There is no greater gift than to truly know God’s love for you. So thank you for coming to Part II where I am able to talk candidly about having a personal relationship with the Lord. To know that you know the Lord, and more importantly to know that He knows you and is with you, is such a great strength and confidence. It has made all the difference in my life. As a husband, father, employer and friend, I am many more times the man than I would have been otherwise.
My life of faith has been a journey for sure, and it is one that I am still on. At times, that journey is hard and trying. So why the effort ? Because faith has present and eternal rewards. And the benefits are not just for me, but also for those whom I love. I have learned that thoughtless actions and harsh words are hard to take back. When I act and speak according to my faith, I minimize my regrets, and promote healing and understanding. More importantly, I enjoy many more moments when I can reflect back on the events of the day and say, “Thank you Lord that I acted or answered in that way.” It is awesome to realize that I can not only influence someone for their present good, but also for their eternal well- being. It’s like throwing a stone in a pond: the ripples extend well beyond the point of entry. They just keep going, and I liken faith to that. You never really know how much of an impact a life of faith will have on your love ones, friends and co -workers. This thought encourages me, making me press forward in my life of faith.
I realize that these ideas may be hard to grasp right now. It is my hope that this article, which is written in a question-answer format, will help you to understand the life of faith and see how near to us the Lord is.
Q. How do I begin to know the Lord?
A. Knowing the Lord is more about the heart, than the head. The Lord says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The heart hears this and responds. It says, “I want to come. I want to experience the rest that the Lord has for me–that place where I know I’m home.”
Life can be challenging, and some of us face extraordinary challenges, but we all know what it means to be weighed down by the cares and stresses of this life. We may be dealing with issues at work, financial difficulties, family troubles, or struggles within ourselves, or all of the above. These trials make us weary and long for rest. The Lord calls us to find rest in Him, rather than to continue to struggle on our own.
Q. How do I find that rest once my heart is willing? Do I need to do anything to save myself?
A. God’s path of salvation is complete; it needs nothing more on our part other than our faith and an understanding of some very important Biblical truths, but it starts with faith. Any attempt to “save ourselves” outside of God’s provision is effort put in the wrong direction. Like driving to an unknown destination without a map or GPS, it is effort and time wasted. .
Q. What is faith?
A. The dictionary defines faith as belief in, devotion to or trust in something or someone, especially without logical proof. We’ll talk more about logical proof in a moment. For now, I want you to see that, broadly speaking, faith can have any object—whether that object is riches or Santa Claus. This is important to understand because our beliefs shape our thoughts and our actions. Just think about how hard young children try to keep off Santa’s naughty list before Christmas time!
Since faith shapes our thoughts and actions, God asks us to have faith in Him. Yet He does not ask for blind faith. He provides proof of His existence in Creation. When we look at a painting, we know that there is a painter. When we see a landscape, we know that it was designed by a landscaper. So in like manner, when we see Creation which is vast and great beyond human comprehension, we acknowledge a Creator.
Therefore faith in God is based on what can be known of Him through Creation and His Word, which is the Bible. These tell us that He is all-wise, all-powerful and all-loving. So when we have difficulties in our life and don’t have all the answers, we can put faith in God’s promises because we already know that He is Great enough to help us.
Q. How important is it to have faith?
A. As already discussed, true faith shapes our thoughts and our actions. So when the heart first says “I believe,” it is the beginning point of a new life. It can be likened to a key that opens the door to a beautiful and fully- furnished home. Faith is the “key” to knowing God.
By faith we believe what He says about our sinful nature and that our sins have separated us from him; by faith we believe that He provided the means to have our sins forgiven and to restore fellowship with Him through Jesus Christ. Through the Cross, Jesus’s death redeemed us from the consequences of our own sin. Faith says, “I believe, forgive me for my sins.” This is the importance of faith. Without it, nothing of God’s person or promises can be experienced.
Q. Apart from faith is there any attribute that will help my faith to grow??
A. Yes, there is one attribute that completes faith. It is humility, without which faith will be compromised.
Humility is a subject that is misunderstood in our society. We think that humility equates to thinking little of oneself. In actuality, that kind of “humility” is a form of pride. Whether I think I am God’s gift to man, or an accident waiting to happen, I am still thinking about me, fixating on myself. True humility thinks more on God than self. Whatever I am or am not, God is bigger still. My “fixation” is not on me, but on who He is. Humility helps us to trust what He has ordained, to desire obedience to Him and to seek to know Him more.
Q. How do I have a relationship with God?
A. God has given us what are called the “means of grace” to help us grow in our relationship with Him. These are reading His Word, prayer and going to church. The means of grace allows the seedling of our faith to grow and mature in our soul, giving us confidence. Our faith in, and love for God grows as we grow.
