Definition of faith – Reliance, loyalty, or complete trust in God; a system of religious beliefs

Spirit gives special faith – All Christians have faith.  Some, however, have the spiritual gift of faith, which is an unusual measure of trust in the power of God. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 12:9 – The Spirit gives special faith to another, and to someone else he gives the power to heal the sick.

* Using the Bible for life’s application 

The Bible is not a collection of stories, fables, myths, or merely human ideas about God.  It is not a human book.  Through the Holy Spirit, God revealed his person and plan to certain believers, who wrote down his message for his people.  This process is known as inspiration.  The writers wrote from their own personal, historical, and cultural contexts.  Although they used their own minds, talents, language, and style, they wrote what God wanted them to write.  Scripture is completely trustworthy because God was in control of its writing.  Its words are entirely authoritative for our faith and life.  The Bible is “God-breathed.”  Read it, and use its teachings to guide your conduct.

In our zeal for the truth of Scripture, we must never forget its purpose–to equip us to do good.  We should not study God’s Word simply to increase our knowledge or to prepare us to win arguments.  We should study the Bible so that we will know how to do Christ’s work in the world.  Our knowledge of God’s Word is not useful unless it strengthens our faith and leads us to do good. (NLT)

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.  It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

* What is faith?

Faith is a word with many meanings.  It can mean faithfulness.  It can mean absolute trust, as shown by some of the people who came to Jesus for healing.  It can mean confident hope.  Or, as James points out, it can even mean a barren belief that does not result in good deeds.  What does Paul mean when, in Romans, he speaks of “saving faith?”

We must be very careful to understand faith as Paul uses the word because he ties faith so closely to salvation.  It is not something we must do in order to earn salvation–if that were true, then faith would be just one more deed, and Paul clearly states that human deeds can never save us.  Instead, faith is a gift God gives us because he is saving us.  It is God’s grace, not our faith, that saves us.  In his mercy, however, when he saves us, he gives us faith–a relationship with his Son that helps us become like him.  Through the faith he gives us, he carries us from death into life.

Even in Old Testament times, grace, not deeds, was the basis of salvation.  As Hebrews points out, “it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”  God intended for his people to look beyond the animal sacrifices to him, but all too often they instead put their confidence in fulfilling the requirements of the law–that is, performing the required sacrifices.  When Jesus triumphed over death, he cancelled the charges against us and opened the way to the Father.  Because he is merciful, he offers us faith.  How tragic if we turn faith into a deed and try to develop it on our own!  We can never come to God through our own faith any more than his Old Testament people could come through their own sacrifices.  Instead, we must accept his gracious offer with thanksgiving and allow him to plant the seed of faith within us. (NLT)

* Lack of faith brings series of problems

Sarai took matters into her own hands by giving Hagar to Abram.  Like Abram she had trouble believing God’s promise that was apparently directed specifically toward Abram and Sarai.  Out of this lack of faith came a series of problems.  This invariably happens when we take over for God, trying to make his promise come true through efforts that are not in line with his specific directions.  In this case, time was the greatest test of Abram and Sarai’s willingness to let God work in their lives.  Sometimes we too must simply wait.  When we ask God for something and have to wait, it is a temptation to take matters into our own hands and interfere with God’s plans. (NLT)

Genesis 16:3 – So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife.  (This happened ten years after Abram first arrived in the land of Canaan.)

* Faith grows with exercise

Joseph was ready to die.  He had no doubts that God would keep his promise and one day bring the Israelites back to their homeland.  What a tremendous example!  The secret of that kind of faith is a lifetime of trusting God.  Your faith is like a muscle–it grows with exercise, gaining strength over time.  After a lifetime of exercising trust, your faith can be as strong as Joseph’s.  Then at your death, you can be confident that God will fulfill all his promises to you and to all those faithful to him who may live after you. (NLT)

Genesis 50:24 – “Soon I will die,” Joseph told his brothers, “but God will surely come for you, to lead you out of this land of Egypt.  He will bring you back to the land he vowed to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

* Complaining can show lack of faith

This is the first instance of grumbling and complaining by the Israelites.  Their lack of faith in God is startling.  Yet how often do we find ourselves doing the same thing–complaining over inconveniences or discomforts?  The Israelites were about to learn some tough lessons.  Had they trusted God, they would have been spared much grief. (NLT)

Exodus 14:11-12 – Then they turned against Moses and complained, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness?  Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt?  Why did you make us leave?  Didn’t we tell you to leave us alone while we were still in Egypt?  Our Egyptian slavery was far better than dying out here in the wilderness!”

* Lack of faith brings troubles

After 37 years in the wilderness, the Israelites forgot that their wanderings were a result of their parents’ and their own sin.  They could not accept the fact that they brought their problems upon themselves, so they blamed Moses for their condition.  Often our troubles result from our own disobedience or lack of faith.  We cannot blame God for our sins.  Until we face this reality, we will have little peace and no spiritual growth. (NLT)

Numbers 20:3-5 – The people blamed Moses and said, “We wish we had died in the Lord’s presence with our brothers!  Did you bring the Lord’s people into this wilderness to die, along with all our livestock?  Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place?  This land has no grain, figs, grapes, or pomegranates.  And there is no water to drink!”

* Faith is following God despite the difficulties

The scouts were sent into the land to determine not whether they should enter, but where they should enter.  Upon returning, however, most of the scouts concluded that the land was not worth the obstacles.  God would give the Israelites the power to conquer the land, but they were afraid of the risk and decided not to enter.  God gives us the power to overcome our obstacles, but like the Israelites filled with fear and skepticism, we often let difficulties control our lives.  Following God regardless of the difficulties is the way to have courageous, overcoming faith. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 1:22 – “But you responded, ‘First, let’s send out scouts to explore the land for us.  They will advise us on the best route to take and decide which towns we should capture.’

* Faith involves endurance to the end

Caleb was faithful from the start.  As one of the original scouts sent in to the Promised Land, he saw great cities and giants, yet he knew God would help the people conquer the land.  Because of his faith, God promised him a personal inheritance of land.  Here, 45 years later, the land was given to him.  His faith was still unwavering.  Although his inherited land still had giants, Caleb knew the Lord would help him conquer them.  Like Caleb, we must be faithful to God, not only at the start of our walk with him, but throughout our entire life.  We must never allow ourselves to rest on our past accomplishments or reputations. (NLT)

Joshua 14:6-12 – A delegation from the tribe of Judah, led by Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, came to Joshua at Gilgal.  Caleb said to Joshua, “Remember what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, about you and me when we were at Kadesh-barnea.  I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land of Canaan.  I returned and gave from my heart a good report, but my brothers who went with me frightened the people and discouraged them from entering the Promised Land.  For my part, I followed the Lord my God completely.  So that day Moses promised me, ‘The land of Canaan on which you were just walking will be your special possession and that of your descendants forever, because you whole-heartedly followed the Lord my God.’

“Now, as you can see, the Lord has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise–even while Israel wandered in the wilderness.  Today I am eighty-five years old.  I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then.  So I’m asking you to give me the hill country that the Lord promised me.  You will remember that as scouts we found the Anakites living there in great, walled cities.  But if the Lord is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as the Lord said.”

* Faith affected by relationships

The Israelites discovered that relationships affect faith.  The men and women of the surrounding nations were attractive to the Israelites.  Soon they intermarried, and the Israelites accepted their pagan gods.  This was clearly prohibited by God.  By accepting these gods into their homes, the Israelites gradually began to accept the immoral practices associated with them.  Most Israelites didn’t start out determined to be idolaters; they just added the idols to the worship of God.  But before long they found themselves absorbed in pagan worship.

A similar danger faces us.  We want to befriend those who don’t know God, but through those friendships we can become entangled in unhealthy practices.  Friendships with unbelievers are important, but we must accept people without compromising or adopting their patterns of behavior. (NLT)

Judges 3:5-7 – So Israel lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and they intermarried with the.  Israelite sons married their daughters, and Israelite daughters were given in marriage to their sons.  And the Israelites worshiped their gods.  The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.  They forgot about the Lord their God, and they worshiped the images of Baal and the Asherah poles.

