Noah: The Faith of Trust Forged in the Furnace of Ridicule
1. Don’t we all feel the “peer pressure to loosen up & join the modern generation”?
Noah lived in a time when people prayed to everything except the one true God. Being in the majority doesn’t naturally equal credibility.
2. As a spiritual person in today’s society, do you ever feel like you are in the minority?
In a time where the media controls popular opinion, it is easy to feel like being moral is “un-cool.”
3. Do you worry that your children will fall into the temptations of society?
When they mature, your children will eventually make their own choices, so raising them in the light of Christ is your best hope that they will be like him.
4. Do you feel like your children might be made fun of because of their faith?
Children can be mean, and faith is not easy. God gave Noah a huge task (other than 3 sons!)— He had to build something huge like a community of faith for them in a degenerate world. He was an example of faith in a world gone to darkness. How can you do the same as you relate to Noah’s challenge from God?
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Abraham: The Faith of Righteousness Forged in the Furnace of Risk
1. Is your idea of success in life based on gaining prosperity & prominence?
Our conscience should point to something higher which should not depend on worldly success but rather living a righteous life.
2. Do you feel a craving in your spirit for something more?
It has been said that we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only he can fill—even though many try to fill it with drinking or sex or drugs. We as humans are built to want something more—to search for something more that is beyond our material realm.
3. Do we define God for ourselves rather than desire “to know & trust him as he is”? It is easy to adjust our beliefs instead of following our faith-walk, but usually not wise.
4. Are we willing to be filled with God daily?
A daily renewed commitment to the father is important for a walk that is guided by him.
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Isaac: The Faith of Confidence Forged in the Furnace of Submission :
• Is it ever hard to let go of our children?
Of course! That’s what love is: wanting the best for another person. Just remember that protecting is one thing that can quickly become smothering as a child grows up. Don’t interrupt their personal growth or the evolution of their own beliefs, but rather answer their questions and council them if they seek guidance from you, or supply resources of people who might be more qualified to tackle the tough questions surrounding faith.
• Is it hard to leave things is God’s hands?
As a parent, it is easy to go overboard on instruction. If your goal is to allow children to legitimately develop on their own terms, all you can do is provide a guiding hand where it is required or desired. Eventually they must make their own choices and parents can only give them freedom to find the truth of God through God’s Holy Spirit. The purest faith held by a child is one that he chooses of his own volition.
• Does your age ever make you feel out of touch?
Abraham was pushing 100 when Isaac was born. Even with such a generation gap, they had a father and son relationship that God approved of. Both would do absolutely anything for the heavenly Father— even make the ultimate sacrifice of the other whom they loved more than themselves!
• Do we stand up to God’s tests?
Would you sacrifice everything for him the way he would/did for us?
Abraham passed God’s test and showed incredible trust beyond what most of us can even imagine. He took a huge chance in our eyes but he surely knew all along that God had it in his hands and grand plan. Every day, take chances and live for your God because every day is a test in its own way.
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Jacob: TheFaith of Surrender Forged in the Furnace of Struggle:
• Is it hard to not fight with our siblings?
Since Cain and Abel, it has been hard for brothers and sisters to resist the feelings of competition and resentment that often come with relationships (especially ones that call for living in such close quarters together). You are not alone in your distress! Jacob had 12 sons and a daughter by his two wives (Leah and Rachel) and their maidservants (Bilhah and Zilpah), so he knew the meaning of familial distress better than most. Through anything life throws at us, we must continue to be devoted parents or children and look to God, a friend or a mediator when we need help.
• Sibling rivalry can get fierce! Do you ever have trouble feeling unique among others?
Each child Jacob had brought something unique such as physical aptitude or wit in the same manner as every child of God does. Thus it becomes a matter of looking at your own strengths and weaknesses to discover what God gave us and how to use it for him. To stand out you can always use your faith and show people that you are different through your love and treatment of others.
• Do we ever “settle for survival” or fight for something more?
There is nothing wrong with working for more, wanting more, or doing more than just counting up the days until deliverance! Fight for your beliefs and fight for your unique God-ordained life. God encourages a passionate faith and devotion.
• Does jealously or a feeling of entitlement ever drive us away from what matters to us?
Don’t allow your successes to ever allow you to lose track of the path you took to achieve it. God helped you become who you are and get where you stand.
Rachel: The Faith of Patience Forged in the Furnace of Disappointment:
• Is it hard to watch others obtain the things you want?
