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2024: Time For a Faith-Lift


HighBeamMinistry.com

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

 

Today’s date – January 2, 2024. I just schlepped my lunch from my kitchen to my home office. A fine example of culinary fare. Not!

 

Like everyone else, I’m returning to my healthy and nutritious meals rather than the “bombs-away!” holiday dietary horror show I indulged in over the last two weeks. Frankly, I’m amazed. I put on only five pounds. I should be able to knock those out pretty quickly, right?

 

On my last pass through the food domain, I noticed that the 2023 calendar was still on the wall. The 2024 calendar I had affixed behind it was ready to perform its duty. Wow, does time ever fly! My latest grandchild, Neva, was born just a year ago. Roughly two and a half years ago, Jeanne and I made our Exodus from bone-chilling Minnesota to the delightfully warm Free State of Florida.

 

As I unhooked the now-defunct 2023 calendar and plopped it in the trash, I began to think about what has passed and what 2024 will bring. No doubt there will be lots of turmoil. Just look at what’s already happening around the world and in our nation:

 

·         A 7.2 earthquake in Japan on New Year’s Day. That does not bode well.

 

·         Two major wars, Ukraine vs. Russia/Israel vs. Hamas, could erupt into a global conflict at any moment.

 

·         Massive unchecked illegal immigration into the U.S. resulted in health emergencies with rising cases of tuberculosis and polio (https://highlandcountypress.com/opinions/leprosy-polio-malaria-tb-measles-and-massive-unscreened-illegals#gsc.tab=0), growing crime, and over-burdened social “safety nets” (more like hammocks!) requiring vast amounts of emergency funding dished out by our all-too-generous politicians to assist the sanctuary cities that actually don’t want to give sanctuary. (That’s for those “other” states to handle.)

 

·         A $34 trillion national debt that will soon become unserviceable and stands to wreck our economy, especially when other nations are dumping the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

 

·         And a Presidential election year that already has me shaking my head.

 

I could go on and on, but I’d only curl up in despair because I see so much of the world reeling even though my little neighborhood is peaceful. But the truth is, that which is out there will ultimately affect the right here.

 

No one knows what the future holds. Well, one Person does. (Spoiler alert. It’s Jesus.) And because we don’t know what the future holds, we try hard to be prepared to meet whatever challenges come our way, and we usually do so in our own strength.

 

We peer into the future and see… nothing!

 

We prepare for the future only to find our preparations are pointless (remember Y2K boys and girls?). Some folks probably are still using up the toilet paper they hoarded twenty-three years ago.

 

That leads me to our opening scripture, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

 

I often wrestle with the word “faith.” Until my early thirties, faith meant simply agreeing to the truths that God has revealed through the Bible about Himself, salvation, walking with Jesus now, followed by life with Him forever after death.

 

But as I dove into the Jewish background of Christianity, I found a richness in the Hebraic idea of faith, which not only revealed scriptural truths in a new way but brought me great comfort when staring into the great unknown called The Future.

 

What is faith?

The Hebrew language has quite a few words for faith. The words that refer to having faith in God or believing Him are aman, batah, mibtah (from the root batah), hasah, galal, mahseh (from the root hasah), yahal, rechats, and emunah (from the root aman). (http://internetbiblecollege.net/lessons/hebrew%20words%20for%20faith.htm) It’s aman/Emunah that I want to focus on.

 

Dr. Marvin Wilson, retired Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, explains aman this way in his book Our Father Abraham. “The verb aman is one of the terms used in the Hebrew Bible for ‘believe,’ ‘trust,’ or ‘have faith.’… From that root, we get emunah, meaning ‘faithfulness’ or ‘trust.’… Having faith (emunah, trust) in God points to embracing “His utter dependability and unwavering faithfulness.” (Wilson, p. 182-183)

 

That’s the key! Our faith must have an object, which must be worthy of our trust. It must be proven to be absolutely reliable, safe, secure, something upon which we can wait, and a firm refuge, stronghold, or shield. All of these descriptions are included in the alternate words for faith above.

 

Something that we can trust absolutely must be something that can never betray or break our trust. Can we trust a paper bridge? Certainly not. Can we trust a steel bridge? For the most part, yes. Except on August 1, 2007, when Minneapolis, Minnesota’s I-35W bridge buckled at rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145. That bridge wasn’t worthy of the drivers’ trust that day.

 

Let me cut to the chase. Everything God physically created has a shelf life. Short or long, everything will eventually give out and give way. Even the spiritual realm is not permanent. How do we know this? “For everything was created by him (Jesus), in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17). There you go. Every bit of creation down to the smallest atom exists only as long as Jesus holds it together. Without His sustaining touch, everything goes bye-bye.