* How well does your faith take pressure?

After God called Gideon to be Israel’s deliverer, he immediately asked him to tear down the altar of the pagan god Baal–an act that would test Gideon’s faith and commitment.  Canaanite religion was very political, so an attack on a god was often seen as an attack on the local government supporting that god.  If caught, Gideon would face serious social problems and probably physical attack.

Gideon took a great risk by following God’s higher law, which specifically forbids idol worship.  After learning what Gideon had done, the townspeople wanted to kill him.  Many of those people were fellow Israelites.  This shows how immoral God’s people had become.  God said in Deuteronomy 13:6-11 that idolaters must be stoned to death, but these Israelites wanted to stone Gideon for tearing down an idol and worshiping God!  When you begin to accomplish something for God, you may be criticized by the very people who should support you. (NLT)

Judges 6:25-30 – That night the Lord said to Gideon, “Take the second best bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old.  Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Sherah pole standing beside it.  Then build an altar to the Lord your God here on this hill, laying the stones carefully.  Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Sherah pole you cut down.”  So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord had commanded.  But he did it at night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town.  He knew what would happen if they found out who had done it.

Early the next morning, as the people of the town began to stir, someone discovered that the altar of Baal had been knocked down and that the Ahserah pole beside it was gone.  In their place a new altar had been built, and it had the remains of a sacrifice on it.  The people said to each other, “Who did this?” And after asking around and making a careful search, they learned that it was Gideon, he son of Joash.  Bring out your son,” they shouted to Joash.  “He must die for destroying the altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.”

* Criteria by which God works through people

One would naturally expect an audible message from God to be given to the priest Eli and not to the child Samuel.  Eli was older and more experienced, and he held the proper position.  But God’s chain of command is based on faith, not on age or position.  In finding faithful followers, God may use unexpected channels.  Be prepared for the Lord to work at any place, at any time, and through anyone he chooses. (NLT)

1 Samuel 3:8-9 – So now the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel jumped up and ran to Eli.  “Here I am,” he said.  “What do you need?”  Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy.  So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Yes, Lord, your servant is listening.'”  So Samuel went back to bed.

* God’s provision as large as your faith

The woman and her sons collected jars from their neighbors, pouring olive oil into them from their one flask.  The olive oil was used for cooking, for lamps, and for fuel.  The oil stopped flowing only when they ran out of containers.  The number of jars they gathered was an indication of their faith.  God’s provision was as large as their faith and willingness to obey.  Beware of limiting God’s blessings by a lack of faith and obedience.  God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. (NLT)

2 Kings 4:6 – Soon every container was full to the brim!  “Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons.  “There aren’t any more!” he told her.  And then the olive oil stopped flowing.

* Faith opens the door to new resources

Elisha’s servant was no longer afraid when he saw God’s mighty heavenly army.  Faith reveals that God is doing more for his people than we can ever realize through sight alone.  When you face difficulties that seem insurmountable, remember that spiritual resources are there even if you can’t see them.  Look through the eyes of faith, and let God show you his resources.  If you don’t see God working in your life, the problem may be your spiritual eyesight, not God’s power. (NLT)

2 Kings 6:16-17 – “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him.  “For there are more on our side than on theirs!”  Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!”  The Lord opened his servant’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

* Faith is believing in the impossible

When Elisha prophesied God’s deliverance, the king’s officer said it couldn’t happen.  The officer’s faith and hope were gone, but God’s words came true anyway!  Sometimes we become preoccupied with problems when we should be looking for opportunities.  Instead of focusing on the negatives, develop an attitude of expectancy.  To say that God cannot rescue someone or that a situation is impossible demonstrates a lack of faith. (NLT)

2 Kings 7:1-2 – Elisha replied, “Hear this message from the Lord!  This is what the Lord says: By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, five quarts of fine flour will cost only half an ounce of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain will cost only half an ounce of silver.”

The officer assisting the king said to the man of God, “That couldn’t happen even if the Lord opened the windows of heaven!”  But Elisha replied, “You will see it happen, but you won’t be able to eat any of it!”

* Don’t get so preoccupied with your faith that you don’t share it

The lepers discovered the deserted camp and realized their lives had been spared.  At first they kept the good news to themselves, forgetting their fellow citizens, who were starving in the city.  The Good News about Jesus Christ must be shared, too, for no news is more important.  We must not forget those who are dying without it.  We must not become so preoccupied with our faith that we neglect sharing it with those around us.  Our “wonderful news,” like that of the lepers, will not “wait until morning,” (NLT)

2 Kings 7:3-10 – Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gates.  “Why should we sit here waiting to die?” they asked each other.  “We will starve if we stay here, and we will starve if we go back into the city.  So we might as well go out and surrender to the Aramean army.  If they let us live, so much the better.  But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.”

So that evening they went out to the camp of Arameans, but no one was there!  For the Lord had caused the whole army of Aram to hear the clatter of speeding chariots and the galloping of horses and the sounds of a great army approaching.  “The king of Israel has hired the Hittites and Egyptians to attack us!” they cried out.  So they panicked and fled into the night, abandoning their tents, horses, donkeys, and everything else, and they fled for their lives.

When the lepers arrived at the edge of the camp, they went into one tent after another, eating, drinking wine, and carrying out silver and gold and clothing and hiding it.  Finally, they said to each other, “This is not right.  This is wonderful news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone!  If we wait until morning, some terrible calamity will certainly fall upon us.  Come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace.”

So they went back to the city and told the gatekeepers what had happened–that they had gone out to the Aramean camp and no one was there!  The horses and donkeys were tethered and the tents were all in order, but there was not a single person around.

* Your life must show evidence of faith

The Lord heard Jehoahaz’s prayer for help.  God delayed his judgment on Israel when they turned to him for help, but they did not sustain their dependence on God for long.  Although there were periodic breaks in their idol worship, there was rarely evidence of genuine faith.  It is not enough to say no to sin; we must also say yes to a life of commitment to God.  An occasional call for help is not a substitute for a daily life of trust in God. (NLT)

2 Kings 13:4-6 – Then Jehoahaz prayed for the Lord’s help, and the Lord heard his prayer.  The Lord could see how terribly the king of Aram was oppressing Israel.  So the Lord raised up a deliverer to rescue the Israelites from the tyranny of the Arameans.  Then Israel lived in safety again as they had in former days.  But they continued to sin, following the evil example of Jeroboam.  They even set up an Asherah pole in Samaria.

* God can rekindle the smallest amount of faith 

As long as a tiny spark remains, a fire can be rekindled and fanned into a roaring blaze.  Similarly, if just the smallest remnant of true believers retains the spark of faith, God can rebuild it into a strong nation.  And if only a glimmer of faith remains in a heart, God can use it to restore blazing faith in that believer.  If you feel that only a spark of faith remains in you, ask God to use it to rekindle a blazing fire of commitment to him. (NLT)

2 Kings 19:31 – For a remnant of my people will spread out from Jerusalem, a group of survivors from Mount Zion.  The passion of the Lord Almighty will make this happen!

* Not knowing all the answers develops faith

As we read the book of Job, we have information that the characters of the story do not.  Job, the main character of the book, lost all he had through no fault of his own.   As he struggled to understand why all this was happening to him, it became clear that he was not meant to know the reasons.  He would have to face life with the answers and explanations held back.  Only then would his faith fully develop,

We must experience life as Job did–one day at a time and without complete answers to al of life’s questions.  Will we, like Job, trust God no matter what?  Or will we give in to the temptation to say that God doesn’t really care? (NLT)

Job 1:1 – There was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz.  He was blameless, a man of complete integrity.  He feared God and stayed away from evil.

