We are told in Hebrews 12:2 that Jesus is the "author and finisher of our faith." (NKJV) The Passion Translation says it this way: "We fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith's perfection." It is faith that enables us to endure life on earth because we believe God's Word for something more. The introduction of the book of Hebrews in The Passion Translation explains faith. "Biblical faith claims a confidence beyond our own because it rests in the character of God, the foundation of our faith. Part of practicing faith is persevering in it."
To truly understand what faith is we must look at the Biblical definition of it and to the language in which it was written—Greek. Hebrews 11:1 gives us the definition of faith: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (NKJV) Understanding the meaning of substance is our key to interpreting this passage correctly. Substance is the translation of the Greek word "hypostasis." Hypostasis is made up of two different Greek words: "Hupo" means under, and "histemi" means to stand. So, substance is not the object we hope for but that which stands under us and supports our faith. We may ask, "What is this foundation that stands and supports us and gives us assurance?" It is the Word of God. The Word of God is the evidence that we need to believe God.
If we look at chapter 11 of Hebrews, we find reminders of our fathers and mothers of faith who lived their lives in obedience to God because they believed His words. The words "By faith" are used in the verses that introduce us to the actions of everyone called out in Hebrews 11. Let us look at some of these verses and substitute the phrase "Believing God" where the words "By faith" are used.
Hebrews 11:4 - "By faith (Believing God) we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." In other words, we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.
Hebrews 11:7 - "By faith (Believing God) Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family." Remember that Noah spent 120 years building an ark because he believed God.
Hebrews 11:8 - "By faith (Believing God) Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going."
At times, God uses tests to develop our faith. This was the case when Peter walked on water. In Chapter 14 of John Wright Follette's book, Broken Bread, he explains how this happened in Peter's life. The disciples were in a boat on the sea of Galilee when a severe storm arose. At the fourth watch, Jesus came to them walking on the waves. Peter asked for a word confirming the presence of Jesus. "Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water." Jesus responded, "Come." (Matthew 14: 28-29) Follette says that Peter "walked upon 'Come.'" This word was Peter's word that he could stand upon. As long as his focus was on the evidence, he could walk on water. When fear and unbelief came in Peter began to sink.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:1-3) God has given us the foundation to stand on. He also makes it known that "Without faith (Believing God) it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6 - NKJV) Let us believe God for our promises. Persevere and be confident because faith rests on God, the foundation of our faith!
The Bright Morning Star
Like a sentinel on watch, it stands high in the sky for all to see during the fourth watch. (3 am to 6 am) After the sun disappears from the earth at the end of the day, it is the first star to appear in the sky. Even though it has two showings, it has been dubbed "The Morning Star" as it shines so brightly at 3 am, the darkest time of the early morning, until the sun rises on the earth.
"The Morning Star" is actually the planet Venus reflecting the light of the Sun. Since its orbital pattern is elongated, there are times when it is closer to the sun than others. We can see Venus where the sun rises in the morning and where it sets in the evening. I read that Venus can be seen in the southeast sky at dawn. During the month of February, I have delighted in rising early to see this bright light expel the darkness around it. The other stars pale in comparison. "The Morning Star" rises higher when the Lord begins to paint red-orange and pink washes over the lightening morning sky. After the Sun rises higher in the sky, "The Morning Star" eventually fades from view.
Is it any wonder that this is one of the names of Jesus? "I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." (Revelation 22:16) The prophecy of Balaam foretold of this in Numbers 24:17. "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel..." In ancient times, the star was thought of as a harbinger of the sunrise and a signal of the dawn of hope. Was it the Morning Star that led the Magi to the Christ child? I wonder! Wasn't the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem a sign of a new day dawning? He is the Light of the World. He says, "...Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John8:12)
Christ's disciple, Peter, was brave enough to lay down his fishing nets to follow "the Star." In his second book, Peter reminds his readers that he was an eyewitness to the majesty of Jesus and heard the voice of God say that He loves Jesus and is well-pleased with Him. "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:17-19) The bright "Morning Star" stands ready to set us on a new course. His plans and purposes come with presence and power and lead us into victory against the enemy of our souls.
