Perfecting Our Faith

11796268_10205076626612427_887800906947236428_nLet us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.  Hebrews 12:1-2

The cross.  The bloody, horrific, shameful cross.  The object that brings tears to our eyes while watching films of Jesus nailed to it, gasping for air on it, being mocked on it, bearing the FULL WEIGHT of the world’s sin on it.  This passage says that he “endured” the cross, of course, unto death.  Most of us know this, as it is the basis of our faith, but what we tend to forget, or just plain skip over, is the phrase before it – “for the joy that was set before him.”

First of all, lets be honest with ourselves and not try to compare our suffering to Christ’s suffering.  There isn’t enough strife in all of us combined to tip the scale of what Jesus went though for us.  However, the concept applies – “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, LOOKING TO JESUS.”  He set the groundwork for us to faithfully endure this “race” of life in all of it’s temptations and hardships.  The instruction leads us to find joy in our suffering, or at the very least, joy in the outcome, namely an eternity with Him.

What does this mean for us?  It frees us to be hopeful in the face of despair, joyful in the midst of joy-killing circumstances, hopeful when life gives us no reason to, and strength to resist our sin.  The author of this chapter in Hebrews encourages you and me to “lay aside every weight (hardship of life) and sin” so that we can “run WITH ENDURANCE the race (our life) that is set before us.”  This is done by “looking to Jesus” as he is our perfect example to show us how to endure (lay down life’s burdens and sinful ways) “for the joy that <is> set before <us>.”

Is it possible that what “perfected our faith” was Jesus’ joy in his endurance,  motivating his strength to suffer well?  If Scripture is correct, the model He represented can be reflected in our lives, if we simply look to His example.

I, for one, hate not being full of joy, and since my troubles are guaranteed to never cease, I think I’m going to take the author up on His suggestion!!
Mike Arnold

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The Wisdom Equation

FullSizeRender-1“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways.”- James 1:5-8
I don’t think this verse needs deep explanation, other than pointing out that if we do not have faith that wisdom will definitely not come from the world or your own natural abilities, or full assurance that God is good, we will not “receive anything from the Lord.” We are “double minded,” unsure whether or not God is faithful and capable to give us the wisdom we seek, considering wisdom could come from any other source.
So, are you like me, you seek wisdom, but you’re uncertain if your faithometer is at a full 100%? What are you doing about that?
Fasting is certainly a great course of action to grow deeper in relationship with God, and in turn, increase your faith in him and his goodness. Check out the story of Jesus’ disciples NOT being able to heal an epileptic boy, then Jesus comes around and of course heals the boy. They ask Jesus why they couldn’t heal him, and he says  “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and FASTING” (Matthew 17:20-21).

There it is – This kind (of faith) does not go out EXCEPT by prayer – which we are already doing by means of request – and FASTING – which we are currently considering. In many cases, this is the missing element, and this is something I know I must be doing if I have a hope of attaining the faith needed to come before God with a wisdom request.
Finally, lets be honest with ourselves about what fasting actually is and isn’t. It is not declining something your body doesn’t need – like television, internet, snickers bars, or Miller Lite as you can survive without those. It is depriving your body of something it actually needs, namely, food, so that you can:

1.) Feel actually weak and can honestly tell God “in my weakness you are strong”

2.) Authentically say “God, YOU are more than enough,” and “I need YOU more than I need the things my body requires to survive.”

3.) ***ask God for wisdom IN (now assured) FAITH, and it will be given to you.

Prayer + Fasting = Faith. Wisdom request + Faith = Wisdom!!!
Mike Arnold