Living By Faith

We know that God’s people are to live by faith, since the Bible says so.

“Now the just shall live by faith” Hebrews 10:38

That verse was originally given by the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 2:4) and it was quoted three times in the New Testament, in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. So this is a truth confirmed multiple times in the Bible.

However, what does it actually mean to ‘live by faith’?

As a child going to church I heard of people who had stepped out to serve God and who were ‘living by faith’. What that meant was they did not have a guaranteed source of income but trusted God to supply their needs as and when they came up.

So ‘living by faith’ seemed to be reserved for those people called by God to live on the edge, in full-time Christian service. There was a sense of extra respect for those who lived this way, as if they were more holy than others.

However the Bible says that all of God’s people (the righteous) are to live by faith, so surely we are not all supposed to quit our job and trust God for our provisions! The meaning must have wider practical application than for those who have no income.

Among middle-class Westerners there is hardly any reason to ‘live by faith’. We generally have more than most people in income and material goods, and we mostly live in quiet stable communities where we are not brought to a point of need very often at all. So what is the need of faith in such a situation.

Our problem, however, is that the Bible reference to ‘living by faith’ suggests it is to be a lifestyle, such as a daily experience of trusting God. That’s virtually impossible in material terms for the average western Christian.

So, let’s ask the question, “When do people find themselves really crying out to God and trusting God in faith?” 

The answer is probably when they find themselves in situations they can’t control, needing to trust God to sort things out for them, which they cannot sort out for themselves.

That might include situations where there is a health scare. That might include when a job is under threat or people are out of work and can’t pay their regular bills. It might include a time when there is breakdown in relationships such as an angry spouse or difficult teenage child.

Those situations can be forced on us at times, even unexpectedly, and cause us to begin praying and seeking God, needing Him to come through for us.

However the Bible says we are to ‘live by faith’. Surely God doesn’t intend for us to go from one crisis to another!

To ‘live by faith’ must be something each of us can do, daily, despite having secure income, loving relationships, good health and no real reason to have to cry out to God for rescue.

Let me share an experience I had many years ago that broadened my perception of ‘living by faith’. My wife and I were exploring a home-schooling program we wanted to engage for our children, so we attended a training program and gained some idea of how the program worked. It focused greatly on studying the Bible and that challenged my mind that was programmed toward separate classes for separate subjects, with scope and sequence, progressive knowledge building and so on. I found myself grappling with the new program because it cut across my pre-programmed ideas. With each new explanatory session I hoped to get a grip on how this program was supposed to work, but I found myself as uncertain as before.

Finally, after several days of investigating the program I was struck by an insight. The idea of the program is that families put the Bible ahead of regular curriculum and trust God to stimulate what He wants in the life of the children. When I realised that I coined the phrase, “This is Schooling by Faith!” I accepted that and we started using the program, with me putting aside my pre-programmed ideas and looking to God to bless my children’s education. As an aside let me say that I am delighted with what God did in the lives of my children and how well prepared they are for live and higher academic study.

So let’s take that reflection on doing something ‘by faith’ and see that there are many ways the righteous can live by faith, despite being well served in natural and social terms.

Let me prompt you with some suggestions. 

God asks children to honour their parents. So a godly child can take a position like this: “God I don’t think my dad understands me or how you have made me, and he wants me to do a course of study or pursue a career that is quite different to what I would choose. But you require me to honour my father, so I will follow the course he recommends, and in doing so I live by faith, I put my faith in You, that You, knowing the end from the beginning and knowing what the future holds, will see that I am blessed and fulfilled and in the centre of Your perfect will. Each day I work at this thing my dad assigned for me I will be doing it “By Faith!” trusting You to be bigger than me and bigger than my dad and bigger than what I understand, and that You will bless me and my future, even though I can’t see how You could possibly do that.”

In such a situation that child is ‘living by faith’ every day.

A wife could similarly say to God: “Lord, You ask me to submit to my husband, but I think he is selfish and ignorant and he is blind to things I can see clearly. I struggle with the idea that You want me to let him hold the reins of my life and our family. For me to submit to my husband will take real faith on my part, so from this moment on I commit to being the wife You call me to be, and to submit to my husband, trusting You to be bigger than my husband and bigger than all the trouble my husband could create by his stupidity.”

