The Faith that Overcomes

He lived in an orb of corruption and wickedness – the world population exploding with depraved humanity and evil giants. He alone was deemed just and found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Though the earth was watered with a daily mist, where the idea of rain – not to mention a flood – was incomprehensible, he obeyed God’s calling and continued his 120-year-long, titanic-sized task.

One thousand years later, ancient and breaths away from death, another man never quit believing for a nation of descendants. It mattered not that God had made only seemingly measly steps toward delivering on His promise.

She deserved to be stoned. A soiled one. One who used the lust of men for her gain. Yet she believed the One and Only God, and eventually chose His way.

He was an adopted son, raised in the most prestigious and privileged home in the world. Saved from death by a compassionate, beautiful woman. Yet by faith he refused to be called her son. By faith he returned to his roots of poverty and reclaimed the identity of a despicable people. By faith he lead a rebellion against the very ones who saved his life and gave him anything he could have ever wished for.

Faith is an indescribable phenomena, causing people to do inexplicable things.

Actually, it’s more. It must be much more.

Faith is the lens

Faith ignores accusations and jeers.

It rejects physical entitlement and comfort.

It sees beyond visual clues.

It receives undeserved grace.

It lives in a world bigger than this terra firma and it’s galaxy.

Faith does not mean perfect responses. Noah had a drinking issue. Abraham tried taking God’s plans into his own hands, attempting to jump-start his posterity with his wife’s maid. Rahab spent her purity illegitimately. Moses murdered.

In my own life, faith has marched to an imperfect beat. Called to mother children bereft of parents, I believed God had incredible plans for them. Yet, I tried to force my own ideas into God’s purposes. I screamed when my efforts were thwarted. I belly-ached when God’s ways were painful. I indulged self-pity when I felt rejected. I forgot to look beyond the crud in front of me and cling to God’s sovereignty and faithfulness.

At the same time, I never quit seeking and trusting God. The faith He had given me, hung tight.

So how do we hang onto an overcoming faith in the face of undermining attack?

  • We can begin by recognizing we are not alone as we wobble. We join a long list of biblical heroes.
  • We need to remember our faith does not begin with us, but with God Himself.
  • We must return to the over-arching conviction that God is in control. His purposes will be accomplished. He is eternally good. His love reaches to the heavens and His faithfulness to the skies.

When we struggle in our faith, the problem is that we think it’s all about our faith. We forget the call to a life of faith is foundationally a life absorbed into THE faith. It’s a life lost in Jesus. It’s a life carried next to His heart. The world around us doesn’t have to be beachy. Those around us don’t have to get it. The flaming arrows can fly at us. But hiding in THE faith dispels doubts, lifts our focus above our current situation, walks in God’s Truth, and extinguishes the attacks of the enemy.

How else do you define faith? Without struggle – including failure – how does this faith grow … and take control … and overcome? Whether it’s a promise or a battle, anything that drives us into the arms of Jesus has indelible faith at it’s heart.

 

The Bible in it’s entirety is a book of faith. The above thoughts are bathed in scriptural truth. Not wanting to interrupt the flow above, I’m listing references here.

1 John 5:4 – Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
Genesis 6 – Noah builds the ark.
Hebrews 11 – the list of Old Testament heroes of faith.
Genesis 9:20-25 – Noah gets drunk.
Genesis 16 – Abraham uses Hagar.
Joshua 2 and 6 – Rahab
Exodus 2: 11-12 – Moses kills an Egyptian
Revelation 2:13 – “My”/Jesus’ faith; Galatians 2:20 – “The faith of”, not “a faith in” Jesus (KJV); Ephesians 2:8 – faith is a gift from God.
Psalm 91 and a bucket full of other promises – God is in control.
Psalm 138:7-8 – the Lord will accomplish His purposes for me.
Psalm 136 – God’s love endures forever
Psalm 36:5-9 – God’s unfailing love

Copyright April 2016 by Cheri Johnson

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I Have a Nasty Itch

The past two weeks I’ve been assaulted by a rash that covers most of my body. It came on suddenly and spread quickly. It screams for deep, bruising scratching, and nightly it prickles me out of my sleep. Gratefully, I’m only occasionally miserable. But I am constantly uncomfortable. I don’t care that I look ridiculous in my comfy mismatched clothes or ghastly with my arms covered with little red spots and my legs with large purple blotches. I am beyond ready for this itch to go!

I’ve had other experiences in my life that seemed like they were going from bad to worse quickly with no hope for improvement in sight. Like when parenting my SAFE* children.

They lived their first 5-14 years in some very difficult situations. When we brought them into our home we anticipated struggles, but figured they would settle down after several months. Not! Years of exhaustive effort seemingly effected little good. All I could see were rebellious kids who had no intention of accepting me as their mom. At times I almost gave up hope.

During one particular tough season a friend of mine, also a SAFE* parent, challenged me to view my kids—and speak of my kids—not as they appeared to me, but as they appeared to God. He pointed me to the last phrase of Romans 4:17 “calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (NKJV). The context of this phrase is Abraham believing what God said when God had called him a father of many nations. Though Abraham had referred to himself as an old man, “as good as dead,” He also chose to believe not what he saw in the mirror, but what God promised.