* Adversity destroys counterfeit faith

Satan attacked Job’s motives, saying that Job was blameless and had integrity only because he had no reason to turn against God.  Ever since he had started following God, everything had gone well for Job.  Satan wanted to prove that Job worshiped God, not out of live, but because God had given him so much.

Satan accurately analyzed why many people trust God.  They are fair-weather believers, following God only when everything is going well or for what they can get.  Adversity destroys this superficial faith.  Btu adversity strengthens real faith by causing believers to dig their roots deeper into God in order to withstand the storms.  How deep does your faith go?  Put the roots of your faith down deep into God so that you can withstand any storm you may face. (NLT)

Job 1:9 – Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, Job fears God, but not without good reason!”

* Could you trust God if you lost everything?

Job had lost his possessions and family in this first of Satan’s tests, but he reacted rightly toward God by acknowledging God’s sovereign authority over everything God had given him.  Satan lost this first round.  Job passed the test and proved that people can love God for who he is, not for what he gives. (NLT)

Job 1:20-22 – Job stood up and tore his robe in grief.  Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground before God.  He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die.  The Lord gave me everything I had, and the Lord has taken it away.  Praise the name of the Lord!”  In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.

* Faith does not guarantee prosperity & Faith mustn’t be based on personal comfort

Many people think that believing in God protects them from trouble, so when calamity comes, they question God’s goodness and justice.  But the message of Job is that you should not give up on God because he allows you to have bad experiences.  Faith in God does not guarantee personal prosperity, and lack of faith does not guarantee troubles in this life.  If this were so, people would believe in God simply to get rich,.  God is capable of rescuing us from suffering, but he may also allow suffering to come for reasons we cannot understand.  It is Satan’s strategy to get us to doubt God at exactly this moment.  Here Job shows a perspective broader than seeking his own personal comfort.  If we always knew why we were suffering, our faith would have no room to grow. (NLT)

Job 2:10 – But Job replied, “You talk like a godless woman.  Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”  So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.

* Faith linked to optimism

David seems to be speaking to those who are advising him to run from his enemies.  David’s faith contrasts dramatically with the fear of the advisers who tell him to flee.  Faith in God keeps us from losing hope and helps us resist fear.  David’s advisers were afraid because they saw only frightening circumstances and crumbling foundations.  David was comforted and optimistic because he knew God was greater than anything his enemies could bring against him. (NLT)

Psalm 11:1-4 – I trust in the Lord for protection.  So why do you say to me, “Fly to the mountains for safety!  The wicked are stringing their bows and setting their arrows in the bowstrings.  They shoot from the shadows at those who do right.  The foundations of law and order have collapsed.  What can the righteous do?  But the Lord is in his holy Temple; the Lord still rules from heaven.  He watches everything closely, examining everyone on earth.

* When you feel stagnant in faith

Do you ever feel stagnant in your faith, as though you are just going through the motions?  Has sin ever driven a wedge between you and God, making him seem distant?   David felt this way.  He had sinned with Bathsheba and had just been confronted by Nathan the prophet.  In his prayer he cried, “Restore to me again the joy of your salvation.”  God wants us to be close to him and to experience his full and complete life.  But sin that remains un-confessed makes such intimacy impossible.  Confess your sin to God.  You may still have to face some earthly consequences, as David did, but God will give back the joy of your relationship with him. (NLT)

Psalm 51:12 – Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me wiling to obey you.

* Faith comes alive when we apply Scripture

The psalmist asked God for discernment.  Faith comes alive when we apply Scripture to our daily tasks and concerns.  We need discernment so we can understand, and we need the desire to apply Scripture where we need help.  The Bible is like medicine.  It goes to work only when we apply it to the affected areas.  As you read the Bible, be alert for lessons, commands, or examples that you can put into practice. (NLT)

Psalm 119:125 – Give discernment to me, your servant; then I will understand your decrees.

* Faith won’t eliminate feelings of rejection or disappointment

Pashhur came to the prophet for help.  God still had work for Jeremiah to do.  In living out our faith, we may find that rejection, disappointment, or hard work has brought us to the point of despondency.  But we are still needed.  God has important work for us as well. (NLT)

Jeremiah 21:1-2 – The Lord spoke through Jeremiah when King Zedekiah sent Pashhur son of Malkijah and Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, the priest, to speak with him.  They begged Jeremiah, “Please ask the Lord to help us.  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has begun his attack on Judah.  Perhaps the Lord will be gracious and do a mighty miracle as he has done in the past.  Perhaps he will force Nebuchadnezzar to withdraw his armies.”

* Being faithful regardless of the circumstances

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were pressured to deny God, but they chose to be faithful to him no matter what happened!  They trusted God to deliver them, but they were determined to be faithful regardless of the consequences.  If God always rescued those who were true to him, Christians would not need faith.  Their religion would be a great insurance policy, and there would be lines of selfish people ready to sign up.  We should be faithful to serve God whether he intervenes on our behalf or not.  Our eternal reward is worth any suffering we may have to endure first. (NLT)

Daniel 3:16-18 – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us form your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

* Is your faith real?

Just as a fruit tree is expected to bear fruit, God’s people should produce a crop of good deeds.  God has no use for people who call themselves Christians but who live otherwise.  Like many people in John’s day who were God’s people in name only, we are of no value if we are Christians in name only.  If others can’t see our faith in the way we treat them, we may not be God’s people at all. (NLT)

Matthew 3:9-10 – Don’t just say, ‘We’re safe–we’re the descendants of Abraham.’  That proves nothing.  God can change these stones here into children of Abraham.  Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever your roots.  Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.

* Faith doesn’t always exempt us from suffering

The apostles experienced power to do miracles, great boldness in preaching, and God’s presence in their lives; yet they were not free from hatred and persecution.  They were arrested, put in jail, beaten, and slandered by community leaders.  Faith in God does not make troubles disappear; it makes troubles appear less frightening because it puts them in the right perspective.  Don’t expect everyone to react favorably when you share something as dynamic as your faith in Christ.  Some will be jealous, afraid, or threatened.  Expect some negative reactions, and remember that you must be more concerned about serving God than about the reactions of people. (NLT)

Acts 5:17-18 – The high priest and his friends, who were Sadducees, reacted with violent jealousy.  They arrested the apostles and put them in jail.

* – Many think that pain is the exception in the Christian life.  When suffering occurs, they say, “Why me?”  They feel as though God deserted them, or perhaps they accuse him of not being as dependable as they thought.  In reality, however, we live in an evil world filled with suffering, even for believers.  But God is still in control.  He allows some Christians to become martyrs for the faith, and he allows others to survive persecution.  Rather than asking, “Why me?” it is much more helpful to ask, “Why not me?”  Our faith and the values of this world are on a collision course.  If we expect pain and suffering to come, we will not be shocked when they hit.  But we can also take comfort in knowing that Jesus also suffered.  He understands our fears, our weaknesses and our disappointments.  He promised never to leave us, and he intercedes on our behalf.  In times of pain, persecution, or suffering, we should trust confidently in Christ. (NLT)

Hebrews 11:35-39 – Women received their loved ones back again from death.  But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free.  They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life.  Some were mocked, and their backs were cut open with whips.  Others were chained in dungeons.  Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed with the sword.  Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, hungry and oppressed and mistreated.  They were too good for this world.  They wandered over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

All of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God promised.

* What motivates your faith?

What motivates your faith–fear of the future, or a desire to be a better person in a better world?  Some people wanted to be baptized by John so they could escape eternal punishment, but they didn’t turn to God for salvation.  John had harsh words for such people.  He knew that God values reformation above ritual.  Is your faith motivated by a desire for a new, changed life, or is it only like a vaccination or insurance policy against possible disaster? (NLT)

Luke 3:7 – Here is a sample of John’s preaching to the crowds that came for baptism: “You brood of snakes!  Who warned you to flee God’s coming judgment?