A man or woman could similarly say to God: 

“Lord, I sense that You want me to devote my time and money toward Your Kingdom but I have other hopes and plans. I don’t want to give up my plans, and I don’t want to miss out on things I dearly cherish, but I choose to obey You, laying down my hopes and dreams, as an act of faith. I will live by faith every day, trusting that You will bring about in me much better outcomes than all the things I don’t want to give up.”

Those are only examples, but I trust you can see by these reflections that we probably all need to stop and reconsider how we, in our daily lives, among all the wonderful things we enjoy, are actively Living By Faith.

God’s Spoken Word

God’s Word is precious and Christ is the ‘Word of God’. 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

“The Word was made flesh (became human), and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

So much of the Bible celebrates the significance of the Word of God, and so we treasure it in all its forms.

My focus here is to prompt you to look for and walk in the spoken word of God, as part of the Word of God, but a unique expression of that word as well.

The Koine language in which the New Testament was written has two main words for ‘word’. The Koine word Logos refers to the text or the body of the writing, and the writing in all its fullness. The Koine word Rhema refers to words that are spoken out.

The New Testament speaks of both the Logos and the Rhema when referring to God’s Word.

Jesus, as the Word, is the Logos. He is the fullness of the Word of God. All of God’s Word is embodied in Christ.

However there are times when the word Rhema is used, such as when Jesus quoted a key verse to overcome a temptation from the devil. Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 about how man is to live by every word spoken by God.

“Jesus answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live only by bread, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4

As is to be expected any word that comes out of the mouth is a spoken word, a Rhema, so that’s the Koine word used by Jesus in that statement.

Consider that for a moment. Man is to live by every word spoken by God. Surely that must include the whole of God’s Word, the Logos, and it does. Yet it puts emphasis on the spoken nature of the words.

We know that God spoke the worlds into existence.

“God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” Genesis 1:3

“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the stars by the breath of His mouth.” Psalm 33:6

“For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” Psalm 33:9

Thus we know that there is great power in God’s spoken words.

What spoken words have in particular is their ability to address specific people in specific situations. While all the word of God exists, God still spoke specific words to people He called to serve Him, or people He warned through the prophets. Those words were peculiar to those people at that time and in that place.

Similarly God is able to address specific words to the hearts or His people as a ‘Rhema’ (spoken) word from God.

Jesus said we are to live by those spoken words.

What I have enjoyed about words that seemed to be personalised to me, as a Rhema word from God to me personally, is that I can take hold of them with faith and release the word to come alive in my life and circumstances.

By that process it is as if a branch of God’s Word has been grafted into the trunk of your life and becomes a part of you. The Bible refers to this as the ‘engrafted Word of God’, or the word that has been planted inside you.

“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21

There are abundant testimonies of Christians who felt impressed with something from the Bible that seemed to come alive in their heart. The verse or words from a verse became personally real to them and they felt those words were God’s promise or God’s direct communication to them, personally. It is easy to respond in faith when we sense that kind of quickened (living) word from God.

So I encourage you to be attentive to those things that seem to light up inside you from God’s Word. You may well be receiving a Rhema word from God, the kind of word you are to live by and which will build faith and empower you for the outcomes God has for you.

When Jesus was on earth He spoke several things to people, specific to them. Yet at the same time those things said by Jesus can have wider application.

For example a leper came to Jesus and said that he was sure that if Jesus wanted to heal him then Jesus certainly had the power to do so. Jesus responded by saying it was His will to heal the man.

“A leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, If you will, you can make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and said to him, I will; be clean.” Mark 1:40,41

Here we have a specific word to a particular leper. But we also have a display of the will of Jesus, who only did what His Father would do. We can extrapolate from this incident that it is God’s will that people be healed. Otherwise God is showing partiality and healing one but refusing to heal another. God does not have such favouritism and partiality.

“Truly I understand that God shows no partiality” Acts 10:34

So a person who needs healing might read the words of Jesus and claim them for their own situation, maybe praying something like, “God it is written in Your Word that it is Your will to heal. I know that You are not a respecter of persons, so You don’t give to one and deny another, and You healed that leper, so I ask You for healing in my situation.” That would be taking the written word of God and claiming it for your situation.

Another person may not be so bold as to claim the Word of God for their situation, and only see that verse as being God’s spoken word for the leper, not to be applied more broadly. But suppose that person then felt impressed by those words, maybe sensing they are leaping off the page, or maybe the words might keep floating into their mind when they are not thinking about their healing. They might then sense that God is turning that written (Logos) word in the Bible into a spoken (Rhema) word specifically for them.

