6 Encouragements To Live By Faith

In my last post I described walking through Hebrews 11 like entering a corridor at the museum. Paintings hanging on the walls, dim light from the ceilings and windows, and statues and busts of important people lining each side. Next to each of their depictions sits a plaque with the little description we find in Hebrews 11, all beginning with “By faith…” 

They are highlighted by the writer because they are people who provide an example of what living by faith means for those who come after. For us. 

All of these people mentioned in Hebrews 11 are commended for the faith they had. They didn’t receive what was promised to them in this life, but they continued to live by faith because God had revealed to them something greater. A future together as his people, living under his right rule, in his perfectly created place. 

In v39-40 we read,

“All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.” (CSB)

The writer reminds us that living by faith is for the long-haul. It’s no short, sharp, snap discipleship program. It’s a lifetime of living by faith. Throughout the chapter we read of those who in their lifetime suffered and did not acquire the fulfilment of the promises given to them by God. Yet, they endured in the faith, by faith, so that they would be made perfect at a later time. And that later time is when all of God’s people are gathered. When all of God’s people are together in the place he has set out for us. 

All the saints, whether old or new, will be made perfect when all of God’s people are together. Whether that be the Old Testament saints, the Hebrews themselves, or whether that be us. There is a future hope of being together with God in perfection. 

So as we walk this corridor of heroes of the faith we can be encouraged to live by faith ourselves. To be followers of Jesus for the marathon of life, not just the sprint of this season. With this in mind, here are six ways this passage encourages us to live by faith for the long-haul. 

First, Hebrews 11 helps us when we are in times of doubt. 

While doubt is not the opposite of faith, it certainly has an impact on our faith. Whether we are struggling to see God, doubting his goodness and faithfulness, or when we’re confused by what he is doing in our lives then we can lose sight of what he has promised. Hebrews 11, however, enables us to see that he is indeed faithful to his promises and that those who went before us held fast to Christ knowing there was something better in the future, something worth holding on to. 

Second, Hebrews 11 helps us when we are struggling with sin. 

We might feel plagued with sin. We might feel guilty. We might feel ashamed. We might be holding on to certain sins like a comfort blanket, always reasoning with ourselves that we will be able to battle with it and get over it at some point in the future. Instead, we can take confidence in knowing that Christ has that sin, has forgiven us for it, and is in the process of making us perfect in him. Therefore, we live by faith that he has taken the sins of the past, present, and future, and has dealt with them decisively for eternity. 

Third, Hebrews 11 helps us when we wonder what we’re meant to be doing for God. 

Those who were commended were people who lived by faith. They didn’t sit and wait around to be taken to a better place. They didn’t live in laziness, twiddling their thumbs wondering what they were to do. Instead, they trusted God in the ‘now’, obeying his commands and trusting his judgements. The future is in God’s hands and for us we are to trust and obey. Anyone remember that old hymn, “Trust and obey”? 

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

This may involve choices we make about our lifestyle, or our career, or our relationships, or our spending habits, or our social media use, or our use of time, or our service, or our attitudes, or our behaviours. God, of course, doesn’t just deal with one aspect of life but the whole of life. Our response is to live by faith. 

Fourth, Hebrews 11 helps us know we’re not alone. 

Thank goodness we aren’t the centre of the world. We aren’t the centre of reality. God is. And we see through this list that we also need to put our life in perspective. 

God is the one who is to be the centre of our worship, we aren’t. 

God is to be the centre of our lives, we aren’t. 

Yet, God is with us. We are not alone. 

Further, we know that so so so many people have gone before us, treading out a path like a walking track in the bush. Someone else has done this and so can we. Someone else has walked the same path we’re on and lived by faith. So can we. These millions of believers before us can inspire and encourage us to live by faith. 

Fifth, Hebrews 11 helps us to know we are being made perfect. 

Those final two verses show us that we aren’t perfect and nor are the saints of the past. The aim isn’t perfection in this lifetime, the aim is to live by faith. 

And so, we take encouragement that we are being made perfect through Christ, who uses our lives and our experiences to shape and mould us into more like him. This is also living by faith. 

Sixth, Hebrews 11 helps us to know there is a better day. 