* Relationship between faith and deeds

Confession of sins and a changed life are inseparable.  Faith without deeds is dead.  Jesus’ harshest words were to the respectable religious leaders, who lacked the desire for real change.  They wanted to be known as religious authorities, but they didn’t want to change their hearts and minds.  Thus, their lives were unproductive.  Turning from sin must be tied to action, or it isn’t real.  Following Jesus means more than saying the right words; it means acting on what he says. (NLT)

Luke 3:8-9 – Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God.  Don’t just say, ‘We’re safe–we’re the descendants of Abraham.’  That proves nothing.  God can change these stones here into children of Abraham.  Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever your roots.  Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”

* – It is easy to place more emphasis on human effort than on internal faith, but God values the attitude of our heart above all else.  Don’t judge people’s spirituality by their fulfillment of duties or by their level of human activity.  And don’t think that you will satisfy God by feverishly doing his work.  God notices all you do for him and will reward you for it, but only if it comes as a loving response to his free gift of salvation.(NLT)

Philippians 3:2-3 – Watch out for those dogs, those wicked men and their evil deeds, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved.  For we who worship God in the Spirit are the only ones who are truly circumcised.  We put no confidence in human effort.  Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us.

* – In this chapter James argues against favoritism and for the necessity of good deeds.  He presents three principles of faith: (1) Commitment is an essential part of faith.  You cannot be a Christian simply by affirming the right doctrines or agreeing with biblical facts.  You must commit your mind and heart to Christ.  (2) Right actions are the natural by-products of true faith.  A genuine Christian will have a changed life.  (3) Faith without good deeds doesn’t do anybody any good–it is useless.  James’s teachings are consistent with Paul’s teaching that we receive salvation by faith alone.  Paul emphasizes the purpose of faith: to bring salvation.  James emphasizes the results of faith: a changed life. (NLT)

James 2:1 – My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others?

* – The book of James emphasizes faith in action.  Right living is the evidence and result of faith.  The church must serve with compassion, speak lovingly and truthfully, live in obedience to God’s commands, and love one another.  The body of believers ought to be an example of heaven on earth, drawing people to Christ through love for God and each other.  If we truly believe God’s Word, we will live it day by day.  God’s Word is not merely something we read or think about, but something we do.  Believe, faith, and trust must have hands and feet–ours! (NLT)

James 5:20 – you can be sure that the one who brings that person back will save that sinner from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

* – Our faith must go beyond what we believe; it must become a dynamic part of all we do, resulting in good fruit and spiritual maturity.  Salvation does not depend on good deeds, but it results in good deeds.  A person who claims to be saved while remaining unchanged does not understand faith or what God has done for him or her. (NLT)

2 Peter 1:9 – But those who fail to develop these virtues are blind or, at least, very shortsighted.  They have already forgotten that God has cleansed them from their old life of sin.

* – The visible proof of being a Christian is right behavior.  Many people do good deeds but don’t have faith in Jesus Christ.  Others claim to have faith but rarely produce good deeds.  A deficit in either faith or right behavior will be a cause for shame when Christ returns.  Because true faith always results in good deeds, those who claim to have faith and who consistently do what is right are true believers.  Good deeds cannot produce salvation, but they are necessary proof that true faith is actually present. (NLT)

1 John 2:28-29 – And now, dear children, continue to live in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame.  Since we know that God is always right, we also know that all who do what is right are his children.

* New believers can share faith too

The day that Levi met Jesus, Levi held a meeting at his house to introduced others to Jesus.  Levi didn’t waste any time starting to witness!  Some people feel that new believers should wait for maturity or training before they begin to tell others about Christ.  But, like Levi, new believers can share their faith right away with whatever knowledge, skill, or experience they already have. (NLT)

Mark 2:14-15 – As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax-collection booth.  “Come, be my disciple, Jesus said to him.  So Levi got up and followed him.

That night Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to be his dinner guests, along with his fellow tax collectors and many other notorious sinners.  There were many people off this kind among the crowds that followed Jesus.)

* Our faith affects others

It wasn’t the paralyzed man’s faith that impressed Jesus but the faith of his friends.  Jesus responded to their faith and healed the man.  For better or worse, our faith affects others.  We cannot make another person a Christian but we can do much through our words, actions, and love to give him or her a chance to respond.  Look for opportunities to bring your friends to the living Christ. (NLT)

Luke 5:18-20 – Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat.  They tried to push through the crowd to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him.  So they went up to the roof, took off some tiles, and lowered the sick man down into the crowd, still on his mat, right in front of Jesus.  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

* Why some may resist your faith

Many people don’t want their lives exposed to God’s light because they are afraid of what will be revealed.  They don’t want to be changed.  Don’t be surprised when these same people are threatened by your desire to obey God and do what is right, because they are afraid that the light in you may expose some of the darkness in their lives.  Rather than giving in to discouragement, keep praying that they will come to see how much better it is to live in light than in darkness. (NLT)

John 3:19-21 – [Jesus said] “Their judgment is based on this fact: The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  They hate the light because they want to sin in the darkness.  They stay away from the light for fear their sins will be exposed and they will be punished.  But those who do what is right come to the light gladly, so everyone can see that they are doing what God wants.”

* Faith often proved through persecution

Jesus said to rejoice when we’re persecuted for our faith.  Persecution can be good because (1) it takes our eyes off earthly rewards, (2) it strips away superficial belief, (3) it strengthens the faith of those who endure, and (4) our attitude through it serves as an example to others who follow.  We can be comforted knowing that God’s greatest prophets were persecuted (Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel).  The fact that we are being persecuted proves that we have been faithful; faithless people would be unnoticed.  In the future God will reward the faithful by receiving them into his eternal kingdom, where there is no more persecution. (NLT)

Matthew 5:11-12 – [Jesus said] “God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers.  Be happy about it!  Be very glad!  For a great reward awaits you in heaven.  And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.

* Faith alone brings eternal life

Jesus exposed those people who sounded religious but had no personal relationship with him.  On “judgment day” only our relationship with Christ–our acceptance of him as Savior and our obedience to him–will matter.  Many people think that if they are “good” people and say religious things, they will be rewarded with eternal life.  In reality, faith in Christ is what will count at the judgment. (NLT)

Matthew 7:21-23 – [Jesus said] “Not all people who sound religious are really godly.  They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven.  On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you.  Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.'”

* – Some people were preaching “a different way.”  They were teaching that to be saved, Gentile believers had to follow Jewish laws and customs, especially the rite of circumcision.  Faith in Christ was not enough.  This message undermined the truth that salvation is a gift, not  a reward for certain deeds.   Jesus Christ has made this gift available to all people, not just to Jews.  Beware of people who say that we need more than simple faith in Christ to be saved.  When people set up additional requirements for salvation, they deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. (NLT)

Galatians 1:6 – I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who in his love and mercy called you to share the eternal life he gives through Christ.  You are already following a different way

* Difference between faith & belief

Demon-possessed people are under the control of one or more demons.  Demons are fallen angels who joined Satan in this rebellion against God and are now evil spirits under Satan’s control.  They help Satan tempt people to sin and have great destructive powers.  But whenever they are confronted by Jesus, they lose their power.  These demons recognized Jesus as God’s Son, but they didn’t think they had to obey him.  Just believing is not enough.  Faith is more than belief.  By faith, you accept what Jesus has done for you, receive him as the only one who can save you from sin, and live out our faith by obeying his commands. (NLT)

Matthew 8:28 – When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake in the land of the Gadarenes, two men who were possessed by demons met him.  They lived in a cemetery and were so dangerous that no one could go through that area.

* When faith isn’t popular to believe

The Son of God knows all about human nature.  Jesus was well aware of the truth of Jeremiah 17:9, which states, “The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked.  Who really knows how bad it is?”  Jesus was discerning, and he knew that the faith of some followers was superficial.  Some of the same people claiming to believe in Jesus at this time would later yell “Crucify him!”  It’s easy to believe when it is exciting and everyone else believes the same way.  But keep your faith firm even when it isn’t popular to follow Christ. (NLT)

John 2:23-25 – Because of the miraculous signs he did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many people wee convinced that he was indeed the Messiah.  But Jesus dint’ trust them, because he knew what people were really lie.  No one needed to tell him about human nature.