If they sensed that then their faith would spring up and they would claim the healing they sense God is promising them.

So let prompt you to take stock of what God is saying to you, and especially what is coming to you as God’s Spoken Word.

Your Birthright

Each of us is born with certain rights based on our birth and where we were born. While there is in some cultures a special right to the firstborn, all who are born have a birthright. The concept of ‘birthright’ might help your faith, so let me unpack it for you here.

I was born in Australia, so that gives me certain birthrights in Australia. The land of Australia belongs to me, since I was born there. I have a share in all the wealth that is contained in Australia.

I have no right to the wealth of Bolivia, Norway, Egypt or Canada. I only have birth rights where I was born.

However I can also have birth rights based on my parents. If I was born in a foreign land I would still have claim to Australia because my parents are Australian. This is where dual citizenship can occur, due to the place of birth and the nationality of the parents.

Some nations allow certain rights to extend over multiple generations. Because my wife can trace herself back to Irish heritage there was suggestion she could claim Irish citizenship. She didn’t pursue that possibility but it shows that it is possible in some nations.

I was born into this world, so I inherit rights to the resources of the world. I can breathe the air, drink the water and eat the food. I can exercise all the God-given rights of a natural man, with the right to life and to justice and to freedom to live as God created me to.

That’s a birthright I carry inherently within my being, from the moment I was born. I don’t need anyone’s permission to enjoy the created world since I was born into it.

I was also born in the family line of Adam, who was given dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and so on. So I inherit the right to tame animals and to employ the resources of the world as I see fit.

I have a natural inheritance from the place I was born, earth, and the family I was born into, Adam’s family line.

Sadly, Adam damaged my inheritance, through sin and my world is under a curse. So it’s not so easy to get the good out of the natural world as it was when Adam was first created. Death and decay, thorns, pests and disease consume the things of this earth. However, with the sweat of my brow I can keep growing a new crop and raise a new herd, and so on, as I enjoy the lovely blessings of this world.

I can enjoy sea breezes, glorious sunsets, blazing starry nights, sweet aromas, delicious nectars, soothing warmth, cold drinks, warm waters, sustaining foods, energy, productivity, mobility, friendship, loving relationships, family, social interaction, cooperative productivity, well ordered society, care and compassion and so much more. I can also enjoy God’s protection and blessing as I honour Him and obey His laws and principles.

All of that is ‘birthright’. And it’s yours too, since you were born on planet earth as well.

By my natural birth I am a natural child of God. The Bible records that Adam was God’s child, being created by God. When the historian, Dr Luke, recorded the genealogy of Jesus he traced it back through the generations to Adam, then to God.

“Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.” Luke 3:38

So you have a family line that traces back to God. You are therefore entitled to relationship with God. That relationship comes through Jesus, but stop and recognise that your pets are not entitled to that relationship. No creature is entitled to it except those who are in God’s natural family line, the line of Adam. We humans, sons of Adam, can become God’s children, but angels and animals can’t. That’s a family heritage you possess, because of the family line you were born into.

So by being born on planet earth, in the family line of Adam, you hold some very privileged birth rights. Other creatures on our planet and in the spirit realm will never have those rights. Satan and his demons don’t have those rights. Satan often has to work through people, to access their special rights to misuse them. Satan stirs up people to attack people, like Cain killing his brother Abel.

A major problem with the inheritance we have from Adam is the way Adam’s sin brought a curse on the world and on us. The open fellowship we should be able to have with God has been broken.

So God set up a plan of salvation where God, Himself, would become human and pay for our sins. So we can be forgiven and made new by putting our faith in Jesus as our saviour.

And that process brings about a New Birth! With a new birth comes a new birthright!

Jesus taught that mankind needs to have a second birth experience, which we refer to as being ‘born again’.

“Jesus answered him (Nicodemus), Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:5,6

When Jesus talked of being born of ‘water and the Spirit’ He is saying we must have a natural birth, having a human birthright, and then be born again by the Spirit of God.

That second birth causes us to be born in the Kingdom of God, by the Spirit of God.

So now, along with our natural human rights, and along with our right to connect with God, as God’s human child, we are re-born and have all the rights of the Kingdom of God. It is as if we were born in heaven and can claim all the rights that come to one born there.

