A Faith Worth Imitating
A couple years ago I discovered a radio program called “Stories of Great Christians”. It's an audio drama that airs (in my area) on the Bible Broadcasting Network every day from 5:15 pm to 5:30 pm. Each series tells the life-story of a well-known person in Christian history, over a period of weeks, usually based on a published biography. I try to listen every day to keep up with the episodes. I find the art form of radio drama very refreshing. I am forced to use my imagination to envision the story, I have to wait in anticipation for the next episode, and I love the melodramatic organ interludes between scenes. (The series was produced in the 1940s!)
Not only entertaining, “Stories of Great Christians” has been a great inspiration to me! I have learned so much from the lives of people such as the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, missionary to India, Amy Carmichael, and founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth. It is simply amazing how God worked through these people to accomplish His purposes!
As I think about what I have learned from these faithful men and women of God, I am reminded of Hebrews 13:7. The English Standard Version renders it this way: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”
Secular culture has no shortage of individuals whom people idolize and seek to imitate. As a Christian parent, I hope to encourage my children to imitate people of integrity and faith. Of course, our ultimate example is Jesus. We must seek always to be like Him. But in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." (NKJV) God has given us role models to help point us to Him.
I am thankful for examples of Christian faith we can imitate. Throughout my life I have had wonderful mentors in the faith- my parents, special friends, and so many in my church family. And, of course, we have the examples of the Apostle Paul and other leaders in church history.
As we learn from the faith of our spiritual heroes, we must grow into the position of being a similar example for others. These are three virtues I believe are the foundation to a life worth imitating:
That may sound like a simple list, but I think it's a good guide for the traits we should seek in a mentor and strive for in our own lives. My hope is that I will ever be more like Jesus, walking in the footsteps of those who have followed Him without wavering; but also, that someone will see in me a faith worth imitating.
"Stories of Great Christians" belongs to Moody Radio Archive. Some day, I think I will purchase MP3 files of all the available stories, found here: http://moodyaudio.com/store/archive/stories-great-christians.
To learn about other great programs on BBN, to find a station in your area, or to stream live broadcasts, visit http://www.bbnradio.org.
As I tried to go to sleep the other night, somewhere amid the rambling, disjointed thoughts flooding my sleepy brain, I recognized the words of one of my favorite verses of scripture. I didn't consciously think about Romans 8:28, but it was suddenly just there in my mind: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
The familiar words had barely finished processing in my mind when they were followed with a simple question- "Do you know?"
I can't tell you if it was me asking the question or if it was the Holy Spirit, but I pray He will help me to seek out the answer and define it in the next few lines.
Let me start by working backwards through the verse. I know that I am "called according to His purpose" because I'm saved. If you are saved, you have been purposefully called by God. I know that I am of "them that love God". Although not always put into action the way it should be, I have no doubts about my love for Him. That brings me to the first part of the verse, and I have to ask myself again, "Do I really know that all things work together for good?"
I feel confident in saying the answer to my question is "yes". I do know that all things work together for good, meaning I believe it with certainty. The real question is, "Am I living like I know it?"
The phrase "all things" in this verse could mean literally everything- from my walk to the mailbox to a serious illness. While I believe the verse is true for "all" circumstances, Paul was writing specifically about persecution. With that context in mind, I felt the need to examine how I view difficulties in my life.
Knowing that all things work together for good doesn't mean we never hurt or have concern about the difficult times in life. Our state of salvation doesn't preclude us from the effects of living in a fallen world. Bad things will happen (although I believe we are guarded by His sovereign grace from many bad circumstances). The beauty of knowing "all things work together for good" is summed up in one word: hope. We have hope that beauty will be born of brokenness, that silver linings will surface through stress. And we can learn to even be excited when something bad happens, anticipating the good that will come from it. Sometimes, we may not see the good, but by faith we know it is there, because God's promises are true.
Thankfully, I haven't experienced very many situations in my life that have tested my faith or challenged my belief that something good would be the result. But I think the lesson for me in my reflections on Romans 8:28 is to be more mindful of opportunities to praise God in all situations. It's not about learning to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. I'm sure there are plenty of atheist optimists. It's about knowing that God is intentionally acting and working things out in all situations, and about being able to praise Him whether we see the good or not.