I’m not sure what you’re going through right now but I suspect there’s something. Everyone is always dealing with something. With this being the case Hebrews 11 provides for us a hope. A future hope. A hope that one day things will be better, that one day we will be with God and it all will be made perfect. One day the acute pain of living now will be made into sustained enjoyment with God. 

And perhaps this is the key. 

With God. 

For as we walk with God by faith we walk in the shadow of those gone before, encouraged and inspired by their faith. 

The Lord of The Lockdowns

It’s now a familiar feeling. 

Deflated, sad, disappointed, upset, anxious, depressed even. These are the kinds of emotions people in Melbourne are experiencing, and plenty more as well. Up and down on the COVID rollercoaster we go as we are given little freedoms before locking down again as outbreaks of this disease are made known to the authorities. This way of living doesn’t do much good for one’s health and wellbeing. The perpetual unknown of when the next lockdown might be is doing a number on the ‘nerves’, to use the old vernacular. 

I’m not sure about you but I’ve had all the feels. The frustration, the sadness, the anxiety, and the general I don’t give a stuff. I know I’m not the only one. In fact, I was speaking with six others on a Zoom chat the other day and five of them mentioned they were all dealing with mental health issues in some capacity. Anecdotally, this is a significant percentage. 

However, as I plug away at doing the things I need to do, whether it’s family life or church life, I keep reminding myself that the Lord is the Lord of the lockdown. It sounds cliche, I know. But in these days where there is a general despondency across the whole community, and in spite of the hardship this puts so many people and families in, it is important to be reminded that there is God who is over this. He is still sovereign and true, and as we work through these lockdowns we can still have hope because he is Lord. 

Perhaps this is just me trying to grasp onto the hope that is required right now!

Hope is of course not gone, particularly when you compare our situation to others across the world. I certainly live in a healthy place, and a wealthy place, and have everything I need. I am grateful for this. Compared to other parts of the world we are doing so well that even having the ability to be in lockdown shows we’re very much in a place of privilege. Yet, this doesn’t negate the feelings, emotions, and realities that a lockdown brings. It is hard, it is painful, and it is frustrating. But there is hope, not only because of the ability to lead a life here in Melbourne in the future but also because of the greater hope we have in our Lord.

I have been reading through the book of Genesis these past couple of weeks and in chapter 15 there is a key reminder of the promises God gives Abram. He has made a covenant with Abram, that he will be father to multitudes from his own seed. However, Abram continues to want confirmation of this promise and to be reminded of it again (It’d already been promised in chapter 12). We are often like Abram, needing to be reminded of what God has promised us. And in his promises through his scriptures he has told us that he is with us, that he is listening to us, that he is caring and compassionate to us, and that he is kind and gracious toward us. 

This compassionate and caring God displays this to us through Jesus, and the commitment of love he has toward his people by the cross. For it is in the cross we find the reflection of God’s incredible compassion, care, kindness, and grace towards his creation. When we come to the Lord and are in a mess because the lockdown has been extended, or the numbers aren’t looking great, then we can know that he is still with us and still cares. His faithfulness and compassion are what we are to trust and hope in because that is what will sustain us to live lives worthy of his name, even in lockdown.

Psalm 103: Praise The Lord

It is certainly difficult to go through this Psalm without recognising the call to praise. The beginning and the ending couch this Psalm in words to encourage praise.

Note how personal the writer King David is as he expresses himself.

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits” in v1-2.

And in v20-22,

“Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.”

This is something deeply personal, something coming deep from within here. It is like David is willing himself to praise.

There are times, aren’t there, when we have to will ourselves to do something. Whether it is chores around the house to trying to work through our emotions in a lockdown due to a global pandemic. Here David sounds like he is willing himself to praise. Like the marathon runner willing herself to get to the finish line so too David is willing himself to praise.

Often praise, encouragement and thanks don’t come easy. Often we can be so consumed with our own self and all the problems we have to deal with that we soon forget or fall out of habit of praise, of thankfulness, of gratitude. Here we get the sense of David, writing in reflection from years of experience, willing himself to praise God for who he is and what he has done.

For David realises all of what God has done. Not only for him personally, but also for the whole of humanity. He remembers God and all his deeds and dwells on the action of his compassionate God, which in turn draws him to praise.

As we close this three-part series on Psalm 103 I encourage you to remember, dwell, and praise God this week.