* Faith strengthened by waiting

Jesus didn’t respond immediately to the blind men’s pleas.  He waited to see if they had faith.  Not everyone who says he wants help really believes God can help him.  Jesus may have waited and questioned these men to emphasize and increase their faith.  When you think that God is too slow in answering your prayers, consider that he might be testing you as he did the blind men.  Do you believe that God can help you?  Do you really want his help? (NLT)

Matthew 9:27-30 – After Jesus left the girl’s home, two blind men followed along behind him, shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”  They went right into the house where he was staying, and Jesus asked them, “Do you believe I can make you see?”  “Yes, Lord,” they told him, “we do.”  Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.”  And suddenly they could see!  Jesus sternly warned them, “Don’t tell anyone about this.”

* No excuses for not believing

Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom were ancient cities with a long-standing reputation for wickedness.  Each was destroyed by God for its evil.  The people of Bethsaida, Korazin, and Capernaum saw Jesus firsthand, and yet they stubbornly refused to repent of their sins and believe in him.  Jesus said that if some of the wickedest cities in the world had seen him, they would have repented.  Because Bethsaida, Korazin, and Capernaum saw Jesus and didn’t believe, they would suffer even greater punishment than would the wicked cities that didn’t see Jesus.  Similarly, nations and cities with churches on every corner and Bibles in every home will have no excuse on judgment day if they do not repent and believe. (NLT)

Matthew 11:21-24 – [Jesus said] “What horrors away you, Korazin and Bethsaida!  For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have sat in deep repentance long ago, clothed in sackcloth and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse.  I assure you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on the judgment day than you!  And you people of Capernaum will you be exalted to heaven?  No, you will be brought down to the place of the dead.  For if the miracles I did for you had been done in Sodom, it would still be here today.  I assure you, Sodom will be better off on the judgment day than you.”

* What to do when your faith falters

Although we start out with good intentions, sometimes our faith falters.  This doesn’t necessarily mean we have failed.  When Peter’s faith faltered, he reached out to Christ, the only one who could help.  He was afraid, but he still looked to Christ.  When you are apprehensive about the troubles around you and doubt Christ’s presence or ability to help, remember that he is always with you and is the only one who can really help. (NLT)

Matthew 14:30-31 – But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink.  “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.  Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him.  “You don’t have much faith,” Jesus said.  “Why did you doubt me?”

* Turning small faith into sufficient faith

The disciples were unable to cast out this demon, and they asked Jesus why.  He said their faith was too small.  It is the power of God, plus our faith, that moves mountains.  The mustard seed was the smallest particle imaginable.  Jesus said that even faith as small or undeveloped as a mustard seed would have been sufficient.  Perhaps the disciples had tried to cast out the demon with their own ability rather than God’s.  There is great power in even a little faith when we trust in God’s power to act.  If we feel weak or powerless as Christians, we should examine our faith, making sure we are trusting God’s power, not our own ability to produce results. (NLT)

Read Matthew 17:17-20 below

* Christ can increase your faith

Jesus wasn’t condemning the disciples for substandard faith; he was trying to show how important faith would be in their future ministry.  If you are facing a problem that seems as big and immovable as a mountain, turn your eyes from the mountain and look to Christ for more faith.  Only then will you be able to overcome the obstacles that my stand in your way. (NLT)

Matthew 17:17-20 – Jesus replied, “You stubborn, faithless people!  How long must I be with you until you believe?  How long must I put up with you?  Bring the boy to me.”  Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him.  From that moment the boy was well.  Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”  “You didn’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them.  “I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move.  Nothing would be impossible.”

* Faith despite doubts and questions

Once again Jesus predicted his death; but more important, he told of his resurrection.  Unfortunately, the disciples heard only the first part of Jesus’ words and became discouraged.  They couldn’t understand why Jesus wanted to go back to Jerusalem, where he would walk right into trouble.

The disciples didn’t fully comprehend the purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection until Pentecost.  We shouldn’t get upset at ourselves for being unable to understand everything about Jesus.  After all, the disciples spent three years with him, say his miracles, heard his words, and still had difficulty understanding.  Despite their questions and doubts, however, they believed.  We should do no less. (NLT)

Matthew 17:22-23 – One day after they had returned to Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed.  He will be killed, but three days later he will be raised from the dead.”  And the disciples’ hearts were filled with grief.

* Two ways people lose faith

Jesus warned the disciples about two ways to cause others to sin: tempting them and neglecting or demeaning them.  As leaders, we are to help young people or new believers avoid anything or anyone that could cause the to stumble in their faith and lead them to sin.  We must never take lightly the spiritual education and protection of those young in age or in the faith. (NLT)

Matthew 18:7 – [Jesus said] “How terrible it will be for anyone who causes others to sin.  Temptation to do wrong is inevitable, but how terrible it will be for the person who does the tempting.”

* Faith must be put to work

Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?  This was not a thoughtless, angry act but an acted-out parable.  Jesus was showing his anger at religion without substance.  Just as the fig tree looked good from a distance but was fruitless on close examination, so the Temple looked impressive at first glance, but its sacrifices and other activities were hollow because they were not done to worship God sincerely.  If you only appear to have faith without putting it to work in your life, you are like the fig tree that withered and died because it bore no fruit.  Genuine faith means bearing fruit for God’s Kingdom. (NLT)

Matthew 21:19 – and he noticed a fig tree beside the road.  He went over to see if there were any figs on it, but there were only leaves.  Then he said t it, “May you never bear fruit again!”  And immediately the fig tree withered up.

* Can your faith withstand persecution?

All the disciples declared that they would die before denying Jesus.  A few hours later, however, they all scattered.  Talk is cheap.  It is easy to say we are devoted to Christ, but our claims are meaningful only when they are tested in the crucible of persecution.  How strong is your faith?  Is it strong enough to stand up under intense trial? (NLT)

Matthew 26:35 – “No!” Peter insisted.  “Not even if I have to die with you.  I will never deny you!”  And all the other disciples vowed the same.

* Jesus’ resurrection is the key to faith 

Jesus’ resurrection is the key to the Christian faith.  Why?  (1) Just as he promised, Jesus rose from the dead.  We can be confident, therefore, that he will accomplish all he has promised.  (2) Jesus’ bodily resurrection shows us that the living Christ is ruler of God’s eternal Kingdom, not a false prophet or impostor.  (3) We can be certain of our resurrection because he was resurrected.  Death is not the end–there is future life.  (4) The power that brought Jesus back to life is available to us to bring our spiritually dead selves back to life.  (5) The Resurrection is the basis for the church’s witness to the world.  Jesus is more than just a human leader; he is the Son of God. (NLT)

Matthew 28:6 – He isn’t here!  He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen.  Come, see where his body was lying.

* Taking the final step in faith

The disciples didn’t want to believe, perhaps because (1) they couldn’t accept the fact that this human named Jesus was really the Son of God; (2) they dared not believe that the Messiah would choose them as his followers–it was too good to be true; (3) they still did not understand the real purpose for Jesus’ coming to earth.  Their disbelief took the form of misunderstanding.

Even after watching Jesus miraculously feed 5,000 people, they still could not take the final step of faith and believe that he was God’s Son.  If they had, they would not have been amazed that Jesus could walk on water.  The disciples did not transfer the truth they already knew about Jesus to their own lives.  We read that Jesus walked on the water, and yet we often marvel that he is able to work in our life,  We must not only believe that these miracles really occurred, we must also transfer the truth to our own life situations. (NLT)

Mark 6:52 – They still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the multiplied loaves, for their hearts were hard and they did not believe.