Sitting on the sideline and watching others get the glory or receive things you felt like you deserved is extremely trying. Look to God to give you peace and never allow your ego to get in the way of your faith. Trust that God knows what we need and will bring it into our lives when we are ready.
• Do you ever feel less worthy as a person because of your individual shortcomings?
Rachel was almost barren and when she finally gave him two sons who were “especially favored by him because of his love for her.” To the people who truly love you, your little idiosyncrasies are an indelible part of who you are, and ultimately why they love you! Never put yourself down for being different or regret putting yourself out there, or being honest with others and yourself. Only by falling in love with who you are, can you ever see life the way God intended.
• Do we have faith that God knows what he’s doing?
A huge part of being a Christian is letting go and surrendering to a higher power we trust with our entire lives and beings! Though we take everything as it comes, God can see a bigger picture and comprehend it in a way that we do not have the power to. This is what makes him the perfect person to help us bear our own crosses in a real day-to-day manner.
4. Is it sometimes hard to be around success all the time? Do you ever feel like you are not equal with your peers?
We tend to compare our inner feelings with the outward persona put on by those around us. This is rarely a fair fight! We are all created by a loving God in the exact way that he meant us to be and he has a certain plan for each of us. Be proud of every aspect of yourself, every inch of your body, and every thought in your mind – because they are all from your heavenly father.
Joseph: The Faith of Compassion Forged in the Furnace of Betrayal.
• Do we have the power to forgive those who are the closest to us?
Sometimes the people we love most know just how to really hurt us. It takes a lot of strength to let go of those words that weigh on our hearts. Pain and heartbreak take time and work to repair, and it all starts with you, the recipient of that hurt.
• Do we drag things out and re-hash old issues or do we make a daily conscious effort to forgive?
Having “dirt” on people is tempting, but to be a Christian we have to give that up to God. Each morning we must make a choice to drop our sword and ammo and build a bridge instead of burning one. Our enemies are the hardest people to love, but that is what makes treating them well so imperative, and important to God.
• Joseph’s family turned on him but he let go of that. If he can spare their lives after they sold his, what excuse do we have to be angry?
We do not get disputes like Joseph’s today, so it puts our petty arguments over coffee or grades into a huge new perspective. If he can clean that slate and exhibit such kindness, then we can clearly do the same to everyone we encounter. If God can forgive anything, why can’t we?
• When times get hard, do we band together or hold grudges against people who turn to us for help?
In times filled with rough situations (as if there has been any other!) it is most essential that we set aside how people have treated us previously, and not judge them when they need us most. We have to believe in one another and have faith that together we can pull through. Releasing our own hang-ups and past hurts is a tall task, but once complete it can change the way we interact with everyone around us for the better.
Moses: The Faith of Certainty Forged in the Furnace of Brokenness:
• Do we believe everything that God tells us?
It is characteristically hard for us as humans to “take it on faith.” We are sensual, and expect proof and signs to authenticate what we believe about life, ourselves, and the world. When we feel like God is calling us to a certain path, it’s typical to doubt that he knows us better than we know ourselves. The Father has a reason for everything, and trusting in that reality is the first step to finding our own happiness.
• Do we let our past define us, or use it as a jumping-off point and opportunity to grow?
Victor Hugo said “adversity makes men, prosperity makes monsters” We must look back at the place we came from and vow to go farther for our lord, and become like the people we look up to. Find an example in the text of the Bible (there are some real winners in this book) or in your own church and community to learn about and be like when you grow up. (We never stop growing up.) God sees past who you were and what you did years ago, as should people who follow him.
• Do we doubt God’s plan sometimes?
At first, Moses didn’t see in himself the things that God saw. In the same way, we all struggle with confidence versus pride and not always knowing our gifts or how to utilize them. God knew what was inside Moses and he knows what you have to offer. He knows what he is doing, regardless of when we think he might not.
• Moses fought but then surrendered to God’s plan. Is it hard for us to just let go and allow him to work through us or to do what he asks?
We have to believe that God knows and loves us and therefore wants what is best for us. Sitting back and giving God the wheel is the most effective way to assure the fundamental success of God’s plans for us. We are all universally called to live righteous lives, but the rest is up to our heavenly Father to dictate. Take some time to pray during the low points or slow points of your day to be still and quiet and listen to God, pray and think about the path you are on.
Job: The Faith of Optimism Forged in the Furnace of Loss:
• Do we assume that the most blessed among us are the most righteous?
