Walking from Faith to Faith

In order to graduate high school, I had to write a senior paper.  It was a year long process.  But, I loved it.  One of my very favorite teachers at our small, private school was my advisor and he happened to specialize in history.  Martin Luther was my subject of choice for that paper.  I found his life so fascinating that I actually went over the maximum limit and had to cut 20 pages.  (I still say I’m saving those for my future book on the man.) The Scriptural catch phrase that I came across the most from my studies on Luther was, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17 NKJV). Or as the NIV puts it, “The righteous shall live by faith.” His life’s mission was to convince the world that unlike the message that the church was putting out at the time, as believers in Christ, our acceptance of His grace was based only on the truth of scripture that we are saved by faith alone not works.  Thus, the motto, “Sola Scriptura. Sola Gratia. Sola Fide.” was coined.  “Only Scripture.Only Grace.Only Faith.” The world has been revolutionized since Luther stood up to the Latin speaking Popes on behalf of the ordinary people who held no personal understanding of the foreign words the bishops read every week.  The ideas conveyed to the common man at the time that they could understand were misleading shenanigans set in order to fund Papal royalties’ lavish lives.   Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Church door was a turning point as it spread the written word around the globe in a language that people could understand for themselves.  He believed in translating the Bible into the vulgate…or the language of the common man.  We have him to thank along with the Gutenberg printing press for the fact that any of us can read any piece of literature today. But, I digress.  Writing about Luther that year prepared my young, mostly unbroken heart for really tough things that were only a few years away.  You see, the rest of the passage from the catch phrase I was studying for my paper goes like this, “For in it {the gospel of Christ} the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’ ” (Romans 1:17 NKJV). The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.  Let’s zero in just a little bit more…from faith to faith.  What does that even mean?

The very last week of my Freshman year of college, I started to understand an ounce of what that meant. My dad had been having some pain in his left leg for awhile.  But then, he started coughing up blood.  Smack in the middle of final exam week, I got the phone call I never thought I would get.  “Baby, Daddy has cancer,” whispered my dad through my cell phone.  I fell to the ground as I reached the top of the stairs I had just climbed and started weeping in the parking lot.  “Are you serious,” I questioned.  “Yeah, I’m serious.  I wish I could be there to give you a big bear hug,” he responded.

My mind drifted back to orientation week about 10 months earlier.  I sat in the basketball arena of my school with my parents as the Campus Pastor gave statistics on how many grandparents would pass away that year and how many parents would pass away that year.  “I can’t believe he’s saying this,” I thought, “MY parents are totally fine.  Nothing’s going to happen to them.  It’ll probably happen to someone else’s parents, but not mine.”  I was wrong.

When I got home after a family friend drove my stuff and me all the way from Lynchburg to Black Mountain, my parents were waiting on the porch for me.  I hugged them and excused myself for a much needed bathroom stop.  While I was by myself, I prayed to God, “Please, God. Just give us an extra measure of grace. Please.”  I was going to need it as soon as I stepped outside of that door.  I sat on the couch and listened to the foggy words that came out of my Daddy’s mouth, “The doctor has given me six months to live, baby.” And for the most part, they were right.  Six months and 2 days later from his diagnosis, he was in Heaven.

Flash forward from that scenario by 7 years.  Since my dad’s home going, our family went through several other challenges: an unplanned pregnancy with my sister, my mom was rushed to the hospital with hemorrhaging, my sister and nieces were trying to escape an abusive home, and even more stuff that I think I’ve just blocked out as a coping mechanism.  I just knew that 2010 was going to be The Year of Jubilee in our family’s life.  In the Old Testament, the Israelites were told to work the land for six years and in the seventh year, they could harvest the fruits of their labor (Leviticus 25:3-4).  So, after 6 long, sorrowful years, I just knew the 7th year was going to be a year of reprieve. My husband and I had been married for almost 2 years, were living in a great city, and just enjoying life.  But in March of 2010, he was laid off unexpectedly from his job.  The year wouldn’t be as jubilent as I had hoped.  Later that year, he would also be hit in a wreck that totaled his car after picking up portfolio documents to take to a job that he wouldn’t get.  He would not find full time employment in the midst of the recession for another 2.5 years.