 

So, who holds Jesus together?

 

No one and nothing.

 

That’s the definition of Jesus being one-third of the One True God. God is the only uncreated “thing.” He exists and operates simultaneously outside and inside His created universe and all other dimensions. He never fails, and He can never betray nor break our trust.

 

That makes Him worthy of our trust – utterly trustworthy.

 

So, if you’re going to hitch your trust to something absolutely trustworthy, skip to God Himself.

 

Here’s a great insight from Dr. Millard Erickson, Distinguished Professor of Theology at Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon. His book Christian Theology says, “In a very real sense, Old Testament Hebrew does not have a noun for faith, except perhaps ‘emunah in Habakkuk 2:4, but that word is usually rendered ‘faithfulness.’ Instead, Hebrew conveys the idea of faith with verb forms. Perhaps that is because the Hebrews regarded faith as something that one does rather than as something one has. It is an activity rather than a possession.” (Erickson, p. 938)

 

Did you catch that? “Hebrew conveys the idea of faith with verb forms” because faith is an action, not a possession. Faith is best experienced when we live it. But here is where the conflict comes in.

 

In the Greek New Testament, “faith” is pistis and has two fundamental meanings. According to Dr. Erickson, pistis means “to believe what someone says, to accept a statement (particularly of a religious nature) as true.” This aspect is the intellectual side of faith. The other meaning is “personal trust as distinct from mere credence or belief.” (Erickson, p. 939, quoting G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament).

 

I’m not saying mental agreement and genuine trust don’t go together. Dr. Erickson continues, “Faith, once engaged in, enables us to reason and to recognize various evidences supporting it (faith). This means that faith is a form of knowledge; It works in concert with, not against, reason.” (Erickson, p. 941) In other words, I trust God because He has convinced me intellectually and experientially that He is so totally worthy of my trust! I have faith in God (noun) and trust Him by living accordingly (verb).

 

The most important part is not intellectual agreement but action. James’ epistle says what? “In the same way faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself (James 2:17, italics author).

 

The “faith in action” part is where most Christians miss what faith is. As Dr. Erickson wrote, faith is something we do, not simply have. We must put our trust in God into action to prove our faith in God.

 

A Western/Greek intellectually-based mindset looks at a tightrope walker and says, “You’re a trained and experienced tightrope walker. I believe you can cross Niagara Falls on that cable with someone sitting on your shoulders.” But the Hebrew action-oriented mindset says, “Let me get on your shoulders.”

 

Too many Christians today think great things about God, but very few climb onto His shoulders. Many believe He exists and opened the way for them to live with Him forever through Jesus. But far fewer live as if they are already experiencing eternal life for Jesus.

 

Look at it this way. Do you intellectually agree with the Father that you’re part of His family because of what His Son and our Elder Brother, Jesus, did on the cross? Great! You believe.

 

Now – do you live like it? Do you act like Jesus is alive and living in you by His Holy Spirit? Do you speak to Him daily (pray), show Him what He’s worth to you (worship), live your life aligned with His standard of right and wrong, and strive to speak and act like Jesus? That’s climbing on God’s shoulders.

 

Many confessed Christians believe in Jesus, but how many truly trust Him? You can tell by their lives (judging a tree by its fruit, you know?).

 

If you claim to be a born-again disciple of Jesus, when turmoil erupts around you, do you freak out in fear and anxiety, or do you resonate with a sense of peace and assurance that everything will work out even though you don’t see the way through the issue in front of you? Our choice is panic vs. peace, anxiety vs. assurance, terror vs. trust, and that reveals if you only believe in or genuinely trust the Lord.

 

What’s the difference? A person with intellectual faith/belief fails when their intellect can’t mentally understand how things will work out. They just don’t see it happening. Therefore, their trust is misplaced. They trust their understanding rather than the God who built and transcended it.

 

The terrified Christian sees only their current situation because they don’t have the benefit of being outside of time like God is. They only see the present while God stands in the past, present, and future. Therefore, a self-trusting Christian often flails about grasping for solutions in their own strength, whether intellectual, emotional, or otherwise.

 

But the person with biblical faith/trust succeeds even though every possible indicator blinks “Threat!” because their trust gives them eyes to see into the unknown. They know God is with them and waiting for them on the other side of the threat. They see God, fix their eyes on Him, and that’s enough.

