Stories of Faith

WHAT IS FAITH?

As used in the Bible, “faith” involves firm belief based on solid evidence. Someone who has faith in God is confident that He will fulfill all of His promises.


OLD TESTAMENT

HOW DID MOSES DISPLAY FAITH?

Moses centered his life on God’s promises. (Genesis 22:15-18) He had the opportunity to live a comfortable life amid the luxuries of Egypt, but he gave up that opportunity, “choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin.” (Hebrews 11:25) Was that an impulsive decision, one that he would later regret? No, for the Bible says that Moses “continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27) Moses never regretted the choices he made in faith.

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Moses sought to strengthen the faith of others. Consider, for example, what happened when the Israelites seemed trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. Terrified by what appeared to be imminent calamity, the Israelites cried out to Jehovah and to Moses. How would Moses respond?

Moses may have had little idea that God was about to part the Red Sea, thereby opening up an escape route for the Israelites. However, Moses was confident that God would do something to protect His people. And Moses wanted his fellow Israelites to have that same conviction. We read: “Moses said to the people: ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and see the salvation of Jehovah, which he will perform for you today.’” (Exodus 14:13) Did Moses succeed in fortifying the faith of his fellow Israelites? Indeed, for the Bible says regarding not just Moses but all the Israelites: “By faith theypassed through the Red Sea as on dry land.” (Hebrews 11:29) Moses’ faith benefited not only himself but everyone who learned from it.


HOW DID ABRAHAM DISPLAY FAITH?

The story of Abraham and his family is spread over the book from chapter 11 through chapter 50, while only two chapters are given to the entire story of creation. What was there in the life of Abraham that distinguished him as a man of faith?

The life story of Abraham begins in Ur of the Chaldeans where Abraham lived in a comfortable home and in pleasant circumstances. Archaeology has disclosed that Ur, located not too far from Babylon, was a prosperous city with lovely homes, beautiful parks and public buildings. Abraham was comfortable and secure in Ur, but it was also a wicked city where pagan sacrifices — including human sacrifices — abounded. This was no place for Abraham’s faith to be nurtured.

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According to Genesis 12:1, God directed Abraham to leave Ur, leave his kindred, and dwell in tents for the rest of his life. Abraham started out with his father and his nephew, Lot, and got as far as Haran. Only when his father died did Abraham move on to the promised land with Lot. At long last he had come to the place of God’s appointment. Hebrews 11:8 records, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his possession, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going”.


NEW TESTAMENT

HOW DID APOSTLE JOHN DISPLAY FAITH?

Few men knew Jesus of Nazareth as well as John did. A mutual understanding and respect for the unselfish love of God bound their relationship. Jesus had special love for John, perhaps because John had such an abiding reverence for the godly love exhibited by His Master. Beyond this special relationship, some of John’s personal traits may well have made him an easy person to love.

We’ve learned that, early in the life of John, Jesus nicknamed him a Son of Thunder. John’s writings, however, reveal a completely different man. John changed his outlook as he followed in the footsteps of his Master, listening and heeding His teachings. He was highly regarded by Jesus and the other apostles and, surprisingly, apparently by the sometimes-contrary high priest. This speaks volumes of John’s character.

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John understood and taught godly love. He knew that God’s instructions, summarized in the Ten Commandments, are an expression of love from God to mankind, then from mankind to God and human beings to other human beings. Godly love is the greatest gift God can impart to mankind and the greatest we can return to Him and share with others. John lived the love of God.

John was an apostle who reflected God’s love. He learned about godly love from God, who Himself is love (1 John 4:8). John taught the truth and worth of godly love and left us an outstanding example.


HOW DID APOSTLE PAUL DISPLAY FAITH?

The apostle Paul had a strong commitment to know and serve Jesus Christ. His passion and love for the Lord was obvious—Jesus was always central in his thinking, whether he was working as a tent maker, preaching to the crowd, or even sitting in chains at prison. What fueled his love for the Lord?

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Paul’s conversion experience on the Damascus Road was a motivating force in his life. Grateful for the gift of grace he had received at salvation, the apostle told many people about his encounter with the resurrected Christ and its impact on him. We, too, have a story to tell of God’s mercy in saving us and of the new life we have in Him.

