Give Your Faith A Lift

October 2017


Give your faith a lift!

I learned a lot of wonderful truths when I attended RHEMA Bible Training Center years ago. In one of our classes the teacher pointed out that God has made available to us forces that aid or cooperate with our faith. The obvious one is love. Galatians 5:6 shows that faith works, or is energized, by love.

Another powerful partner of faith is laid out for us in Hebrews 6:11, 12.

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Faith and patience are to be imitated. When we observe others who are realizing God’s promises, we should watch and learn.

Verse 11 describes the attitude we’re to have in this. First we’re told to “show the same diligence.” Strong’s Concordance renders the meaning “interest oneself most earnestly.” In other words, this is one of those areas that requires our attention. “Hope” describes a joyful, confident expectation. Don’t lose hope!

In verse 12 we’re told not to “become sluggish.” According to the dictionary, sluggish has these meanings: slow-moving or inactive; lacking in energy or alertness; slow to respond or make progress. Obviously being sluggish is not being diligent. I think we all want to “inherit the promises.” [Inherit means to receive – or become a partaker of – your portion.] Therefore faith and patience need to be imitated.

Faith is well defined in Hebrews 11:1 – it gives our hopes substance and is our evidence of promises which can’t yet be seen. In light of that, one of the things we should be diligent about is gathering evidence. If we’re experiencing a struggle in our finances, for example, our accounts may be providing evidence of lack. Our part then is to gather evidence to override that. It begins with musing on scriptures like “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want (lack),” [Psalm 23:1] and “… my God shall supply all your need …” [Philippians 4:19] Add to that using the imagination to “experience” the provision. Faith releases God’s grace – His ability in us to do what we couldn’t on our own. As believers faith can (and should) become our natural response to difficult times.

Then we come to “patience.” I can tell you that my understanding of patience years ago was that I was waiting – waiting on God to heal, deliver, prosper or whatever. Then I discovered there’s a flaw in that understanding. Healing, deliverance, forgiveness, peace, provision, security, etc., are already accomplished for us in Christ! There’s no such thing as waiting for what’s already done!

Well, what does patience mean then? Strong’s gives this definition: “the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says patience is “the quality which does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial.”

If you’re scratching your head trying to digest all that, think of it this way. Going back to our illustration, in the midst of financial hardship we’re assured that everything needed has already been provided. Therefore there’s no reason to quit or even become discouraged (hopeless). Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.

An insurance company add used to tell us that when we purchased their insurance we were in good hands. Our true assurance is that we’re in good hands when our faith and patience are leaning securely on our loving heavenly Father!

Faith and patience have been called the power twins!

Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever

 Cabin fever, according to Wikipedia, “… is an idiomatic term, first recorded in 1838, for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations. …When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, have distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snowdark or hail.”

Living in upstate New York, cabin fever is a phenomenon to which most can relate. There are barely more than eight hours of daylight in every twenty-four. The cold and snow keeps us indoors most of the time. Our houses are shut up tight, trying to preserve the heat and save on energy costs.

I marvel at people who thrive in Alaska and even up in the Artic Circle. They barely even see the sun for months at a time, while the temperature drops to forty and fifty degrees below zero! Yet most of these hardy people have made adjustments and actually thrive even in those frigid winter months.

So how does “Cabin Fever” relate to our daily Christian lives? Consider this scripture passage: And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:11, 12 [NKJV]

Cabin fever sounds to me like becoming “sluggish.” Strong’s defines this Greek word as “slow, sluggish, indolent, languid.” That didn’t provide much insight for me, so I went to my dictionary. “Sluggish” is defined as “indisposed to action or exertion; not functioning with full vigor; slow to act or respond.” “Indolent” means “inactive or relatively benign.” “Languid” is described as “lacking in spirit or interest; listless.”

Okay, let’s bring these defining words to our daily Christian life. The Christian walk can be vibrant and exciting. When we consider who we are in Christ now and our future with Him in heaven, hey, life is good. But because we’re a feelings oriented lot and we all have heart issues needing attention, life doesn’t always exude stimulation. Romans 12:11 reminds us to “serve the Lord enthusiastically.” [NLT] During times when life may feel dark and gloomy, our reaction can be to become sluggish.

Notice also the wording of verse 12: “do not become sluggish.” In the Greek this is the subjunctive mood, meaning it may or may not happen. No one has to become sluggish. It involves a choice. As someone has said, we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control what happens in us. The promises of the Bible do not guarantee a life without challenges. There will be temptations, persecutions and tribulation (pressure). But we must not allow those to bring us down. Jesus’ admonition is that we’ll have tribulation, but to cheer up, because He has already overcome for us. [John 16:33]

Vine’s gives more information on the Greek word, saying that “No immoral thought or blame is necessarily involved in it.” So, spiritual cabin fever (sluggishness) may not involve sin per se. But it definitely does involve low spiritual energy, inactivity, lack of interest or enthusiasm. As a leader I’ve come to realize that I can’t afford to go down this road. It’s not good for me and I can end up “ministering” that spirit into the congregation.