* Anything is possible with faith 

Jesus’ words do not mean that we can automatically obtain anything we want if we just think positively.  Jesus meant that anything is possible if we believe, because nothing is too difficult for God.  We cannot have everything we pray for as if by magic, but with faith, we can have everything we need to serve him. (NLT)

Mark 9:23 – “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked.  “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

* Faith as a constant process

The attitude of trust and confidence that the Bible calls belief or faith is not something we can obtain without help.  Faith is a gift from God.  No matter how much faith we have, we never reach the point of being self-sufficient.  Faith is not stored away like money in the bank.  Growing in faith is a constant process of daily renewing our trust in Jesus. (NLT)

Mark 9:24 – The father instantly replied, “I do believe, but help me not to doubt!”

* – As used here, believes means “continues to believe.”   We do not believe merely once; we keep on believing in and trusting Jesus. (NLT)

John 6:47 – [Jesus said] “I assure you, anyone who believes in me already has eternal life.”

* Faith aided by prayer

The disciples would often face difficult situations that could be resolved only through prayer.  Prayer is the key that unlocks faith in our life.  Effective prayer needs both an attitude–complete dependence–and an action–asking.  Prayer demonstrates our reliance on God as we humbly invite him to fill us with faith and power  There is no substitute for prayer, especially in circumstances that seem impossible. (NLT)

Mark 9:29 – Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast our only by prayer.”

* How much faith is necessary

A mustard seed is small, but it is alive and growing.  Almost invisible at first, it will begin to spread, first under the ground and then visibly.  Like a tiny seed, a small amount of genuine faith in God will take root and grow.  Although each change will be gradual and imperceptible, soon this faith will have produced major results that will uproot and destroy competing loyalties.  We don’t need more faith; a tiny seed of faith is enough if it is alive and growing. (NLT)

Luke 17:6 – [Jesus said] “Even if you had faith as small as a mustard see,” the Lord answered, “you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May God uproot you and throw you into the sea,’ and it would obey you!”

* Having childlike faith

To feel secure, all children need is a loving look and gentle touch from someone who cares.  They believe us because they trust us.  Jesus said that people should trust in him with this kind of childlike faith.  We do not have to understand all the mysteries of the universe; it should be enough to know that God loves us and provides forgiveness for our sin.  This doesn’t mean that we should be childish or immature, but we should trust God with a child’s simplicity and receptivity. (NLT)

Mark 10:14 – But when Jesus saw what was happening, he was very displeased with his disciples.  He said to them, “Let the children come to me.  Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

* -It was customary for a mother to bring her children to a rabbi for a blessing, and that is why these mothers gathered around Jesus.  The disciples, however, thought the children were unworthy of the Master’s time–less important than whatever else he was doing.  But Jesus welcomed them, because little children have the kind of faith and trust needed to enter God’s Kingdom.  It is important that we introduce our children to Jesus and that we ourselves approach him with childlike attitudes of acceptance, faith, and trust. (NLT)

Luke 18:15-17 – One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch them and bless them, but the disciples told them not to bother him.  Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me.  Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.”

* Wealth not always a by-product of faith 

The disciples were amazed.  Was not wealth a blessing from God, a reward for being good?  This misconception is still common today.  Although many believers enjoy material prosperity, many others live in poverty.  Wealth is not a sign of faith or of partiality on God’s part. (NLT)

Mark 10:26 – The disciples were astounded.  “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

* Faith without substance

In this passage, two unusual incidents are related: the cursing of the fig tree and the clearing of the Temple.  The cursing of the fig tree was an acted-out parable related to the clearing of the Temple.  The Temple was supposed to be a place of worship, but true worship had disappeared.  The fig tree showed promise of fruit, but it produced none.  Jesus was showing his anger at religious life without substance.  If you claim to have faith without putting it to work in your life, you are like the barren fig tree.  Genuine faith has great potential; ask God to help you bear fruit for his Kingdom. (NLT)

Mark 11:11-21 – So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple.  He looked around carefully at everything, and then he left because it was late in the afternoon.  Then he went out to Bethany with the twelve disciples.

The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus felt hungry.  He noticed a fig tree a little way off that was in full leaf, so he went over to see if he could find any figs on it.  But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit.  Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat; your fruit again!”  And the disciples heard him say it.

When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers.  He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the stalls of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from bringing in merchandise.  He taught them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a place of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him.  But they were afraid of him because the people were so enthusiastic about Jesus’ teaching.  That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city.  The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it was withered from the roots.  Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Teacher!  The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

* Faith results in changed behavior

Judging from the crowd’s reaction to him, Zacchaeus must have been a very crooked tax collector.  But after he met Jesus, he realized that his life needed straightening out.  Buy giving to the poor and making restitution–with generous interest–to those he had cheated, Zacchaeus demonstrated inner change by outward action.  It is not enough to follow Jesus in your head or heart alone.  You must show your faith by changed behavior.  Has your faith resulted in action?  What changes do you need to make? (NLT)

Luke 19:8 – Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and If I have overcharged people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

* Life’s central issue

The Pharisees and Sadducees had asked their questions.  Then Jesus turned the tables and asked them a question that went right to the heart of the matter–what they thought about the Messiah’s identity.  The Pharisees knew that the Messiah would be a descendant of David, but they did not understand that he would be more than a human descendant–he would be God in the flesh.  Jesus quoted from Psalm 110:1 to show that David knew that the Messiah would be both human and divine.  The Pharisees expected only a human ruler to restore Israel’s greatness as in the days of David and Solomon.

The central issue of life is what we believe about Jesus.  Other spiritual questions are irrelevant unless we first decide to believe that Jesus is who he said he is.  The Pharisees and Sadducees could not do this.  They remained confused over Jesus’ identity. (NLT)

Luke 20:41-44 – Then Jesus presented them with a question, “Why is it,” he asked, “that the Messiah is said to be the son of David?  For David himself wrote in the book of Psalms: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.’  Since David called him Lord, how can he be his son at the same time?”

* Faith is never too late to believe in Jesus

As this man was about to die, he turned to Christ for forgiveness, and Christ accepted him.  This shows that our deeds don’t save us–our faith in Christ does.  It is never too late to turn to God.  Even in his misery, Jesus had mercy on this criminal who decided to believe in him.  Our life will be much more useful and fulfilling if we turn to God early, but even those who repent at the very last moment will be with God in paradise. (NLT)

Luke 23:39-43 – One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you?  Prove it by saving yourself–and us too, while you’re at it!”  But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you are dying?  We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

* Faith an attitude of expectation

The disciples, terrified, probably thought they were seeing a ghost.  But if they had thought about all they had already seen Jesus do, they could have accepted this miracle.  They were frightened–they didn’t expect Jesus to come, and they weren’t prepared for his help.  Faith is a mind-set that expects God to act.  When we act on this expectation, we can overcome our fears. (NLT)

John 6:18-19 – Soon a gale swept down upon them as they rowed, and the sea grew very rough.  They were three or four miles out when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat.  They were terrified,

* Not admitting your faith

Along with those who refused to believe, many believed but refused to admit it.  This is just as bad, and Jesus had strong words for such people.  People who will not take a stand for Jesus are afraid of rejection or ridicule.  Many Jewish leaders wouldn’t admit to faith in Jesus because they feared excommunication from the synagogue (which was their livelihood) and loss of their prestigious place in the community.  But the praise of others is fickle and short-lived.  We should be much more concerned about God’s eternal acceptance than about the temporary approval of other people. (NLT)

John 12:42-43 – Many people, including some of the Jewish leaders, believed in him.  But they wouldn’t admit it to anyone because of their fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue.

* What happens to unproductive believers

Christ is the vine, and God is the gardener who cares for the branches to make them fruitful.  The branches are all those who claim to be followers of Christ.  The fruitful branches are true believers who by their living union with Christ produce much fruit.  But those who become unproductive–those who turn back form following Christ after making a superficial commitment–will be separated from the vine.  Unproductive followers are as good as dead and will be cut off and tossed aside. (NLT)

John 15:1 – [Jesus said] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.”