In the years following my husband’s layoff, we’ve experienced even more challenges.  Let’s see here: 1 suspicious batch of pain that landed us in the ER on New Year’s Eve two days before we were to fly to Africa for a missions trip, 1 malaria scare which also resulted in an ER visit, 1 dog attack that resulted in rabies shots, 2 wrecks, the worst case of the flu in our lives, and a pre-cancerous mole that had to be surgically removed.  There’s more, but that’s just enough to give you the gist of the emotional roller coaster my family has been on in the past 10 years.  As you can imagine, our spirits resonated with Job’s family.

Why am I telling you all of this bad news?  I hope you’re not too depressed right now.  Actually, I hope you’re still here to read the rest.  I’m telling you all of this to explain what it means to walk from faith to faith.

You see, each one of these circumstances soared toward my heart like a rocket propelled grenade.  But I have lived to tell about it.  Do you know why? I had a shield on and wear a full suit of armor stronger than any kevlar could ever be.  My suit of armor, sword, and shield have protected me with every blow that has come against me.  I’ve got the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God), the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and shoes that come fitted with readiness from the gospel of peace. But when the flaming arrows and bursting bombs have come at me, I’ve been able to defend myself from being destroyed with my shield of faith.  And I’ve been able to fight back with the sword of truth.

Each time life explodes around me, God gently whispers to me, “Trust me, Emily. Trust me.  I’ve got this.  Just like I’ve gotten it before. Just trust me, Emily.”  I feel pretty dumb sometimes because you’d think I would have learned that lesson after the first fiery experience I lived through.  But, the thing is- once one challenging experience ends, we are not guaranteed that another will not soon follow.  We must always have on the full armor of God as we are told in Ephesians 6.  We must always be alert.

That’s what it means to walk from faith to faith.  You get through one battle, clinging tightly to all the faith in God that you have.  You win because He always wins.  But then you find yourself in another battle.  You cling tightly to all the faith in God that you have once again and you win. Because He always wins.

It sounds pretty tiring to me. And it is.  It also seems pretty unfair to me that once we are finished with one battle, we find ourselves in another.  But do you know what? All those knots that have formed in your back from clenching your faith shield so tightly and doing karate kicks with your shoes of the gospel of peace and swinging your sword of truth at the enemy…God massages them out with His healing hands and Holy Spirit of grace and mercy as you go along.  He is in the business of constantly restoring your soul as you go from faith to faith.  And that thing about going through so many battles being unfair? Well, He provides justice through His righteousness every time that shield of faith goes up.

When the landmines are exploding around you, sometimes you wonder if you’re going to make it out alive. That’s perfectly natural.  The reward for going from faith to faith, though, is an unbreakable trust in the only one who can win the battle for you.  He has given you everything you need to come out of the battles of this life with victory.  He has given you the best defensive equipment and the best offensive weapon any army could ever have.  But most of all, He is your commander in chief, who leads you through the battle and out of the battle

There’s a battle that is constantly being waged around us all.  We can see material evidences of it through the condition of man all the time.  But we can’t see the ones who are fighting for and against us.  We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Friend, as you catch glimpses of God’s glory, that’s how you walk from faith to faith.  He proves Himself over and over.  But the decision rests on each of us to take up our shields of faith and trust Him to get us through the battle we’re in, the ones that are coming, and the one we’ll escape in order to come Home.

By picking up your shield of faith, you are proclaiming to the enemy and your fellow warriors that your allegiance is with the only one who could win the battles and war of life for you.  And as you do that, not only do the flaming arrows bounce off of your shield, but the righteousness of God falls upon you as the sweet balm of victory.

That’s the life of a believer…walking from faith to faith.

Sola Scriptura. Sola Gratia. Sola Fide.

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