Rev. David R. Spaugh's Devotionals
What is Christian Faith?
In popular parlance it is sanctified optimism, the invocation of which will magically solve problems and fulfill hopes. If we just "believe" or "have faith" our favorite team will win after erasing an insurmountable deficit, or our Marine Corps son, stationed in Afghanistan, will somehow make it home for the holidays.
Mistakenly, Some Christians harbor this shallow faith, considering it a power in and of itself, a mystical imposition of one's will on reality ("If I just believe hard enough it will happen").
Shallow faith sets up the professing Christian for a grave disappointment, because such faith doesn't "work." In reality, faith is trust in and commitment to God, His word, and His will. This is the primary meaning of the words translated as faith(the noun) and believe(the verb) throughout Scripture. Furthermore, this meaning is clearly conveyed in numerous contexts in which these words are used. Thus we have faith "in" or believe "on" Jesus.
Thus Christian faith is reliance on Jesus Christ and submission to His will. It's a trust in Him even if our son doesn't make it home from Afghanistan. When Habakkuk failed to understand God's sovereign ways in judging the nations, he had no choice but to trust Him. To end his prophecy Habakkuk wrote
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation (3:17-18).
In a million years, no one could say it better.
At one time or another each of us has received a “white elephant” gift from a well-meaning friend or relative. Who among us has not been graced with the loud sweater, the tasteless knick-knack, or the gaudy piece of costume jewelry? And of course these gifts are given with the accompanying “As soon as I saw this, I thought of you.” Unfortunately that hideous gift makes us wonder if the giver was thinking at all.
On the other hand God’s gifts are always good. According to James 1:17 every good and perfect gift comes from our unchanging, ever gracious God. He provides for us sunshine, rain, food, clothing, shelter, the warmth of family love, health and strength, employment, and all other sources of joy and comfort.
But what is His greatest gift? The answer is obvious, a gift that stands out in both wonder and profundity. As Paul writes I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). Or as he writes in Romans 5:8, But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
What an awe inspiring thought, that Jesus didn’t simply die a “generic” death with no end or goal in sight. Rather, out of love He died with “me” and “us” in mind. Yes, bad gifts make us wonder what the giver was thinking. But Christian reader, ponder: when Jesus died on the cross He knew exactly what He was thinking. He was thinking of you.
Praise His glorious name.
Giving Thanks is Always Needed
In the Old Testament, the Israelites performed various religious sacrifices. Some dealt with sin, others gave God the first fruits of crops or livestock. Some were offered on specific occasions like Passover. AsChristians we no longer bring to God animal or vegetable sacrifices, but we still bring spiritual sacrifices. we no longer bring to God animal or vegetable sacrifices, but we still bring spiritual sacrifices.
As Hebrews 13:15 reminds us, through Jesus we are to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”
This is difficult at times. In a world beset by terrorism, civil strife, crime, or personal pain and suffering, giving thanks seems as impossible as a three sided square. But it is here that giving God thanks is most proper and needed. When we focus on all the blessings we enjoy every day but so often take for granted, we acknowledge God’s rule over us, that good comes from him, and the hardships we face are under His control. Furthermore by giving thanks, we take our minds off the bad we experience and lift our hearts through contemplating the good. Thus, thanksgiving is an act of humble faith and good medicine for the weary heart.