The past few months have been pretty special for me. My oldest daughter and her family have been within 30 minutes of us as they prepare to transition to a new season in their lives. I have thoroughly cherished every moment with my two granddaughters reading books, constructing puzzles, riding scooters, going on walks, and having deep conversations (as deep as you can with a four and seven-year-old). I was recently reminded of one particular conversation I had with our oldest granddaughter, Harper. I can’t recall the actual context, but the dialogue went something like this.
Me: “I am going to be praying about it.”
Harper: “Pray? Why would you talk to someone you can’t see?”
Me: “Well, the Bible says when Jesus lives in our hearts, we can talk to Him and He listens. I don’t
have to see Him to know that He hears me. I can talk to Him just like I am talking to you.”
With a slight cock of her head, she seemed to accept my explanation, but I’m not sure she was buying it. Her logical, rule-following, seven-year-old brain has not yet grasped the concept of faith. I feel confident someday she will!
Harper’s question, at its core, is really about faith. While faith may be a concept difficult to explain, I’m so thankful the Bible gives us a clear definition in Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other words, faith is having confidence in something we cannot explicitly prove. That seems simple enough, but defining faith is only part of the equation. Saying we have faith is pretty easy; living by faith with assurance and confidence in God is something far different. It requires a willingness to be obedient to what God asks us to do despite our circumstances and despite the possible outcomes. There is nothing simple about living by faith.
Anytime I need encouragement about what it means to live by faith, I go back to Hebrews 11. This is called the Faith Chapter for a reason! The many believers mentioned in the chapter were people just like you and me, all on their own personal faith journeys. No two stories in the text are the same. God had a plan for each of them just like He does for us. It’s so tempting to put these “heroes of faith” on a pedestal, but we all have an opportunity to be a hero of faith in our own time—in 2023! To do so, let’s examine two foundational principles: the object of our faith and the operation of our faith.
Object of Our Faith
Intellectually, as believers we know the object of our faith is Jesus Christ. However, when times are good in our lives, I would venture to say we may find ourselves trusting more in our works, jobs, finances, and even families. This often becomes evident when circumstances take a turn for the worse. What do we do first in difficult situations? Do we look to others for advice or go to God’s Word? Do we turn to God in prayer or try to solve problems on our own? Do we become frustrated in our flesh or have a sense of peace in the Spirit? When the object of our faith is anything other than Jesus, walking by faith will be an impossibility.
I recently came across a short devotional on Galatians 2:20. I have read this verse many times before, but this time was different for me. It was as if God was trying to tell me something new, something important. It has been almost a week now, and I am still thinking about and processing these words.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Paul’s declaration can be ours. May 2023 be the year we let go of our trust in anything but Christ who is in us, with us, and for us. May He alone be the sole object of our faith. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
To be heroes of the faith, the object of our faith must be Christ alone. Walking by faith (our doing) is an overflow of His presence in our lives (Christ in me).
Operation of Our Faith
Being in Christ allows the operation of our faith to take shape. True faith is always accompanied by action. In Hebrews 11 notice how each of the heroes of faith acted on what they believed.
· Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice. (v. 4)
· Enoch pleased God. (v. 5)
· Noah constructed an ark. (v. 7)
· Abraham obeyed and went out not knowing where he was going. (v. 8)
· Abraham offered up Isaac. (v. 17)
· Isaac invoked future blessings. (v. 20)
· Jacob blessed each of the sons of Joseph. (v. 21)
· Moses’s parents hid him from the king. (v. 23)
· Moses left Egypt and kept the Passover. (v. 27-28)
· Rahab welcomed spies. (v. 31)
If you know the stories behind these believers’ lives, you know they were not always perfect. Some made poor decisions along the way; however, in the end they walked by faith through a cycle of surrender, repentance, and obedience. They may not have realized it at the time, but their choices to walk by faith had eternal ramifications (Hebrews 11:13-16). I believe the same is true for us. We may never know the impact our obedience will have on the Kingdom of God. To be a hero of faith is to be a person of action.
Operating from a posture of faith isn’t always easy. If it was easy, we wouldn’t need faith. This may sound unspiritual, but sometimes I think walking by faith is similar to developing a skill. I just recently started playing tennis again and decided I needed to change my serve to improve consistency. It took months of practice. I had to learn a new way to stand, toss the ball, and hold my racket. I had to endure hours of miss hits; to say it was frustrating is an understatement. However, the hard work has paid off. I have played tennis since I was a teenager, and my serve is better today than it has ever been.
We are never going to walk by faith if we don’t take action. The author of Hebrews reminds us that operating by faith is a like running a race while keeping our eyes on the finish line (Hebrews 12:1-2). Just like with my tennis serve, we will need to persist as we focus our eyes on Jesus, the object of our faith.
No two years of our lives are the same. What will be your walk of faith this year? 2023 can be the year you become a hero of faith! Take time this week to do two things.
1. Spend time with God and reflect on the true object of your faith. Repent, surrender, commit – take your next step whatever it is. Memorize Galatians 2:20 and remind yourself of this truth daily. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
2. Write out two or three by faith statements. Commit to putting your faith into action. Here are few examples.
· By faith, I will quit focusing on shortcomings and accept God’s forgiveness.
· By faith, I will choose a positive attitude at work.
· By faith, I will serve an unfriendly colleague.
· By faith, I will trust God in every circumstance.
If you have felt discouraged this past year, you are in good company. The enemy has a way of getting us to focus on our failures instead of the power within us! The Bible is full of encouragement because every believer needs to be reminded of the hero within them. Press on in 2023, my fellow hero of the faith!
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14