Faith Is Not always Easy!
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12 NLT)
My Source of Faith
Since the beginning of cancer in June 2012 I have said many times, “I am of all men most blessed.” I say it again! In the past months, it appears to me my Oncologist keeps trying to find problems in my body! I have had biopsies on some pancreatic cysts. The end result is that I have multiple cysts, but the doctor says they are not cancerous. I have some new growth on my brain, but no cancer. He suspected infection around my mechanical aortic heart valve, but that proved ok. Now he says I may have kidney disease. I originally began with quarterly tests, but now he has extended my next checkup to 6 months. I have been blessed again! God just keeps blessing!
In the past few years, especially since I got cancer, I have discovered that faith is not always easy! My faith was tested when the doctor told me, “You have stage 4 Lymphoma that has spread to the thyroid and brain.” Those painful months of thyroid surgery, chemo and weeks of whole brain radiation at MD Anderson Cancer Center really tested my faith.
It was not easy to have faith to believe God could and would heal me. But, He did. My healing had nothing to do with what I did or did not do, but God, in His grace has brought healing.
My source of faith began as a 17 year old high school student. I was dating Linda, who is now my wife of over 50 years, and God began to convict me of my need for Him. She lived her life before me as a Christian and I began to want what she had and wanted God to change my life. I will never forget kneeling in their den with Linda and her dad, and asking Jesus to be my Savior and Lord.
As I look back, the faith required for my salvation was Ephesians 2:8-9. Paul said, “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
God saved me by His grace when I believed. And I can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Paul makes it clear that my salvation is not a reward for the good things I have done, so I can’t boast about it.
I remember when God first started working in my life. Before I was saved, I was clueless and then after trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord, getting into church with Linda, and studying my Bible, things were making sense. As I read the Bible, I began to understand it, and more importantly, I believed it. My belief began with Ephesians 2:8, “a gift from God”. The real miracle is not that I understood, but rather that I now believed those words and understood. And this happened only because God made it possible. I didn’t become perfect, but I did want God to fill my life. The evidence that we have believed is that we begin living by His Words. Our new actions are the evidence of our faith: Bible study, church attendance, sharing with others what God is doing in our lives, etc.
I remember my baptism and I never dreamed my life would take so many twists and turns over the next years. I remember struggling with God’s call to the ministry, what college I should attend, and my journey through seminary. Over 42 years I served in 8 churches: The first 17 years as a pastor and the last 25 years as minister of education/associate pastor. It has been a great journey!
As we deal with life’s trials and challenges, we must remember our first love for God. I decided years ago that I would never question God’s love for me. Besides, He wants me to spend eternity with him!
To test our faith, God's pattern is to bring us to a point—a brick wall or a Red Sea—that seemingly allows no escape. That is where He shows us what is truly in our hearts—hearts of belief or hearts of unbelief. We say. "Seeing is believing." So when a man sees something, he is convicted, and his mind, then, is inclined to what he has seen.
the life of the Christian, faith is the controlling factor that
Looking back at the history of the Israelites, they saw multiple miracles in Egypt and in the wilderness, but they seem to have profited them almost nothing. They saw the Nile River turn to blood. They saw the frogs. They saw the lice. They saw the darkness. They saw the hail. They saw the fire on the ground. They saw the firstborn die. They saw the Red Sea part. They saw the pillar of fire and the cloud. They saw water coming out of the rock. They saw manna on the ground every day for forty years. They saw all those things! Yet, what they saw did not affect their minds spiritually at all because eyesight means almost nothing in terms of the spiritual. Faith is the foundation, the assurance, the substance, the confidence, of things not seen—the invisible realm of God. In terms of faith, what a person can see with his eyes is more likely to frighten him and create doubt than it is to build faith.
Faith, according to Ephesians 2:8 is a gift of God. It is a gift because we did not have real spiritual faith until God began to call us. It is a gift because, by a mighty miracle, God opened our minds to enable us to understand His Word so that we can process the evidence we hear from His Word and make right choices relevant to His Kingdom.As we begin a new year, it will be exciting and challenging how God directs our lives as we trust Him in faith! It is not always easy, but with God’s help, it can be done!