We have the right to eternal life, and to the power of the Holy Spirit, and to peace, joy, freedom, victory over Satan and sin, and so on. These things become our heavenly birthright.

And our spiritual Father is God. So we inherit all that belongs to God, His Kingdom. We have God’s authority to act in this world to extend the Kingdom of God. We are God’s Ambassadors. We are able to deliver the Kingdom of God to others, by preaching the Gospel to them. We are able to bring heaven into the darkest corners and the most darkened lives.

If you ever have any doubts about who you are and what authority you have on the earth stop and reflect on your birthrights. Your natural birthright gives you standing among men and in the face of the systems of this world.

Your spiritual re-birth gives you standing in the throne-room of God, with all of God’s authority to extend the Kingdom of God.

You are wonderfully blessed and equipped for this life and for eternity, thanks to your wonderful Heavenly Birthright!

Do You Honour Your Father?

Many years ago a preacher asked me, unexpectedly, if I honour my father. We were discussing other issues when the question came out of nowhere.

I reflected on that and had to answer, “I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it.”

Honouring our parents is one of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai (commandment number five), so it’s not something to be ignored. Yet I had to admit I didn’t really have a concept of what honouring parents might actually look like. I had never given the matter much thought or ever heard a sermon making the commandment real in today’s lifestyle.

The question started me reflecting on this command.

“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

At high school I was told that my parents were out of date, because science had advanced human understanding greatly since my parents went to school. What my parents knew was now obsolete, so any advice they gave would be out of date. Such an attitude is based on materialism, ignoring all the moral issues of life that are quite independent of supposed scientific understanding.

I recall at the end of my schooling, while trying to work out what further study to do, I approached a well travelled preacher, who was standing beside my father, and asked him what he thought I should do. I did not ask my father, already accepting that my dad had too limited an understanding of the world to help me.

So it became quite clear that I had dishonoured my father. I had discounted his role in my life and sidelined him. I appreciated and respected him in many ways, but I also put down his role in my life at the same time.

So how would I have related to my father differently if I honoured him? What evidence should I look for in someone’s life to see if they honour their father or their mother as they are commanded to do?

I did not come up with an answer but I did decide to do something specifically to honour my dad. He is a preacher, so I organised for him to present one of his favourite seminars at a large church in my area. I wanted to give him a platform to be heard and honoured, as an act of honouring him myself.

In the years since then I looked for other ways to give honour to my dad, such as by giving others the opportunity to meet and hear my dad and be able to receive from him, and give him honour themselves.

In all the years since my preacher friend prompted me I have not come up with a checklist of things we are to do to be sure we are honouring our parents. But I have become much more sensitive to those who give open dishonour to their father or mother. It is very easy in our world for people to put down those who God says we are to honour.

As a child a neighbour introduced me to the term ‘old man’. He was talking about his family and mentioned the old man. I asked him who that was and he explained it was his father. I didn’t think his father was very old, but he used that term frequently and with a derogatory tone.

I didn’t pick up that language, but I often heard people speak unkindly of their father or mother, using a label like ‘old man’ to express their disrespect.

Jesus challenged the Pharisees in his day for breaking the commandment by allowing adult children to get out of giving support to their parents. The adult children would make a pledge of their assets to God and used that an excuse to not use their resources to help their ageing parents.

“Jesus said, You have a fine way of rejecting God’s commandment ….. Moses said, Honour your father and your mother; and, Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die. But you say, If a man tells his father or his mother, Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban (dedicated to God), then you no longer permit him to do anything for his parents, so making void the word of God by your tradition.” Mark 7:10-13

Jesus expected the commandment to honour father and mother to be kept by children in their adult life. So this command is not just for children. It impacts us all our days.

And Apostle Paul explained that the word honour includes the meaning ‘obey’. Note how Paul explained it to children.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3

In various cultures around the world the idea of honour to parents is built in to the way the community operates. Care and accommodation, ceremonies of respect and other embedded cultural expressions maintain the actions of honour. That’s wonderful, but it is even more wonderful when that honour comes from our heart, not just the imposed practices of our community.

So I challenge your heart and ask you to consider the fifth commandment about honouring your father and mother. I ask you Do You Honour Your Father?

Heart Response

We can often be distracted by the actions we do or which we see others do. We can see actions but we can’t see what goes on inside someone’s heart or head. So we most often assess people and even ourselves, based on the activities, rather than the attitudes.

God, however, looks at the heart.