Darkness would like to overcome us and send us down the wrong path, but God stands by. The Psalmist reminds us: "...even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you." (Psalm 139:11-12) And Zechariah's song after the birth of John the Baptist declares God's purposes in sending Jesus: "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace..." (Luke 1:76-79)
Let the "Morning Star" remind us that Jesus is the light that ushers in a new day. He is our point of reference in the darkness and the one who helps us navigate the storms of life. The disciples learned this when they were attempting to cross Lake Galilee. "Their boat was tossed about by the high winds and heavy seas. During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the waves!" (Matthew 14:24-25 - TPT) All became calm when He stepped into the boat. The response from the disciples was to worship Him. The bright "Morning Star" should be a reminder for us of the faithfulness of the Lord to bring on a new day. Job 22:26-28 gives advice on how to start the day: "For then you will have your delight in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to Him, He will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you: so light will shine on your ways." (NKJV) We must lift our faces to the Lord, our Bright Morning Star, and walk in the light of His glory on the path that He has already prepared for us.
Synergy of the Ages
In his book, An Appeal to Heaven, author Dutch Sheets writes about an interesting concept. Hebrews 11 explains that many of the men and women of faith did not see their promises fulfilled during their lifetime. In many cases, God's plans and promises were not finished because He wanted the next generation to participate in their completion. Dutch compares the years to fulfill a promise to a relay race. He says, “Without us, God can't finish what He began through these saints; what He started through them cannot mature or live its intended goal until we grab the baton and run our leg of the race...At times, He makes promises to people, knowing full well He will deliver on those promises through their children, grandchildren, or spiritual descendants." This way of accomplishing a goal is called the "synergy of the ages" or "synergy of the generations."
My sharing about the synergy of the ages is to prepare you for the story I must tell you. My dear friend Joan has felt the call of God on her heart to minister in Liberia. Having been there several times for short-term trips, Joan has established a bond with the people. Recently she was asked to return to Liberia at the end of next month. Because there has been some terrorist activity in the region, Joan wanted to be sure that she was doing the right thing. Being a woman of prayer, she asked the Lord to confirm His desire for her to travel to this nation. Shortly after praying, a friend of Joan gave her a book whose author wrote about Samuel Morris who was born in the region where Joan hopes to visit.
Let me tell you the story of Samuel Morris as written on the web site of Taylor University in Indiana. He was born in a small Liberian village as the eldest son of the chief of the Kru tribe and given the name Prince Kaboo. A neighboring tribe overtook the Kru tribe and captured Kaboo. They subjected him to horrible treatment, including whippings. While being tortured, Kaboo saw a bright light and heard a voice from heaven telling him to flee. At that moment, the ropes around him fell to the ground, and he ran into the jungle. He traveled only at night and hid in the hollow of trees during the day. God protected him during the journey through the jungle. Eventually he was able to reach the capital of Monrovia.
In this capital city God introduced Kaboo to a young boy who invited him to his church. Here he met a graduate from Taylor University, Miss Knolls, who came as a missionary to Liberia. Kaboo accepted Jesus as his Savior after he heard the story of Paul. He was baptized under the name of Samuel Morris, the name of Miss Knoll's benefactor. After two years of growing in his faith, Morris had the desire to learn more so that he could teach his tribe about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Miss Knolls suggested he go to Taylor University in America. He traveled on foot before he reached Robertsport harbor. He slept on the beach until he was able to arrange his passage on a ship to America in exchange for work. By the time the ship reached its destination in New York in September 1891, the captain and most of the crew had accepted Christ as their Savior because of Morris' steadfast witness.