These days many CEOs and celebrities have lax morals, and society rewards them for it with financial success and fame or notoriety. Even convicts have fan pages and twitters! In a modern time where the world and its people have grown weary and doubtful—looking for the easy way out of life, treating pain as the enemy, and turning to drugs and depravity— faith still remains almost the only constant. We must shine as the embers of God, and let our own happiness show our peers the true way to a whole and fulfilling life.
• Does the nice guy really finish last or can you get ahead with pure motives, real work, honesty, and righteous intentions?
To survive in this world one has to face its harshest realities. High standings do not wait for all of us on this Earth, but any member of the Christian community who does what they should has happiness awaiting them in the next world, guaranteed. Not every situation is like a story book but sometimes in the right circumstances a boss will see their employees for who they really are, and a person of faith will shine.
• Do we feel punished by God when bad things happen in our lives and then “curse” him?
No matter what happens to us, we must look at everyone with the same full and true love that God holds us in as his children. God allowed Satan to take everything from Job, but he remained loyal, prayed, and never said a harsh word about his God or situation. Take a page from him and take life as it comes (good and bad) and remain genuine and faithful—not hopeless and hurt.
• Do we lose our faith when it does not constantly yield positive benefits?
Never pray to God because of what he can do for us. When things do not work out, it just means we should “exercise [our faith] more strenuously.” Satan is always there to be used to give us a wakeup call and a challenge to “correct” our “theology” day by day.
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Samson: The Faith of Resolution Forged in the Furnace of Regret:
• Do we ever let our lust get in the way of our lives?
Boundaries in everything we do are important, and temptation can be our downfall. Control yourself and do not let longing for something or someone keep you from doing what you want in your life. Take every day as a new beginning, and slow things down. Just remember that temperance, modesty, and chastity are virtues for a reason, so never put the tempting situations into motion in the first place.
• Do we fall to our weakness rather than finding strength in God?
God can always sustain us and get us through the roughest and loneliest of times. Trust fully in his strength, own it, and make it your strength.
• Do we spend more time on ourselves than with God?
No external symbol will last forever (hair, clothes, body). This shows us that we should put more time and effort into God than any physical attribute. Take some time each day to just sit and be with God. Treat him as a friend, confidant, and father. Give your life over to him and make him the leader of your actions, and the most important aspect of your being/person.
• Do we ever let one aspect of ourselves or our personality to define us?
God and our faith should give us life. Nothing else should define us. We should be defined by our love instead of our party past, favorite drink, the price of our dress (or its length), or anything else superficial and useless to us.
David: The Faith of Devotion Forged in the Furnace of Discipline:
• Do we trust God constantly or only when we find it is easy to?
David was a shepherd so he was no stranger to a constant need for god’s strength! Even when he faced seemingly insurmountable odds in the form of Goliath, he had unshakable faith that God would deliver him. When we fight our own giants, we must know in our hearts with direct certainty that God will bring us through.
• Do you ever get overwhelmed by the ‘giants’ in your life?
Obstacles can be scary but with God, you have nothing to fear. Take time for yourself in distress, and do not allow self-doubt or fear to squelch your potential. Look at those setbacks as spring boards to catapult you forward in your faith!
• Do we tend to “play the blame game” when we feel wronged?
The only constructive way to move on is to accept the situation you are in as of today regardless of circumstances. We have to move forward and not look back (unless we like the view). You cannot blame parts of a situation on yourself or the people around you (or on God) if you expect to ever fully resolve it.
Jonah: The Faith of Hope Forged in the Furnace of Despair:
• Do we see the connection between disobedience and discipline?
When we do not do what is asked of us or help people out, they are less inclined to trust our word or help us out when the tables turn. Accepting a particular path can be burdensome, but if we reject Gods plan, things do not work out well. This ultimately holds true for all of life.
• Do we trust that God will “calm the seas” for us even when we displease him?
No matter what we may do or be, we are always God’s and he loves us and will protect us. He is absolutely the king of forgiveness and if we believe in him (and even when we don’t), he is there for us— from the bottom of the ocean to the darkest of nights—we always have a partner. This is an invaluable gift, so use it!
• Do we go to “Nineveh” when we have to (or where God needs us)?
It is crucial that we use the talents God has given us in the manner and location in which we can most effectively serve God and spread his word. If he needs you to build churches in a foreign country or even raise children and be a housewife at home, he will put that longing in your heart and lead you down a path of discernment to let you discover it. We are all different, and God will show us how to make that count.
• Are we convinced that God will answer us and listen to our prayers?
Jonah prayed to God from inside a fish in thanksgiving for deliverance that he had yet to receive. We have to believe that we do not talk to God it vain. Praying does change things, and takes a weight off our hearts in times of trouble.
