This morning, the walk of faith contains the same difficulties as ever. Too oftentimes in a changing world, we hear people use world changes as a justification for not performing Biblical assignments. While technology, generations, nations, etc. all change, nothing that we face – as far as the nature of the temptation is concerned – is different than it ever has been. (I Corinthians 10:13) To walk by faith, we encounter the same types of obstacles and enjoy the same types of blessings as previous generations did. As we mentioned yesterday, extremes seem to abound in every subject or situation, and most people look at those around them and think one of two things (both of which are extreme): 1. that person has a charmed life without my types of problems, 2. that person has more faith than I do. We hope to investigate in this writing the truth about commonality in the walk of faith that shines forth to dispel both of these commonly held thoughts.
From our study verse above, the phrase we desire the most to pursue is "subject to like passions as we are." When looking at Elijah's life, we certainly see recorded some of his "down moments." These moments bring to focus the vivid reality that he was not superhuman and invulnerable to life's assaults. Other characters in the Bible have similar events recorded for us – the apostle Peter had several. Yet, we see some characters that simply do not. For example, the Bible records nothing about the doubts, fears, and misgivings in the lives of Enoch, Abel, Caleb, and others. Are we to surmise that they simply did not have them? Since even the characters of faith in Hebrews 11 such as Abraham, Moses, and others had particularly down moments, we conclude that Caleb and others did too.
This phrase "subject to like passions" is found in a similar vein in Acts 14. Paul and Silas utter the phrase to keep people from worshipping them as gods when they see Paul's miracles of healing. Their point then – and good food for us today – is that even the best acting of us has down moments and struggles with the passions and weaknesses of the flesh. So no matter what character of faith we choose to examine, we must understand that the individual had the same struggles then as we do today.
Furthermore, these characters of faith did not have any more faith than any other child of God. God deals that measure to His children in the new birth (Romans 12:3), and it behooves us to consider that our faith is of the same substance and source as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and any other that we could consider. As we have made the analogy so often, the appearance of someone's faith depends on the use and exercise of it. Like muscles in the body, all of us have the same number of muscles, and we come into this world possessing like assets in that regard. Yet, no one would question that some of us have put our muscles to better physical use than others. Such use changes the appearance of the person, and the exercise of faith in our walk and fight will change our appearance in this life. Instead of seeing these people as superhuman, the right perspective is to see them as diligent and faithful labourers into those areas that are good and pleasing in God's sight.
Now, having addressed that men then had like passions as we do today and that they possessed the same gift of faith that we do today, what is the lesson for us today? Let us again consider the improper but commonly held viewpoints: 1. that person has a charmed life without my types of problems, 2. that person has more faith than I do. When we see people around us, what is our general perception of them? Depending on how well we know that person, our perspective of them changes. It is generally true that the longer we know someone two things will happen: 1. if we had a high opinion of them, things will happen to lower that opinion (i.e. they let us down) and 2. if we had a low opinion of them, things will happen to raise that opinion (i.e. they will surprise us). This is a general rule, but certainly not without exception.
To someone that we have a high opinion of, we generally tend to think that they are immune or alien to our daily struggles. It is these people that we tend to reactively think live charmed lives or have more faith. Yet, every great man of God – just as Elijah – had problems. On the other hand, just as they had the same "bad" passions, they also had like "good" passions. The word there for "like passions" means desires and affections. So, Elijah, Paul, and others struggled with the same types of things that we do today, but their joys that emanated from following after those good desires (passions) are like ours today.
How did Paul feel after a Spirit-filled meeting? Much like we to today, since he had like passions. How did Paul feel after suffering weak moments of doubt in the flesh? Much like we do today since he had like passions. Typically, the walk of faith can be stymied when we become bogged down in our minds with the thinking that our troubles are unique and even that our joys are unshared. Yet, the faithful record of Scripture is that all of us in God's family struggle with the same things and possess the same substance to follow after Him.
Knowing then that we can be victims to the same bad passions, let us learn from examples of what not to do. (I Corinthians 10:1-12) Knowing then that we can enjoy blessings due to the good passions, let us follow after righteousness, faith, and charity with all the examples of Scripture – Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief. It is a human and fallen reaction to think others doing better are superhuman or just living in an ivory tower. It is Christ-like to set our eyes on the prize of faithful service and march forward in an undeterred march following those heavenly desires. By doing so, we can encourage others that see us (they see the change of appearance due to the exercise of faith). Our encouragement is, "I struggle just like you do. But we can do and go where man would never dream, for Christ's strength is above all."