That’s faith. When we decide to actively believe what God says even when our situation appears to be quite the opposite.

We live by faith

So what does God say about our SAFE children? Among other things:

  • He know the plans He has for them, and those plans include a hopeful future (Jeremiah 31:9).
  • He has been with them since the day they were conceived and will be until the day they breathe their last breath (Psalm 139:13-16).
  • He’s crazy about them (Zephaniah 3:17).
  • He died for them (John 3:16).

What does God say about our impossible situation? Among other things:

  • What appears to us as evil, God intends to use for great good (Genesis 50:20).
  • With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
  • He is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond anything we could ask or even think to ask (Ephesians 3:20).

As for my rash, I am under medical treatment. However, I really believe God has a deeper purpose for it. I won’t suffer with it forever, and somehow through it God will be glorified.

So if you’re suffering from a seemingly incurable itch, have hope dear friend. God loves you. He is good. He is faithful. He will not allow the enemy to gain the upper hand. He has emphatically stated He will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8). If it seems the enemy is winning, take heart. God has already overcome in a glorious way (John 16:33).

*Step/Adoptive/Foster/Every other nonbiological relationship

Copyright April 2016 by Cheri Johnson

Who is in Your Hall of Faith?

Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and even Rahab are among 17 names or events mentioned in Hebrews 11, the famed Hall of Faith. These Old Testament heroes inspire us in our own faith journeys.

So I’m curious . . .

Who's in Your Hall of Faith

Esther? Ruth? Mary? How about people whose stories are not recorded in Scripture?

I think of Corrie Ten Boom as well as her sister Betsy. One disparaging day in the concentration camp, Betsy encouraged Corrie,

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

I’ve never forgotten that line and have reminded myself of it at my darkest times.

Then there’s my dear friend Chuck. He has battled cancer three times. Current medical approaches tend to knock him down powerfully so he uses them minimally. A more natural approach is kinder to his body. The combination of traditional and alternative has worked.

That along with the power of God.

And how have Chuck and his wife, Judy, emerged from this 17 year long battle? More in love with Jesus and stronger in faith—prompting others toward the unfathomable love, unstoppable might, and unfailing promises of God.

So what appears to be the common ingredient in all these people’s faith?

Struggle.

Though faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8) it has to be grown and that is possible only through struggle. Deep, dark, insurmountable struggles.

There has to be a fire

None of these people were perfect in their struggles. They employed their own fire extinguishers, looked for quick exit routes, or lit inept dynamite in attempts to handle their situations their own ways.

Look at how Abraham tried to handle his challenges. He lied—twice—saying that Sarah was merely his sister. He used a woman on the side to try and fulfill God’s promise of an heir instead of letting God do it His way. The consequences of some of these people’s attempts to do God’s job affect us even today. But eventually, they chose to trust God’s timing and walk God’s paths toward victory.

SAFE moms encounter frequent profound struggle. They stare God in the face and ask, “Are you kidding me?” Promise of a worthwhile outcome seems like a fairy tale.

But this is where faith is grown.

Faith has to be stripped down to total dependence on God.

We must be taken to a place where our best efforts can’t even place a nick in that mountain. Why? So God can then show His mighty hand—and His incredible love. Only then can His agenda be accomplished. And His agenda is always much bigger than ours.

The walls of your hall may hold pictures of great heroes of the Faith. Study them but remember . . .

Hall of faith leads you to Jesus

Copyright April 2016 by Cheri Johnson

In a Faith-less Fog

It was a bit of a grey stretch in my life. You know, like walking through a persistent fog? I wouldn’t describe it as dark, but it certainly wasn’t a bright and colorful time either. My children, or most of them, had moved out. I felt like a failure as a mom. God had not shown up like I thought He should have. In fact, I couldn’t get much of a picture of God at all.

Was He there? Did He care? Was He even hearing my prayers?

Lost in the Fog

Some call it the dark night of the soul. A crisis of faith. I had been in a similar place before during my college years. This time it didn’t scare me. It would do no good to fight it. I knew in time the fog would lift and I’d see the sunshine again.

This is faith: a gift not from ourselves to God,

but from God to us. A grace gift. (Ephesians 2:8)

It’s like a seed planted deep, gone from view until the burial has accomplished the necessary. All it needs is water and patience. Faith isn’t the seed. It isn’t the water. Faith is the waiting for life to sprout through the darkness.

One mustn’t meddle, hyper-fertilize, or hover. You can’t plead, cheer, or lecture.

You wait.

You water. But not too much. You don’t parch it, but you also don’t flood it. Just a small daily dose is all that’s needed.

Even if it seems it’s doing no good, a person wading through the fog simply needs to take a good drink daily from God’s Word—or a devotional, song on the radio, or some encouragement from a friend. And then go on with life as you . . .

Wait.

You see . . .

Faith is possible becauseGod is faithful.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

(Psalm 37:3 NKJV)

What verse on God’s faithfulness would you share with someone in a faith-less fog? I’d love to hear it . . . and someone else might need to read it. Please share in the comments below.

Copyright April 2016 by Cheri Johnson