Hosea: The Faith of Commitment Forged in the Furnace of Long-suffering:
• Do we put what we want above what God wants for us?
God’s plans take precedence over our own—always. Even when we try to follow our own path, he knows where we will end up. He can see the maze from the aerial view rather than turn-by-turn the way that we see it. This means that he makes the best choices even when our pride says that we do.
• Do we ever mold God to fit our plans and agendas?
God is constant and unchanging. As we grow up or grow older we may mature in our faith but that does not mean that anything about God is different. He reveals himself to us in tiny, divine, captivating streaks of light throughout our lives like a spectrum emitted by a crystal. We should not manipulate the beliefs of others and use that to do our will- it is a perversion of faith.
• Do we ever try to sell God or faith like a product?
Christianity is not a miracle cure. We should believe for the right reasons. When preaching to others, we must be careful not to leave anything out or sugar-coat our testimony. At times it is extremely demanding to follow God, and the cross is heavy. The only true faith is one that includes honesty, knowledge, and careful thought.
Daniel: The Faith of Courage Forged in the Furnace of Peril:
• Do you ever find yourself in scary situations with no end or means of escape in sight?
Of course! Life is a mine-field and there is no way to avoid trial. Jobs can get bothersome and people can feel like burdens, but even with these “lions” circling, we should always remember to look up. God is there for us and will never put us somewhere he does not want us, or in a condition that we are not capable of handling (with his help).
• Do we focus on fear or on God’s shield over us?
The most important time that we need to trust God is when we are in those situations that tear us down and rip us apart. Fear can take our lives away but so long as we give our lives up to Christ and his message, we have nothing to fear or worry about because we have a provider.
• Do we stick to our convictions even when it is more “popular” to follow a less righteous path?
Daniel refused to pray to the emperor and was then spared by the one true God in the lion’s den. We must not subscribe to the ever-changing beliefs of popular culture whose values are fleeting. We must know that the most reputable path is the one we walk with God, following his steps. Take “the road less traveled,” and give God the chance to protect you, living your faith to its fullest!
Jesus: The Faith of Obedience Forged in the Furnace of Relinquishment:
• Do we have faith?
In a world where there is a constant call for empirical evidence that God exists, it is hard to be a person who can “take it on faith.” The very definition of faith hinges on a lack of proof to back up your strong belief. This may seem obvious to Christians, but outsiders need help to understand what it means to have faith. Show them by your example.
• Do we constantly crave more signs, or ones that are better or bigger, instead of being glad to have received what we have?
Jesus’ death on the cross was a sign; the longing in your heart for comfort is a sign; and even humans’ inclination toward sin and evil is a sign that there is an absolute good to be had! God is love, but sometimes it is burdensome to accept that, because along with it comes an obligation to spread his word and proclaim his message.
• Do you feel like there is a stigma to believing in God?
No one said it would be easy to be a believer, but the most meaningful pursuits never are! Living an honorable life is daily trial by fire, but the reward at the finish line is incomprehensible. You have to get past the negatives and the critics, and let your heart take over. Don’t ever be afraid to passionately love God in an age where you are not alone.
Thomas : The Faith of Conviction Forged in the Furnace of Doubt:
• Do we ever doubt God?
It is human nature to ask questions and want physical proof of spiritual or philosophical facts. Thomas needed to feel Jesus’ wounds after the resurrection before being convinced and professing his faith, but after he saw the truth his faith was more firm and real than ever. We must be totally sure of our convictions and to do this. So we must not be afraid to investigate the questions that God has placed on our hearts.
• Do we feel ashamed when we make such a mistake?
Often after examining our faith or asking questions, we feel silly for wondering in the first place. Sometimes our faith makes us outcasts among those who need proof to believe. It may help to remember that we do not fit in because we are not made for Earth, but Heaven.
• Is our faith strengthened by signs?
Absolutely! When something appeals to our senses it appeals to the most human aspect of our being. God speaks to us through the people around us and in our environment because he made us to look around for answers to buttress our faith.
• Are we afraid of doubt and uncertainty in our faith life?
Asking questions is the best way to expand and correct our own theology. Sharing these doubts with our peers can help refine their faith also! God shows himself to us in calculated stages as we are ready to see him, so this searching only assists in the process of discovery.
James: The Faith of Familiarity Forged in the Furnace of Shame:
• Do we ever hold back the people that we love?
When someone is local or close to you it is easy to discredit their talent through your own bias. James grew up with Jesus and did not know what he had! Sometimes in our quest to protect our friends we limit them. Let everyone try for their dreams and prayerfully support them in all that they do, while letting them make their own life choices.
