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Faith Is Action

Faith is often thought of as a thing we have—a belief in something or someone. But in the Scriptures, faith is more than a passive possession—it’s a firm confidence that results in action. In today’s passage, an action follows every mention of faith. Noah prepared an ark, Abraham obeyed without knowing where he was going, and Sarah confidently anticipated the son God promised.

Instead of sitting back, believers should count on God’s promises and act accordingly, as did the men and women listed in Hebrews 11. The Lord accomplished amazing feats through their lives when they believed Him and moved out in obedience. Like a muscle, faith grows the more we put it into action. In this way, believers strengthen their trust in God and His promises, even when they don’t live long enough to see the fulfillment in their lifetime.

Are you acting on your faith in God and His Word? When you see a command or warning in Scripture, do you obey it? Are you letting biblical truths about God’s character and power shape your thinking and responses? If so, your faith is growing strong.

How to Walk Wisely

Godly wisdom enables us to view things as the Lord does and to respond according to biblical principles. This discernment isn’t automatic, but it is available to all believers who “try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:10; James 1:5). And the best way to know what pleases God is to read His Word.

When we resolve to honor the Lord in all we do, say, and think, it transforms the way we make decisions. Instead of following natural instincts or sinful impulses, we’ll seek God’s viewpoint in a given situation. And when we want to know what He says about certain topics, Scripture will become our first resource, rather than our friends or the media.

With so many voices clamoring for us to follow worldly paths, we can’t afford to be careless in how we live. We can either walk in the world’s darkness or God’s light. The first option leads to foolishness, but the other is the way to goodness, righteousness, and truth.

Pleasing the Lord and conforming to His likeness are always the best choice. Ask for wisdom today, and God will guide you to live as children of light (Eph. 5:8).

Walking in the Word

We make a lot of decisions on any given day. And when a choice is needed quickly, we don’t always have time to weigh the pros and cons. Many people simply “go with their gut,” but believers who desire to walk wisely through the perils of this world require something more reliable than natural instinct. We need godly knowledge and principles to guide us, which is why we must make meditation on the Word a daily habit.

We all have a sort of filter in our mind. It’s made up of the principles we were taught as children, the habits we’ve formed, and the information we accept as true. New knowledge coming our way passes through that matrix and is either assimilated or rejected. A mental filter reinforced with biblical truth is essential for Christians because it identifies things that align with God’s Word and rejects whatever is sinful, deceptive, unwise, or otherwise harmful for us.

Since Scripture is the key to knowing God and following His will, we can’t afford to neglect it. If you want clarity on His perspective, go to the Bible and fill your mind with the truth that guides and guards.

Letting Go of Baggage

If you’ve ever had to carry luggage while running to catch a flight or the bus, you know how difficult and exhausting it can be. Have you considered that the same could be said about carrying baggage from your past into your Christian life?

Sometimes the burdens we carry have been with us since childhood—painful experiences during those formative years can have a profound impact, even into adulthood. And things we saw, heard, or felt could negatively affect our spiritual life today. In fact, it’s possible to be unaware of the load because after bearing it for so long, we may have become accustomed to the weight and bulk. Perhaps it even feels normal, but it’s not what the heavenly Father wants for His children.

To run with endurance the course God has set for your life, you must lay aside these encumbrances. He can break any lingering unhealthy pattern and replace it with hope and deep satisfaction in Him. As you consider your background and childhood experiences, ask God to reveal the truth clearly. When you recognize ways in which others have had a negative influence, pray the He will give you a forgiving spirit and healing for any wounds that remain.

Choosing to Believe

Salvation isn’t something we can claim because we were born to believing parents or have attended church. Jesus warned that many would call Him Lord without actually belonging to Him (Matt. 7:22-23). To become a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, we need the following:

An understanding of the gospel. In order to believe and receive the good news of Jesus Christ, a person must have an understanding of his or her hopeless, sinful condition. It’s also necessary to recognize Jesus’ death on the cross as the sufficient sacrifice required to remove all sins.

A definite turning point. When someone understands the gospel, he or she will turn from sin in repentance and toward God in faith and obedience.

A changed life. Changing direction from our old fleshly lifestyle makes way for new life in Christ. Believers have a changed heart, and the sins we once loved, we now hate.

By grace, God’s salvation is offered to all who will believe and receive it through faith. Those who follow Jesus don’t often trudge through the practices of religion out of habit. Instead, their worship and joy are a vibrant response to the personal relationship they have with the Lord.

God Desires Faithfulness

We’re often drawn to stories about underdogs whose achievements surpass all expectations. Whether it’s athletic contests, intellectual pursuits, or business ventures, we applaud their success. But as impressive as human accomplishments may be, they are not the standard by which God measures success.

The Lord values faithfulness, and the praise for a job well done won’t come until we reach heaven. It doesn’t matter how talented or successful we are by earthly standards, because God’s goal for us is obedience, faithfulness, and Christlike character.