“I, the Lord, search the heart” Jeremiah 17:10

God not only looks at the heart, but He also tests the heart, putting people through various challenges to see how their heart responds.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” Deuteronomy 8:2

God is looking at your heart, but he also observes what you do. Your actions take on a different character in light of the motivation within you that prompts that action.

Here again is the verse about God searching our heart. In the whole verse we see that God also sees the actions (deeds).

“I, the Lord, search the heart; I test the mind to reward a man according to his way, by what his deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10

Your ‘deeds’ deserve different responses based on what is in your heart.

For example, a young child might well think it is fun to use a bed or lounge chair as a trampoline, jumping up and down. While that is annoying to adults and may damage what is jumped on, the child is not likely to be jumping because they want to annoy someone or cause damage. They are simply acting childishly, without thought for consequences.

The action has to be viewed in light of the heart or inner motivation.

If a child wants to annoy someone, or hopes to break the furniture, then that is a different matter. The difference is made in the heart, not in the energy it takes to do the jumping.

Christ applied this principle of separating the action from the motivation when He was on the cross. Christ called on God to forgive those who were crucifying Him, because of their ignorance.

“Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Apostle Peter made the same distinction on the Day of Pentecost, in the first sermon of the Church Age, as he preached to the gathered crowd in Jerusalem. He told them they had crucified the Lord, but then pointed out that they were not aware of what they were doing.

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.” Acts 3:17

We also see in the Law of God that killing someone was to be treated differently if there was malice in the heart, with an intention to harm, compared to an accidental killing of someone, or a spur of the moment reaction that was not premeditated. So the attitude of the heart is a critical issue.

“The avenger of blood might pursue the man slayer in a rage, overtake him if the distance is great, and strike him dead though he did not deserve to die, since he did not intend any harm.” Deuteronomy 19:6

At the same time, God is not fooled by religious actions, since he can see the heart of the people and he measures people by their heart, not by their religious deeds.

“These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Matthew 15:8,9

Jesus was quoting from the Prophet Isaiah, who prophesied that the people would do what the Pharisees and Scribes were doing.

“Therefore the Lord said: These people draw near to Me with their mouths and honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is but rules taught by men.” Isaiah 29:13 

The Prophet Ezekiel was also warned by God about people who would come to him, but who had a wrong heart.

“With their mouth they show much love, but their heart pursues the things they covet.” Ezekiel 33:31

God is not fooled by your pious actions, because He can see your heart. Your heart response in life’s situations is what makes the real difference in your life. If your heart is unbelieving or selfish you will be shut out of what God has for you, no matter what nice and religious things you do.

In most churches the people who serve with dedication, or who give generously, or who seem the most zealous, are automatically thought to be the more spiritual or more pleasing to God. They may well be, but God also sees their heart.

I use an example in my Parenting talks of a parent who needs a child to fetch something at a nearby shop. A son keenly volunteers to go. The parent is impressed and thinks they have a very obedient child, but the son’s motivation is his hope to talk with the pretty girl who works at the store. The son’s keenness is nothing more than a display of selfishness and self interest, not heartfelt obedience.

When we look into heaven we see what a pure heart looks like. Those who have been redeemed by Christ and gone to heaven are not filled with evil, such as jealousy or selfishness. So a glimpse into heaven reveals what could be expected from a heart that is pure before God.

In Revelation 5 the Apostle John shares his vision of the Lamb of God coming to open a powerful book in heaven. The angels and the whole of creation expressed unrestrained praise to God. This is what comes from a pure heart.

“I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them, saying: To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be praise, honour, glory and power forever and ever!” Revelation 5:13

You can check your own heart response by observing how much praise and adoration of God flows from your heart and mouth. Do you respond to challenges and life’s circumstances with praise and trust in God, or with anger, annoyance and frustration? Some people use God’s name when they are under pressure, but not as praise. They curse and blaspheme, revealing what is in their heart.

King David knew that God watches his heart and so he prayed that God would cleanse his heart.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a rightly balanced spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

And when King David made an offering to God it was his heart, a heart that was broken and which no longer held onto selfish and worldly things.

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Psalm 51:17

Remember that the issues of life come from your heart.

“Keep watch over your heart with all diligence; for out of your heart come the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

So friends, I urge you to prayerfully take stock of what is going on inside you, humbly calling on God to rescue you if your heart is not right before Him. I urge you to be sure you always make a right Heart Response.