Q. How important is it that I read the Bible regularly?
A. As mentioned, the Bible is one of the means of grace. Far from being a slice of stagnant history, it is one of the most significant ways God uses to speak to His people in every generation. If you read a magazine, your thoughts may be influenced. The Bible influences not only your thoughts, but also your heart and soul. Because the Bible is influential in the life of the believer, it is the book that is most often attacked by non-believers. There are so many statements that misrepresent the Bible, but to a believer these statements only show that the critics have not read the whole Bible, or they have read it absent of faith and humility. As one theologian described the Bible, “It is God’s love letter to His people.” To the unbelieving critics this same theologian simply responded by saying “you should not be surprised, as a stranger, that you do not understand someone else’s mail.”
As a student of the scriptures, I am convinced that the Bible is God’s Word to us. I have studied it for almost forty years and can testify that the Spirit of God uses the Bible to transform lives as he has transformed mine. Gainsayers and mockers of the Bible can say what they will; it does not change what I know by experience to be true.
This experience will be yours, too, if you regularly read the Scriptures. The Bible is the “active” Word of God, which he says “will not return to Him void.” In other words, it will produce the results of holy living in His people. In the pages of Scripture you will learn who God is, what he has done and continues to do for His people, and His promises that are fulfilled in Christ. Equally significantly, you will learn how God wants us to live in light of those promises.
Q. How do I learn to trust Him?
A. Just like any relationship, the more you know a person the more confident you are that you can trust them. It is no different with the Lord. The more you know Him, the easier it is to trust Him with the concerns of your life. If Sundays are the only day you hear about the Lord or consider Him, it will be very difficult to trust Him. However if you make a commitment to pray and read regularly as discussed, then when the challenges of life come your way, trusting Him will not seem such a “leap of faith.” In time it will become second nature to trust the Lord, the “normal thing” for you to do. With that said, let’s have our first Bible study:
In the Gospel of John, Chapter 3 verses 16-17 we read: ” For God so loved the world [that’s you and me], that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth [trusts] in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
Whoever says that God is vindictive has not read this passage. The verses tell us that God not only loves, but LOVES FIRST. Other key verses are found in John, Chapter 10 verses 9 – 11. Here we hear Jesus speaking to his disciples. He says: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy [referring to anything contrary to his truth]. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” This is what Jesus did when He gave His life for us on the cross. So in these two passages from John, we can see God’s heart towards us and His purpose in sending Christ to us.
I have prepared some more studies in the form of short devotionals that will complete the balance of what needs to be shared. They are in an attachment to this letter and can be accessed by clicking on them. Please read them. They are part of a weekly devotional called Vida4U that I email out (Vida is Spanish for life). I would encourage you to send us your email so we can add you to the distribution. The three devotionals that are attached explain important truths regarding salvation and each has a suggested prayer to help you in learning to pray.
My purpose for “The Greatest Gift Part II” was to speak with you as though we were sitting together in a coffee shop, answering your questions and helping you to get started on the right path. I want you to understand the importance of a heart response to God. To be confident knowing that your salvation is complete, you do not need to do “good works” to earn your salvation. “Good works” are a response BECAUSE of your salvation, NOT for your salvation. Your salvation has been accomplished and completed by Christ, nothing more than your faith is required. And because of that, faith is critical. When faith is coupled with humility, regular Bible studies, prayer, church attendance and some patience, you will start growing in your new life. As food feeds the physical body, Bible study feeds the “spirit man/woman” in you. Monday through Friday I read during my lunch break and it’s the first thing I do on the weekends.
If you do not own a Bible, I would recommend the New International Version (NIV). It is a good translation for Bible study. There are also short devotional books that are broken down in topics, such as depression, anger, finances, forgiveness, God’s love etc. that list verses on what the Bible says about these areas. Turn to the verses that address the concern you have and study them; it will help your faith to grow.
Always pray before you read the Bible, asking for the Lord to teach you. When He speaks to your spirit, or impresses you with a truth, write it down and review it. Don’t be surprised if shortly thereafter some difficulty comes testing your resolve to hold on to that truth. Lastly the verses I picked to study with you, and there’s many more like them, I wanted you to read and know God’s intent towards us. It is for love that God sent his Son to save us, and Jesus willingness was out of love for us to become our sacrifice. Any other understanding outside of this is misaligned and frankly wrong. And again I explain sacrifice, and other important truths in the Vida4U devotionals attached to this letter.
In closing I thank you for your time. Send me emails with questions or comments to arthur@Vida4U.com, and kindly give me a few days to respond. God be with you, Amen.