Since the Lord wants us to succeed spiritually, He has provided everything we need. His Word gives us principles to practice, testimonies of faithful men and women to study and emulate, and the most powerful example of love and obedience: His Son. Whether in speech or in work, Jesus did nothing on His own initiative (John 8:28). His desire was to be completely dependent on His Father and obedient in every aspect of His life.

Is that your desire as well? It’s easy to become sidetracked from this goal, but if you’ll persist, God Himself will be pleased with your faithfulness.

Motivation to Press On

We would all agree life can be difficult. Pressures of daily living can feel overwhelming, relationships can disappoint us, and at times our expectations go unmet. So it’s good to remember an important truth that can sustain us: This life is not all there is; the best is yet to come.

Having the promise of the resurrection gives us the motivation we need to “be firm, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). We know that our efforts are never in vain and our Father has provided everything we need to succeed:

God’s Word reveals His purpose for all believers and transforms our character, thoughts, and behaviors to align with His desires.

The Holy Spirit providentially guides us into God’s will and empowers our obedience.

Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit and enable us to serve the Lord in the way He’s planned.

Prayer allows us to communicate with God at any time to receive guidance and grace to help with every need.

These remarkable divine provisions, together with the promise of resurrection and the glories of heaven, give us good reason to persevere and never lose heart.

Learning Through Adversity

When we experience adversity, we tend to wonder, Why is this happening to me? Although the answer might remain a mystery, Scripture gives us a foundation from which to view difficulties. God’s Word tells us that we live in a fallen world filled with sinful people, that even the redeemed are not exempt from trouble, and that Satan has great influence here.

But as believers, we know God uses our troubles to accomplish His good purposes. Although they are sometimes the Lord’s means of correcting us when we stray, trials also teach us to depend on Him rather than ourselves and to trust He will supply our needs. A diet of nothing but manna must have seemed like a great trial to the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Yet that was God’s means of humbling them and teaching that He alone was their Provider (Deut. 8:3).

Understanding these things about God, you can begin to recognize adversity as a reminder of His great love. And not only that, but difficulties are also a way to know Him more intimately—that is, you won’t ever experience God as Comforter if you’re never in need of comfort. So whatever the reason for your trial, realize that He has allowed it for your good (Rom. 8:28).

Praying in a Crisis

When was the last time you cried out to God about something other than personal issues? Sometimes we’re so engrossed in our own life that we fail to see the crises others face. Whether circumstances involve total strangers or hit close to home, it may feel as if such matters are too big for one person’s prayer to make a difference.

Well, don’t believe it. James 5:16 assures us that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (NIV). In order to accomplish His will in Israel, the Lord used Elijah’s prayers in a mighty way, even though the prophet was just a human being like us. 

Almighty God is able to heal, bring peace, and change circumstances, and He has chosen to let His children participate in the process through prayer. He instructs us to talk with Him about everything (Phil. 4:6) and promises to hear and answer our requests that align with His will (1 John 5:14-15).

You can have an impact on the lives of others when you intercede on their behalf. So let news of a tragedy or problem—regardless of whether it affects you—become a catalyst to talk to God.

Experiencing God’s Best

We all want the Father’s best for our life, but sometimes we get in His way. That was certainly the case with Israel. Today’s passage from Isaiah begins, “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ declares the Lord, ‘Who execute a plan, but not Mine’” (v. 1).

Instead of trusting in God’s promises and power, Israel focused on the threat of an enemy attack. They decided the safest approach was to rely on Egypt’s help even though God told them the solution was to repent and trust in Him. By substituting their plan for the Lord’s, they missed His best for the nation and suffered as a result.

When you have a decision to make, do you focus on God and His Word or on the problem you’re facing? Are you quick to accept other people’s advice before seeking guidance in the Scriptures? Although your plan may seem like the most promising option, if you have left God out, it’s very possible you’ve become an obstacle to what He desires for you.

When you are tempted to take matters into your own hands, remember the Lord’s guidance: “In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isa. 30:15). When you follow Him, He’ll guide you to the optimal path for your life.

God’s Rightful Share

The prophet Malachi issued a warning to the Israelites about their unacceptable stewardship. By not following God’s principles in handling the resources He had provided to them, they were robbing Him of their tithes.

Since we too are given resources from the Lord, we must likewise handle our earnings according to biblical principles. First, that means acknowledging that God is the owner of all things (Psalm 50:10-12). He created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them, and everything we have comes from His hand.

Second, we are to recognize that God has appointed His children to be stewards of His possessions. We are to use wisely what He has given us and return to Him a portion of what He’s entrusted to us (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 1 Timothy 6:17-18). When we give to the church and to the needy, we are giving to God.

The Lord asks that we give Him the first part of all we earn (Prov. 3:9-10), but not because He needs it—He already owns it, whether we give it to Him or not. Rather, we’re the ones who need to learn to rely on Him as our provider and respond with generosity, obedience, and gratitude for His kindness toward us.

