The Christian community desperately
needs contemporary giants of faith. Our
society has progressively moved away from the established church according to a
recent study, “
“The Christian share of the
What is it about today’s church which is so lacking that not only is it not attracting more members but it is driving them away? As God’s true message is relevant to people across time, I believe it is because, in far too many cases, God’s people have left their first love and, with that, lost sight of the importance, and meaning, of “…faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6, The King James Version). Whatever your specific eschatological beliefs, Christians know that every day is one step closer to the closing of the church age. Regardless of the proximity of Christ’s return, we also are aware of the frailty of life and that no one, in or outside of grace, is promised tomorrow. If we are truly living by faith working through love, then this should be enough to compel us to reach out to those living without a relationship with their creator. For all of these reasons, as well as the evidence of church decline, it is imperative that the church reexamine their spiritual life and determine that key, critical ingredient which is evidently lacking to sufficiently meet our contemporary challenges and our world’s eternal need. Re-discovering true faith working through love is that key to these challenges as well as meeting this time’s need for giants of the faith to reap for God a great harvest.
1 Corinthians 13 highlights faith, hope, and love above all of God’s spiritual gifts, with love being preeminent. Paul, in Galatians, tells us that faith works through love. Galatians further tells us, “For we wait for the hope of righteousness by faith,” (Galatians 5:5, The King James Version). We have, then, an intimate connection and order in these mighty three gifts; love, faith, hope. Love is preeminent, without which ground it is impossible for faith to spring and hope to flower. All of the other fruits of the spirit come about from this basic union, nourished in the soul of God’s love from which rises the substance and evidence of our life in Christ, and into which blooms the first fruit of hope as well as all of the other gifts of the spirit.
It is from the substance and evidence of these gifts that we, as the body of Christ, are conformed to his image and draw others into a relationship with him. It is from our first revelation of this great hope where we found our first love; that God loves us just like we are, that he sent his son to die for our sins, that Christ arose, defeating sin and death, and that we likewise will be with him for all eternity. Praise God! Unfortunately, many have failed to abide in that first discovery of love, faith, and hope. Affixing to that tender vine strings of this and that from the world thinking to aid the vine, they simply rather choke it off, as if the vine needed more from us than our simply abiding in it. Although the root still lives, the branches have withered and dried, with no hope of fruit and, therefore, no power to draw others to it.
The symbolism of the soil of the word, the vine of Christ, and the fruits of the spirit are both a beautiful word picture of the unity of God and his body, the church, as well as an enlightening depiction of the intimate relationship between the three great gifts of love, faith, and hope which, if we fail to abide in, results in a fruitless church. Before we move to our main topic of faith, let us first look at this relationship.
Not to trivialize, but the childhood taunt to fellow kids who, perhaps before their peers, had found a sweetheart was the quip first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Johnny with a baby carriage. Although a puerile jibe, perhaps it can serve to illustrate a finer point. What is marriage but an outward manifestation of an inner commitment? What are children but the fruit of that love and commitment (and grandchildren the hope of our older age)? It is no accident, of course, that God centrally depicts our relationship to him as a marriage, or a covenant. It all starts with love.
God’s word beautifully and simply gives us an example of the essential nature of love in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever should believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God, the creator of the universe, out of his great love for us, was obedient, even unto death, in demonstrating that love. In John we are told, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments...” (1 John 5:3, The King James Version). The essential nature of our love of God is obedience to the will of God, and it is only through this obedience that God will reveal more of himself both in us and through us. It is that revelation which instills in us his faith, which is the living word of God made alive to our hearts and minds by the spirit that we might walk in its light with perfect trust, blessed assurance, and sure hope. It is this ability to know God which sets man, a spiritual being, apart from the rest of God’s creation. Our spiritual nature uniquely enables mankind to know God, who is spirit. It is also that which confers on us the ability to reject him as our spirit, unbound by time or place, is the only truly free element of our being. God, in making us in his image, bequeathed on us the ability to reject him, thus necessitating a plan, from the foundation of the earth, to redeem us from sin and death. What great love the Father has for us, and this is also the love he demands of us – to love as he loves. This is impossible with man, but with God all things are possible. God, the perfect father, understanding our frailties, empowers us, bit by bit, to approach a more and more complete knowledge of him through our progressive acts of love, through obedience to him.
Through that obedience, the Father reveals himself to us by making his word come alive in our hearts and minds rather than being simply words on a page or regurgitated memory verses. This is what enables us to grow into the likeness of Christ, to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God – that we be like him, but it is only possible to begin that journey through obedience.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is substance and evidence. Dr. J. Vernon McGhee gives two concrete analogies for what these words mean in his article, “What is Faith.”  Substance is likened to the product in a test tube after a chemical reaction. Evidence is likened to what is brought into a courtroom to prove a case. In both instances, these are real, objectively experienced entities. Hebrews further tells us that faith is the substance and evidence of things hoped for but not seen. What we hope for, in our deepest beings, yet do not directly see is God. The essence of God and the evidence for God is the living word in our lives renewing our minds and resulting in us bearing fruit for God. When God reveals himself to us, it is like a chemical reaction which leads to a new, fresh understanding. The word and the spirit come together, and those words, which before had little meaning to us, become a new substance – the living word in our lives, transforming our minds and compelling us, by this deeper understanding of God and his character, to good works which God, before we were born, ordained that we should perform in his service.
Paul tells us in Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, The King James Version). Many consider faith as something of themselves. Not only is this a misunderstanding of what faith is, but it is also a dangerous misunderstanding of where it comes from. It is the faith of the Son of God. Were it of ourselves, then would we be as partners with God, materially assisting him, in our salvation. Paul makes the fallacy of this proposition abundantly clear in Ephesians where he states, “For by grace are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, The King James Version). Salvation is God’s unmerited favor bestowed on us through the living word made alive to our hearts and minds by the spirit which draws us to him. Likewise, any works which come by faith are not accomplished by our faith, but by the faith of the Son of God, lest any man should boast. Man’s only part in these works of God is the free will consent of his spirit to the revelation of the truth given by God. Were it any otherwise, there would be grounds for boasting or, in the case of failure to perform the good works, shame and self condemnation. The latter is the reason that Paul so roundly rebuked the Galatians when he said, “Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3, The King James Version). Paul knew this to be a fool’s errand as no man, apart from God, is able to keep God’s law.
