Opening Session: Going Deeper

Today’s the day we dive in deeper! Glad you are joining us for the journey. You may want to bring along a designated journal to record your answers to the questions to help you discover where you are, so you can begin moving forward. And be sure to invite a sister or two along to talk with.

Father God, lead us by Your Holy Spirit on our journey of faith.

 How would you define faith?

Scripture has a clear definition for us:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” —Hebrews 11:1 ESV

As we’ve grown in faith we’ve found it to be a bit of a dichotomy (something with seemingly contradictory qualities). It is both a gift we receive by grace and a choice at the same time.

Read:

  • 1 Corinthians 12:9
  • Ephesians 2:8

These verses describe faith as a gift.

Read

  • Matthew 19:17-22

The rich young ruler must have had some faith. He was raised a Believer… having obeyed the commandments from a very young age. Jesus’ response gave the young man an opportunity to grow deeper in his faith. He had a choice to make. He could choose to let go of his financial security… give everything he owned to the poor or he could choose to place his faith in Jesus and His way… This young man faced the choice of faith.

  • James 2:17

James goes a step further. If you do not make the choice to live a life of faith, then your faith is dead.

To choose faith is to act in faith. If we do not faithfully obey, our faith is dead. Just as if we had none.

Which one seems more true to you? Do you believe the faith you have is a gift or the result of a choice you made… or both?

Consider what choices you can make to grow your faith.

List them in your journal and make a plan to act on them.

Faith is a journey. It is a gift God gives us in the very beginning, and each step we take leads us to a deeper faith. All journeys have a beginning. So let’s take some time to think about where we are when it comes to faith.

Take an honest and sober assessment of where you are. Before you can move forward you have to know where you are.

Carol says:

My daughter called me lost one time. She wanted me to help her get back in the right direction. I asked her where she was, but she couldn’t tell me. She just kept telling me she was lost. Well I couldn’t help her until she found signs of where she was. She eventually could tell me an intersection and then I could get on Google Maps to tell her how to move forward.

The same is true for us spiritually. We need to know where we are before anyone can help us move forward. Yes. God knows where we are. And He will help us answer the questions to find out where we are. But this is information we need to know. We need to come into agreement with Him regarding the places in our faith walk we need to grow. Where the unbelief is hiding and what lies we are believing. If we don’t know where we are He can’t help us. And neither can anyone else.

Consider these questions regarding the last six months of your life:

Would you say your faith is growing? How?

What indicators do you have that let you know there is growth?

Is there a place you have no faith at all? a place of uncertainty?

What would it take to be stronger in this area?

Rate your faith from 0 to 10.  Zero being no faith at all and ten being the strongest faith you can imagine. We’re talking faith that moves mountains into the sea!

Write your rating in your journal and a short explanation of why you chose your rating. If you’ve gathered some sisters to study with you, discuss your answers.

Now.  Turn to the next page of your journal. Journeys also have an ending, a place to go.

Read Proverbs 29:18

Without vision the people perish… This translation is found in the King James Version and the Amplified. Other versions read: cast off restraint (English Standard Version), run wild (New Living Translation).

The original Hebrew means: be out of control, i.e., have a mob or group have no restraint in activities, implying open defiance of a known standard or authority (Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains). Without clear understanding of God’s Word and where we are to be focused as His followers, there is no unity, no order, no peace. Where there is no order, we destroy ourselves through division and self-interest. Where there is no vision, the people perish…

We will be spending lots of time this year on our journey together. What is your vision? the place you want to be?

Think about where you want your faith to be at the completion of our time together. Write it on the next page of your journal.

The story of Nehemiah offers us a vision of what it looks like to build up our faith. The part of his story we will be looking at is found in Nehemiah 1-6 in the Old Testament, if you would like to read it for yourself.

Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king of Babylon. He ended up in Babylon during the exile of the Israelites. Several years before the beginning of this story, a group of Israelites had been allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple which had been destroyed by King Nebudchadnezzar. The temple had been rebuilt and Nehemiah’s brother, who had been in Jerusalem, returned to Babylon for a visit. He told Nehemiah the wall was broken down around all Jerusalem which caused the city much trouble and shame.

Nehemiah was greatly disturbed by the news. He mourned and wept, fasted and prayed concerning the state of Jerusalem. In response to his prayers, God put it on Nehemiah’s heart to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. He told no one of his plan, and one day God opened the door for Nehemiah to ask the king for permission to return and rebuild the wall. The king complied with everything Nehemiah asked and he returned to Jerusalem.

As soon as Nehemiah returned and word got out why he was there, the enemy began to plot, scheme, and work to halt the whole business. But Nehemiah wouldn’t let anything stop him. He continued on. He encouraged the people. When necessary he armed them and set guards against the enemy.

Twice the enemy stirred up trouble. When the work was halfway, news got out of the enemy’s plan to attack, kill, and put a stop to the building. The people became discouraged. Not only was the enemy threatening to kill them, but the work looked hopeless. All they saw was rubble. Halfway is always hard. It’s usually the point of the greatest mess and you have just as far to go as you have come.

The next time the enemy harassed their leader, Nehemiah, as the project drew to a completion. Only the gates were left to put in. They began trying to distract Nehemiah over and over. Sending messages for him to come down and meet with them out of town. But Nehemiah knew they were up to no good and over and over he returned their demands with the same answer: I am doing a great work and cannot come down.

Despite the difficulties, Nehemiah persevered by seeking God’s help and trusting Him along the way. The wall was completed.

Now there are lessons to learn from Nehemiah’s story:

  • Whenever we begin to build something for the Lord the enemy will begin to threaten and attack.
  • Halfway will always be difficult and potentially discouraging.
  • Distractions will come. We must learn to recognize the distractions of the enemy, stand firm, and remember to respond as Nehemiah did: I am doing a great work and cannot come down.

Doing the work to build our faith is similar to Nehemiah building the wall around Jerusalem.

The missing wall around Jerusalem caused the city much trouble. It left them vulnerable to attack and it was a sign of shame to the other communities and nations surrounding them. They were not even strong enough to have a wall. What kind of city were they? No kind.

 For us, there is a spiritual parallel when it comes to faith. Faith is our spiritual wall of protection. If we are lacking in faith we are vulnerable to attack, we easily fall prey to shame, and we are susceptible to discouragement and doubt.

Taking our faith seriously, making the choice to build it up, through prayer, study of Scripture, and obedience to His Word, prepares us to face attack. Our faith helps us to view the world from God’s perspective. The eternal spiritual perspective, which is where reality is found. A strong faith keeps us standing firm against temptation and silences the voices of the enemy when he accuses and shames.

Just like Nehemiah we need to choose to follow the call God has placed on our hearts as Believers to grow in faith. Only God blesses us with faith. And only God makes things grow. But we have the choice to make our lives a place where God will bless us with spiritual growth.

Nehemiah did not build the wall alone. He had a community by his side and he had Ezra the priest to support him in his endeavor.

You are each Nehemiah when it comes to building up your faith. Only you can make the choice each day to actively pursue God and exercise your faith to the utmost of what you currently possess. Your sisters in Christ are the community by your side to encourage you. And you might think of us as your priests. Directing and guiding you through spiritual disciplines and teaching of the Word. And we call on all of you to be praying for us and one another as we pray for you.

As we go deeper into Sister Talk: Resuscitate Your Faith we will go back to the beginning and spend a week on each concept. The first week is Believing God Exists.

The next five days will bring five posts each focusing on a spiritual discipline to help you examine your belief in the existence of God.

If you would like to download and print the Study Sheet for Believing God Exists here is the link to the PDF: Week 1 – Going Deeper

Thanks so much for joining us.

We will be praying for you and watching with eager expectation for God to bless you with spiritual growth along the journey.

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