Lessons From the Prophet Jonah

If you’ve ever tried to ignore the Lord’s commands or silence the Holy Spirit’s conviction, you’ve probably learned the same lesson Jonah did. He disliked God’s instructions and attempted to avoid the unwanted assignment by running away. But He soon discovered that you can never outrun God.

Rebellion toward our heavenly Father often takes one of two forms: a bold outright refusal to obey His instructions or a more passive approach of quietly pursuing our own agenda while disregarding biblical commands we don’t like. Whichever route we take, we can’t silence God. His Spirit’s conviction will follow us—even if we fill life with distractions to help us ignore Him.

What we must understand is that God is willing to pursue us, and that can involve stripping away diversions and bringing negative consequences to get our attention. He is a loving heavenly Father who disciplines us if we continue down the road of disobedience. 

The Lord is always with you, but whether your relationship feels tense or peaceful depends on your willingness to do what He says. Let’s use Jonah’s example as encouragement to obey promptly rather than waste time running away and suffering the consequences.

Obedience From a Soft Heart

What most people know about Jonah is that he was swallowed by a big fish while trying to run from God. But the portion of the story that’s often overlooked is what happened after the prophet obeyed. He eventually went to Nineveh to warn the people of divine wrath, and they responded by turning away from wickedness. Their response should have made Jonah ecstatic, but because Nineveh and Israel were enemies, he became angry over their repentance and God’s mercy on them.

Being trapped inside a fish may have convinced Jonah to obey God’s command, but his heart had not changed. He still desired the Ninevites’ destruction, and his bitterness and reluctance showed through in spite of his righteous actions.

God is not fooled by good behavior that springs from a hard heart. Obeying Him with an unwilling spirit may achieve His purpose, but we lose the joy of our reward. Perhaps the Lord has called you to serve Him in a way that is personally challenging. As you commit to following His will, pray also for a soft heart. You will find peace and blessing in doing the work when you follow Him with a humble spirit.

The Priority of Life

What is the priority of your life—the one thing around which everything else revolves? Jesus tells us that God’s kingdom and righteousness should be our highest aim. This isn’t achieved through passivity; Matthew 6:33 uses the word “seek,” which implies activity and persistence. God’s kingdom must be pursued every day, moment by moment.

Life on earth takes place amidst two opposing realms that are in constant conflict—one under the control of this world and the other under God’s kingship. To seek the Father’s kingdom is to submit to His rule over every area of our life. The bottom line is obedience.

To seek God’s righteousness means cooperating with His process of transforming us into Jesus’ image. An integral part of this process is the renewing of our mind with Scripture. The Word of God keeps the Father’s viewpoint and instructions fresh in our thinking.

Take a moment to evaluate who or what dominates your thoughts and affections: Where do you invest time and money? What desires govern your choices? Making Christ top priority requires submission to God, obedience to His Word, and trust in His ways. And He promises to supply whatever you need in pursuing that goal (Phil. 4:19).

God’s Amazing Promise

Many people deal with anxiety. News reports or circumstances at home often cause concern and fear about our future. But as believers, we’re encouraged not to worry (Luke 12:22). Instead, we’re to seek God’s kingdom and rely on Him to provide all our needs (Luke 12:31). This is the opposite of the world’s philosophy, which tells us to rely on ourselves or other people for security.

We can confidently depend on our eternal King because He Himself is truth (John 14:6), and His promises are true. According to Titus 1:2, God cannot lie and never makes a promise that He won’t keep. And He certainly has the power to keep His word, for “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

The Lord is also mindful of all our needs. Looking at His excellent provision for birds and flowers, we can be confident of His even greater care for His beloved children. What a relief to know our heavenly Father is both intimately acquainted with our needs and eager to meet them.

Will you believe God, seek His kingdom, and rest in His peace that surpasses understanding (Phil. 4:7)? The promise is given, the fulfillment is certain, and now the choice is yours.

Holding On to Hope

Clinging to hope is difficult when circumstances are miserable and show no signs of improving. This can be especially discouraging when we know that our all-powerful God could remedy the situation and fulfill our dreams but hasn’t.

This is probably how Hannah felt. She was heartbroken because “the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5). This alone was a source of great disgrace for a Hebrew woman of that day. But Hannah suffered even more because of the deliberate provocation by her husband’s other wife, who was blessed with children.

Yet Hannah was a woman of great faith, even in the midst of her disappointment and pain. She never gave up on God but let her pain drive her to Him. In desperation, she poured her heart out to the Lord and promised that if He’d fulfill her desire for a son, she would give Him the child.

Hannah’s example of faith is an encouragement to lay our hopes before God—the only One who can fulfill our desires or align them with His will. Then, knowing that all we have is His, let’s be willing to give back to the Father whatever He gives us.

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