Romans 10:17 tells us, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” This hearing, however, is accomplished with our spiritual ears, for it is hearing the revelation of the Spirit of God. What the spirit is revealing is the reality of the word of God, which revelation makes it come alive, substantive, and evident to our hearts and minds. This is clear in Peter’s conversation with Jesus recorded in Mathew 16:16-17.
“He sayeth unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”
Simon Peter knew the scriptures, but it was only after the spirit revealed that word now in the flesh appearing before him that he made this proclamation. Likewise, when the spirit makes God’s word come alive for us, he is striving with our fleshly spirits to trust and obey his revelation of the truth, to put off our sin nature, and to let the living word work through us. If we live in the word and in the spirit, this is a continual process, which makes our hope more and more sure as we see the reality of God in our lives and active in the world around us.
In James 2:18 we read, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” James might well have put this another way: show me how the word made alive by the spirit to your heart and mind did not compel you to obedience in good works. He brings his point home when he reiterates that “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20, The King James Version). It is dead because the striving of the spirit was ignored in disobedience and, without obedience, God’s continued revelation ceases. Further illumination is not received. Further growth in the knowledge of God is not attained. The word ceases to be alive and active in your life because, in rebellion, you ignored its light. Your Christian walk becomes joyless because you are not walking in the light of the living word. You cease to produce the fruits of righteousness. God’s grace, through the knowledge of God, ceases to be multiplied to you (1 Peter 1:2). The divine power unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue, is removed from our lives (1 Peter ). Our faith is dead because the divine power, the Holy Spirit, because of our lack of love, or obedience to his revelation of truth in the word, ceases to operate in our lives. Without the spirit’s revelation, the word becomes to us just letters on a page, having no real impact on our lives. If, however, we respond in obedience to the revelations of the spirit, we continue to grow in the knowledge of God and show forth his reality in our lives. We are enabled to fulfill Peter’s subsequent charge:
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity.” (2 Peter 1:5-7, The King James Version).
We experience a living faith as the spirit makes the word alive to our hearts and minds and, through this revelation, we diligently commit to apply this new knowledge of God in our lives. The pre-eminence of virtue in this process is key, virtue being a godly character the seeds of which must be planted as acts of obedience. As the quip goes, sow an act reap a habit, sow a habit reap a character, sow a character reap a destiny. Our destiny of continually growing into the fullness of the likeness of Christ begins to be fulfilled as we diligently work faith into our lives through each successive revelation of the word. That consistent and repetitive application of the living word in our lives creates the habit of godly action which leads to a godliness of character. Peter continues, “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8, The King James Version). This is the destiny of a godly character, that we bear fruit for Christ as we grow into his likeness.
The scriptures are full of examples of how the word, made alive to the hearts and minds of believers, compels them to obedience resulting in a continued revelation of God to mankind. And yet, these faith giants were mere men and women as we. What principles can we learn from their examples, how God worked in their lives and how they responded, which we can apply today? As God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we can be sure that he is more than able, and ready, and willing that contemporary giants of faith arise.
If we look across the panoply of faith giants, one of God’s principles is plain – he used ordinary men to accomplish extraordinary things. David was a shepherd boy, the least of his brethren in terms of men’s estimation of the qualities for leadership. He could not even don the king’s armor, it being too heavy for his frame. Moses was a stammerer, self admittedly lacking any eloquence of speech wherewith to confront the Pharaoh of Egypt and his court. The disciples were, in large measure, mere fishermen with no education except what they learned plying their trade. Abraham was an old man, already seventy five, when God called him to leave the land of his fathers and start anew. Daniel was but a slave boy when carried away captive by the Babylonians. Esther was an orphaned female of a conquered people. Gideon was cowering in fear in a winepress when called to lead God’s people against the Midianites.
These heroes and giants of faith were all ordinary and, one might argue, unexceptional vessels, which leads us to the first principle for the realization of contemporary giants of faith – all those saved by grace through faith are empowered to become faith giants because they are all alike filled with the Spirit of God by which and through which the empowerment comes. We need have no unique abilities of our own to be used by God to accomplish great works of faith. As the word tells us, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (1 Corinthians 1:27, The King James Version). God only needs willing vessels to be used for his purpose, in obedience to his revelation. Every born again Christian is endowed with everything they need to become a giant of faith regardless of their innate abilities or lack thereof: the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and a free spirit willing to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
A second principle which can be seen in the lives of giants of faith is that their faith journeys did not begin with a parting of the Red Sea. Rather they began with simple acts of obedience and, with each such act, a continual revelation by God of himself to them, and a deeper mental and emotional commitment of their minds and hearts to him. As Isaiah teaches us:
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept; line upon line, line upon line, here a little, and there a little.” (Isaiah 2:9-10, The King James Version).
Christ did not first call Peter to join him in walking on the water, he simply said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mathew 4:10, The King James Version). God did not first tell Abram to sacrifice Isaac, his child of promise, he simply said, “…Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: And I will make of thee a great nation…” (Genesis 12:1, The Kings James Version). God knows our frailties and understands that, before we can submit our wills to the deeper things of God, we must grow in our knowledge of and trust in him. When the disciples heard Christ tell them to follow him, they did not realize that doing so would require them to follow him to places which, in their own power, was impossible. Their reaction was simple obedience in a totally unextraordinary act, but God does not call us to the unextraordinary. He calls us to a life of continual and greater submission to his will. Such submission becomes greater as it impacts more and more areas of our lives. It becomes greater as it requires us to step out on the water and, by faith and obedience, allow God to work through us those things we are totally incapable of performing in our own power.
