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 From Old

that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Ephesians 4:22-24 (NASB)

Yesterday I was reminded of a simpler time, when I was a boy in our village. The pride of every lad was his wheels, his bicycle whether it was new or old. We all knew and respected one elderly man known as “Spadgie,” a big strong ex-miner who walked with a stick. What endeared this man to the village lads was his expertise with bikes; he could fix any problem needing attention. But he particularly specialised in building bikes at a low cost from recycled parts. Spadgie worked out of his garden shed a few doors away from me, I remember visiting him in his wee workshop. His shed was an Aladdin’s Cave of old bike parts of every make, colour and shape, most of which he was given by villagers. Many times in my childhood wheels or brakes were renewed on my bike by Spadgie at little or no cost. Not long after reminiscing of this old gentleman I found myself reading todays verse, I saw a connection between my memory of Spadgie and the Scripture.

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour we are “born again” and renewed in God’s family. We give up our old life and sinful ways, putting on our new self as one puts on a new coat. Our old corrupt self is like an old rusty bike with dodgy brakes and bald tyres; through His Son God takes us into His Workshop to refurbish us. We come out afterwards fit for the road ahead of us. Our newly refurbished man/woman is superior to the old one in every way; we bear the hallmarks of our Maker in our new life of holiness and righteousness. As villagers in Dundonald recognised Spadgie’s bikes by his work, the world recognises those saved by faith in Jesus – they bear the unmistakable traits of a child of God.

Dear reader, have you swapped your old self for a renewed self through Jesus Christ? Is your life a constant witness to your Father God’s love for you; do you bear His hallmarks each day shining as a light in a dark world?

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.

Guddling in The Bible

Rock Pooling the Scottish coast.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105 (NASB)

Who remembers rock pooling as a kid during the summer holidays? I remember our family holidays to the caravan park on the hillside overlooking St. Andrews beach, it was a haven of delights. My nephews, neice and myself disappeared all day down to the beach like explorers in a foreign land. The Scots language for rock pooling is “guddling.” It’s the same term used to refer to fishing for trout with your hands from a river bank.

My heart gets excited as I read God’s Word. In my mind I think it is like guddling on the beach at lowtide, searching the shallows and the deeper pools, turning over rocks to see what lies beneath. Reading my Bible is a fishing adventure for my soul. I must confess I squeal with delight at my Bible discoveries like I did when guddling on St.Andrews beach all those years ago.

Dear reader, do you get excited reading and searching His Word? Get yourself a mug of coffee or tea and open your Bible today. Grab your highlighters and notebook and go guddling in His Word – the treasures you will find in its pages will enrich and excite you, and also it is fun!

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!

Facing Serious Illness

‘He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit,
And my life shall see the light.’ “Behold, God does all these oftentimes with men, To bring back his soul from the pit,
That he may be enlightened with the light of life. Job 33 : 28-30

As I was reading Job 32-33 this morning I was reminded of a time when I faced serious illness and a possible threat to my life. I could relate to the situation described by Elihu to Job. The important point to grasp in this chapter is that God uses circumstances to talk to His children. In verse 15 you find God will use dreams and visions to speak to us, let me assure you this is still true today. A dream I had many years ago is forever etched in my memory to this day. Essentually these experiences of God in life are to draw us closer, walking in righteousness heading towards a heavenly eternity.

When serious illness comes to life it brings much anxiety for all concerned, the victim and their loved ones. Satan will whisper in our ears that God is punishing us, it is a complete lie. God is a loving Father and will use any current situation in our life, including serious illness, to draw us closer to Him. He wants to bless us in all circumstances, if we draw near Him in faithful prayer. All the resources of Heaven are at work in the life of a child of God who is seriously sick. In verses 23-24 we find that Angels work as mediators for people in times of such trials, interceding on their behalf to Almighty God.

In the fullness of time as I recovered from my illness I was able to look back on it in thankfulness. I could see how God had guided me and preserved me, indeed drawing me closer to Him. There have been other times of illness since that time, but praise God He remains faithful in His provision. Dear reader, I would pray that if you are suffering such illness that Father God will preserve you and draw you closer to Him.

Just Wait!

Someone once said that everyday is another lesson in life. I think this is more so for the child of God, everyday is an opportunity to mature further in our walk with our Creator. Not all days are great revelations or massive blessings from Heaven, sometimes there is silence. We have prayed and read His Word, but there is no immediate reply. The silence is not rejection from God, it is a time of reflection for your benefit. Waiting is exercise for your personal faith, God will answer at the right time and in the right way. Dear reader, sometimes we need to be patient and faithful – just wait!

Just Wait

The sun sets and rises each day
Whatever the weather,
God hears the prayers we say
In our private chamber.

Sometimes birds don’t sing
Yet they are still there,
Heaven may be silent
But the Almighty is forever near.

Time continues forever onward
Minutes and hours passing,
Heaven hears your eager words
Just wait, an answer He will bring.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:28-31

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:24-26

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14