It has been a tough 12 months.

You may have taken the opportunity to sit with God and spend more time with him this year. But, in the conversations I’m having with people I suspect the majority have not. And so I wonder whether this might be a good time to spend some time with the Lord.

If you’re one who is in a habit of doing so, I encourage you to keep going.

But, if you’re one who hasn’t sat with God, opened his scriptures, read and thought of the things of God in a while then I encourage you to do so this week.

Take 30-60 minutes. Open a Psalm, maybe even this one. Write down a few things that strike you as you read it. Pray about what is on your heart. Express those fears and worries and anxieties to God. And dwell for a period of time, something we’re not used to, on your compassionate God who is slow to anger and abounding in love.

Because when you do, experience tells me that the Lord will meet you where you are at and will draw you toward praise just as David is here.

It will do your soul and your life much benefit.


This is the third of a three-part series on Psalm 103. The first post, ‘Remember The Lord’, can be found here. And the second, ‘Dwell on The Lord’, is here.

Psalm 103: Remember The Lord

In Psalm 103 we come to a psalm of thanksgiving, perhaps better described as a hymn of gratitude, as the writer, King David, moves from heartfelt personal praise to inviting all of Israel and all of God’s people to remember the Lord, dwell on what he has done, and give him praise. 

In v2 we read, “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits…”

I’m not sure about you but it’s very easy to forget things. I would’ve forgotten more of my life than remembered it. I’m sure you are the same. 

I mean, we all like to think we’ve got good memories and can remember a lot, which of course our amazing brains can. But we’re also not all blessed, or perhaps cursed, with a photographic memory. And so we remember many things we’ve done, sights we’ve seen, and words we’ve listened to. But the reality is that we forget more than we remember. Which to me seems like one of the Lord’s graces toward us. 

Who wants to remember those really embarrassing comments we’ve made to colleagues or others we don’t know so well? Who wants to remember that embarrassing experience we had in high school or going through those years of puberty? Who wants to remember the acute grief we experience when a loved one passes away? There is actually plenty in life that we don’t want to remember.

But, there is also the negative side to forgetting things. We find ourselves forgetting names, numbers, faces, people, dates and times. And as we get older this can have repercussions on our quality of life. 

But David’s point in this Psalm is not a negative one, it’s a positive one. It’s the encouragement to remember what the Lord has done, to remember the benefits that come with knowing God. For there are plenty of benefits that the Lord has given us and when we remember these things we are led to praise and gratitude for them and for him. 

This whole Psalm seems to list the benefits available to us, but in v1-6 we read specific benefits of: 

  • The forgiveness of sin
  • The healing of disease
  • The redemption of life from pit
  • The crowning of love and compassion upon us
  • The satisfaction of our desires
  • The righteousness and justice of God

In the busyness of life it is easy to forget the benefits that come with being crowned a child of God. And these are incredible benefits! Even David, considered to be a ‘man after God’s own heart’(Acts 13:22) evidently needs to be reminded of these things. 

And all these benefits we see fulfilled through our Lord Jesus. This baby Jesus we remember at Christmas, this God-child we read of through the Prophets and writings of scripture, this Son of God born to a teenager in a derelict town, is the one who fulfils all these benefits and provides us with all these benefits through his life and death on a cross. 

And so who would want to forget these things?

We take photos to remember the experiences we’ve had and the places we’ve been to. When we look back on photos we’ve taken, our memories take us back to what we’ve done and experienced. We don’t want to forget that sunrise, or that waterfall, or that animal we got up close to. We don’t want to forget that party with friends, or that dinner with family, or that person we met. And so we take a photo as a keepsake, to help us remember. 

This list here is a reminder for us, a keepsake, as is all of scripture, which helps us remember God for who he is and what he has done. 

Deliver Us From The Evil One

What comes to mind most often when I think of deliverance are horror movies that depict the spiritual exorcism of a child or young person. For some reason the narrative always includes a wayward young person who requires a priest to come and exorcise their perceived demons, mostly at the instigation of their parents! The priest comes along with their wooden cross, their garlic, and their special oil seeking to deliver this young person from their wrongful behaviour. And while it might be a good movie, and sadly a reflection on what happens in real life in some places, the truth is this isn’t what Jesus is teaching his disciples in the final line of the Lord’s Prayer.