A third principle seen in the lives of giants of faith is that faith was operative in their lives while they remained under its authority. When the truth is made alive to our hearts and minds by the spirit of truth, we recognize its authority in our lives and over our circumstances. When we act in obedience to that authority in our lives, God reveals his authority over the circumstances of our lives, others lives and, in fact, all creation. Being under authority makes us executors of that authority, for we act in its name. Christ makes this explicit in the book of John.
“The one who rejects me and doesn’t receive my words has something to judge him: The word that I’ve spoken will judge him on the last day, because I haven’t spoken of my own authority. Instead, the Father who sent me has himself commanded me what to say and how to speak.” (John 12:48-49, The King James Version).
Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, remained continually under the authority of the father. The Roman centurion who pled with Christ for his servant clearly recognized this principle of being under authority as well as from where Christ’s authority came:
“And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” (Mathew 8:5-10, The King James Version).
What the centurion said, in other words, was thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. You represent his authority and his power. This is what Christ had not seen in Israel, a recognition of who he was, the living Word of God, under the authority of and perfectly obedient to the one and only omnipotent God of all creation. As Christ had already revealed the father’s will to heal his servant, the centurion, recognizing the source of Christ’s authority, knew that he could but command it done.
The ability to exercise such authority in the name of a higher authority only comes with obedience, and this often in seemingly mundane, or inconsequential activities. The living word in the life of a new Christian is like a shiny new sports car. “How awesome! This baby can do 150 no problem. What do these knobs do?” Then the spirit speaks to them: “You need to first learn how to use the break.” “Awe come on. I can handle this baby,” says the Christian.” “Then you don’t get the keys,” says the spirit. The power of the vehicle of faith is likewise awesome, but with great power comes great responsibility to use that power under the authority of the maker and finisher of that faith. We first must learn to apply the breaks to our anger, our tongue, our impetuousness, our pride, our flesh. The moment our sinful nature refuses to heed the striving of the spirit in these areas of our lives, he takes away the keys. The promises which faith holds remain, but they are inaccessible to us, because of disobedience which is sin. Willful sin is our natural man usurping God’s authority over our lives. So long as we remain in this state, we are no longer under his authority and, therefore, have not use of his authority. Giants of faith abide in Christ and he in them: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7, The King James Version).
A fourth principle seen in giants of faith is perseverance. James tells us, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience, But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4, The King James Version). The subtle difference between this principle and the last is that perseverance indicates a whole life well lived (under God’s authority). The process of perseverance through trials can be compared to the making of a steel blade of the finest quality. Over, and over, and over again it is heated, folded and shaped to remove impurities and distribute the carbon more evenly throughout the stock, the very nature of the material being transformed in the process. Like the master sword smith, God is likewise the master craftsman of our lives, patiently, painstakingly, and with infinite wisdom of our nature forging us through trials to remove the impurities from our lives, distribute his word more effectively in each area of our lives, and transform our character to contain those qualities uniquely suited for his purpose in our lives. He is truly the maker and finisher of our faith but, without perseverance, his perfect work cannot be completed, and we remain inadequate tools to complete the works he has before ordained we should walk in. We remain, in essence, an out of spec production run fitted only to be reworked or used for less demanding or exacting purposes. As Paul says, we remain as babes in the faith, unable to partake of the meat of the word. If, however, with perseverance, we permit the Holy Spirit, who works in us and through us, to take control, we are slowly fashioned into a tool uniquely fitted in character, temper, sharpness, durability and strength to accomplish those tasks God, in his providence, has appointed us for in our time and place.
“O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the savior,
And life more abundant and free.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”
The author of this beautiful, touching hymn included it in a 1922 collection titled “Glad Songs.” Perhaps, like I, you find this ironic, the soulful first verse speaking of trouble and darkness. The second stanza, however, brings hope which, in the refrain, springs forth into the sweet joy of this hope’s fulfillment in a singular focus on Jesus, his glory, and his grace. This heart touching song gives us the how of perseverance. Turn to Jesus, his words, his promises, his example, his provision and, in his strength, with his faith, moment by moment, put that one foot in front of the other and continue your walk of obedience through your trial. It is only through obedient perseverance through our trials that God can forge us into instruments in all ways fitted to his divine purpose for our lives. It is only through perseverance through our trials that we can continue our personal journey of ascent closer and closer to our Lord, from which vantage point his glory and his reality come, by degrees, more and more clearly into focus.
We are called to
persevere not only through times of intense effort and pain, but also through
times of quiet learning of, watching for, and waiting on the Lord. Estimates are that Joseph was seventeen years
old when he was sold into slavery, and that he was thirty years old when he was
made overseer of
A fifth principle seen in the lives of giants of faith is the abiding presence of the living word in their hearts and minds. With each step of their faith journey, that much more of the living word becomes a part of their being, hidden deep within their hearts, and always at the ready to be wielded against whatever challenge the Prince of Darkness throws their way. This principle was perfectly and dramatically exemplified by our Savior’s forty days and nights of temptation in the Judean desert. Christ answered each and every temptation with the word of God. David prayed, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11, The King James Version). It is the word of God which both informs us and enables us to set, as Dr. Ravi Zacharias calls them, our lines of resistance, dependence, and confidence. We resist temptation by the living word of God. Across its lines we will not stray. On its firm foundation we will stand and, with supreme confidence, on its promises we will rely.
My brother-n-law tells a story about a funeral he once attended having two preachers, one rather young who officiated the service and the other, very elderly, who throughout most of the service was walking up and down the aisle, his head bent as in prayer, continuously speaking in a low whisper. The old man continued in this manner for nearly the entire service, his lips never ceasing to speak the inaudible words. As the service neared its seeming end, the old man began to grow louder. My brother-n-law could now hear, as the old man passed, what he was saying. He was quoting scripture, and never repeating a passage. The service continued, and the old man continued, walking the aisle, quoting scripture, and getting louder and louder. The young preacher wound down the formal ceremony just as the old man reached a crescendo in his proclamation of the word and proceeded to engage the congregation, one by one, to deal with the sin in their lives before it was everlastingly too late. As he was being right specific, my brother-n-law began to look for a hasty exit.
