The Necessary Elements of Faith

This Friday I re-post an old post from November 2020, with some light editing.

Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?

1 Thessalonians 3 : 1-10 (NASB)

Here is a word that we all use, and in some cases abuse. I am talking of faith. How many of you remember writing letters and signing off at the end “Yours faithfully”? It was written as part of the structure of the letter without much thought. In everyday chatter we talk of having faith in this or that thing, or maybe in a friend. Yet as life often shows us things fail and friends can disappoint us, suggesting that our faith was really blind hope.

What is real faith? The book of Hebrews 11:1 tells us “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The book of James 2:26 further tells us that the evidence of faith is found in our actions. Real faith is not a wishy washy blind hope, but the exercise of the soul trusting God and proving it in daily life. When I read 1 Thessalonians 3 I was struck by the detailed list of what I now call “The Elements of Faith.” Let’s not waste words as I share them with you now.

The Thessalonians’ faith is to be encouraged by Timothy (3:2), and It is also our duty as members of God’s family to encourage our brethren to greater faith. The enemy will afflict us tempting and trying our faith (3:4-5); our strength in faith hampers Satan’s plans against us, thus he endeavours to disable your faith by any and all means. Faith is a comforter (3:7) to the brethren in Christ who witness your faith in action, particularly those in need of encouragement amidst times of personal tribulation. The next element is closely linked to the last, faith brings joy (3:9)! In times of pain and sadness there is nothing better than a big slice of joy, it brings momentary relief from what ails us. The practice of faith witnessed is a joyful sight, to the witness and the one doing the faithful act. Faith must be prayed for (3:10) in the church family, in the name of Christ and, also often personally for ourselves, that we all may increase in acts of faith in our daily walk with God.

Dear reader, be encouraged today to not just pursue Godly faith but to also put it into action. In your practice of faith take note of faith’s partners in action; faith and love work hand in hand doing God’s work (3:6). Acts of faith are borne of love, for God and also for our brethren. Let us pray to our Father, seeking guidance and strength for our faith today.

Beachcombing The Word of God

Leven Beach, Fife, Scotland on a Summer’s day.
Photo by Alan Kearns.

The words of the Lord are pure words;
As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.

Psalm 12:6 (NASB)

I remember fondly many hours beachcombing as a boy, scouring the beaches of the Fife Coast searching for anything of interest. Even if nothing was found a good time was had in the salty North Sea breeze blowing in off the Firth of Forth. Occasionally a shell, pebble or smooth green glass would catch my attention. I would wipe the treasure clean and dip it in a rock pool to see it in all its glory. I have never found anything of significant value over the years, certainly no silver, but I find silver everyday in my Bible.

Searching God’s Word is certainly as time consuming and as pleasurable as any beach search, the major difference being that we will always find treasure in His Word. How much biblical treasure we find is completely dependent on how much we search and how often. An individual who excelled at searching God’s Word was the Dundee Evangelist Robert Annan, who dedicated whole nights to the Word and often more than one night.

Dear reader, how much time do you give to searching the Word of God? Not just reading it but praying over it and dissecting the phrases for deeper understanding, just like examining your beach finds and washing it in the rock pool water. Such attention to your Bible will deliver greatly, building you up in your walk with Father God.

New Morning Blessings

Poppy field on a misty morning, Holy Island, Northumberland, England.
Photo by Alan Kearns.

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NASB)

Yesterday I payed a visit to the local hardware store for a garden broom attachment, which connects the handle to the broom head. The green one is old and split. It reminded me of the famous sketch on “Only Fools and Horses” where Trigger receives an award for saving Peckham Council money, by having the same broom for twenty years. He proudly brags it has only had fourteen new handles and seventeen new heads, to his friends bemusement. This favourite sketch reminded me of todays chosen verses.

Old and New

As each day ends we thank our Father God for keeping us safe until bedtime, and the sun rises the next morning on a new day filled with His new blessings. The world may proclaim new this and new that, but the only thing that truly is new is God’s presence in our life. He sees, hears and feels all our aches and pains – covering them in His endless compassion. In His Fatherly care we see the perfect example of faithfulness in action, that we can follow in our faith walk.

Dear reader, in your walk with God focus on His many blessings – “They are new every morning.” Yesterday is past and it is a new day, you are still covered in His Compassion. Nothing is new in this world (Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NASB), but God’s blessings are new everyday.

Personal Famine

A Barley field in Angus, Scotland.

“Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe.”

Genesis 41:29-31 (NASB)

Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land.

Ruth 1:1 (NASB)

There are times in the Christian walk where the river runs low, right down to a trickle. Suddenly all is silent about you, concentration is hard and the Word of God doesn’t appear to say much. I have times like these, usually through fatique which is a regular effect of my health issues. Tiredness and pain can make big and small things difficult, including spiritual matters. Yet God can use these times to help us grow in Him. During such dry times in life our Father God provides abundantly, literally from nothing.

It was while searching for inspiration in what has been a hard day, I found myself looking at my Bible notes from Friday 26th June 2020 and I found the scriptures I present to you today. In my notes I wrote that day: “in Scripture when we find famine, God is at work in the midst of it with bountiful blessings.” Look at the story of Joseph, and how God through a famine blessed him, his family and, also his nation. Then we have Ruth, which is a truly beautiful Biblical story. To escape famine Naomi and her daughter in law Ruth return to Judah. Ruth meets Boaz in the harvest fields who becomes her husband, their son Obed is the great grandfather of David, and a forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. What a truly a great harvest in the midst of a famine!