Once Morris connected with his contacts at Taylor University, arrangements were made for him to attend the school. The president of the University, Thaddeus Reade, set up a fund for Morris called the "Faith Fund." Morris arrived on campus in December 1891 and immediately began to impact the community around him. The Fort Wayne, Indiana community would never be the same as Morris fervently shared his faith. President Reade said of him: "Samuel Morris was a divinely sent messenger of God to Taylor University. He thought he was coming over here to prepare himself for his mission to his people, but his coming was to prepare Taylor University for her mission to the whole world." Sadly, Samuel Morris contracted a severe cold which led to his death on May 12, 1893.
The University established a scholarship fund in the name of Samuel Morris which was used to bring international students to the school. After graduating, students were sent out into the world to share their faith. Upon reading Morris' testimony my friend Joan knows she has been called to join the synergy of the ages and continue his mission in Liberia. She is planning her trip as I write this story. Joan will run her leg of the race to the glory of God, and Samuel Morris will see his dream fulfilled. All of us have an assignment from the Lord. We may be in any stage of the race, but this is how we are to run it: "...And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Adar - Gaining Strength to Leap
At the end of a year, it is wise to prepare for the new year so that we can move forward into our destinies without hindrances. On Tuesday night at sunset, the last month on the Hebrew spiritual calendar began. It is called the month of Adar. In an ordinary year there is only one Adar, but this is no ordinary year. It is a leap year! The Jewish calendar is a lunar one. There is a difference of 11 days between the lunar and solar calendar. Without a leap year about every three years, the 11 days would accumulate and push Passover (Pesach) into a different season. The Torah (First five books of the Old Testament) requires that Passover be a spring festival. This year we get a double portioned of Adar—twice as much time to prepare to move forward into the new year. The preparation allows us to leap towards our destinies.
It is so appropriate that the tribe of Naphtali is the one associated with the month of Adar. Jacob's last words to his son Naphtali were, "He is a deer let loose; He uses beautiful words." (Genesis 49:21 - NKJV) What does a deer do when he has been let loose? He leaps for joy! The meaning of Adar means strength. And how do we get strength? We get it through the joy of the Lord. (Nehemiah 8:10) The Lord wants to increase our strength so that we can leap forward with power. Habakkuk 3:19 gives us a picture of what this looks like: "The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to tread on the heights."
Our goal for this month should be to accumulate strength that will allow us to leap forward into our new season and God's plans for our lives. Chuck Pierce, pastor and leader of Glory of Zion in Denton, Texas, gives us five ways to respond:
(1) Make a choice to rejoice: "Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob." (Psalm 81:1) Rejoicing reinforces strength as we can see from Nehemiah 8:10. "...For the joy of the Lord is your strength." When we look to the Lord for strength, He pours out His goodness upon us. "Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka (tears), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion." (Psalm 84:5-7)
(2) Root out depression: Our times are difficult; however, we must be intentional about fighting depression. Our faith will help us to breakthrough to joy. God makes a promise to the children of Israel in Jeremiah 31:11, 13. "For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hands of those stronger than they...'I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.’"
(3) Develop a war strategy: We must remember to be alert and of sober mind. "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8) We must refuse to walk in fear and take up our spiritual weapons to defeat the enemy and breakthrough to victory. "You arm me with strength for the battle; you humble my adversaries before me." (2 Samuel 22:40)
(4) Break wrong decrees: I always try to remember that there are only two kingdoms: Light and Darkness. Everything we say agrees with one or the other. It is important for us to denounce anything we say that agrees with the kingdom of darkness and replace it with words that agree with the kingdom of light. John 8:32 tells us, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
(5) Discover your true identity in the spiritual realm: God gives spiritual gifts to everyone. We must find our sweet spots and practice using the gifts God gave us. Paul told the Corinthians, "Each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that." (1 Corinthians 7:7)
Adar I and II are before us. Let's use our extra time to follow these recommendations for success in the new year. Our lives are meant to reflect the glory of God. He has plans and purposes for us and stands by ready to empower us to leap into the new year with joy and strength. Here is a Scripture we can depend on: "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him..." (2 Chronicles 16:9) Let us look to the Lord for strength and leap forward into our destinies.
Joan E. Mathias