It tells us in Genesis 5:22-24 that Enoch lived for 365 years…faithfully walking with God…and then he was no more, because God took him away. The word used here is “translated”, or conveyed to heaven without tasting death. The only other person to experience this was the Old Testament prophet Elijah. But unlike Enoch, Elijah’s departure was witnessed as he was carried off by a whirlwind. (II Kings 2:11) What these two men did have in common though was their unshakable faith in desperate times, godliness in the face of persecution, and the boldness to speak the truth no matter what.
Paul was more than just encouraging his fellow Believers here…he was beseeching and imploring them to take that decisive and dedicated step called sanctification. Why? When we first become a Christian we tend to hold on to parts of us that are comfortable, easy, or allow us to cope. But as we journey along with the Lord, He starts to demand we separate ourselves from those things. This process can be painful, but necessary for us to fully become God’s. Holiness or sanctification is being totally His…with nothing withheld…and Paul recognized that this was not only God’s Will but the very least thing we could do in view of the Lord’s sacrifice for us. (I Corinthians 6:20)
God’s merciful kindness is afforded to all. Whether great or small…prince or pauper…wealthy or poor, we can all seek protection and refuge in Him. And by trusting in God and experiencing His love first hand, His faithfulness will become our shield and rampart in times of trouble. (Psalm 91:4) For God’s love for us is beyond measure and beyond comprehension…and it’s available for all.
Our Heavenly Father is both benevolent and altruistic when it comes to blessing us. But we usually take that graciousness and turn it into prideful thinking. “Look what gifts the Lord has given me!” I Peter 4: 10-11 reminds us that we are to use those gifts to serve others, not flaunt them in front of people as trophies. The Apostle Paul warns us here that’s it’s all about our state of mind when regarding our giftings… it’s all about gratitude, not attitude and humility, not vanity.
For all of you that enjoy Bible trivia, the middle Scripture of the Bible is this verse, Psalm 118:8 . It’s the very center point of God’s Word. So was it placed there by chance or divinely inspired? Many times I’ve prayed to find God’s perfect plan and purpose in my life…to be in the very center of His Will. For I know that’s the safest and very best place to be. And if I look at the fundamental truths in this verse, it makes that search easier. Where am I placing my faith and trust…whose promises am I putting stock in…and where really does my confidence lie? If it’s in man, I’m going to be disappointed…but if my trust is in the Lord, I will find His ultimate plan and purpose for my life.
The gist of this Scripture is repeated in Habakkuk 2:3-4 where it says, ” But the righteous will live by faith. And if they shrink back, I will not be pleased with them.” We all claim to have faith and trust in God…but do we really? Shrinking back is hesitation and self-doubt that we can really do what God is calling us to. Sure, we can believe for great miracles in someone else’s life…but when it comes down to trusting God in our own, we falter. Self-doubt can effectively stop any Kingdom work the Lord has for you…for when you hesitate, you’re essentially telling God you don’t trust Him. We are to live by faith, believing that if God calls us to something, He will equip us also.
I encourage you to read the entire 11th Chapter of Hebrews, for in it you will read of many kinds and shades of faith. Faith is an ongoing lifetime journey of trusting God. It’s a way of life, not just a one time action done at conversion. Our faith grows as we grow in Christ…confidence in Him is forged and built every time we make the decision to trust Him. But as you read through Chapter 11 you’ll see the different nuances of faith shown… there’s expanding and growing faith, there’s beyond logic and reasoning faith, there’s sacrificial, persecuted, and impossible faith. Our life of faith begins with an internal response, which leads to faith-filled action. From there, it’s a life based on God’s promises…not on circumstances. Though, when you get to the end of this chapter you’ll read, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” Every person you read about here in Chapter 11 was praised for their faith, yet not one saw their promise fulfilled in their lifetime. Instead, they all persevered under pressure, never giving up, and always putting their confidence in their Lord.