me. 

There is a verse in Isaiah that goes like this. 

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6

In other words there is nothing we can DO that would ever be good enough to get into God’s kingdom. Whatever good we do is like a filthy rag to God without the blood of Jesus covering it. For me, that releases me so much. Because when you struggle with the feeling you are not enough but that because of Jesus you are made enough, I can stop striving to BE enough and to just love Him. I pray with every fiber of my being that when I write, when I sing, when I paint, when I just talk to a friend that Jesus can be seen in me. Because without Him, I will never be able to be good enough, I can’t do enough. But with Him, because of my faith in who He is and who I am in Him, I am justified, I am enough! 

FAITH PLEASES GOD!

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

This little verse is tucked inside what is known as the Faith chapter in Hebrews. This chapter tells of many of the saints of old and how they had faith in God and how they were rewarded because of it. But this little verse is not just a lesson for those saints, it is a lesson for us. God expects us to have faith and for us to expect rewards from Him because of that faith. 

But what is it about this faith? This verse starts with “without faith it is impossible to please him”. It doesn’t say without faith its going to be hard for you to please God or difficult to please God. No it says it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God without faith. Wow! That’s a pretty tall order. That definitely puts a new spin on this faith thing. We learned yesterday that it is our faith that leads us to our salvation and now we know too that we can’t please God without it. 

But sometimes it’s hard to keep the faith isn’t it? When I am waiting on an answer for a prayer I have been praying for a long time, I will ask god to let me see Him in the process. I did this just the other day. I have something I keep laying down and as I grow weary at times, I will simply say “Lord I need to see you, my faith is getting shaky, can I just see you are still here.” And if I sit back and pay attention, I always get the answer. It may be in a conversation or a turn of events. Please know the answers are not always going to come in a Damascus road type experience. Sometimes the answers are coming in a process. We just have to pay attention and ask Him to let us see His hand. 

So how do we grow our faith? Well I think the rest of this verse leads us to that. 

“whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him” 

Your faith will build as you spend time with Him. Bottom line. As you spend time with Him you want to please Him and your belief in Him and what He wants to do for you grows and then He rewards that time. For instance, if you think you don’t have time for a quiet time, commit to Him 30 minutes and ask Him to redeem that time for you. You will be surprised at what you can accomplish later in the day that may have taken you double the time. If you want your faith to grow, draw near to God, believe Him for whatever is concerning you and seek Him! Seek His direction for your life, seek His will for your life, seek out His heart. As you do your faith will grow and as your faith grows you can know that you are pleasing God and He will reward that. The rewards I have received from time spent with Him are too numerous to count. 

Saved THROUGH Faith!

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8

Let’s talk about faith. We will land on this subject of faith for a week or two and explore the aspects of it. I’ve always liked this verse and as I studied it I found even more reasons to like it. First of all, we can’t even think about our salvation without realizing that it is only given to us by the grace of God. There is nothing that we do to earn it, there is nothing that we do to deserve it. It comes to us as a gift of God through our faith. 

The author of the commentary I read explained that we are not even saved by our faith but through our faith. Now I pondered that for a few minutes on what that could even mean. And what I think is this, if we were saved BY our faith then it would just happen. All we would have to do is to know all about Jesus in our head, to know scripture and to be able to quote it. But THROUGH faith is a heart work. It means that we not only know about Him in our head, but we also know about Him in our hearts. You see even the demons know about Jesus and they know scripture. But when we take those scriptures and God’s word and we work it out in our hearts to put our trust and faith in the person of Jesus Christ that is when we truly have received our salvation and we can know the gift. 

Now don’t get me wrong here, the working out I am talking here is strictly heart works. Not the work we will end up doing for Him, the putting our feet to our prayers and being the hands and feet of Jesus. I am talking about putting your faith to work in your prayer closet or your prayer chair, whichever you may have. It’s taking His word and looking at it and deciphering it, and believing on it. That is what will build your faith, the faith that sustains us, the faith in the person and the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the gift of God, the grace of God that we receive. And it is what leads us to our salvation. It’s His gift! The work is actually done by Jesus in our hearts, we don’t get to boast about it, except to boast in Christ alone! 

TRUTH – God Has His Eye on You!

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.” Psalm 33:18 ESV

Fear in this sense of the word is not the fear we talked about last week. It is not the fear that keeps you up at night or makes you have to remember to breathe. The fear this is talking about is a holy reverence. It is knowing, believing God to be who He says He is. And knowing that He holds you, He holds your future, He knows your past, He is your very present. He is creator of the universe and He created you for a purpose. It is knowing that He is the very air you breathe and being grateful for that air and the breath in your lungs. It is knowing that I am His and I don’t think I would survive one minute if I didn’t know He was holding me in the palm of His hand! 

When you “fear” Him, when you know Him, when you desire to follow Him, because you have given your life to Him, you can be assured that His eye is on you!  He knows the stuff of life, the big stuff and the mundane stuff that is making up your days. He is keeping his watchful eye on you. And therefore, you can hope in His steadfast love. Even when you don’t feel Him, He’s there. Even when you don’t see Him, He is there. Even when you aren’t getting it right or you aren’t pulling it together. He is there. Even when you mess up, He’s there, keeping His eye on you. 