Let me leave you with a real-life example of Romans 8:28. A small, country church, where my husband has ministered several times, was recently vandalized. On Easter Sunday morning, our friends there, Terry and Ellen, found a swastika spray-painted on the front door. Now, of course, that was not a good thing. How could it be? However, the deputy that responded to the call did a wonderful thing- he painted over the vandalism for them. Our friends were deeply moved by the kind act of the deputy, and Ellen took to Facebook to publicly praise the officer. More than one news station saw the post, and subsequently did interviews with Ellen and the officer, which were aired on multiple stations. Because Ellen knew God was in control of the situation, she was able to focus on the deputy's good deed, instead of focusing on the wrong done to them. God even worked it out so the uplifting story would be shared on the news to be an encouragement to many, many people. The fun part is, God may not be finished working the events "together for good". Perhaps the best is yet to come from this story.
Have you been going through a trial? Are you facing adversity now? Perhaps the best is yet to come from your story, too.
Click the following link to see one of the news stories about the church vandalism and the officer's kind deed.
A few months ago I started a scripture notebook. It's just a little book I carry around in my purse and in which I occasionally write verses when they come to mind. There are no rules to it, except for I try not to write the same verse in the book twice. This forces me to flip back through to check before I write a new verse, which refreshes me as I skim and remember all the scriptures I have written previously. My notebook contains the type of verses we sometimes call "memory verses". They stand on their own, without explanation, additional context, or historical reference. I like to call them "nuggets", like little treasures you can easily carry.
"Let your light so shine before men..."
"A merry heart doeth good...."
"For God so loved the world..."
"Greater love hath no man than this..."
"In the beginning God created..."
"What time I am afraid..."
"In all thy ways acknowledge Him..."
Can you finish all those verses? My guess is, yes! These are wonderful, important truths to cherish. And I encourage you to practice memorization of verses like these. That's one of my goals- to start committing these to memory. While these "nuggets" of scripture are important, we most also appreciate the importance of the Word as a whole. In the second book of Timothy, chapter 3, verse 16, Paul says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" We may not go around quoting genealogies or Mosaic law, but each line of scripture is included in the Bible for a specific purpose.
Learning how to handle and correctly apply the Word is the subject of 2 Timothy 2:15: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." We have to learn to sort and apply the nuggets and the genealogies, the parables and the historical events- to appreciate and, use for our benefit, the entirety of the Word He has provided.
When we rightly divide the Word we understand that scripture will never contradict itself. Some ideas may appear contradictory, but a proper study, use of appropriate resources, and most importantly discernment from the Holy Spirit, can and will negate any of those doubts.
Rightly dividing the Word means we are careful not to piece together scripture to suit our own agenda, and we can also recognize when that is being done by others. It's an outrageous example, but if someone quoted from Matthew where it says Judas "went and hanged himself" (27:5) and merged that with our Savior's exhortation "go, and do thou likewise" (Luke 10:37, speaking of showing mercy like the Good Samaritan), that would be an egregious and profane misuse of scripture! We are likely to encounter a much more subtle example, but if we know how to rightly divide the Word, by knowing the Word, we won't get tripped up by these tactics.
The Bible refers to the Word of God as a "sword": "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17 (Also, see Hebrews 4:12)
A sword is a powerful weapon, to be handled with care. Our study of God's word is swordsmanship training, and the application of the Word in our lives, in a manner of speaking, is swordplay. While I may never be a master swordsman, I pray that God will help me grow in my ability to rightly divide the Word, and that He will do the same for you.
Working for the Big Boss
Unlike my life in general, I keep my work emails very tidy. Every project or subject has its own folder so I can easily find information when needed. The other day I came across an email folder for a project that has taken a backseat to other priorities. It seems management has almost scrapped the effort completely. I thought about how I had worked especially hard on the project, because it was an assignment from the “big boss”", meaning my manager’s manager. In that moment I felt this truth in my spirit: “You are always working for the Big Boss.”
The most obvious application here comes from Colossians 3:23,24: "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ." This is pretty straight-forward. Even in the "little" things; even in the ordinary, mundane tasks, we work for the highest authority.
Secondly, I am disappointed that my efforts on the project at work were in vain, since it seems to have lost priority, but my efforts for God always count. The assignments He gives me will never "die on the vine" as do so many business projects. Philippians 1:6 says, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" God finishes what He starts.
The third concept I pondered involves the eternal benefits of working for the Big Boss. Galatians 6:7-8 says, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Life everlasting. That's a great benefit plan.
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9
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