Wikipedia adds this thought: “One therapy for cabin fever may be as simple as getting out and interacting with nature. Research has demonstrated that even brief interactions with nature can promote improved cognitive functioning and overall well-being.”

 Christian therapy for cabin fever begins similarly by getting out and interacting. For us I suppose that using nature can help, but more specifically we need to get out among our brothers and sisters in Christ and fellowship. Probably the worst thing we can do is to play the hermit and avoid people all together. People have told me over the years that they need to take a sabbatical because their life has been difficult. It may be true at times that a little rest does wonders. But I strongly suggest that they keep it short, because it can soon become easier to stay away than it was to be involved.

Let’s be honest, people can be irritating; responsibility isn’t perpetually exciting; and we’re all tired at times. But in the long run you’ll cause yourselves more pain by hiding on the bench than by getting into the game. God didn’t call us to be bench warmers. Verse 12 finishes with the admonition to be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Be inspired by those who enthusiastically serve God no matter what. Take inspiration from David in the Old Testament, who encouraged himself in the Lord. You can do it!

Are You Sluggish?

Heb. 5:11 [NLB] – “There is so much more we would like to say about this. But you don’t seem to listen, so it’s hard to make you understand.” [NKJV] – “of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.”

Heb. 6:11, 12 [NLB] – “Our great desire is that you will keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. 12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and patience.”

[NKJV] – “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

[LB] – “become bored with being a Christian nor become spiritually dull and indifferent.”

If you know me, you know that words are important to me. When the Holy Spirit thrust me into “full-time ministry” thirty-two years ago, I didn’t have a lot working for me. I’m certainly not very handsome or charismatic. I had some Bible training and opportunities to serve under other ministries, but I’m not a Greek or Hebrew scholar. I wasn’t well known or popular. I had no backing from prominent ministers. What I did have was a message. The basis of that message was the integrity of the Word of God. God’s Word could be counted on. Trusting God is the same as trusting His Word. I adhered to the adage, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!”

Therefore most of my study time over the years has been in “word studies”. I’ve been taught that the Bible is good, even in a surface reading. But if you want the good stuff, the stuff that will turn lives around, you have to dig deep! Great reference books, like Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Vine’s Greek/English Dictionary make it possible for even someone like me to dig down to the roots of the words of The Word and find the gold.

In studying through Hebrews 5 & 6, I discovered that the same Greek word is used in each chapter, although it is translated differently. Heb. 5:11 has the phrase “dull of hearing”. Hebrews 6:12 contains the phrase, “don’t become sluggish”. I discovered that “dull” and “sluggish” are a translation of the same Greek word NOTHROS. As you can see from the different translations, it can be defined by words like bored, indifferent, hard of hearing, lazy, etc.

The dictionary defines “sluggish” as indisposed to action or exertion; lazy; indolent; not functioning with full vigor; slow to act or respond; slow or slow-moving. None of these are qualities that should adorn Christian character. Being sluggish won’t help us accomplish our assignment: as we go through the world around us, we’re to make disciples to our Lord Jesus Christ.

The writer of Hebrews links his reader’s sluggishness first to their unwillingness to listen. They’re not receiving needed information because they’re not hearing what God is saying.

“What is God saying?” you ask. Before & above anything else, God is speaking His Word– the Bible! Everything begins there. Yes, God speaks in other ways, but anything you think you’ve heard from God can only be verified by laying it out against the Bible. In other words, if something you think you’ve heard from God doesn’t line up to the principles of the Bible, it’s not from God.

In chapter 6 the author identifies a lack of diligence as a cause of sluggishness. Think about it– you can’t be diligent and sluggish at the same time! In Romans, Paul also promoted diligence. One modern translation renders it as “enthusiasm”. The Kingdom of God can certainly use a lot more enthusiasm from us.

The author also strongly suggests that imitating the faith and patience of others can arrest the sluggishness out of our lives. Abraham received Isaac through faith and patience. Faith & patience are not sluggish. If we are truly operating by faith we’ve become persuaded that God’s Word is true and we’re about making adjustments to keep our thoughts, words and actions aligned to it everyday. Patient Christians operate in consistency.

So, don’t become sluggish! Fight against it. If you’re already there, shake it off and come out, in the Name of Jesus! Make sure you are hearing God’s Word. [Romans 10:17] Shake off lethargy and dullness. Be diligent; be enthusiastic. Get in faith and build yourself up from there. Be patient. Be steady and consistent. This kind of life pleases God and is much better for you.