I am thinking about my grandchildren when they come to visit. My eyes are on their every move. I can’t take my eyes off of them. I love everything they do and nothing can and will ever change that. Even when they may not be doing things the way their parents want, when they are whiny because they are tired or not feeling well or just want their way. I love them no matter what or how they act. I love to watch them play, I love to snuggle with them. I LOVE when they call me by name. I love everything about them and they will never have need to doubt my love for them. God feels the same way about us. He delights for us to call Him by name and He watches our every moves. 

There is something about that that just gives me courage and it gives me strength and it gives me hope. I know that if God is for me, who can be against me? (Romans 8:31) I know that I will remain confident that I will see His goodness in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13) And I know that His purpose for me will be fulfilled. (Psalm 138:8)

Truth – God Works Things out for Good

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 ESV

This verse is among my top ten of very favorite verses. At first glance someone may think this is just one of those feel good verses and that that’s why it is so loved.  But when you look a little deeper you see that it is not saying that all is going to always FEEL good but that when left to God He will work things out for good. Also, when you look at where this verse lands in scripture you can see that it is not talking about feel good circumstances.  Let’s take a look at the verses preceding. 

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

Do you see what is happening here? Have you ever had a situation so out of control, so big that you just simply did not know what to pray anymore? Maybe you have prayed very specifically in the past and it worked out as you prayed but when it did, it still didn’t seem to work the situation out. I know I have. Now I do believe in praying specifically at times. But I have also become a believer in praying for God to just Be God and for Him to work things out the best way. I am so glad to have Holy Spirit on my side because I know that when I don’t know the best way things need to work out, which is most of the time, that He does. Only I am probably like most people that it’s not until I am at the end of myself and my prayers are “groanings too deep for words” that I call on God to do it His way, to pray for the results that would be good overall not just what would make me feel good. 

The main thing I want to note and I have to remember about our key verse here is it is not saying that all things are going to feel good all the time. First there is the element “for those who love God” and then “He will work all things together for good”. I have often said sometimes things have to fall apart before they can get better. Unfortunately a lot of us check out during the fall apart stage. There are people who have turned their back on God because they couldn’t see Him during the fall apart stage of things. But during the fall apart stage is when you have to keep laying things at His feet and you hand it all over to God with groaning that are too deep for your words and you say “take care of it Lord, it’s yours.” 

When things get to the fall apart stage, don’t give up, don’t walk away, just keep laying It at His feet and let Him work things out for good. When you don’t know what to do anymore is when He will come in and make something beautiful of the mess. Our job is to love God and then to ask Him to use us, to use whatever good came out of our mess for His good and His glory according to His purpose! 

Truth – God is With You Even in your Difficulties

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2 ESV

Have you ever been in a situation that was just overwhelming? Are you now? This verse speaks to those times in life. The times that you just aren’t even sure what to pray because you don’t know what a good result would be. Or the times that you know where the diagnosis will end and you would love to pray for healing but it is doubtful that that will be the end result. It is a comfort to know that even though you feel like you are walking right into a rushing river that He will be with you. 

This verse also may speak to me because probably my two greatest fears would be drowning or being burned in a fire. I am somewhat of a chicken I will admit to that. That’s why I like the simplicity of the way the NLT puts this verse. 

“When you go through deep waters I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up-the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2 NLT

Also note that this verse starts with “when”. It doesn’t say “if”. Trials are sure to come for us all. Life on earth is not perfect. We can know that trials are going to come for the believer as well as the unbeliever. The difference is we have our God to walk with us through the trial. Personally, I can’t imagine going through life without God to walk with me through the waters. I like that this verse in the NLT puts it plainly “you will not drown”. I have had things that were so overwhelming to me I thought I was walking through a raging river. I had to remind myself breathe in, breathe out. Or at least I felt like I had to anyway. But to know and to stand on the truth that He is with me no matter what it is a comfort to know that I will not drown in the trial. 

There is another point here. This text was encouragement for the Jews who were in exile. They were there because of their own disobedience to God. They had not followed God and had sinned and because of it they were now exiled in a foreign land. Yet God in His tender love and mercy was promising them that even though life was not going as they had planned, He was going to be with them. He would be with them in spite of their disobedience because they belonged to Him. This text doesn’t say if you do everything right I will go through the deep waters with you. There is no distinction. You see if you belong to Him, He is going to go with you wherever you go. If your trial is from your own making or if it is just circumstances of life or sickness, He will be there. If you can’t see Him, ask Him to let you see Him. 

Many times if I am going through a hard time, and I don’t feel Him, I will ask Him to let me see Him and He will. Several years ago I was going through a sad time, and I determined to myself to look for something beautiful every day. I remember getting in my car to go to work one day and it was very foggy, gray and dreary. I had the thought, “well Lord, I don’t know how I will see anything beautiful on my way to work today.” Well just down the road I was stuck in traffic and I looked over at a field that had these silos and buildings in the distance and the sun was trying to burn through the fog. It was a most beautiful picture as the sun burning through made that fog shine a beautiful shimmery silver and the buildings were silhouettes against the backdrop. I know I am probably not explaining it well. But I remember smiling because I knew this was my something beautiful for that day. If your heart is heavy or just as a good practice. Ask Him for beautiful, Ask Him to let you see something to remind you that He is near you. It may be in a sunrise or a sunset, or a baby’s laugh or a gentle breeze. I know He is with me just because He says it in His word, but if I ask Him then I look for Him, He will let me see Him and feel Him too.