(Republished with permission – this article initially appeared on Christian Today Australia)
Faith traverses mountains of impossibility and valleys of disappointment. It encounters both peace and chaos. As we strive to live for Christ, we may at times feel unqualified in our witness; not enough knowledge or experience, failure, or a lack of reach. Yet, when we look at those in the Bible, we see how God used everyone despite their imperfections, and isn’t that what His salvation is? God’s church and His people are not perfect, but they are called by Him and called His own. It is a reminder for us that despite our failures and weaknesses, we are all equipped to fulfil our unique calling and purpose in Christ.
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Faith beyond failure: Peter
Peter’s story is the archetypical redemptive arc. Headstrong and confident, he tells Jesus that he will never abandon Him, even if others do. Before long, the rooster has crowed and Peter is weeping at his failure, having denied knowing Jesus three times. When Jesus rises, He shows us that failure is not the end. Post resurrection, Jesus finds Peter back fishing, provides a miraculous catch of fish, and speaks with him, restoring and recommissioning him as a leader of the church.
How often do we write ourselves off after a failure? Whether we succumb to sin and temptation, fail to take a courageous stand, or walk away from God, God does not give up on us. He has a great plan and purpose for our lives, and no perceived failure will erase this.
“…if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy chapter 2, verse 13)
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Faith that saves: Paul
Paul’s story begins in enmity to Jesus. As Saul, he was a prominent Pharisee and had a leading role in persecuting the early church. Despite this, God did not turn his back on Saul, but instead revealed Himself in a spectacular way to him on the road to Damascus. From then on, Saul became known as Paul and travelled widely, spreading the gospel and encouraging churches.
It is tempting to say the Saul didn’t deserve this second chance after all the destruction he caused. Yet do any of us deserve the grace God has given? That a man like Saul can repent and stand in such faith reminds us that faith is just that; accepting and living in the freely given grace of God.
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans chapter 3, verses 23-24)
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Faith beyond knowledge: James and John
In Jesus’ day, Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees were esteemed in their knowledge of religious laws. Fishermen, on the other hand, were common people. Yet many of Jesus’ disciples, such as James and John, were fishermen and went on to proclaim the gospel to people of all nations. John, writer of one of the gospels, is thought to be “the disciple Jesus loved”.
We may worry that our lack of knowledge might equate to being an inadequate witness for Christ. Yet, the Bible reminds us that everyone and anyone can experience and live by the love of Christ. The Holy Spirit helps us to have love, wisdom and courage as we, in faith, run our race on earth.
“But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew chapter 10, verses 19-20)
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Faith beyond reputation: Matthew
Matthew, a tax collector, was another seemingly unlikely disciple. Tax collectors were seen as traitors to the Jewish people. Yet Jesus chooses Matthew, showing us that despite our past, He is able to wipe the slate clean. All it takes is our willingness to release ourselves fully into His arms. In Christ, we are always accepted, no matter what others might think or say.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah chapter 1, verse 18)
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Faith beyond age: Moses and Timothy
Moses was 80 years old when he was called by God to return to Egypt, confront Pharoah and lead the Israelites out of slavery. He continued to follow God faithfully until his death at the age of 120. I am often encouraged by the Nonnas at church and the way they continue to passionately worship and proclaim Christ. They have seen their faith increase with age, and the light in their hearts shines as brightly as ever.
“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” (Psalm chapter 71, verse 18)
Timothy accompanied, and worked alongside Paul and Silas on their missionary journeys. There may be many things we are yet to learn and experience in the world, but we are never too young to shine for Christ. Paul gives this exhortation to Timothy, and it is an encouragement to us all.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy chapter 4, verse 12)
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Just have faith
Throughout our lives, we will enter and leave different seasons, experiences and situations. We will encounter times of doubt, times of difficulty and times of joy. We will meet many people, intersect many lives, and make many choices. In all we do, and all we think, I pray that we will be confident in faith, knowing that God has called each one of us.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (John chapter 15, verse 16)