Yesterday I told you that I have started volunteering as a devotional writer at my church. Each week, one of us writers will be assigned to that week’s message and we’ll write five days worth of devotions that correlate. These are to help people continue engaging in that week’s topic. We just recently added a resource panel to this piece, for an additional step if readers want something more. Here is the last devotion I wrote during our “Sola” series. Sola means “only” and these messages were based on the five pillars of faith that we cling to. The latin phrases were coined around the time of the Reformation. Here is my devotional on Sola Fide: By Faith Alone.
Sola Fide: By Faith Alone
Last week we studied about grace, one of our essential pillars of faith. We were also reminded of Ephesians 2:9 – that it is grace that saves us (Eph. 2:9). If you continue to read through Ephesians 2:9, you’ll notice that there is another part of that equation – faith. This week we’ll take a look at what faith means, and how it plays out in our everyday lives.
Memory Verse: And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” Luke 17:19
Believing without seeing
Monday, March 25, 2013
Read: 2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:1
Reflect: When I was in high school, I went on a youth group retreat where we did a low-ropes course activity call the “trust fall.” Perhaps you’ve done something like this yourself. I teamed up with a friend and when it was my turn to fall, I would turn my back towards my friend so I couldn’t see her, cross my arms and slowly fall back towards her and let my friend catch me. Each time I “fell” towards her, she would move further back, while I nervously trusted that she would catch me. I couldn’t see her, I didn’t know how far away she would go, all I could do was simply believe she would be there. Faith is like a “trust fall.” We can’t physically see Jesus, and we can’t tangibly calculate his grace, but we must have faith that it is the truth. The greek word for faith is pistis, which means to trust or to believe. When we are saved by grace, through faith, it’s as if we are saying, “Okay, Jesus, if You say Your grace will save me, then I’m abandoning my efforts to save myself, I’m falling into your grace and I’m absolutely trusting that You will catch me.”
Respond: Close your eyes and imagine yourself doing a “trust fall” activity with Jesus. Do you trust Him? I mean, do you really trust Him? Do you trust Him with that health situation or that rebellious child? Do you trust Him with that addiction? Do you trust that His grace can catch you even after that deep, hidden sin? Spend some time talking to God about those areas.
Good isn’t good enough
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Read: Romans 4
Reflect: Yesterday I told you about my first experience with the “trust fall.” What I didn’t share yesterday was the amount of times I stopped myself from falling before I actually got the hang of it. I would start leaning backwards, and at the very last second, I’d throw back my leg to stop the fall. I thought I could help the catcher. Essentially, I was trying to “catch myself.” How many times do we try to do that in our spiritual lives? We know that grace alone will save us, but instead of having faith that grace is enough, we try our hardest to be the best person we can be and hope that it will be additional help. Hear me out on this: working towards holiness brings glory to God, so we shouldn’t give up on that (2 Cor. 5:9-10), but those works cannot save us. Just like you can’t catch yourself in a “trust fall,” you can’t possibly do enough good to even come close to saving yourself from sin and death. Romans 4:5 (NLT) says that “people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” Again, faith means to trust and believe. It is trusting that Jesus can handle your salvation, your healing, your struggle…without your help. It is falling into his grace fully, without restraint or hesitation.
Respond: Part of letting go and putting total faith in God is admitting where you’ve tried to be “additional help.” Today, write out the areas where you’ve been trying to “earn” your salvation or even more subtly, earn God’s favor, and ask God to help you trust Him.
Knowing Him, Trusting Him
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Read: Matthew 8
Reflect: When I went to Sierra Leone (Africa) last May, some of the most popular stories we told came directly out of Matthew chapter 8. The main reason those stories are so compelling in the African culture is because they believe so strongly in power – the power of spirits that can possess your mind, health, weather. It’s fascinating for them to hear that Jesus is more powerful than any spirit or storm or sickness. It’s too bad the disciples didn’t catch on to this concept when they saw Jesus healing person after person in the first part of Matthew chapter 8. By the time they were caught in a storm (v. 23-27), they should have known about Jesus’ all-controlling power. That’s probably what He thought, too, when He asked them “where is your faith?” Rather than reflecting on the miracles they had seen Jesus do previously, they were struck with fear. One of the best faith-building practices we can do is to get to know God better. The more we know about Him and His attributes, the more we understand what He can handle (which is everything, by the way!) and the more confidence we have to put our trust in Him. The next time you’re in a stormy part of life, remind yourself of who God is – what He has done and what He can do.