 

Mind-boggling. This difference is why God told us through Solomon, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6, italics author).

 

Trust is only as good as the object’s trustworthiness. Since God is entirely trustworthy, He must be our trust’s focus and foundation.

 

Dr. Brad Young is an emeritus professor of the Graduate School of Theology faculty at Oral Roberts University and served as a Tenured Professor of Judaic-Christian Studies, teaching Bible and theology for 31 years. He wrote, “Faith must be God centered, focused upon his goodness and grace. Faith in God and his grace is total trust in the Creator of heaven and earth. Faith acknowledges who God is and commits everything into his power.” (Young, p. 42-43, italics author)

 

Faith vs. sight is trusting God vs. trusting ourselves.

When I read the scripture, “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” I understand it differently now. “Faith” is trust in God. “Sight” is trust in ourselves. Don’t people say, “I’ll believe it when I see it?” Isn’t that saying they will believe something is valid only if they see it and, therefore, won’t trust something if they don’t? Therefore, walking by sight is trusting ourselves, while walking by faith is actively trusting God.

 

Habakkuk 2:4 says, “The righteous will live by his faith (emunah, i.e., his trust in God),” implying that those who live by trusting in themselves live as the unrighteous do. You would expect this from an unsaved person, but surely not a genuine Christian. Au contraire, Pierre! Genuine Christians often fall back into our former unrighteous ways. Prove me wrong. Thank God for forgiveness and restarts, apropos for a New Year.

 

Actively trusting God daily, moment by moment, demonstrates our vital, straightened-out relationship with our Father through Jesus.

 

So let’s land this plane. Walking by faith and not by sight is trusting God vs. trusting self. God sees what we don’t, He knows what we don’t, He can power through invisible things too big for us, and He can chart a path through the unseen future all because He is God and we aren’t.

 

The question to ask ourselves is, “Do we ignore who God is and try to accomplish everything by ourselves?” If we trust in ourselves – our capabilities, talents, skills, intellect, emotional and mental resiliency – before we trust God, we’ll flip out when the unseen events of 2024 roar out of the thick mist of the unknown and threaten to flatten us. If we actively trust God now when we can see things clearly, we will be better able to trust Him when we see nothing. He will keep us secure as a firm refuge, a stronghold, or a shield because that’s the essence of trust.

 

As we’re promised, “You (God) keep him (us) in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3, English Standard Version).

 

In other words, “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You” (Isaiah 26:3, Amplified Version).

 

Looking into the vast unknown of 2024.

Our mind’s eye sees nothing of the future because it registers only the now. Sure, some futurists try to guess what’s to come based on various trajectories of human life. But the eye of true faith, genuine trust, always sees the Lord standing in the unknown future just like He existed before anything was created, including time. “Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, you are God” (Psalm 90:2).

 

Should we wait passively or stride forward with bold confidence when faced with the future? “For the Hebrew… the person of faith was one who was so committed to God that, like Abraham, he ventured into the unknown with the full expectation that God would meet him there. Thus, in the biblical sense, to have faith was to move out in life and know God would be there waiting… This is the Hebraic and biblical model of faith. As Abraham Heschel has pithily stated, it requires ‘a leap of action rather than a leap of thought (Abraham J. Heschel, God In Search Of Man, p. 283).” (Wilson, p. 184, italics author)

 

By the way, the word confidence comes from con (with) fidae (faith). When we look to the future with faith, we do so confidently. That rock-solid confidence only comes when we keep our minds set on God.

 

Speaking of rocks, Jesus told His disciples that faith in God can move mountains. That excellent Hebrew idiom means “to do the impossible.” We can do the impossible when we trust God to do what we cannot. When life puts an impossibility before us, we’re not expected to move it ourselves. If it’s God’s will and He determines so, He will move it for and with us. We only have to trust that He will. We put our trust into action when we do what He wants us to do in the impossible situation. For example, Jesus’ mother Miriam (Mary), experienced this like no other woman did. As God’s messenger, Gabriel, said to her, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

 

That’s walking by faith vs. sight.

 

So, rip down those old calendars. Set your mind on our eternal God. Chin up and stride forward in courageous confidence. Who cares what 2024 has for us? Our God holds 2024 in His hand and waits to greet us.

 

Bring it on!

 

Sources:

Erickson, Dr. Millard J., Christian Theology, Baker Book House.

Wilson, Dr. Marvin R. Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Young, Dr. Brad H., Jesus, The Jewish Theologian, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

 

Shining the Light of God’s Truth on the Road Ahead

 

Pastor Jay Christianson

The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts

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