Tag Archives: Faith in God

The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God (Part 3)…And It’s Not What You Think!

Two people are struggling with cancer. Both cling closely to God, asking him to raise them up from their death bed. One person dies and the other miraculously recovers. Which one had greater faith?

The answer might surprise you.

We’ve now entered the third and final installment of our weekly series on faith. This is an important subject because the Bible clearly tells us that without faith it’s impossible—IMPOSSIBLE—to please God (see Hebrews 11:6). If you’re interested in reading the other posts, click here and then here.

The Life That’s Pleasing To God Isn’t Necessarily Defined By Answers To Your Prayers

Through childhood and even much of my adult life, I envisioned the man or woman of great faith as the person who partners with God to overcome any obstacles that stand in their way. They successfully fight cancer. Proclaim the gospel in the midst of persecution yet go unharmed. Believe that God will rescue them in their finances—and he does.

In other words, I sought to emulate the people who enjoyed the fruit of their faith. And I would be remiss not to acknowledge their great faith.

But they aren’t the only people with great faith.

In Hebrews 11:1, the anonymous writer defines faith as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Funny, the person mentions nothing about receiving anything in the present. Nevertheless, we read further in the same chapter about people like Enoch and Noah who experienced the reward of their faith in the here and now.

A little further, we read about Abraham, who abandoned the safety and comforts of home to seek a better country. But alas, we read that he and his heirs lived in tents—a sign that they never completely settled. For generations.

The Life That’s Pleasing To God Sometimes Means NOT Getting What You Pray For

In Hebrews 11:13, the writer describes great men and women of faith:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

Did you catch that? They did not receive the things promised. In other words, faith isn’t necessarily defined by what we receive in this life.

Further on in the chapter, we read more about other people of faith. You might find this fairly disconcerting:

Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated” (Hebrews 11:36–37).

Doesn’t sound like a modern-day example of faith. The writer concludes by saying

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39–40 italics added).

Living By Faith Means Living From An Eternal Perspective

Not one person who really lives by faith—who lives in a way that’s pleasing to God—receives in this life what has been promised. The truest picture of faith is relying on God completely in this life knowing that the full reward comes in the next life.

Now that’s called living from an eternal perspective.

So if you’ve been praying for God to rescue you, and you’re still clinging to God, you’re a man or woman of faith.

If you’re still unemployed but you haven’t given up your faith in God, you’re a man or woman of faith.

If you’re you’re still praying for a son or daughter who has strayed from God, you’re a man or woman of faith.

I find this fact tremendously encouraging. All too often I think we formulate a picture of the life that’s pleasing to God that is totally unrealistic. Faith isn’t defined by getting what we want in this life, it’s defined by our continued trust and reliance on God throughout our lives regardless of the outcome. It’s rests on the belief that the world to come is so much better than anything in the present.

So…keep the faith!

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God (Part 2)

By Michael J. Klassen

“$#*&!!”

The word practically jumped out of my mouth that moment on New Year’s morning, 2008, because I knew what was coming. In a few days I planned to resign my position without any idea of how we would pay the bills.

Years ago, bumper stickers emblazoned with the hopeful observation that “$#*&!! Happens” were popular. Well, I had a strong feeling that $#*&!! was about to happen.

Last week, we explored the only life that’s pleasing to God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). The apostle Paul adds, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Furthermore, he writes “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).

Faith is obviously important to God.

He wants us living in such a way that we need to rely on him. It means prayerfully taking a faith jump and depending on him to catch us just before we hit the ground. (If you haven’t already, click on the link at the beginning of this post. It’s an exhilarating example of taking the faith jump.)

Here’s the bottom line: God wants to play an intimate role in our life. God doesn’t want to be a part of our life, he wants to be our life.

So how do we get there?

You Can’t Live A Life That’s Pleasing To God On Your Own

Faith isn’t equivalent to sweat; you can’t force it out of you. Nor is it the result of finding a Bible verse that applies to your situation which you quote over and over until your “faith” forces God to surrender to your request.

You might find this a little frustrating (it did to me that January morning), but we can’t manufacture faith on our own. The writer of Hebrews states Jesus is the author, pioneer, or founder of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Other Scripture passages communicate the same thing—faith comes from God (see Romans 12:3). While this is true, that doesn’t mean that we should sit around waiting for God to suddenly impart faith to us, like a bolt of lightening.

This places us in a precarious position. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God; everything that doesn’t come from faith is sin. Yet we cannot generate our own faith. We’re stuck!

The Life That’s Pleasing To God Usually Includes Problems

Which brings us back to my New Years’ morning. Contemplating my impending resignation announcement, I asked God to show me what the new year would look like. That’s when I sensed God whispering deep inside me,

This year, I’m going to strengthen your faith.

Hence my guttural reply.

I knew that the only way faith can be strengthened is by placing it in the position where it is needed, or exercised like a muscle. In other words, the upcoming year would be a test of my faith.

EM Bounds, the great apostle of prayer, once wrote,

Prayer in its highest form and grandest success assumes the attitude of a wrestler with God. It is the contest, trial, and victory of faith; a victory not secured from an enemy, but from him who tries our faith that he may enlarge it; that tests our strength to make us stronger (Power Through Prayer).

Quite often, God tries our faith in order to enlarge it and to make it stronger.

At the same time, I would be remiss to ignore one other important ingredient to strengthening our faith. Paul wrote that “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

The measure of faith every believer receives—even as small as a mustard seed—comes from God. Hearing, reading, and meditating on God’s word—which is really Jesus speaking to us because he’s the Word made flesh (John 1:1,14)—waters those seeds. Hardship forces us to go to God in prayer and seek his intervention. Then, as we see him respond, our faith is strengthened.

So what did 2008 look like for us? Constant challenges, usually related to finances. Yet somehow, the challenges never kept me awake at night. We paid our bills. God led me to Eugene Scott and we began working on planting The Neighborhood Church. And I decided I never wanted to live safe again.

Obviously, life rarely follows our plans nor does it come together as neatly as we wish. But when faith grows, we learn that we can trust God—even when the results look disappointing.

More on that in next week’s post!

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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