Week 10: Extraordinary Faith

‘Believing God Even When Life Doesn’t Make Sense’

Ooh!  That’s a catchy title, isn’t it?  The last chapter of the book contains the title of the entire book.  Ah!  Save the best for last.

How do you develop your faith?  Has your faith developed little by little, yet has grown into something big and beautiful?  Perhaps something drastic has happened in your life that gave you that “You betcha there is a God and I will never be the same because of this situation” moment?

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”  This is one of my go-to verses.  The author, Julie Clinton, goes on to say, “But don’t stop there.  In the  next verse God promises, ‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.'”

The story of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 might be a familiar, real-life story for you.  I’m always so impressed with how clever and courageous the women of the bible are.  Abigail was in a very painful, difficult marriage.  In spite of this, she pleaded with David to avoid bloodshed – not for her sake or Nabal’s but to keep David’s conscience clear and his reputation spotless. Huh.  I’ve never thought about it from that perspective.  She could have completely set Nabal up to be killed by David’s army and lived a life free from that bondage.  Instead, she did what was right even if it didn’t change her circumstances.  I’m sure she had a peaceful satisfaction from what she had done.  She still had to go home to her foolish husband.  Then God intervened.  This woman of faith trusted God and did what was right – and God honored her for her faith.

Do you trust God like Abigail did, even in the rotten situations, or do you panic and try to take the situation into your own hands?

Elizabeth’s story is one of God’s beautiful faithfulness to his children in ways that exceed human expectations and hopes. Elizabeth was the elderly wife of the priest Zechariah.  They ultimately gave birth to John the Baptist (Luke 1).  She felt ashamed because she was barren.  Having children was extremely important in their culture.  Often, we put leaders on a spiritual “pedestal,” and when their imperfections come out we criticize and gossip about them.  I imagine this happened in Elizabeth and Zechariah’s day.

Julie Clinton sums the application point of Elizabeth’s story up nicely.  “Have you ever felt the ache of unfulfilled longing? Of being misunderstood by the people around you?  Elizabeth must have watched countless other women experience the joy of having children.  Her friends.  Her neighbors.  Her extended family.  I’m sure she rejoiced with each one, but in her heart, she must have wondered, ‘Lord, what about me?;  As the years went by, her age made pregnancy impossible.  Still, Elizabeth continued praying and trusting God.  That’s not easy to do, is it?”

I want to imagine Zechariah talking to the angel Gabriel for a moment here.  You know, when he asked for a sign after an angel appeared to him telling him his wife was with child.  Zechariah wasn’t going to dare go home and tell his wife unless he was certain!  He would never live it down!  He was a good husband!  Can you imagine all that he had to listen to over the years?  So, what happens when you show signs of doubting God?  When you ask for a ‘sign’?  Well, in Zechariah’s case,  he became mute until the child was born.  Yea, I don’t think I’ll doubt God.  Especially if a big bright angel appears!!!

OK, back to Elizabeth.  Elizabeth chose to rejoice in God’s promises, even when she didn’t see God answering her prayers. And how did she respond when she found out she was finally going to have a baby?  “The Lord has done this for me”.  Wow.  

God doesn’t always miraculously answer our prayers int he way we ask, but he always treasures and rewards our trust in him.

Read Psalm 145.  Tradition tells us that God’s people recited this psalm every single day.

How do you ‘get your praise on’?  Remember, worship is your creative expression to God, not an empty ritual.

One final quote I liked from this chapter: “Our pain is often God’s classroom.”  Oh, isn’t that the truth?

This has been a worthy study, indeed.  Thank you for the opportunity to lead this session.

Angie

 

Source: Clinton, Julie.  Becoming a Woman of Extraordinary Faith (2011).  Harvest House Publishers. Eugene, Oregon
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