This old man of God had quoted scripture for at least forty five minutes, speaking the word to himself and God before speaking the word to the congregation. He had truly hidden God’s word in his heart. No doubt, for those forty five minutes, he was recalling those passages which, throughout his life, the Holy Spirit had made alive to his heart and mind. The word had become his faith journey and an integral part of his life, so much so that he could review his life long walk with God by reciting the word of truth which had become his very life. Heroes of faith have spent time in the word, reading and meditating on it. Heroes of faith have spent time living the word, working out its meaning for their faith journey. Heroes of faith have spent time sharing the word, by their life’s example and their testimony. Our heroes of faith speak to us across the ages of God’s truth and say, with David, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them…” (Proverbs 4:20-22, The King James Version).
To write of the promises of God found in his word could fill many volumes of books. That would be quite different from an exploration of the promise of faith, which is the promise of divine persuasion. God tells us, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13, The King James Version). Such searching rarely comes until we realize our deep, profound need of God. Before salvation, that realization comes when we recognize, in spite of all that we have attained, that we are empty and unfulfilled. At salvation, that realization comes when we recognize our sinful state in comparison to a holy God. After salvation, that realization comes when we recognize that, in and of ourselves, it is impossible for us to please God. Whenever and however it comes, this realization is necessary for us to turn our whole heart to seeking from God that which we so desperately lack; his purpose in our lives, his salvation of our lives, and his provision for our lives.
When, in true and earnest desire, we turn to God and seek him, his spirit strives with our spirit to persuade us of the reality of his presence, our need, and his provision. This is the promise of faith. It is a promise, in whatever state we find ourselves, which can always be claimed and is never out of reach. As the psalmist declares:
“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; Even the night shall be light about me.” (Psalm 139:7-11. The King James Version).
There is no place that the spirit
cannot find you, or will not pursue you, and there is no state you may be in
from which God cannot restore you. How
perfectly this is illustrated in the life of Jonah, a singularly unlikely hero
of faith. When the word of the Lord came
to Jonah to preach to
Not only was he
displeased, but he disbelieved this revelation of mercy, and removed himself to
a hillside overlooking the city yet awaiting the destruction the Lord had
already revealed was not now to come.
Having been saved from the tempest and miraculously delivered from the
depths of the sea onto dry ground, Jonah, yet again, rejected God’s leadership
and his word. Having seen the great
mercy of God, even towards the enemy of
The great promise of faith is that God will continue the work he has begun in us, and that he will use all means available in his work of divine persuasion so that we might learn more and more of him, become more and more like him, and be molded more and more by him into a suitable vessel to be used in his divine purpose. Our road, like Jonah’s, may be full of fits and starts, yet the promise is sure! “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, The King James Version).
“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53, The King James Version).
The book of
Isaiah was written between the sixth and seventh century before Christ,
explicitly describing his passion, his sacrifice, and his glorification. Christ fulfilled this prophecy
perfectly. Revelation 13:8 tells us that
Christ is, “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Before man was even created, God had this
plan for his salvation. The history of
the nation of
The high price of
the word being made alive to our hearts and minds was the perfect life and
sacrifice of Christ our Lord. As if the
physical suffering and rejection by his own people were not enough, he bore
also the rejection of his father, suffering the pain of the second death. Despised, rejected, and alone, he bore the
chastisement of our peace. Such
suffering is almost too unimaginable to contemplate, but he bore yet another
burden. On his obedience, even unto
death, depended a divine plan formulated from the foundation of the world with
eternal consequences for his entire creation and the evidence for the truth of
his word. The weight of the eternal fate
of his entire creation rested on his beaten, bruised, and bloody head. This intense physical, mental, and spiritual
pain was born by one made like unto us.
The very God of heaven left his throne of glory and took on human flesh,
subject in all ways to pain and temptation like as we. Fully man, yet fully God, he bore the burden
of his great mission and foreknowledge of his earthly fate. He also bore the knowledge that, for the many
who would reject him, his sacrifice was to no avail. His great emotional pain is seen as he weeps
As the epiphany, cross, and resurrection were prophetic validations of the word, so too was the ascension. Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” The ascension of Christ, the loss of his physical presence to the world, was the price of his glorification, subsequent work of faith in the world, and his work of intercession for the world. Christ’s rightful and destined place after defeating sin and death was in the inner sanctum of God the Father, in his very presence, and seated, in authority, at his right hand, making intercession for the saints. His role is no longer our sacrifice. That work is completed for eternity. His role is our high priest, to make intercession for us continually before God the Father, and to act as a mediator of God’s presence in our lives: “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 2:5, The King James Version).
With Christ’s ascension and commissioning of the work of the Holy Spirit in the world, the age of grace through faith begins. For those who seek the Lord in spirit and in truth, the spirit reveals to them the knowledge of God through his word. For those who reject his word, the spirit bears witness against them for rejecting Christ’s sacrifice and trusting in man’s conception of righteousness and judgment. The great price of his sacrifice has been paid. The painful price of his physical absence has been replaced by the unspeakable joy of his salvation and continued revelation of truth by his spirit.
By applying the principles of faith, claiming the promise of faith, and truly understanding the price of faith, we can all grow, by God’s grace, into heroes of faith. There is nothing you have done in your past and nothing you lack in the present to keep you from fulfilling what God has planned for you, and for others through you, in your future. With conviction and hope, founded on the sure foundation of God’s word, we are called to proclaim, as Paul, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14, The King James Version). And what is this high calling? That we be conformed to his image and, through that process, participate with God in his work of the perfect redemption of all things, both in heaven and on earth. There is no higher calling. There is no greater prize, and there is no greater empowerment than what we already possess in Christ to both pursue it and to attain it.
