Monday, April 27, 2009

God also exercises faith!

Whilst writing on another topic, I sensed that the Lord is giving me the revelation that God also exercises faith in us, even as He asks faith from us.

God expects faith from us
Firstly, we must accept that God does expect faith from us. The word of God is very clear that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Abraham was justified by faith. "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Rom 4:3).

Abraham’s exercise of faith: By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him[God] faithful who had made the promise (Heb 11:11). By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." (Heb 11:17-18) Abraham believed that God knew what He was doing, and that if God so desired, He could provide His own sacrificial animal, in place of Isaac; but even if he indeed had to sacrifice Isaac, he was willing.

David - the man after God's heart
Why do I say God also exercises faith?

King David is so well known to many of us because of these verses in the Bible:
1 Sam 13:13-14 "You acted foolishly," Samuel said [of King Saul]. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command." (NIV)
Acts 13:22b 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ (NIV) or 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.' (NKJ)

There are 2 interesting points to note:

1. It is quite obvious that God implied obeying His commands as one of the reasons David was a man after His own heart, especially if we look at the circumstances (1 Sam 13:13-14) in which God first said David was a man after His own heart.

2. If you look at the timing of the declaration, God did not say David was a man after His heart at the end of his life. I do not think the declaration was an after the fact statement. i.e God did not say this, after witnessing the entire life of David. I think it is likely to be along the following lines:
God had watched David from young, even as a shepherd boy, as a young man and then "by faith" He said David is a man after His heart and would do everything He would want him to do (NIV) or would do all His will (NKJ).

We will return to King David’s story a little later. Now let us look at another character in the Bible.

Job - the man who refused to curse God
If we look at the case of Job, who suffered greatly at the hand of Satan with the consent of God, we will find God’s expression of faith in another man at a stage in the man’s life and not at the end of his life. This is what is written of Job before Satan started testing him:
Job 1:1-2 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

You can read the entire story of Job in the Book of Job but it suffices here to say that progressively Job lost almost everything – he lost his flock, his riches, all his children, finally his health. His friends accused him of wrongdoings, his wife told him to curse God and die. Job hung on and refused to curse God, and eventually God more than restored him (except for the children, doubled the rest).

The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so he died, old and full of years. (Job 42:12-17).

The interesting thing here is that either Satan was stupid or there was a real challenge/wager. Satan surely would be stupid to challenge God if he knew for a fact that God would influence Job (his volition) in his reactions to the tests that he(Satan) threw at Job. Satan would be equally stupid to challenge if he knew God already knew the outcome. I believe that God trusted Job for the outcome; it was NOT the outcome was already fixed, and so, correctly, God did NOT know. If God had known the outcome, I believe Satan would have known. If you believe Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:12-18 refer to Satan, you would agree that Satan was not stupid. I believe God exercised faith in Job – God believed in Job. Satan challenged God’s faith in Job. God took the risk.

Had Job caved in and cursed God, God would have been shamed. But God’s faith was not misplaced.

Satan still challenging God's faith in men
I believe Satan did not stop challenging God’s faith in men. Take King David, for example, God said David was a man after His own heart before David was made the King after King Saul. David did face many tests and challenges in his life, subsequently, and in some of which, he did falter. Indeed, it was an expression of God’s faith in David (and NOT an after the fact statement) when God told Samuel that David was a man after His own heart and would be made the next King, replacing King Saul, because we know from the Bible, King David did falter a number of times in his life when he was tempted.

King David was a man after God’s heart yet he broke NOT one or two but 3 of the 10 commandments of God at "one go" when he (1) coveted another man’s wife, (2) slept with her and (3) planned the death of the woman’s husband (You can read the full story in 2 Sam 11:1-26). This is just one of the occasions that King David had faltered. There are others. Although there was no direct wager between God and Satan in this instance (unlike the case with Job), I believe God was “shamed”, and rightly, the Bible recorded in 2 Sam 11:26 that what David did, did displease God.