Paul’s zeal also came from his firm conviction that the gospel message was true and available to everyone (John 3:16). On the cross, Jesus took all our sins—past, present, and future—upon Himself (1 Peter 2:24). He suffered our punishment so that we might receive forgiveness and be brought into a right relationship with God. Through faith in Christ, we’ve been born again, and the indwelling Holy Spirit helps us every day (John 14:26). The more we understand what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf, the greater will be our passion to share the gospel.


SAINTS OF HEROES OF FAITH

HOW DID ST. ABEL DISPLAY FAITH?

Hebrews 11:4

It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith. (NLT)

Cain and Abel
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Abel was the second son of Adam and Eve. He was the first martyr in the Bible and also the first shepherd. Very little else is known about Abel, except that he found favor in God’s eyes by offering him a pleasing sacrifice. As a result, Abel was murdered by his older brother Cain, whose sacrifice did not please God.


HOW DID ST. SARAH DISPLAY FAITH?

Sarah, the wife of Abraham, is one of only two women named among the heroes of faith (Some translations, however, render the verse so that only Abraham receives credit.)

Influential Women of the Bible
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Hebrews 11:11

It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. (NLT)

Sarah waited long past child-bearing age to have a baby. At times she doubted, struggling to believe God would fulfill his promise. Losing hope, she took matters into her own hands. Like most of us, Sarah was looking at God’s promise from her limited, human perspective. But the Lord used her life to unfold an extraordinary plan, proving that God is never restricted by what usually happens. Sarah’s faith is an inspiration to every person who has ever waited on God to act.


SAINTS OF MODERN DAY HEROES OF FAITH

HOW DID ST. ELIZABETH DISPLAY FAITH?

St. Elizabeth of Hungary, also known as St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, was born in Hungary on July 7, 1207 to the Hungarian King Andrew II and Gertrude of Merania.

As soon as her life began, she had responsibilities from being a royal pressed upon her. While Elizabeth was very young, her father arranged for her to be married to Ludwig IV of Thuringia, a German nobleman. Because of this plan, Elizabeth was sent away at the age of four for education at the court of the Landgrave of Thuringia.

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Elizabeth’s mother, Gertrude, was murdered in 1213, when Elizabeth was just six-years-old. According to history, the murder was carried out by Hungarian noblemen due to the conflict between Germans and the Hungarian nobles. From this point on, Elizabeth’s perspective on life and death dramatically changed and she sought peace with prayer.

Happiness was returned to her young life in 1221 when she was formally married to Ludwig, whom she deeply loved. Together the couple had three beautiful children, two of whom became members of nobility and the third entering the religious life, becoming abbess of a German convent.

Elizabeth continued to live a life full of prayer and a service to the poor. Ludwig, who was now one of the rulers of Thuringia, supported all of Elizabeth’s religious endeavors even though she was a part of the royal court.  She began to lead an austerely simple life, practiced penance, and devoted herself to works of charity. She used her royal position to advance her mission for charity.

In 1223, Franciscan friars arrived in Thuringia and taught 16-year-old Elizabeth all about Francis of Assisi’s ideals. She then forth decided to live her life mirroring his.

She wore simple clothing and set aside time every day to take bread to hundreds of poor people in her land. Ludwig and Elizabeth were politically powerful and lived with a remarkable generosity toward the poor.

In 1226, when disease and floods struck Thuringia, Elizabeth took to caring for the victims. It is said she even gave away the royal’s clothing and goods to the afflicted people. Elizabeth had a hospital built and provided for almost a thousand poor people daily.

Elizabeth’s life was full of love and faith. However, tragedy struck when Ludwig passed away from illness in 1227. It is said upon hearing the news, she said, “He is dead. He is dead. It is to me as if the whole world died today.” His remains were entombed at the Abbey of Reinhardsbrunn.

Elizabeth vowed to never remarry and to live a life similar to a nun, despite pressure from relatives.

