What’s it going to take, for you?
The relationship between God and people – made possible through the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ – begins, and continues, based on faith. The initiation of that connection was likened to birth – spiritual birth by Jesus, as he described it to the noted Jewish Bible scholar, Nicodemus.
And, the vitality of that relationship will rise and fall with the level of faith that is evident in one’s life: “ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-18).
We are saved through faith… and, then, we live by faith. The rise and fall of one’s spiritual experience is the measure of the effective level of sustaining – and, thriving – faith.
Just imagine being at work with your friends – on a cold winter’s night – and having this experience: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” ( Luke 2:18-28).
These guys were not rocket scientists; they were outdoorsmen who lived without cultural acclaim or social encouragement. No parent in 1st Century Israel aspired to see their sons become shepherds; they were at the bottom rung of the success ladder, but they were singled-out by heaven as the most privileged Jews at the moment of Jesus’ miraculous birth.
What does it take to expose and empower faith? It’s not the same for everyone: “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:21-24).
The shepherds were Jewish and, culturally, they were prone to look for evidence rather than to seek intellectual proofs. Willard Duncan Vandiver was a congressman; in an 1899 speech, he explained: “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”
These Jewish shepherds were demonstrating faith when they gave their attention to the Angel – and, then to the angels – and when they dropped everything to head to Bethlehem. When they arrived at the manger, all they saw was a baby… but what they reported broadly was what the angel(s) had told them about who that child was. How did all of that happen? They were acting on faith.
We start with faith; but, once launched, what we do of-note in our spiritual lifetime will be determined by the level of pull-the-trigger faith that we are willing to demonstrate. Stand shoulder-blade to shoulder-blade with the shepherds: who’s taller on the faith meter?