* Stages of faith 

People who hear about the Resurrection for the first time may need time before they can comprehend this amazing story.  Like Mary and the disciples, they may pass through four stages of belief.  (1) At first, they may think the story is a fabrication, impossible to believe.  (2) Like Peter, they may check out the facts and still be puzzled about what happened.  (3) Only when they encounter Jesus personally are they able to accept the fact of the Resurrection.  (4) Then, as they commit themselves to the risen Lord and devote their lives to serving him, they begin to understand fully the reality of his presence with them. (NLT)

John 20:1 – Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.

* Faith based on facts

Luke says that the disciples were eyewitnesses to al that had happened to Jesus Christ–his life before his crucifixion, and the 40 days after his resurrection as he taught them more about the Kingdom of God.  Today there are still people who doubt Jesus’ resurrection.  But Jesus appeared to the disciples on many occasions after his resurrection, proving that he was alive.  Look at the change the Resurrection made in the disciples’ lives.  At Jesus death, they scattered–they were disillusioned, and they feared for their lives.  After seeing the resurrected Christ, they were fearless and risked everything to spread the Good News about him around the world.  They faced imprisonment, beatings, rejection, and martyrdom, yet they never compromised their mission.  These men would not have risked thier lives for something they knew was a fraud.  They knew Jesus was raised from the dead, and the early church was fired with their enthusiasm to tell others.  It is important to know this so we can have confidence in their testimony.  Twenty centuries later we can still be confident that our faith is based on fact. (NLT)

Acts 1:1-3 – During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time and proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive.  On these occasions he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

* Holy Spirit marks beginning of faith 

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was made available to all who believed in Jesus.  We receive the Holy Spirit (are baptized with hom) when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit must be understood in the light of the total work in Christians.

(1) The Spirit marks the beginning of the Christian experience.  We cannot be Christians without his Spirit; we cannot be joined to Christ without his Spirit; we cannot be adopted as his children without his Spirit; we cannot be in the body of Christ except by baptism in the Spirit.

(2) The Spirit is the power of our new lives.  He begins a life-lng process of change as we become more like Christ.  When we receive Christ b faith, we begin an immediate personal relationship with God.  The Holy Spirit works in us to help us become like Christ.

(3) The Spirit unites the Christian community in Christ.  The Holy Spirit can be expeireinced by al, and he works through all. (NLT)

Acts 1:5 – [Jesus said] “John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

* Sharing faith no matter what the cost

Peter and John were warned repeatedly not to preach, but they continued in spite of the threats.  We, too, should live as Christ has asked us to, sharing our faith no matter what the cost.  We may not be beaten or thrown in jail, but we may be ridiculed, ostracized, or slandered.  To what extent are you willing to suffer for the sake of sharing the Good News with others? (NLT)

Acts 5:40-42 – The council accepted his advice.  They called in the apostles and had them flogged.  Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.  The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus.  And every day, in the Temple and in their homes, they continued to teach and preach this message: “The Messiah you are looking for is Jesus.”

* God will help when your faith is under fire

Paul’s sudden insight that the council was a mixture of Sadducees and Pharisees is an example of the insight that Jesus promises to believers.  God will help us when we are under fire for our faith.  Like Paul, we should always be ready to present our testimony.  The Holy Spirit will give us the courage to speak boldly. (NLT)

Acts 23:6-8 – Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were all my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!”

This divided the council–the Pharisees against the Sadducees–for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these.

* Why does God save us by faith alone?

Why does God save us by faith alone?  (1) Faith eliminates the pride of human effort, because faith is not a deed that we do.  (2) Faith exalts what God has done, not what we do.  (3) Faith admits that we can’t keep the law or measure up to God’s standards–we need help.  (4) Faith is based on our relationship with God, not our performance for God. (NLT)

Romans 3:28 – So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

* Does faith cancel Judaism?

There were some misunderstandings between the Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome.  Worried Jewish Christians were asking Paul, “Does faith wipe out everything Judaism stands for?  Does it cancel our Scriptures, put an end to our customs, declare that God is no longer working through us?”  “Absolutely not!” says Paul.  When we understand the way of salvation through faith, we understand the Jewish religion better.  We know why Abraham was chosen, why the law was given, and why God worked patiently with Israel for centuries.  Faith does not wipe out the Old Testament.  Rather, it makes God’s dealings with the Jewish people understandable. (NLT)

Romans 3:31 – Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law?  Of course not!  In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.

* How much faith do you need?

When some people learn that they are saved by God through faith, they start to worry.  “Do I have enough faith?” they wonder.  “Is my faith strong enough to save me?”  These people miss the point.  It is Jesus Christ who saves us, not our feelings or actions, and he is strong enough to save us no matter how weak our faith is.  Jesus offers us salvation as a gift because he loves us, not because we have earned it through our powerful faith.  What, then, is the role of faith?  Faith is believing and trusting in Jesus Christ and reaching out to accept his wonderful gift of salvation. (NLT)

Romans 4:5 – But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work.

* What is weak faith?

What is weak faith?  Paul is speaking about immature faith that has not yet developed the muscle it needs to stand against external pressures.  For example, if a person who once worshiped idols became a Christian, he might understand perfectly well that Christ saved him through faith and that idols have no real power.  Still, because of his past associations, he might be badly shaken if the unknowingly ate meat that had been used in idol worship.  If a person who once worshiped God on the required Jewish holy days became a Christian, he might well know that Christ save him through faith, no through his keeping of the law.  Still, when the festival days came, he might feel empty and unfaithful if he didn’t dedicate those days to God.

Paul responds to both weak brothers in love.  Both are acting according to their consciences, but their honest convictions do not need to be made into rules for the church.  Certainly some issues are central to the faith and worth fighting for , but many are based on individual differences and should not be legislated.  Our principle should be: In essentials, unity, in nonessential, liberty, in everything, love. (NLT)

Romans 14:1 – Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.

* Talking about faith vs. living it 

Some people talk a lot about faith, but that’s all it is–talk.  They may know all the right words to say, but their lives don’t reflect God’s power.  Paul says that the Kingdom of God is to be lived, not just discussed.  There is a big difference between knowing the right words and living them out.  Don’t be content to have the right answers about Christ.  Let your life show that God’s power is really working in you. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 4:18-20 – I know that some of you have become arrogant, thinking I will never visit you again.  But I will come–and soon–if the Lord will let me, and then I’ll find out whether those arrogant people are just big talkers or whether they really have God’s power.  For the Kingdom of God is not just fancy talk; it is living by God’s power.

* Faith does not free us from obedience

While eternal life is a free gift given on the basis of God’s grace, each of us will still be judged y Christ.  He will reward us for how we have lived.  God’s gracious gift of salvation does not free us from the requirement of faithful obedience.  All Christians must give account on the day of judgment of how they have lived. (NLT)

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 – So our aim is to please him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body.  For we must all stand before Christ to be judged.  We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies.

* Faith combines assurance & anticipation

Do you remember how you felt when you were very young and your birthday approached?  You were excited and anxious.  You knew you would certainly receive gifts and other special treats.  But some things would b e a surprise.  Birthdays combine assurance and anticipation, and so does faith!  Faith is the conviction based on past experience that God’s new and fresh surprises will surely be ours. (NLT)

* The beginning & end of faith 

The beginning point of faith is believing in God’s character: He is who he says.  The end point is believing in God’s promises: He will do what he says.  When we believe that God will fulfill his promises even though we don’t see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith. (NLT)

Hebrews 11:1 – What is faith?  It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen.  It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.

* God will help us remain true to faith 

God will help us remain true to our faith through whatever difficult times we must face.  The “last day” is the judgment day of Christ.  We may have to endure trials, persecution, or violet death, but our souls cannot be harmed if we have accepted Christ’s gift of salvation.  We know we will receive the promised rewards. (NLT)

1 Peter 1:5 – And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him.  It will be revealed on the last day for all to see.

