A lot of people talk about “faith.” But what does that mean for our everyday lives? We offer reflections based on the experiences of historical figures in the Bible whose experiences teach us lessons about growing our faith today.
Faith Involves Action
After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there. 1 Samuel 1:24–28
Hannah, a woman with a heart for prayer, lived with grief as a barren woman. Eli the priest misunderstood her grief as intoxication, but once he realized her faithfulness, he bid her to go in peace and blessed her.
Hannah promised to give her child wholly for God’s service if he would grant her weeping request. God did hear her plea, gracing her with baby Samuel. And she followed through on her difficult promise. She offered Samuel to Eli, to serve God all the days of his life in the tabernacle.
Hannah demonstrated her faith by offering up her firstborn. What does her stunning act demonstrate for us even today?
That faith involves action. Hannah so trusted God that she could offer her child for God’s service. She knew he would take care of Samuel.
You may see reflections of the gospel in this story, as God the Father truly did offer up his first and only child, but he did so for us. He entrusted Jesus to this world, and the world thanked him by crucifying him. Yes, Hannah’s faith was strong, and she did sacrifice, but nothing compares to the audaciousness of the sacrifice of the cross. Because of the cross, we can have deep faith in a God who gave so much for us.
Reflect & Pray
Who do you know who struggles with or has battled with infertility? How can knowing their trial deepen your understanding of Hannah’s faith?
Lord, help me have the kind of faith Hannah exemplified. And thank you for showing me just how much you love me in giving your Son. Amen.
Faith Is Exercised Through Prayer
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. James 5:13–18
According to James, when we’re in trouble, we should pray. When we’re elated, we should sing. When we’re sick, we should ask others to pray. Even confession is a form of prayer—we confess our sins so we’ll experience forgiveness.
Prayer is an exercise of faith. Prayer reveals that we realize we can’t do life on our own, and we need God’s help in every area.
James gives us a real-life example of faith-infused prayer by reminding us of Elijah and rain. In an arid, desert land, not having rain meant ruination. For three and a half long years, the nation of Israel struggled under a drought. Then Elijah prayed, and the clouds burst forth with life-giving rain.
What James wants us to realize, though, is not that Elijah had supernatural powers. He wrote, “Elijah was a human being, even as we are” (verse 17). No, it was Elijah’s faith in a supernatural God that informed his prayers.
Ordinary people demonstrate their faith when they pray to an extraordinary God, believing him for impossible things.
Reflect & Pray
What is one of your longstanding prayers? How has God built your faith through waiting for an answer to that long- term request? In what ways has he begun to answer your prayer?
Lord, help me realize I don’t have to be extraordinary to have my prayers answered. I simply need to have faith in extraordinary you. I entrust today’s concerns to you, and I believe you hear me. Amen.
Faith Is Personal
After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. Judges 2:10-13
After Joshua’s death, the people of Israel became complacent. The passage says they “forsook” the Lord (verse 12), which means they turned away from him. But their turning away wasn’t toward nothing; they turned to other gods. As a result, they suffered. Why? Because they turned from the living, available God toward false gods, who only bring emptiness and loss.
The truth? We cannot borrow faith. Nor can we rely on our parents’ or grandparents’ faith to save us. Although the Israelites who entered the promised land with Joshua saw great deliverance and worshiped God with abandon, the next generation failed to do so. They didn’t personalize their faith; they chose not to pursue God for themselves. This led to a vacuum of belief.
It is a privilege to actively put our faith in God. Whether you’ve had faith examples through your family or you have no spiritual heritage, right now you have the opportunity to love and worship God with your whole heart.
Ask him to come near, even if you have ventured far. God loves to answer the prayers of those seeking him. He loves you.
Reflect & Pray
Who in your life has chosen to walk away from God? What happened? Write a prayer for them here, asking God to rescue them.
Lord, I want the kind of faith that keeps me continuing to chase you all the days of my life. Forgive me for straying. I need you today. Keep me close to you. Amen.
Devotionals drawn from the NIV Radiant Virtues Bible.