However, there is something apt in concluding this prayer by asking God for deliverance, for deliverance from the evil one is something we all need. The only way we are delivered from evil is through the Lord. For he has not only provided a way out of the clutches of the evil one, but a person who has compassion and cares deeply for us. Through the power of his Son Jesus the Lord shows his heart for his people. Like a father toward his children he seeks their good. And one aspect of this good is deliverance from the evil one.

As mentioned in my previous post this phrase ‘Deliver us from the evil one’ is strongly linked with the prayer of help in temptation. Temptation and the evil one go hand in hand and we are in need of God’s help for us to remain apart from both.

Deliverance is often associated with something ultra-spiritual or cult like. The movie example is one aspect to that. But the reality is there is a spiritual battle going on that we are often quite unaware of. In our comfortable Western cities and societies we choose to ignore anything that isn’t tangible, that isn’t something we can smell, taste, touch, or feel; physically or emotionally. Even though it isn’t something we think about This, however, doesn’t excuse the reality of the spiritual battle taking place.

Paul the Apostle wrote about this reality in Ephesians 6:12. He writes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” And so the reality we live in involves the reality of the spiritual realm, a world unseen to our human eyes and only known through the reality of our soul. It is a reality that requires deliverance from the evil one.

When Jesus encourages us to pray this prayer, and remember he is the one who is teaching us to pray here, he highlights the need for us to pray for deliverance. When we are tempted, when we are fearful, when we are in need of comfort, when we sin, then we are able to pray for deliverance. In regard to temptation, when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness in Matthew 4 by the evil one he relied on the Word of God to rebuff such approaches. So too, when we are tempted one helpful way for us to find deliverance from such temptation is to remember and rely on the Word of God. This is also the case when we are fearful, need comfort, or require the reminder of Jesus as our great Saviour from sin. While we may follow the evils of the world this prayer shows our need for God is great, and especially in the battle against the spiritual forces of the evil one.

In his commentary on this particular verse (Matthew 6:13), D.A. Carson writes,

“This petition is a hefty reminder that, just as we ought consciously to depend on God for physical sustenance, so also ought we to sense our dependence on him for moral triumph and spiritual victory. Indeed, to fail in this regard is already to have fallen, for it is part of that ugly effort at independence which refuses to recognise our position as creatures before God. As Christians grow in holy living, they sense their own inherent moral weakness and rejoice that whatever virtue they possess flourishes as the fruit of the Spirit. More and more they recognise the deceptive subtleties of their own hearts, and the malicious cunning of the evil one, and fervently request of the heavenly Father, ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”

And perhaps that is an apt ending to not only this clause within this verse, but of the whole prayer itself.


This concludes our series in the Lord’s Prayer. All the posts in this series can be found at the following:

Podcast: #38 of The Sean & Jon Show

Well here it is folks, a year gone by,
We’ve battled, we’ve won, we’ve laughed we’ve cried.

And while it’s a tough year when we look to review,
It’s a year I’ve loved, just podcasting with you

We’ve talked COVID, Quarantine, and everything in between.
And our emotional state has always been easily seen.

Three weeks in and we were mourning being apart, 
We did not know the distance from the end to the start.

We’ve talked Lycra and pets,
Televangelists and awkward texts.
 
We’ve critiqued sermons and each other, 
Eaten spicy food, and disc golf with brothers,
 
Jon has gotten real old, and keeps getting older, 
While Sean is young Spurgeon, and his preaching gets bolder.
 
We have screamed from our porches, and felt the COVID dread,
As Jon demolished Supercoach and let it go to his head.
 
We have had guest speakers, and forgotten about Sean,
We’ve talked mental illness, and mowing our lawns.
 
We played table tennis to fight slavery, 
And seen how poor supervision let Jon’s hamsters be free.
 
We’ve talked Easter, Christmas, and swimming in seas,
We’ve gone from life, to lockdown, to finally being free.
 
Well what a time it has been, to grow through this season.
And as we look at each moment, it’s hard to see rhyme or reason.
 
But through it all, in every moment and strife,
We have seen God’s eternity meet ordinary life.
 
And through every trial we know we withstood,
Even in COVID, God is good.

