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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, October 05 2023

Examples of living faith

The Bible contains a record of people who faced challenges and difficulties, as examples for us. The Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians of important events in Israel's history (1 Corinthians 10:1-10), stating that, "...all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Corinthians 10:11).

United Church of God

Because God inspired the Scriptures so "that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we should regularly study His Word. Knowing the people of the Bible experienced needs and sorrows can comfort and reassure us (Romans 15:4), and seeing the results of their decisions helps us learn from their choices.

After Abel, Enoch and Noah had lived lives of faith (Hebrews 11:4-7), God called Abraham and his wife Sarah (Genesis 17). Hebrews 11 honors both Abraham and Sarah as people of faith, and in Romans 4:11 Abraham is called "the father of all those who believe." (Romans 4:11). One of Abraham's outstanding traits was his firm belief in God's promises. When God told him he would father an heir and his descendants would become as numerous as the stars in the sky, Abraham "believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). Sarah similarly set an example of faith: "By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised" (Hebrews 11:11).

Abraham and Sarah faced many other difficulties, and sometimes their faith wavered. Fearful for his life, Abraham twice made a misleading statement, claiming Sarah was his sister (she was his half sister) instead of his wife (Genesis 12:13 and 20:1-3). Also, when Sarah heard she would bear a child, she laughed at the idea of someone her age giving birth (Genesis 18:9-12). Abraham and Sarah weren't perfect, but their lives are examples of people growing in faith and confidence in God's promises.

Hundreds of years later, David, as a youth, faced the giant Goliath, having faith God would help him, stating, "The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (1 Samuel 17:37). God called David "a man after My own heart, who will do all My will" (Acts 13:22). Like David, each of us must face challenges and trials that can overwhelm us. God has the power to intervene for us, just as He did for David, if we trust and obey Him. God does not change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego (Daniel 3) put their lives on the line when they chose not to bow before King Nebuchadnezzar's golden image, because doing so would have been a violation of the First and Second Commandments (Exodus 20:1-6). They knew this meant they would be thrown alive into the king's fiery furnace, but their response was: "..Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up" (Daniel 3:17-18).

God allowed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed- Nego to be tied up and thrown into the fiery furnace, not knowing whether God would intervene to save their lives or notl. They walked out unharmed (Daniel 3:25-27), but regardless of the outcome, their living faith convicted them to put God first—a principle Jesus also emphasized during His earthly ministry (Matthew 6:33).

A principle of faith is obedience, and we read in James faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). Living faith comes by obeying God and being willing to accept whatever results may come from our actions.The faith God gives us must be developed, and we have a responsibility to make sure our faith grows (2 Peter 3:18). Faith is not something we work up on our own. Rather, it comes through God's Spirit. Faith is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22, King James Version), which God gives us when we repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38).

Matthew 8 contains two excellent examples of faith. First, a leper was healed after saying to Jesus, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean" (Matthew 8:2-3). In another case, Christ offered to go to a Roman officer's home and heal his servant. The officer's faith was so strong he knew Jesus didn't have to be physically present for the servant to be healed (Matthew 8:8). The centurion's faith impressed Jesus who stated, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!...Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you" (Matthew 8:10-13).

Many examples of faith during Christ's life dealt with healing. Even in our modern secular society in which God is often overlooked, and although we may seek the best medical service possible, our lives are still ultimately in God's hands. As the Apostle Paul said, "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Scripture tells Christians, when they fall ill, to call the elders of the Church to receive prayers and anointing with oil as a symbol of God's Holy Spirit (James 5:14-15). While God uses human servants in this work, we must never forget that it is He who actually performs the miracle of healing.

When we seek God this way as He instructs, we should trust in faith He will intervene for us and heal—yet still recognize that He, knowing what is best for us and others, may choose to not heal immediately.(This does not, however, mean that we should resign ourselves to His not intervening. Rather we should persist in prayer, expecting Him to act speedily unless He has an important reason for not doing so.)

In many circumstances it is also wise to seek medical advice and help. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional care when we are sick. Luke, the traveling companion of Paul and author of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, is called "the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). Jesus acknowledged the need for physicians in caring for our health (Matthew 9:12), and the use of medicine is also spoken of approvingly (Proverbs 17:22). But in any medical treatment, we must still look to God as our Healer—placing ultimate trust in Him and not in doctors or physical remedies. The Bible gives us the negative example of Judah's King Asa in this regard, who "became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians" (2 Chronicles 16:12). As always, ultimate faith and trust must be in God alone.

When we do trust in God for healing and deliverance from various trials, while He will often immediately intervene there may be times that He does not for our own or others' good. Though the resurrection to come is a sure biblical promise, we must remember that this life is temporary and that trials and even dying is part of it (1 Corinthians 15:22; Acts 14:22, Hebrews 9:27). In comparison, our faith bears eternal significance. This is why Paul affirmed, "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7) and "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).

The examples and testimonies of the men and women we read about in Hebrews 11 show us we can believe God. He does not lie (Titus 1:2), and, as our loving, faithful Father, He delights in providing for us. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). God the Father and Jesus Christ have made us promises about Their love, protection and faithfulness (Psalm 33:4; Psalm 37:28; Psalm 97:10; Proverbs 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:3), and these promises are sure.