Sorry it’s late but we had some bad storms blow through and I shut down the computer.
(This Day’s Thought is pleased to feature Eric Elder’s latest series called “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind”)
Lesson 9 from
Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
I’d like to talk to you today about believing God. Not just believing in God. But believing God–believing that He will do what He says He will do. The reason I want to talk to you about believing God is because what you believe influences what you do. Or, to put it another way, you do what you believe.
If you believe that people are going to hell if they don’t put their faith in Jesus, then you’ll do something about it. If you’re not doing something about it, then you’re just giving intellectual assent to an idea, but you’re not really believing it.
I have a friend who went to the doctor for a checkup. The doctor told him, “Your Dad had a heart attack by the time he was forty-eight, and you’re going to have a heart attack by the time you’re forty-eight unless you make some changes in your life.” My friend had known this was a possibility before, but it wasn’t until his doctor told him the truth so directly that my friend finally believed it. He began that day to change the way he ate, the way he exercised, and the way he lived his life. He’s still going strong today. Why? Because he believed what his doctor said.
How much more so, when we hear what God says about our lives, should be believe Him and do what He says?
Abraham is an excellent example for all of us of someone who believed God, who heard what God said and took it to heart, and then backed up what he believed with his actions.
If you remember the story, God told Abraham that he would have so many descendants they would outnumber the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. This was a pretty lofty idea considering that Abraham was old and childless. But the Bible says:
“Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3).
Several years later, when God called Abraham to become circumcised as a way of sealing God’s covenant with him, Abraham did what God said that very day, and within a year, he and his wife Sarah had their first child–the first of a long line of his promised descendants.
While Abraham’s obedience to be circumcised was important and necessary for the fulfillment of God’s plan for his life, the Apostle Paul notes in his letter to the Romans that it wasn’t after Abraham was circumcised that he was declared righteous in God’s sight, but before. Abraham was declared righteous several years before his circumcision. He was declared righteous the moment he believed. (You can read more about this part of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 15-18.)
Abraham’s circumcision was a natural outworking of the faith that Abraham had already expressed in his heart to God. His actions were directly influenced by what he believed.
Dallas Willard is one of the spiritual giants of our generation. When asked what he would advise someone to do who wanted to grow spiritually, he gave a surprising answer. You might think he would say, “Read the Bible more,” or “Pray more,” or “Go to church more.” But he didn’t. He said the best course of action for someone who wants to grow spiritually is this:
“Do the next right thing you know you ought to do.”
He expanded on this thought by saying that you’ll grow more when you do the next right thing that you know you ought to do because you’ll be doing the very thing that God wants you to do. He said it may very well involve reading the Bible more so you can get clarity on what it is that God really wants you to do. It may involve praying more because you’ll need God’s wisdom for how to do it. It may involve going to church more because you’ll most likely need the help of others to do what God has put on your heart to do. But in any case, you’ll grow tremendously when you do the next right thing you know you ought to do.
My question for you today is this: what’s the next right thing you know you ought to do?
What is it that God has called you to do that He is wanting you to take the next step in faith to get done? Maybe it’s in something regarding your family, your job, your finances, or your health. Maybe it’s something regarding your calling, your gifting, your relationships, or the way you use your time. Maybe it’s something that is quiet and internal, or maybe it’s something that is out loud and vocal. Maybe it’s something you need to start doing, or maybe it’s something you need to stop doing.
Although I don’t know what it might be that God is putting on your heart right now as you read these words, I imagine there are probably one or two things that may have already started coming to your mind as “the next right thing you know you ought to do.” Whatever it is, I want to encourage you to do it. Believe in your heart that God has called you to it, then step out in faith and let Him help you do it!
You may remember the story of the widow’s oil, back in the Old Testament. This widow had lost her husband, and she and her two sons were struggling to live. She was at a point of desperation because her husband’s creditors were coming to take away her boys as slaves.
She cried out to Elisha, a man of God that she knew, and asked him what to do. Elisha asked what she had left in her house. She said that she had nothing there at all, “except a little oil” (2 Kings 4:5).
So Elisha told her what to do next. He told her to go around to all her neighbors and ask for their empty jars. She and her sons did what Elisha said. She went all over the neighborhood asking for empty jars and brought them home. Elisha told her to fill them up with the little oil that she had. By faith, she began pouring out the oil into the first jar, and it didn’t stop! It just kept flowing and flowing as she poured it into jar after jar, until every jar she had collected was full. Elisha told her:
“Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left” (2 Kings 4:7b).
I love this story for several reasons, but one that stands out to me today is the fact that the widow believed what God was telling her to do through the prophet Elisha, then she went out and acted on that belief. She did “the next right thing she knew she ought to do.”
One way to renew your mind today is to believe God–not just believe in Him–but really believe Him, because what you believe influences what you do.
Abraham wasn’t credited with righteousness after he was circumcised, but before, when he first believed God. It was only afterwards that he stepped out in faith and acted on what he believed.
The widow’s life didn’t start to turn around after she had sold all her jars of oil and got the money for them, but before, when she first believed what God told her to do through the prophet Elisha. It was only afterwards that she stepped out in faith and acted on what she believed.
God wants you to believe Him, too. He wants you believe what He says and then to act on that belief, to do the next right thing that you know you ought to do. For some of you, this might mean picking up a project that you’ve been putting off for years. You might think, “Not that, Lord! It’s been on the back burner for so long, I don’t think I’ll ever get around to it.” For others of you, this might mean acting on something you heard just yesterday. You might think, “Not that, Lord! I just heard about it yesterday, I need a few more days, or months, or years to think about it.”
We can think of all kinds of reasons not to do what we know we ought to do. But I want to encourage you today to believe God, and then act on that belief. Don’t let doubt and discouragement hold you back from doing “the next right thing” that God has called you to do.
Believe God today, and then act on that belief! Then one day, like Abraham and Sarah, and like the widow and her sons, people will be telling the story of what happened to you when you believed God, too.
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for creating each of us with special tasks to accomplish here on earth. Help us to have the faith today to believe what You say when you speak to us, and then to act on that belief. Help us today to step out in faith and do the next right thing we know we ought to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. This is also the last week that we’ll be highlighting our new book called, “Loving Thoughts,” a short book of quotes and Bible verses to help those who are passing from this life to the next. You can download this book in an eBook format for free from the link below, or you can order a beautiful, 24-page paperback version by simply sending a donation of any size to our ministry. Your gifts help to offset the cost of printing and shipping, as well as help us to continue creating more resources like these, so thanks in advance for your gifts! Here are the links to download the free eBook or to request a paperback:
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Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 4:1-12. Why do you think God credited Abraham with righteousness when he first believed God, rather than after he took his famous steps of obedience?
2. Read James 2:18-20. What are some of the differences between believing God and just believing in God, based on this passage?
3. What is the relationship between faith and works, as described by the passage in James?
4. What comes to your mind as “the next right thing you ought to do?” What steps could you take to help clarify that those things really are from God, and then to step out in faith to begin doing them?
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