We helped raise our granddaughter so she was often with us, and one time we were walking through Queens. She was about five or six and a bit ahead of us. Then some junior hoodlums turned the corner ahead of us, and they were trying to look hard, and their jeans are falling off their backends. They’re cursing, shoving each other and yelling, “You got nothing. Let me see what you got.”
The moment my granddaughter sees them, she comes a little closer to me. We’re walking closer and closer to this group of wannabe gangsters, and they're all trying to act so tough even though they’re practically kids themselves, but my granddaughter doesn’t know that. She gets closer and closer to me. One of these kids pushes another, and he falls off the curb.
Suddenly, her little hand reaches out, searching for mine, her whole body rigid and tense. The moment I took her hand — it’s a moment caught so clearly in my memory — her whole body relaxed.
I can’t remember any of the Christmas presents or things she’s gotten me over the years, but I will never forget that moment because trust is precious.
This is what God wants from us. He invites us to trust him, at all times but especially when something frightens us. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthews 6:26, ESV).
So how do we grow in faith? Faith comes by hearing a promise and a truth. The Word of God has power to create faith. When scripture says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), we must notice that it’s in present tense. It’s moment by moment.
Faith means to trust; but even more than that, it means to rely and to lean on something. In the Old Testament, David describes faith as “I will run to him and find protection under his wings.” We are all in a school of faith, and God wants to develop faith in you and me. This is part of why he allows troubles in our lives or the answer to prayers is delayed, so we learn to trust him. Us trusting and relying on him means more than anything else in this world.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
“And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.…. Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:18-19,12).
Hebrews warns the New Testament church to heed Israel’s example. Consider what happened to the unbelieving generation who were turned back into the wilderness. God told them pointedly that his hand would be against them. From then on, all they would know is distress and leanness of soul. They wouldn’t see his glory. Instead, they would become focused on their own problems and consumed by their own lusts.
That’s exactly what happens with all unbelieving people: They end up consumed with their own welfare. They have no vision, no sense of God’s presence, and no prayer life. They no longer care about their neighbors, or a lost world, or eventually even their friends. Instead, the entire focus of their lives is on their problems, their troubles, their illnesses. They go from one crisis to another, shut up in their own pain and suffering. And their days are filled with confusion, strife, envy and division.
For thirty-eight years, Moses watched as, one by one, every Israelite in the unbelieving generation died. As he looked back on those who wasted their lives away in the wilderness, he saw that everything God had warned about had happened. “The hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them until they were consumed” (see Deuteronomy 2). God suspended his eternal purpose for Israel for all those years.
Likewise today, some Christians are content to merely exist until they die. They don’t want to risk anything, to believe God, to grow or mature. They refuse to believe his Word, and have become hardened in their unbelief. Now they’re just living to die.
Beloved, you will only see His glory when you walk in obedience. Choose that path and find life everlasting!
What does the cloud of witnesses from Hebrews 12:1 have to say to you and me? Simply this: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers” (1 Peter 3:12).
I don’t believe this great crowd of heavenly witnesses would speak to us about holding to complicated theologies or doctrines. I believe they would speak to us in the simplicity of truth:
When God sets his heart on you, you will be tried often. But the fact is, the longer and harder your affliction, the more deeply God has set his heart on you, to show you his love and care. That is the witness of Paul’s life and of Jesus’ life. The enemy may come against you, but our Lord has raised up a standard against him. We find absolute rest in Jesus.
There comes a time in the life of every believer—as well as in the church—when God puts us to the ultimate test of faith. It’s the same test Israel faced on the wilderness side of the Jordan. What is this test?
It is to look at all the dangers ahead—the giant issues facing us, the high walls of affliction, the principalities and powers that seek to destroy us—and to cast ourselves totally on God’s promises. The test is to commit ourselves to a lifetime of trust and confidence in his Word. It’s a commitment to believe that God is bigger than all our problems and enemies.
Our heavenly Father isn’t looking for a faith that deals with one problem at a time. He’s looking for a lifetime faith, a lifelong commitment to believe him for the impossible. This kind of faith brings a calm and rest to our soul, no matter what our situation. And we have this calm because we’ve settled once and for all, “My God is bigger. He is able to bring me out of any and all afflictions.”
Our Lord is loving and longsuffering, but he won’t allow his people to dwell in unbelief. You may have been tested time after time and now the time has come for you to make a decision. God wants faith that endures the ultimate test, a faith that won’t allow anything to shake you from trust and confidence in his faithfulness.
As Israel faced Jericho, the people were told not to say a word, but simply to march. They were focused on the one thing God asked of them: to obey his Word and go forward.
That is faith. It means setting your heart to obey all that is written in God’s Word, without questioning it or taking it lightly. And we know that if our hearts are determined to obey, God will make sure his Word to us is clear, without confusion. Moreover, if he commands us to do something, he’ll supply us with the power and strength to obey: “Let the weak say, I am strong” (Joel 3:10). “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10).
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Many believers quote this verse daily, applying it to their trials and tribulations. Yet the context in which Paul speaks it suggests a deeper meaning. Just two verses earlier, Paul states, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (15:54-55).
Paul was speaking eloquently about his longing for heaven. He wrote, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1-2).
According to Paul, heaven—being in the Lord’s presence for all eternity—is something we are to desire with all our hearts.
As I ponder these things, a glorious picture begins to emerge. First, I imagine Jesus’ description of a huge gathering, when the angels “gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31). When all these multitudes have been gathered, I picture a great victory march taking place in heaven with millions of glorified children singing hosannas to the Lord, the way children once did in the temple.
Then come all the martyrs. Those who once cried for justice on the earth now cry, “Holy, holy, holy!” All will be dancing with joy, crying, “Victory, victory in Jesus!”
Then a mighty roar comes forth, a sound never before heard. It is the church of Jesus Christ with multitudes from all nations and tribes.
Maybe this all sounds farfetched to you, but Paul himself testified about it. When the faithful apostle was caught up into heaven, he “was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4). Paul said he was staggered at what he heard there. I believe these were the very sounds he heard. He was given a preview of the singing and praising of God by those who will be rejoicing in his presence, their bodies made whole, their souls filled with joy and peace. It was a sound so glorious that Paul could hear it but not repeat it.