Respond: Spend time today writing out all of the ways you have seen God work in your life and in the lives of others. Keep that piece of paper with you and add to it as you remember things. To go even deeper, start a list of every describing word the Bible gives to God (ex: loving, faithful, good, all-powerful.) Add to the list each time you come across a new attribute.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Read: Luke 7:1-10, Matthew 17:14-20, James 5:13-20
Reflect: In today’s readings, we learn a pretty amazing thing: faith is powerful. The Roman officer in Luke 7 understood it perfectly. As an officer, he had authority over his soldiers. In today’s terms, if he said “jump,” his soldiers would say “how high?” He knew it was the same with Jesus, who had authority over all creation. If Jesus chose to heal a person, they would be healed..no ifs, ands or buts! Sometimes we don’t ask God for something because we don’t want to bother Him. Sometimes we don’t ask because we don’t think he will do it. But I think there are probably times when we do ask God for something, but nothing happens because deep down we don’t really think he CAN do it. That’s where our faith is put to the test. Please understand that mustering up enough faith to manipulate God into doing something for you is not how it works. Faith is not a trump card. God is God and His ways are higher than ours. But, when we come to Him with even a small amount of authentic faith (Matt. 17:20), mighty things can happen!
Respond: Do a short study today on how many times Jesus calls a person faithless, says “you of little faith” or asks “where is your faith?” Read a few of those stories. Why do you think Jesus points out their lack of faith?
Friday, March 29, 2013
Read: Matthew 9:27-34; Luke 8:40-48
Reflect: On Wednesday we learned that when we know more about God, the more confident we are to have faith in Him. Yesterday we learned that authentic faith, no matter how small it is, can do mighty things. These two ideas come together in today’s readings. Both of these stories are about people who know who Jesus is and they have faith that He can heal them. In Matthew 9, two blind men were so desperate for healing that they persistently followed Jesus home and begged for his healing. They believed and they were healed with a single touch. In Luke 8, a woman plagued with an awful disease weaved her way through a thick, loud, sweaty mob of people just to catch a glimpse of the One she knew could heal her. As He passed by, she desperately stretched her arm out and just brushed the corner of his garment. In the blink of an eye, she was healed. There will be times in this life when we will find ourselves desperately reaching for God with every ounce of faith we have and persistently storming the gates of heaven. He will meet us there. His will may not be our will, but He promises not to leave us alone. In those times of persevering faith, let us not forget that Jesus is our end goal. Ultimately, it is not about the miracle we hope to see, but the One who makes miracles happen.
Respond: On this Good Friday, and as we approach Easter Sunday, spend some time reflecting on the end goal of our persistent faith: Jesus. Write a love letter to Him. Thank Him for the gravity of His sacrifice and praise Him for conquering death so that we may have life.
If you’ve not accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, simply admit that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, believe that Jesus is the living Son of God, and choose to follow Him the rest of your life. If you need to talk to someone, call the church office (781-5959) or talk to our pastors or counselors after weekend services.
This Time Alone was written by Angie Lomas, PV member.
Hebrews chapter 11 is often referred to as “the hall of faith.” In this chapter, the writer lists many well known characters of the Bible and credits them for having great faith. This chapter is a great resources for us to study in regards to our own faith.
Take some extended time this week to study the characters listed in Hebrews 11. The verses in chapter 11 may give you a brief story of their life of faith, but challenge yourself to dig deeper, find their extended stories in various parts of the Bible and read all about each character’s life and context in which they found themselves having to rely on great faith.
Ask yourself: What does this story tell me about God? What does this story tell me about mankind? What does this story tell me about myself? How can I apply this kind of faith to my own situation today?