I received an email around January 8th. The subject line said, “Unsubscribe.” The first line of the message explained, “I have concluded the 7-day trial of 2021 and would like to unsubscribe.” With the pandemic still raging and hatred across political lines punctuating the first week, the usual hope with which we ring in every new year was swiftly demolished.
My prayer for you is that God will renew an uncrushable hope in your heart for 2021 as you fix your eyes on Him, the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2) and the true source of every good and perfect thing (James 1:17).
What exactly is the substance of faith? Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” If we’re being honest, despair seems like the most logical response to what we see in our world right now. And to be sure, there are many ungodly actions in the earth that grieve God’s heart—not because they are out of His sovereign control, but because mankind is abusing His gift of free-will choice to promote and protect self over others.
We are able to stand strong in faith when we first recognize that, on our own, we have no faith! Faithfulness is a gift from God (Galatians 5:22)! Trust is our response to the gift of faith as we stand in confident assurance that the One who promises to never leave or forsake us is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). In other words, if we are wringing our hands right now, we need reminding that God works “all things for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) “All” means everything, and God is most assuredly working out His purposes to finish the good work He began in Christ to redeem all things (Philippians 1:6). It can be difficult to discern how good can come from pain and suffering, but when we pin our hopes on God and not man for the best possible outcome, we will not be disappointed (Isaiah 49:23).
The exercise of our faith muscle occurs when we trust God for the unseen blessing and thank Him for His great goodness even in the midst of every fiery trial. Working out faithfulness in God’s gym requires obedience to His clear direction, even when trusting Him seems absurd to our logical minds. Abraham exercised faith when he left his home and ventured forth to an unknown destination (Hebrews 11:9), just as missionaries do. We see faith in the prayers of a grieving spouse who thanks God for the gift of eternity, or in the elderly neighbor who prepares meals for a much younger family going through difficult days. We thank God for the couple who, by faith, sold their beautiful home to live expectantly in a small, temporary space, in hopes of moving soon onto our college’s campus to minister to the brokenhearted from that place. Then there’s the retired couple who left their home, family, friends and comforts behind to serve across the country, accomplishing construction projects for Christian ministries.
Faith is evidenced every single time one of God’s beloved eagerly says “Yes!” to opportunities to be His light and love to the watching world. Faith is doing the hard thing for the good of others in obedience to God’s nudge. Faith is refusing to speak negatively about others and instead, praying for their blessing of faith and forgiveness while loving them with the Father’s heart. Faith is not about offering grand public gestures of doing good. Faith is a lifestyle of quietly trusting the God of the universe and walking in step with His direction, moving as He moves, and hoping with eager anticipation for stunning answer to prayer.
Jesus tells us that He will return, bringing rewards to each person according to what he has done (Revelation 22:12). And He also asked in Luke 18:8 if He would find faith in the earth when He comes back. Great question! What act of faithful obedience is God calling you to right now? Where is He stretching your faith muscle to hold onto hope and even to stand with joy as you trust confidently in Him? Know that God “is good to those whose hope is in him; to the one who seeks him!” (Lamentations 3:25). As we stand together with the Almighty—prayerful and hopeful—we can trust Him for great things in 2021!