What is Achieved Through and by Faith
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1,2
Abraham Lincoln faced many serious challenges during his life. Yet no matter how difficult the road ahead became, Lincoln’s faith in God was the indispensable ingredient at every point in his life’s journey. There are two ways to approach life; one is to live by sight, base everything on what you can see—the empirical approach. That is how most people live. The second way is to live by faith, which is to base everything on what you can’t see. Lincoln lived by faith. How does the Bible define Faith? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
There are two facts that are beyond man’s comprehension: The depth of God’s mercy shown during the seven trumpets and the severity of God’s wrath contained in the seven last plagues. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:21 “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” During this awful time of trouble, Jesus has promised that “. . . God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
The following references explain the deeds done in Babylon which will cause God great anger:
- Revelation 13:7,14,15 – Babylon makes war on God’s people and conquers them. Satan, personating Christ, purposes to kill God’s people who will not worship the beast.
- Revelation 18:24 – Satan’s one-world government causes the death of God’s people. In her [Satan’s one-world government] was found the blood of prophets and saints.
- Revelation 17:6,14 – The woman [Satan’s one-world government] killed so many saints and prophets [prophets bear the “testimony of Jesus”- Rev. 19:10] that she is said to be drunk. The leaders of Babylon even purpose to make war on Jesus Himself.
On the surface, the above verses describe a one-sided conflict between people. However, the larger issue focuses on the cumulative effects of sin and rebellion within the human race. These verses describe an open willful and explicit rebellion against God, His Gospel and His messengers. This will cause God’s great anger.
As the controversy matures, the issues become clearly stated and the lines distinctly drawn. All over the world, the story of Revelation will be told by the 144,000. The first angel’s message will be told with a loud voice: Worship the Creator according to His Holy law. (Revelation 14:6,7) The Bible and the Holy Spirit will witness to every man, woman and child.
Satan physically appears during the fifth trumpet, claiming to be Almighty God. (Revelation 9:1-11 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4) His goal is to be worshiped by the whole world. Satan will achieve this purpose by the laws of his empire, Babylon. He will set aside God’s designated day of worship (Exodus 20:8-11) for a false day.
By the time probation closes, every person in the world will have heard the Gospel and made his decision. The people of earth will stand in two camps: Those worshiping God by obedience to His law and those worshiping Satan by obedience to his law. At this time, those obeying Satan will passionately join him in the plan to utterly destroy the saints. Even though Satan and Babylon conquer the world, John did see the victory of the saints. Revelation 15:2,3 tells us “. . . those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass having harps of God.” During the seven last plagues, God’s wrath is poured out in full strength on the wicked. (Revelation 16:1-21) Read Psalm 91. It is a beautiful promise God made to His people and now will be fulfilled to those who remain faithful through this terrible time of wrath. Every person receives wrath during the Great Tribulation. Those who remain faithful to God receive the wrath of Satan. Those who remain faithful to Satan receive the wrath of God in the form of the Seven Last Plagues. Each person has to make a choice: Whose wrath are you going to receive – Satan’s or God’s.
The vision in Daniel 2 is very important to help us understand the significance of worship and faith. In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar ordered everyone who refused to fall down and worship his image of the metal man to be killed. Three young men refused to bow down, even at the threat of death. Truth had met error. This courageous story in Daniel is a parallel of what is coming. In Daniel 3, everyone who refused to worship the image was to be killed. In Revelation 13, everyone who refuses to worship the image is to be killed. Worship is the core issue that is coming in Revelation’s story.
Consider the faith that these three young men lived by. The Bible says we are saved by faith, but we need to understand that what we do [our actions] are very important. James 2:14-26 tells us how our works justify us and prove that our faith is centered on God. Verse 24 says “. . . a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” When you look at the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, you will see that the only way they could stand true and firm to God, was to let their works [actions] demonstrate their faith. Their actions did show their faith and Jesus stood with them in the fiery furnace. Before they ever got to the Plain of Dura, they had already determined in their heart they would rather die than to do something so simple as to bow down before a golden image. In Daniel 3, the issue for those young men is the Second Commandment which forbids the worship of idols. In Revelation 13, it is going to be the Fourth Commandment. In both cases, the issue is worship.
The problem is, the worship that the world understands about God and the worship God requires are in conflict. This sets up the contest between an unstoppable force and a rebellious world. The contest in Revelation 13:8 says, “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast, all whose names have not been written in the Book of Life.” A great test is coming upon the world and the test is going to be “worship.” It is going to be severe and life threatening. God has a plan for each of us and no matter what that plan is, we are to live by faith. Jesus will see us through to the very end. If a martyr’s faith is needed, Jesus promises to give us the strength. Just be faithful.
Remember Stephen, martyred for his faith. The story is in Acts 7:51-60. Stephen was hated by the Israelites because they had rebelled against God. Stephen told them the truth about their spiritual condition. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God and said, “ . . . ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!‘” (vs. 56). Verse 58, “and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. . . .” Verse 60 goes on to say, “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” I believe God covered Stephen with His grace and he didn’t feel any pain.
God is still at work today, moving in His people’s hearts by His Spirit of truth. (John 16:13) They are still called to live by faith (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38) and Jesus is still the Author and Finisher of that faith.
Lincoln held an uncommon fear of God and trusted that God’s purposes would ultimately prevail. He relied on God to lead him; he trusted God and placed his life in God’s hands. Quoting Lincoln, “I know there is a God, and that He hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that His hand is in it. I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything.” Lincoln believed that God would help him, and God did.
Lincoln overcame insurmountable odds . . . and, yes, he awoke a sleeping nation.