Moses concluded his giving of the law with this. “For the commandment which I give you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of your reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-15, The King James Version). God comes to us, if we seek him, each day with a further revelation of his word of truth. He, in his infinite wisdom, knows what we are prepared for and able to receive. His progressive revelation of his word to our hearts and minds comes from wisdom and love, which together convict us that what he gives us, this day, is not too difficult for us, in his strength through Christ, to perform. As we act in obedience to his revealed will, God’s activity and presence in our lives and the world is made manifest to us. We experience it, personally and objectively. This experience both completes our joy in serving God and further convicts us of his reality. Little by little, bit by bit, line upon line, we come to know the God of the universe as a personal, loving father who cares deeply for us and from whom all perfect gifts come. When I was a child, we sang a song which spoke of this process quite clearly:
“’Til by faith I met Him face to face
And I felt the wonder of His grace
Then I knew that He was more
Than just a God who didn’t care
That lived away up there
And now He walks beside me day by day
Ever watching o’er me lest I stray
Helping me to find that narrow way
He’s everything to me”
It is in striving for this prize, being conformed to Christ’s image and participating in his redemptive work, that we fulfill our most basic human potentiality: to know God. Although never articulated in political discourse as such, we have the unalienable right to the pursuit of the knowledge of God, such knowledge being a real human need as it fulfills the potentiality of the most basic part of our human nature – our spiritual potentiality. In fact, our pursuit of happiness is wholly in vain if this aspect of that pursuit is lacking. We may abound in health and vigor, fame and fortune, and worldly knowledge but, at the end of life, all this is vanity and vexation of spirit without the knowledge of God. Human happiness, being a whole life well lived attaining all of those things we really need, simply cannot be realized apart from our creator. It is in pressing towards the mark of this great prize, by grace through faith, that we realize both our greatest joy and most basic potential. Because of this realization, Paul exclaims:
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8-12, The King James Version).
Faith which works through love is the key to a godly, abundant, joyful, fruitful life. This faith is the word of God made alive to our hearts and minds by the spirit that we might be compelled and empowered to walk in its light. This love is our obedience to the revealed truth of God’s Holy Word. The prize we seek is being conformed to Christ’s image and participating in his redemptive work. The price of faith is Christ’s great sacrifice, which unsealed mankind from his bondage to sin and death, and cleansed us from all unrighteousness by his blood. The promise of faith is the divine persuasion God graciously provides his redeemed, in spite of our stiff necks, hard hearts, and rebellious natures. The principles of faith enable plain, ordinary men such as we to submit to God’s incremental revelation of the Truth and to persevere through our trials to become heroes of faith in whom the Word abides, like the air we breathe, as an integral part of our very beings.
As from the beginning of time, the powers and principalities of darkness seek to pervert, undermine, and utterly destroy faith, and even more so as their end approaches, their time being short. For God’s church to be effective in his redemptive work at this great time of harvest, it must apply the principles, claim the promise, truly appreciate the price, and count all else but dung for the promise of faith. It must also fully appreciate Paul’s admonishment to the Ephesians: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12, The King James Version). Full appreciation of this warning comes as we recognize the enemy and the tactics he employs in this world, the aim of which, first and foremost, is to pervert, undermine, and destroy the Word. We see this quite clearly in the evil one’s deception of Eve in the garden: “Did God actually say, ‘You are not to eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1, The International Standard Version). Satan tempts us through our physical nature to make us doubt what God has revealed to our spiritual nature. Once the seed of doubt takes root in our minds, it shoots forth its tentacles of corruption to the desires of our flesh, which are heightened by a sensual focus on those things of this world which appear suitable to satisfy them. This line of attack is equally clear in the description of the fall of man. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:4-6, The King James Version). Satan nourishes the seed of doubt with lies, fixing it firmly in the mind, focuses our thoughts on the desires of the flesh, and provides a pleasing and beautiful, but deceptive, input to our physical senses to entice us to commit our wills to the deception rather than the truth of God’s Word. John succinctly describes man’s critical vulnerabilities exemplified in Genesis: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15-16, The King James Version).
There are many things in God’s word which remain hidden and await further revelation by the spirit. There are also many things which are simply and plainly stated of which God has commanded us to abstain from and reject. Although Satan works subtly to sow doubt and deceive in those areas where revelation, in the Father’s wisdom, has been delayed, he incessantly attacks the center of gravity of Christendom – the revealed truth of God’s Holy Word. If we can be deceived so as to doubt or disbelieve a single clearly revealed, plainly stated truth in the word, this brings into question all revealed truth in the word, as well as all future revelations. Is it any wonder, then, that we continually see the foundations of Christian faith not only questioned but held up to open ridicule? Did God actually say he created the heaven and the earth? Did God actually say Christ is divine? Did God actually say Christ rose from the dead? Did God actually say sexual immorality is rebellion against him? Did God actually say to honor the Sabbath by keeping it holy? Samuel Clemmens brings the host of additional clearly revealed truths in God’s word into focus in his oft quoted statement, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand.” Where the seed of doubt has difficulty taking root because of the clarity of the word, Satan turns his deception all the more pointedly to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. After all, surely creatures of our refined capabilities can determine on our own which commands are good and which are, say, morally questionable can’t we? “God forbid: yea let God be true, but every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4, The King James Version). “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” (Proverbs 28:9, The King James Version).
We must recognize the enemy’s tactics and call them, especially when found within the church, what they are: perversion, deception, and abomination. Many of today’s Christian denominations decry their loss of members while denying their loss of faith. Is it any wonder that membership is in decline as they possess merely the form of religion, having denied the power thereof? When the branch ceases to abide in the vine, it ceases to grow and produce fruit. Likewise, when the church ceases to honor God’s revealed will, it ceases to grow and produce fruit. In far too many cases, the watchmen of the church have not only failed to make a certain call, they haven’t even blown the trumpet because they have failed to recognize that the deceiver has breeched the walls and they are spiritually naked. Their battle cry is unity in a better way instead of obedience in God’s way. Unity in rebellion against God is simply spiritual mass suicide. We must recognize the enemy and his tactics so that we might realize the clear and present danger we face of falling into temptation and so that we might resist that temptation. For this very reason, Christ warned Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…” (Luke 22:32, The King James Version).