* Never forget basics of faith

Just as coaches constantly review the basics with their teams and good athletes execute the fundamentals, we must not neglect the basics of our faith.  An athlete needs constant practice, and we need constant reminders of the fundamentals of our faith and of how we came to believe.  Don’t allow yourself to be bored or impatient with messages on the basics of the Christian life.  Instead, take the attitude of an athlete who continues to practice and refine the basics while learning more advanced skills. (NLT)

2 Peter 1:12-15 – I plan to keep on reminding you of these things–even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth.  Yes, I believe I should keep on reminding you of these things as long as I live.  But the Lord Jesus Christ has shown me that my days here on earth are numbered and I am soon to die.  So I will work hard to make these things clear to you.  I want you to remember them long after I am gone.

* – It is important to grow in our knowledge of the Lord, to deepen our understanding through careful study, and to teach these truths to others.  But no matter how much we learn, we must never abandon the basic truths about Christ.  Jesus will always be God’s Son, and his sacrifice for our sins is permanent.  No truth will ever contradict these teachings in the Bible. (NLT)

1 John 2:24 – So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning.  If you do, you will continue to live in fellowship with the Son and with the Father.  And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life He promised us.

* The world will always challenge your faith

Peter concludes this brief letter as he began, urging his readers to grow in the special favor and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; that is, they were to get to know him better and better.  This is the best way to discern false teaching.  No matter where we are in our spiritual journey, not matter how mature we are in our faith,, the sinful world will always challenge our faith.  We still have much room for growth.  Every day we need to draw closer to Christ so that we will be prepared to stand for truth in any and all circumstances. (NLT)

2 Peter 3:18 – But grow in the special favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be all glory and honor, both now and forevermore.  Amen.

* Faith will die away

Faith must be more than belief in certain facts; it must result in actions, growth in Christian character, and the practice of moral discipline.  Or it will die away.

When someone claims to have faith, what he or she may have is intellectual assent—agreement with a set of Christian teachings—and as such it would be incomplete faith.  True faith transforms our conduct as well as our thoughts.  If our life remains unchanged, we don’t truly believe the truths we claim to believe.

We cannot earn our salvation by serving and obeying God.  But such actions show that our commitment to God is real.  Deeds of loving service are not a substitute for, but rather a verification of, our faith in Christ.

James 2:14-17 – Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions?  That kind of faith can’t save anyone.  Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that do?

So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith.  Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all—it is dead and useless.

Faith that works

James offers a larger number of similarities to the Sermon on the Mount than any other book in the New Testament.  James relied heavily on Jesus’ teachings. (NLT)

Lesson: Whenever trouble comes your way, be joyful.

James 1:2 – Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.

Matthew 5:10-12 – [Jesus said] “God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

“God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers.  Be happy about it!  Be very glad!  For a great reward awaits you in heaven.  And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.”

Lesson: When your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

James 1:4 – So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

Matthew 5:48 – [Jesus said] “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Lesson: Ask God, and he will answer.

James 1:5 – If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you.  He will not resent your asking.

James 5:15 – [Jesus said] “Don’t hide your light under a basket!  Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all.”

Matthew 7:7-12 – [Jesus said] “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for.  Keep on looking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.  For everyone who asks, receives.  Everyone who seeks, finds.  And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.  You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead?  Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake?  Of Course not!  If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

Lesson: Those who are poor (who don’t amount to much by the world’s standards) should be glad, for God has honored them.

James 1:9 – Christians who are poor should be glad, for God has honored them.

Matthew 5:3 – [Jesus said] “God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.”

Lesson: Watch out for your anger. . . .  It can be dangerous.

James 1:20 – Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight.

Matthew 5:22 – [Jesus said] “But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!  If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council.  And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

Lesson: Be merciful to others, as God is merciful to you.

James 2:13 – For there will be no mercy for you if you have not been merciful to others.  But if you have been merciful, then God’s mercy toward you will win out over his judgment against you.

Matthew 5:7 – [Jesus said] “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Matthew 6:14 – [Jesus said] “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”

Lesson: Your faith must express itself in your actions.

James 2:14-16 – Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions?  That kind of faith can’t save anyone.  Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that do?

Matthew 7:21-23 – [Jesus said] “Not all people who sound religious are really godly.  They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven.  On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast our demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you.  Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.’ “

Lesson: Blessed are the peacemakers; they plant in peace and reap a harvest of goodness.

James 3:17, 18 – But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure.  It is also peace loving, gentle at all ties, and willing to yield to others.  It is full of mercy and good deeds.  It shows no partiality and is always sincere.  And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.

Matthew 5:9 – [Jesus said] “God blesses those who work for peace; for they will be called the children of God.”

Lesson: Friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a pleasurable life.  God gives us good gifts that he wants us to enjoy.  But having friendship with the world involves seeking pleasure at others’ expense or at the expense of obeying God.  Pleasure that keeps us from pleasing God is sinful; pleasure from God’s rich bounty is good. (NLT)

James 4:4 – You adulterers!  Don’t you realize that friendship with this world makes you an enemy of God?  I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God.

Note: Jesus says we can have only one master.  We live in a materialistic society where many people serve money.  They spend all their lives collecting and storing it, only to die and leave it behind.  Their desire for money and what it can buy far outweighs their commitment to God and spiritual matters.  Whatever you store up, you will spend much of your time and energy thinking about.  Don’t fall into the materialistic trap, because “the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil.”  Can you honestly say that God, and not money, is your master?  One test is to ask yourself which one occupies more of your thoughts, time, and efforts.

Jesus contrasted heavenly values with earthly values when he explained that our first loyalty should be to those things that do not fade, cannot be stolen or used up, and never wear out.  We should not be fascinated with our possessions, lest they possess us.  This means we may have to do some cutting back if our possessions are becoming too important to us.   Jesus is calling for a decision that allows us to live contentedly with whatever we have because we have chosen what is eternal and lasting. (NLT)

Matthew 6:24 – [Jesus said] “No one can serve two masters.  For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.

Lesson: When you humble yourself and realize your dependence on God, he will lift you up.

Bowing before the Lord means recognizing that our worth comes from God alone.  To be humble involves leaning on his power and his guidance, and not going our own independent way.  Although we do not deserve God’s favor, he wants to lift us up and give us worth and dignity, despite our human shortcomings. (NLT)

James 4:10 – When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor.

Matthew 5:3, 4 – [Jesus said] “God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.  God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Lesson: Don’t speak evil against each other.  If you do, you are criticizing God’s law.

James 4:11 – Don’t speak evil against each other, my dear brothers and sisters.  If you criticize each other, then you are criticizing and condemning God’s law.  But you are not a judge who can decide whether the law is right or wrong.  Your job is to obey it.

Matthew 7:1, 2 – [Jesus said] “Stop judging others, and you will not be judged.  For those will treat you as you treat them.  Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged.”

Lesson: Treasures on earth will only rot away and be eaten by moths.  Store up eternal treasures in heaven.

James 5:2, 3 – Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags.  Your gold and silver have become worthless.  The every wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh in hell.  This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment.

Matthew 6:19 – [Jesus said] “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal.”

Lesson: Be patient in suffering, as God’s prophets were patient.

James 5:10 – For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Matthew 5:12 – [Jesus said] “Be happy about it!  Be very glad!  For a great reward awaits you in heaven.  And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.”

Lesson: Be honest in your speech; just say a simple yes or no so that you will not sin.

James 5:12 – But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else.  Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned for it.

Matthew 5:33-37 – [Jesus said] “Again, you have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’  But I say, don’t make any vows!  If you say, ‘By heaven!’ it is a sacred vow because heaven is God’s throne.  And if you say, ‘By the earth!’ it is a sacred vow because the earth is his footstool.  And don’t swear, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King.  Don’t even swear, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black.  Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’  Your word is enough.  To strengthen your promise with a vow shows that something is wrong.”

May you find comfort, encouragement, guidance, hope, inspiration, love,
and peace – May you also find
answers to your question(s) through the Scriptures that address every situation
you face, and help with your problems: ; ;;

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