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

As We Also Have Forgiven Our Debtors

In her fascinating longform essay, ‘Letting Go’, Amy Westervelt writes about the study of forgiveness in academia. And much of it aligns with what Christians have known for many centuries – that it’s good for us but that it’s incredibly hard. 

And in the continuation of our series on the Lord’s Prayer we come to one of the more challenging phrases in the prayer itself. After asking for forgiveness from God for our own individual debts, or sins, we now find ourselves stating to God that we are forgiving the debts of others. 

There are no two ways around this. The gospel calls on us to trust in our own forgiveness through Christ on the cross. Colossians 1:13-14 remind us, “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” But in turn, the gospel calls us to action; the forgiveness of others for their wrongdoing against us. 

And so “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” has to be the hardest phrase of this prayer, the hardest action to put into practice. 

Who can so easily forgive those who have wronged us? 

Degrees of Forgiveness

In our world, like the justice system we operate by, we recognise there are degrees of wrongdoing and therefore find justification to argue for degrees of forgiveness to give. The person who calls us names in high school does not require the ‘same level’ of forgiveness as the spouse who commits adultery, or the sexual abuser of children, or the murderer? We would say, our humanity would say, that forgiveness for one over the other is dependent on the wrongdoing against us. Forgiveness may be easy or hard to give, but we often find ourselves doing so as long as justice has been metered out correctly. 

This is not to conflate justice into forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t make allowance for various levels of wrongdoing, nor does it speak of justice here either. Rather, it is a direct call to forgive others and encapsulates all types of wrongdoing in the process. We are to extend forgiveness to everyone. And of course, this is always a process. For some the giving of forgiveness will take longer than others, it isn’t easy reaching a place in your heart to forgive someone who has wronged us. Certain things are quick to forgive, other things seem to linger. 

Forgiving From The Heart

A particularly salient point this phrase brings up is the challenge of how quickly and how good we are at forgiveness. It sets forgiveness in the context of a spiritual practice, a spiritual discipline. Forgiveness is not something that means the person who wronged us gets away with everything they have done. No, there are still consequences for any wrongdoing. But whatever the case may be, forgiveness is an act of the heart.

And this is why following Jesus is often harder than first appears. For who forgives everybody who has wrong us from the heart? As Westervelt’s article affirms, forgiveness is a ‘change of heart’, a very apt definition in light of this prayer and what God has done for us. Yet so often the hurt and the pain has a long tail. Part of our nature is to hold onto hurts and wrongs and slights in a way that often leads to bitterness. And not only bitterness, but actual power. For when we hold onto the wrongdoing of others against us we give them power over us. They shape our thoughts and may even guide our actions. In the act of forgiveness we actually release the power others have over us because of their wrongdoing toward us.

Forgiveness is not easy, particularly if the wrong is significant or life altering. Yet, the good news is that we are able to be forgiven by God through Christ and as a result are shown the way of forgiveness.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Podcast: #37 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat James Bond, the end has come, and life in 2020 and beyond.

Topics Discussed: 

  • Finishing the season of podcast eps
  • Consistency
  • Sean’s new nickname
  • Shopping centre adventures
  • Disc golf success
  • Meeting new friends
  • TV watching
  • Social media
  • Friends together
  • Fashion Show success
  • We’re going back to in-person services!

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast: #36 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat driveway tears, changing careers, and Jon’s all-consuming-anger-spilling-forth-from-the-stresses of a COVID year!

Topics Discussed: 

  • Let’s get some sun
  • Meeting people in the flesh
  • Heading to the beach
  • Disc Golf…again
  • What would you do…?
  • Missing the sounds of the home
  • Accomplishing stuff
  • Angry drivers
  • What have we actually learnt about ourselves?
  • Growing in godliness

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast: #35 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat heading to the beach, learning life lessons you can’t teach, and doing a little Christmas preach.

Topics Discussed: 

  • Gazing into your eyes
  • No stories, again.
  • Up to date with the podcast
  • The longest story ever 
  • The trials of travelling to the beach and back
  • Putting on weight during isolation
  • Time for a trim
  • Hitch-hiking
  • Growing in ourselves and with the Lord
  • Christmas as a growing experience
  • A messy Christmas
  • Being self-reflective

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.