We are most prepared
to resist the enemy when we are forewarned of his attack and his tactics. In Simon Peter’s case at the last supper,
such forewarning came form the very lips of his Lord and Savior. In our case, in this age, such forewarning
should come from the watchmen God has appointed for us and to whom the gift of
discernment of spirits is given. To
Ezekiel, God said, “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of
Our preparedness to resist also depends upon the store of that which sustains us in the fight, binds our wounds, and repels the attack – the Living Word of God in our hearts and minds. Once the battle is begun, it is too late to do a requisition for supply. Such supply must be within us and part of our very being so that it is at hand. To be part of our beings, it must have been applied in our lives, by which application it becomes active and substantive. Staged and armed, the Holy Spirit feeds us in the fight with that which is most effective to our encouragement, our healing, and our total defeat of every weapon of spiritual battle which the enemy may employ. We both resist and defeat the enemy by trusting in the Living Word of God. It is not we who fight, but the Lord himself who goes before us and sets a guard on our flanks and rear. Our job is simply to believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths the Word of Truth against the enemy, and be obedient, step by step, to the Word of Truth revealed to us. Having done our small part, “The Lord will go forth like a warrior; He will arouse His zeal like a man of war, He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against his enemies.” Isaiah 42:13, The New American Standard Version).
and resisting the enemy, the Lord gives us opportunity to renew our strength by
reinforcing success, consolidating our positions, and fortifying our
defenses. In reinforcing success, our
goal is not to merely stop the enemy’s advance, but rather to thoroughly rout
him and, in pursuit, defeat him in detail.
We see this in Christ’s actions after being tested in the wilderness:
“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has
come near.’” (Mathew 4:17, The New
International Version). Christ pressed
his attack all the way to the cross and the empty tomb, defeating Satan
thoroughly and for eternity. Likewise,
after the Lord slew Goliath through his faith inspired into the heart of a
small shepherd boy, “
The hope of faith is the expectation of what is certain. What a difference from our common use of the word, which typically is used to mean no more than a wish or desire with little or no certainty. Our hope is a certain expectation because of what we hope for, who we hope in, and how this hope is made sure. We would view someone as quite strange who said, I hope, when you throw that life ring to me, that it will fall down into the water instead of floating up into the sky. Even in a panic, and doubtless more so when in such a state, a drowning victim both has a certain expectation that the life ring will fall into the water and that, once grasped, will keep him afloat. In life saving, a drowning victim’s panic is described as a sudden unreasoning fear which destroys their ability for self help. Even the simple act of reaching for the life ring which landed just beyond their grasp seems an insurmountable challenge, yet they know, in this state, it is their only hope. They are utterly powerless to save themselves, and their only hope is to, however inelegantly, move that small distance so they can grasp and hold tightly to the life ring. An unsaved sinner who, by the Holy Spirit, has been given a glimpse of his state in the light of the holiness of God, the certainty of his fate without God, and God’s grace in his provision of the life ring of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, is given a brief moment of spiritual clarity of thought. If, realizing his certain fate and his only hope, he would but fix his eyes on the life ring and, by an act of will, reach forth to grasp it however out of reach, God will do the rest. What the unrepentant sinner hopes for in that moment of revelation is to be saved from certain death. What the Christian clings to is the hope of glory, which hope is made certain by Christ’s victory over sin and death at the cross, and which certainty is continually reinforced and made sure by God’s great faithfulness in continually revealing his presence and activity in our lives as we live in obedience to his revealed will.
“When all my labors and trials are o’er
And I am safe on that beautiful shore
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore
Will through the ages be glory for me.” 
Oh what joy it will be to at last arrive at that beautiful shore and to rest in that sweet realization of all of God’s promises; but, as we approach that shore, clinging to Christ, as if a mist were, by degrees, swept away before us, the glory of our eternal home and our new creation shines ever more brightly before us. The certainty of our hope of glory, as if not already made sure by God’s word and his great sacrifice, is more than justified by his continual revelation of his glory, and his continual activity in and transformation of our lives.
Our hope is made certain by him who inspired it, the very God of the universe. If we can trust the law of gravity to bring down the life ring, how much more can we be sure that he who made the laws of nature is more than able to fulfill his every promise? Not only is he able, but he would be acting contrary to his very nature if he did not fulfill what he purposed. God says of his plans in his word that they are, “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all my good pleasure.’” (Isaiah 46:10, The New American Standard Version). Although the shore may be miles away, and although its glory and beauty and peace may be obscured by mist, and although the waters may rage about you, God says cling to Jesus and I will bring you safely to that shore. We can be confident, with a certainty of expectation, “…that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, The King James Version).
Our hope for salvation, and from salvation to glory, is made a sure expectation by the work of God in Christ, the plans of God, the word of God, and the continued presence of God in our lives, which presence impresses on our hearts and minds his love, his provision, his wisdom, his providential care, his great mercy and grace – his reality! God reveals himself to us in many ways, sometime subtly and sometimes quite clearly. When I was a young man, my grandmother gave to me my deceased grandfather’s signet ring. Everything of my grandfather’s was precious to her, and I knew that this was a very special gift. I treasured it, both for the memory of my grandfather to whom I was very close, as well as for the great sentimental value it held for my grandmother. One night, on a winter vacation from college, I went snow skiing. I had a wonderful time but, never having skied before, I had many, many falls. I managed to make it home with no broken bones, but my heart was a different story as, when I woke up the next morning, I discovered that my grandfather’s ring was gone. My heart sank as I realized that it must have come off of my finger on one of those numerous falls on the ski slope. Somewhere, buried under that snow covered mountain, was my dear grandfather’s ring. It was hopelessly lost. There was just no way on earth that I could hope to find that ring, yet in my very real grief for its loss, and knowing the sadness such loss would cause my grandmother, I prayed: Lord God, please help me to find that ring. I drove to the ski slope and stood at its base trying to remember my numerous falls, then I simply started walking up the hill. After some distance, I stopped. All around me was a fresh new snow, with no indications of disturbance. I bent down and began to dig through the snow at my feet, and there, to my great joy and amazement, was my grandfather’s ring. God had surely directed my steps to this location. There was simply no other explanation. Although finding a ring may seem a trivial thing, it impressed on my heart God’s very real presence in my life, and his desire to give us the desires of our hearts.