Dear reader, in times of personal famine when life is difficult our Father God is still present, right beside us. No matter how low the water level in your reservoir, the Almighty can still work a miracle with it. He is the Master of taking the small and weak to fulfill His purpose. Let us never despair in our famine, He will feed us from His bountiful harvest!

Praying Through The Storms

Psalm 6:1-10

The Lord has heard my supplication,
The Lord receives my prayer.

Psalm 6:9 (NASB)

Some years ago I found myself in the midst of a spiritual storm, one of my own making. I had strayed from His Narrow Path. It was through intercession and direct intervention of good friends I found my way back onto the path with God. It was my own prayers of humble repentance that God wanted to hear, I had to admit my error and change direction. He heard my prayers and answered them, bringing me through the storm. On reflection I can see how God took my brokenness and used it to achieve His will in His perfect time. He saved me and made me fruitful for Him again.

Spiritual storms can come from many sources, such as health problems or economic distress. As I write this I am in the midst of a storm in my health which began building on Friday, deepening fatique is making everyday tasks difficult. Often life can be cruel and a real trial to bear. In these situations a steady anchor is required, one we can trust. As a child of God I cling to Him in prayer, knowing that He hears me. He hears my spoken and unspoken prayers. Our hearts are like a book to Him, our tears are the pages.

Dear reader are you in the midst of a spiritual storm right now? Like the psalmist keep praying to your Father God, be assured He hears you. Hold tight to Him until the storm passes by.

Going Fishing

Wemyss Bay on the Clyde Coast, Scotland.
Photo by pacesetterforchange on Pixabay.

And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

Mark 1:17 (NASB)

After seeing Mandy’s post tonight regarding her fishing trip over the next few days I found myself reminiscing about one particular fishing trip when I was a laddie. We were on holiday in a caravan park in Wemyss Bay, overlooking the River Clyde. My brother in law who was a keen sea fisherman persuaded the boys and myself to go fishing off the rocks just outside the town. It was a warm sunny day with a slightly cool breeze blowing inland off the river. Our first task was digging the ragworms on the beach, after which we found a promising spot on the rocks to cast our lines from. We were fishing for Cod or more likely Mackerel, but nothing happened for a while. We passed the time counting fishing boats, ferries and submarines on the horizon. But then my brother in law caught a lovely big Cod which put up a good fight, he was like the cat who got the cream posing with his catch. He stored it in a wee rockpool behind us while we carried on fishing, only to see a Great Black Backed Gull swoop down and snatch the prized fish. That sour note signalled the end of our afternoon’s fishing that day, but it did become a story to laugh about later that night. Over the years it became a much loved fishing story on other trips.

As I remembered this old fishing story I thought of the above verse; of Jesus calling the brothers Simon and Andrew. In these famous words our Lord calls us too to join Him in fishing for men; seeking and catching lost souls for the Kingdom of Heaven. Look at the fishing story again; before we cast a line we had to get prepared by digging bait and tying our tackle specific to what we were aiming to catch. We had to find a good fishing spot to offer us the best opportunities to catch something. It is the same when fishing for souls; we must prepare by having good bait – Bible verses and tracts backed up by prayers before fishing. Sometimes fishing for souls can be like our fishing story; the fish were not biting, but we patiently kept casting our lines out. Eventually we may have a good catch for the Kingdom, but we mustn’t turn our back on our catch like we did in our story…for Satan will snatch them back at the first opportunity. Sparse fishing trips for the Gospel do not stop us fishing, they inspire us to keep sharing the Good News on future trips.

Dear reader, do you ever go fishing for Jesus? If you do be sure to use the best bait of God’s Word, soaked in prayer. Seek the best fishing spots for a likely catch. Gospel fishing trips need not be whole days, they can be a few minutes or an hour once a week or a fortnight. Whatever you can do if it is soaked in prayer, your Father God will use it to His Glory. I wish you good fishing my friend!

Barnabas – The Encourager

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. Acts 11:20-24

This morning it was a pleasure to read about one of my favourite Bible characters, Barnabas the encourager. I can’t remember when I first read about him but I do know I simply love this great man of God, he oozes positivity in everything he does. A truly amazing guy who we could all learn from.

We first encounter Barnabas in Acts 4 where we learn he is a native of Cyprus, whose original name is Joseph. He sold land he owned and gave it as an offering to the church. The apostles renamed him Barnabas meaning “Son of Encouragement.” The next time we see Barnabas is in Acts 9 in Jerusalem as he speaks up in defence of the newly converted Saul before the Apostles. It is clear that the word of Barnabas was effective, Saul was accepted by the church. In Acts 11 the news of a mighty revival amongst the Greeks in Antioch reaches Jerusalem. The church sends Barnabas to investigate further, after all he was a Cyprian as were some of those who were preaching in Antioch.

What Barnabas finds in Antioch gives him great joy as many were being brought to Jesus the Lord. He does his utmost to encourage the preachers in their labours and to remain true to the gospel of Christ. Barnabas is a striking man by the strength of his faith and how the Holy Spirit worked through him. It is clear from scripture that Barnabas was filled with the Joy of the Lord, and he shared it as he encouraged other believers in Christ. If you read further on you will see Barnabas searches for Saul and brings him to Antioch where they stay for a further year, where many more are saved and encouraged in the Lord.

Dear reader, be encouraged by the Barnabas! In this scripture he continues to encourage us today to build each other up. A word of kindness, a gift or a prayer need not cost us much but the value to to the recipient may be immense and immediately effective. Who can you encourage today?