Interestingly, God still allowed the inclusion of “David, a man after His own heart”, in the New Testament, in the Books of Acts. We need to study more into the life of David to see what David did right that God still held him in honours. One thing we can conclude here is that God does not necessarily write off a person just because he faltered. We should all take heart in this.

God - not poor judge of characters
When we look at King David, and we have looked at a bit of his life above, what are we to say; God has a poor judgement of character? God can be wrong? No, to me I believe it only goes to show 2 things:

1. God did not create us as robots, preprogrammed us to act in a particular and exact manner. Instead God created us with a free will (volition), a will to obey him, to resist temptations, etc

2. God does not control every of our moves, even though He can control them. In this regard, I cannot agree with people who said that since God already know what they would do in the future and yet He still allowed them to be saved by accepting Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, they would surely enter the Kingdom of God when Jesus returns, no matter what sin(s) they had committed (since accepting Jesus) and are unrepentant of it/them. The fact is that a Christian can still choose to sin. I think it goes against the very basic reason for Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, if we say that sins after accepting Jesus do not lead to eternal death (which is living in Hell). The word of God is very clear that the wages of sin is [eternal] death (Rom 6:23). That is why Paul emphasized that we [after accepting Christ] cannot let sin reigns in our mortal body so that we obey its evil desires. (Rom 6:12). Nowhere in the Bible is it said that sin committed after accepting Jesus as the Lord and Saviour is any different from the same sin committed before accepting Jesus, nor is the consequence of sin said to be different.

No auto-wipe
Some believed that the blood of Jesus is so powerful that it auto-wipes all sins, the moment they were committed. So according to this school of thought, you would never be caught on the “wrong side”, whenever you die, you die righteous. According to the advocates, to look at the power of the blood of Jesus any differently is to belittle the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. To me, if this were the case, why would there be any need to talk about so many other things in the New Testament Bible; and that would include Jesus himself, who talked about so many other things. If this were the case, the New Testament Bible should only need to tell about the death and resurrection of Jesus (3 pages would be more than enough!), and then Jesus would be a license to sin – just accept Jesus and then do whatever you want.

But God is faithful to forgive
I believe it should rather be, accepting Jesus will clear you of the Original Sin (of and from Adam and Eve) and all your sins committed up to the point of accepting Jesus, and then thereafter, you have to do your utmost, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to live a righteous life. When you falter, and sin, you repent and ask for forgiveness (no auto-clean but God is faithful to forgive [1 John 1:9]), and you resume (your walk with the Lord). If you falter again, you repent again and ask for forgiveness and try harder to walk straight. In this journey, God is expressing faith in you. So if you are faithful in the things that God has laid upon your heart to do, God’s faith in you is NOT profaned. He trusts that you will be dependable when He has a task for you to complete (but you can still choose not to do it). Or if you have been consistently careful to obey God’s commands, His faith in you that you will not sin, when tempted, is NOT profaned (but you can still disappoint Him if you choose to sin by giving in to the temptation).

It's a journey
The journey is a moulding process, and when taken correctly by us, will purify us, make us spotless and refined. 1 Pet 1:6b – 7 - though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

In conclusion, I want to say God is prepared to have faith in us or trust us, prepared to lose “fights” here and there (because we faltered, not Him), faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9), and He will destroy Satan, ultimately. I hope this writing will remain in the heart of readers so that the next time, he/she is about do something he/she knows is a sin or against God’s will, he/she will recall that God is trusting him/her to do the right thing. Does this article strike a chord in your heart? Is this a revelation to you, that God is exercising faith in you - one who may falter? Are you doing likewise, exercising faith in God who never falter? Are you not trusting God enough? Pray and tell God, you now understand and thank Him for exercising faith in you or trusting you. Tell Him that you want to trust Him more, and continue the race to win the prize (Phil 3:14).

Run to win,
Anthony Chia, high.expressions  – Eternality is more important

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