I recently heard a similar story of a Christian woman on vacation at the beach. As she was wading in the surf, she discovered that her diamond necklace had come off. Her reaction was quite different than mine. I became distraught and turned to God in my sadness for the loss of my ring. This lady, after a momentary feeling of disappointment, resolved not to let the loss of this bauble rob her or her family of their joy during their vacation time together. She resolved to thank God for all of his many blessings on her life rather than to fret over the loss of this small, yet quite expensive, possession. The following morning, she went to the beach to be alone with God. As she again stood in the surf praising God, with the water washing about her feet and ankles and burying them in the sand, she felt a sharp object. Reaching down below the water, she found her diamond necklace.
What an awesome God we serve! What great pains he goes to in order to show us his presence in our lives. What great pains he went through to secure our lives for eternity, to give us that great hope of glory. He tells us, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11, The King James Version). Our hope is sure. It is a certain expectation because it is God’s plan in his word, the substance and evidence of which he reveals to us, through his spirit, day to day as we approach that perfect day. Oh what joy we forfeit when we fail to trust our Father to completely provide for our every need – the great, unimaginable joy of the evidence of his presence in our lives and loving care over our lives. What certain hope we grasp when, from his great love, he reveals to us the hidden treasures in his word, an we, in obedience, follow that revelation to new, greater, and ever more sure expectations of being used by him in his redemptive work and being conformed to his image.
The modern mainstream denominations are in decline. They are in decline because they have denied the faith. They are in decline because they retain the forms of religion but have denied the power thereof. They are in decline because they have failed to abide in the Word of Truth. They are in decline because they have failed to persevere in following God’s revealed will. They are in decline because, not only have they denied the faith, but they have celebrated sin. In many cases, they have even rejected the very cornerstone of Christianity – belief in the divine, sinless, resurrected Christ. In essence, many mainstream denominations have become apostate! On the other hand, there are many churches which have come out of mainstream denominations which are vibrant, alive, and growing. In the majority of cases, these churches are independent or non-denominational.
All ages are an
age for faith, but our current age has a great and unique need for the Living
Word of God made alive to the people’s hearts and minds. First, we are living through a great falling
away from mainstream religion, this at a time of great political, economic, and
social change. The scripture tells us
that this falling away will occur. In
Thessalonians, Paul writes, “Now we beseech you brethren, by the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not
shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit nor by word, nor by letter as
from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except
there come a great falling away first…”
(2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, The King James Version). We are, today, witnessing this great falling
away, a sure sign that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is approaching. And what is this falling away but a rejection
of the fundamental teachings of God’s Holy Word? Mainstream church leaders are, brick by
brick, tearing down the foundations of Christianity. From the Episcopalian Bishop of
transformation of mainline Protestantism has paralleled the worldwide march
toward globalism, the reactions of which have been seen in the last US presidential
election. Open borders, transnational
governing bodies, the death of national sovereignty, global centralization of
rulemaking defining normative standards, and softening of cultural distinctions
are all elements of globalism against which many populations are revolting;
however, this populism is waging a lopsided battle against entrenched forces
which are loathe to give up on that which has made them both powerful and
wealthy beyond measure. Wealth
inequality has reached unparalleled divergences. Methods of social control have left the
populace the Sisyphean task of weeding through the daily deluge of propaganda
to find some elements of truth, only to renew the effort the next day. Legal restrictions on the government’s use of
propaganda on its own populations have been removed. The legalization of general warrants is used
by the government to collect and store every information element of our
personal lives. Laws are passed to
circumvent citizen’s right to trial, and even the Attorney General of the
In regards to
economic conditions, it is difficult to see how those without faith have much
hope for the future. The
Although this may be the fiscal picture, it is not the faith picture. God will sustain his people and, more, will enable them to continue to be a blessing to those they dwell among. As the cloths did not wear off of their backs nor the shoes off of their feet for forty years in the wilderness, so God will sustain his people, even during troublous times. The needs of others will be great, and the opportunity for God’s people to show them his grace, mercy and love will abound. With so many in such physical need, perhaps they will realize their spiritual need. The many signs of troubling economic times which lay ahead certainly make this an age for faith. The on-going, and ever increasing, social unrest and conflict occurring across the globe compound the need for God’s wisdom and strength and the hope which comes from realizing his presence in our lives and his purpose and plan as they unfold and are revealed in this age.
War is the singularly most profoundly impactful social activity mankind, unfortunately, engages in. Even considering the low number of actual combatants directly affected, its high price on the flower of our youth who fight it and our national will and treasure which sustain it make its impact widespread. Perhaps its greatest social impacts are those upon societal norms, as it brings to the forefront of the national consciousness some very weighty moral questions which must, collectively, be answered to inform and resolve the will to war. Is preventative war, as opposed to pre-emptive war, legitimate? Are the costs of this war legitimate, as predicted, or still justified, as experienced? Am I willing to send my son or daughter to die in this war? What am I willing to sacrifice for victory in this war? What are the rules of this war, and how do these rules, if they be new, impact me, my society, and my way of life? What are the means of this war which are being employed by my support of it? Do these means pose moral questions? If they are used, how will that affect those we send to war, our society, our culture, and our legitimacy both in the war and in the hopeful peace which follows?
Because of the
many areas of society which war impacts, prolonged wars are sources of profound
social change. We are currently engaged
in the longest period of continuous war in our history with no end in sight if
one accepts the construct of the war on terrorism and generational war or, even
more profoundly, continuous war. We are
currently engaged overtly with military means in war in
social impacts of military war, America is facing profound social unrest due to
the on-going war between liberalism and conservatism. The hope that the tensions would subside post
election were misguided, such tensions instead boiling over into mass protests
across the country. It is clear that there
are basic, perhaps irreconcilable, differences of deeply held beliefs between
the two factions. These beliefs collide
in the streets, on television and radio, and on the internet between foes,
friends and families.