• Do we ever lose faith as we grow older?
Faith is not a destination but a personal journey through which we discover ourselves. We should never stop learning more and letting our faith evolve. We cannot allow ourselves to get too comfortable. We must never lose our hunger for information and new ideas- especially when It comes to something as substantial as our faith!
• Do we live daily in a manner that expresses our Christianity to the people around us?
It’s all about daily acts that show that you mean what you say. Love people and show them kindness in small ways while never losing track of why you believe in God, and use your actions to point to that divine intervention in your life. That is your living testimony!
Peter: The Faith of Forgiveness Forged in the Furnace of Guilt:
• Do we ever deny our faith in a situation that could make it awkward or difficult?
Sometimes we omit our faith from certain conversations so as to lend credibility to an argument, or to avoid making others uncomfortable. This is tricky ground. Just stay honest and keep your views known and founded in faith. Never lie about what part God had in your life when it is appropriate.
• How do we handle guilt?
Owning up to our sins and shortcomings is first, then one must ask God for forgiveness. After this comes the hardest part: letting go. You may have done something wrong but you recognized it and corrected it. Do not repeat it, or dwell on it and forget to live forward, not bnackward.
• Do we forgive ourselves?
We know God will forgive our sins and encourage us to not repeat our mistakes. But sometimes we might forget to forgive ourselves. Release the mistakes that you have made and start over every morning with God. We all sin, but it takes incredible strength to give yourself another chance. Do not put yourself down as a vile waste. You are God’s possession if you have given yourself to him, and have done nothing irreparable.
Saul: The Faith of Zeal Forged in the Furnace of Self-Appointed Sacrifice:
• Are our motives pure?
In all that we do, we must insure that our reasoning stays honest. The means are as important as the end. Just keep your eyes watching God and do not lose sight of him in any endeavor.
• God knows why we pray and go to church- do you have reasons God likes?
If your heart is not in it, then God does not want any part of it. Do the right thing, but only for the right reasons- not for your glory, but because you are called, for his glory.
• Do we judge people through “human eyes” or in a way that God can be proud of?
God sees people through divine eyes. Humans on Earth are made to point to heaven so we must all seem out of context here! See people with the love and acceptance of God and never put down or degrade your brothers and sisters in Christ. Try to see the best qualities in every person that you meet in the same manner as Jesus did when he walked the Earth like us. Reach out, help out, and understand what others think, need, and believe.
Paul: The Faith of Meekness Forged in the Furnace of Humiliation:
• Are we ready to make drastic changes in our lives if Christ so ordains?
Change is at times the only constant, and when we are at rock bottom, God is our only hope and means of escape. He is good, and solid, and can lift us out of whatever hole we have fallen into. To stay above the water you have to adjust to it. When God needs you to uproot and move or change careers to do his will, it can be intimidating, but sometimes losing everything you thought was important can help you find clarity as to what actually matters.
• Do we get discouraged sometimes when things do not work out?
Do not let failure or a shift in plans take the wind out of your sails! Heartache is universal and therefore unifying- we are all hurting but as a community. When something like that knocks you down just fully rely on God, friends, and family. Art Buchwald said “whether it is the best of times or the worst of times, it is the only time we have”.
• How do we deal with embarrassment?
When something humiliating happens we have to simply laugh it off and move forward. Life is too big of a deal to allow petty issues, worries, or insecurities to get in the way of living for God. Jesus was shamed in public to redeem us and rescue us from that pain in our own lives.
John: The Faith of Loyalty Forged in the Furnace of Persecution:
• Do you find that it is sometimes hard to be a leader?
Being a role model is difficult for everyone! Jesus is the person to model yourself after – making him the ultimate role model. Just be like him to the best of your ability. Lead the way that God-Incarnate would. Stay a humble servant of the lord, pray for help and guidance, give advice only when you are qualified to, and always give it all up to God at the end of every day. He will never lead you wrong!
• Do we live up to the expectations of those who look up to us?
It is a big responsibility to be thrust into the spotlight. The first followers of Christ are now household names—talk about fame for the right reasons! As far as living up to what people expect, the most we can do is live a righteous life that we can be proud of. If we live up to God’s standards, everything else will fall into place.
• Do we ever get jaded by Christ’s “star power” and lose sight of his message?
God is not a rock star but a humble guide. Even with all his power and wisdom, God is strangely down to Earth! He is a father, a friend, and a partner and we should treat him as such.