Her vows included celibacy and an agreement of complete obedience to her confessor and spiritual director, Master Conrad of Marburg. His treatment of Elizabeth was very strict and often harsh. He held her to a standard that many saw as impossible to meet. He provided physical beatings and sent away her children. However, she continued to keep her vow, even offering to cut off her own nose, so she woud be too ugly for any man to want.

In 1228, Elizabeth joined the Third Order of St. Francis. Elizabeth, having received her dowry, founded a hospital in honor of St. Francis, where she personally attended to the ill. She ministered to the sick and provided support to the poor.

Elizabeth’s life was consumed deeply by her devotion to God and her charitable labor. She passed away at the age of 24, on November 17, 1231 in Marburg, Hesse.

One of her greatest known miracles occurred when she was still alive, the miracle of roses. It is said that during one of her many trips delivering bread to the poor in secret, Ludwig met with her and asked her questions to erase everyone’s suspicions that she was stealing treasures from the castle. He asked her to reveal the contents under her cloak, and as she did a vision of white and red roses was seen. To Ludwig, this meant God’s protection was evident. In other versions, it was her brother-in-law who found her. Elizabeth’s story is one of the first of many that associates Christian saints with roses.

Another living miracle involved a leper lying the bed she shared with her husband. Her mother-in-law discovered Elizabeth had placed a leper in the bed, and feeling enraged, she informed Ludwig. Annoyed with the situation, Ludwig removed the bedclothes and instantly the “Almighty God opened the eyes of his soul, and instead of a leper he saw the figure of Christ crucified stretched upon the bed.”

After her death, miraculous healings began to occur at her graveside near her hospital. Examinations were held for those who had been healed from 1232 to 1235. The investigations, along with testimony from Elizabeth’s handmaidens and companions and the immense popularity surrounding her, provided enough reason for her canonization.

Pope Gregory IX canonized her on May 27, 1235.

St. Elizabeth’s feast day is celebrated on November 17 and she is the patron saint of bakers; beggars; brides; charities; death of children; homeless people; hospitals; Sisters of Mercy; widows.

Elizabeth’s body was laid in a gold shrine in the Elisabeth Church in Marburg. Although the shrine can still be seen today, her body is no longer there. One of her own descendents scattered her remains at the time of the Reformation.

St. Elizabeth is often depicted with a basket of bread to show her devotion for the poor and hungry. She is also painted in honor of the “Miracle of Roses” and “Crucifix in the Bed.”

St. Elizabeth has been praised by Pope Benedict XVI as a “model for those in authority.”


HOW DID ST. TERESA DISPLAY FAITH?

Mother Teresa was a famous Roman Catholic nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity which is a religious congregation that is Roman Catholic and active in 133 countries with over four thousand sisters. They are responsible for homes and hospices for those with tuberculosis, leprosy and HIV/AIDS as well as running soup kitchens, counseling programs for families, orphanages and schools. Those working for her missionaries must accept the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and to give to those who are poor. 

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She received numerous honors such as the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She was beatified in late 2003 and has only one miracle needed before she can be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. On the 1999 Gallup List she is accredited for being the most widely admired person of the 20th century.

There are those who criticize her for not giving pain killers or medical care to people with the notion that their suffering will bring them closer to Jesus. Some have also stated she misused charitable money and had too close of a relationship with dictators. In 1983 while visiting the Pope she suffered a heart attack. It was followed by a second one six years later and then she received a pacemaker. At the time she attempted to resign from head of the Missionaries of Charity but was voted to stay on.

She finally stepped down in March of 1997 and then passed away the fifth of the following September. She received a state funeral as the Indian government wished to show gratitude for all of her work with the poor.

References

https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/wp20130201/moses-a-man-of-faith/
https://bible.org/article/learning-abraham-about-life-faith
https://www.ucg.org/the-good-news/profiles-of-faith-john-an-apostle-of-godly-love
https://www.christianity.com/jesus/early-church-history/the-apostle-paul/what-can-paul-teach-us-about-having-a-vibrant-faith.html
https://www.learnreligions.com/hebrews-chapter-11-heroes-of-faith-700176
https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=45
https://www.historynet.com/mother-teresa
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