During these times of extreme social, economic, and political change, God’s Holy Word is needed more than ever. It is needed to comfort his people with the blessed assurance that he is with them through all of these troubles, that he is, in fact, working all things together for good, that he has a plan, that his plans cannot be altered but will come to pass, and that he is the sovereign God and in control. It is needed to guide our steps in his ways as we move through this troubled world en route to our heavenly home. It is needed to warn of the dangers along the way so that we might be prepared to face them and to overcome them by his word. It is needed for us to proclaim it to a lost and dying world that as many who will can be brought safely into the life boat of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ before it is everlastingly too late.
This is an age for faith because of the great and unique challenges we face. It is also an age for faith because of the numerous instances in which God is revealing to this generation, and this generation alone, the fulfillment of many of the great prophecies in his Holy Word. These revelations renew our strength and reward our certain hope in God’s promises. More often than not, they amaze us because of their complete and exact fulfillment and the improbabilities of their coming to pass. In my Sunday school class, we call these God winks; sometimes little things, sometimes extraordinary things which make it evident that the Father is truly at work in our lives and in the world to fulfill his purposes.
One of the most
extraordinary, prophetic events in recent history is the rebirth of Israel as a
nation state in the center of their ancestral home. Nothing could have been more improbable, in
terms of world history, yet so certain, in terms of God’s Word. A people sifted through the nations for more
than a millennium, against whom numerous earthly kingdoms strove, with
expulsions, persecutions, and even attempted exterminations, retained their
national and religious identity and sense of historical destiny and suddenly,
quite literally overnight, reformed as a modern nation state amidst a hostile
group of nations bent on their destruction.
Ezekiel’s prophetic vision in the valley of dry bones is a vivid allegory of God’s power and immutable plans. Although the Jewish Diaspora retained their historic identity, as a nation state they were as dead, and without hope of life, as the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision. When asked by God whether the bones could live again, the prophet declared the obvious truth; by man’s power this is impossible, but if God wills, all things are possible. To use a vernacular, he responded, God only knows. God then revealed the answer to his question as well as the meaning of the vision.
“Thus saith the Lord God unto these
bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I
will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with
skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the
Lord. So I prophesied as I was
commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and
the bones came together, bone to his bone.
And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and
the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind,
prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from
the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the
breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an
exceeding great army. Then he said unto
me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of
Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.”
Testament passage begins with the vision of a pile of dry, lifeless bones. It is a clear reference, by God, to the state
Thus Israel now
remains, awaiting their final gathering and their first breath of life at that
great day of atonement when God, “…will pour upon the House of David, and upon
the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and
they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him,
as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one
that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”
(Zachariah 12:10, The King James Version). The last dispensation of grace will then
begin, as God breaths his breath of life into
This is an age
for faith because we are fast approaching these events. God’s eternal word is being made alive to the
hearts and minds of his people, and the final stages of his eternal plan are
being revealed. For those in Christ, our
certain expectation of glory is affirmed by the many prophecies unfolding in
our lifetimes, before our very eyes. The
rebirth of the nation of
The great falling
away of the church as seen in the mainstream protestant denominations began
nearly coincident with the rebirth of the nation Israel, both events clearly
end time prophecies. The sad fact that
the world has been in a continuous state of war for over a decade, and that the
concept of war itself has evolved to a continuous enterprise waged across the
spheres of diplomatic, informational, military, economic, and cyber domains is
clearly a specific sign of the times.
The utter depravity of mankind, and indeed its actual celebration of sin,
is a clear sign of the times. The
beginning of birth pains, as seen in the increasing intensity and frequency of
earthquakes across the globe is a clear sign of the times. Large scale famines are a sign of the times. Additional events, however, continue to
unfold, revealing God’s hand in fulfilling even the most unlikely, in man’s
eyes, scenarios. The recent
In the Book of
Joel, we are told, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into
blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.” (Joel 2:31, The King James Version). In 2014 – 2015, a tetrad of blood moons
(solar and lunar eclipse) fell on the Jewish feasts of Passover and
Tabernacles. This event has been
popularized by John Hagee and Mark Blitz, Christian pastors, who see this as a
clear sign of the times and, if not dispositive evidence of the end times,
clearly significant as a sign in the heavens associated with important events
in the life of Israel, previous tetrads being coincident with such occurrences
as the return of Jews to Israel after the rebirth of that nation, the 1967 war
and others. In Genesis, we are told,
“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day
from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days, and
years,’” (Genesis 1:14, The New
International Version). There are few
more sacred times to the Father than the redemption of his chosen people and
the marriage feast of his son. In the
Book of Revelations, we are given a detailed description of a heavenly event,
which is perfectly fulfilled astronomically on
Whether the temple is rebuilt this year or not, and whether the potential markers of Christ’s soon return noted above are validated by future reality or not, it is clear that we are living in historically prophetic times. It is also clear that Christ will come again for his bride, that he will come again to judge this world, and that each day is one day closer to that certain reality. If for no other reason in regards to prophecy than this, that many current events are, at a minimum, harbingers of his soon return, this is an age for faith.
Our world is in desperate need for modern day heroes of faith. It is in desperate need because this is certainly an age for faith. It is in desperate need because the fields are white to harvest. It is in desperate need because the day is short and the night cometh in which no man can work. It is in desperate need because all of creation groans, as in the pains of childbirth, for its glorious redemption from bondage and decay to everlasting life. It is in desperate need because so many await to hear the watchmen’s trumpet before they awaken from their slumber. Our world needs faith heroes who know that faith which works through love is all that is necessary for God to use them in this time to accomplish great and wonderful things for his glory and by his might. May God continue to grant us the clear vision of our final rest in him, the certain expectation of his daily presence and provision to every task, and faith which works through love, our hearts and minds being in-filled and empowered by his Living Word and our simple obedience to his revealed will.
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