I attend a Bible study class each week and last night was our final meeting of the year. It’s a night when we don’t have formal study but instead each one in the group has an opportunity to share something special she has learned during the year. I always enjoy listening to what others have learned because it encourages me in my Christian walk. It’s interesting how we can all study the same thing for months and yet each one learns something different that is meaningful and applicable to her life. This year we studied four books of the Bible: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy -- the life of Moses from birth to death. Last night almost everyone shared a lesson they had learned from Moses and his life. Many shared a desire to be like Moses in some way.
This morning I opened the devotional book that I read every day to find the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The thrust of the Christian message is not for us to become like one of the biblical figures, but to become like Christ Himself” (I Want to Live These Days with You). Bonhoeffer went on to say that we do not become like Christ by some kind of method or prescribed effort on our part - we do it by faith alone. Isn’t that so true? We can attend Bible study for a year, study about Moses, and decide we want to be just like Moses. We want to be faithful, patient with others, and rely on God for everything. So we start out really well, with all the best intentions, but then trying to be like Moses gets to be more and more of an effort. Some people are hard to live with and we lose our patience. A huge problem arises and a decision needs to be made right away. We forget to pray and plow ahead under our own steam. We get so busy with all the interruptions of everyday life that our Bible gathers dust on the shelf. It’s a downhill slide from there. How is it that Moses was able to endure forty years in a bleak wilderness as a faithful godly leader with impossible seas to cross, two million stubborn and complaining people to lead, and a family that was jealous and resentful? How did he keep on going even after he found out he would not receive an earthly reward -- he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land?
Here is the answer: Moses had faith! And listen to this! He was not even looking for an earthly reward. Moses was looking to Christ for a heavenly reward (Hebrews 11:26). His eyes were not on another person, wanting to be like someone else. His heart was not set on the Promised Land and retiring to a life of ease. He simply wanted to please God: he listened to God and he obeyed God. That is faith.
Today we have the privilege of listening to God through His Word. It is readily available! We can read it and study it anytime we really want to. It is in God’s Word that we learn how to follow Christ and approach God. It is in God’s Word that we learn to follow Christ’s example in our daily living with all its challenges, problems, and temptations. Faith is not a “quick fix”: read a book, follow the steps, and become a godly person. Nor is faith a one time spiritual experience - a magical power you receive when you first believe. Faith is a daily practice of exposing yourself to God’s will in His Word, a daily practice of remembering what you learned yesterday....and last week....and last year -- a daily practice of obedience to all you have learned. That is what faith does -- every day. And that is how our lives become shaped into the image of Christ.
Isn’t it wonderful how God gave us examples of the godly lives of so many different men and women in Scripture? He gave us those to encourage us in our faith. They had pasts to overcome and problems to face, just like us. We can admire them and say we would like to be like them but the way we become like them at their very best is by becoming like Christ. And the way we do that is by faith -- the practice of daily faithful faith in going to God, listening to God, and following Jesus' example of perfect obedience. As we do that, we learn to follow in His steps, For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps (1 Peter 2:21). Faithful following can become a way of life if you really want it! For a believer, it needs to become a way of life. Will you commit, along with me, to make it your way? As you do, may you be blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (see Ephesians 1:3-14).