By Linda Gilden, Crosswalk.com
According to a survey released by the Barna group, 85 percent of Americans have a Bible in their homes. Unfortunately, many are not read regularly. But God has given us a road map we can follow. His Word, the Bible, centers on people just like us who are struggling to make a difference in their world.
When facing a difficult decision, having a problem with relationships with others, or maybe going through a family dilemma, we can turn to the Bible for answers and find someone who had a similar problem and trusted God to guide them through the crisis. Many of the Bible characters' lives give us good examples of how we should live and put our trust in God.
1. The Woman at the Well
When Jesus was on his way back to Galilee, he decided to go through Samaria. When he came to Jacob's well in Sychar, he realized how weary he was and sat down to rest on the side of the well. "Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink… She was surprised that a Jew would ask a despised Samaritan for anything."
Jesus replied to the woman, "If you only knew what a wonderful gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me for some living water." Jesus explained to her that when people drank from the well, they quickly became thirsty again, but the water would water her forever and give her eternal life.
"Please sir," she said, "give me some of that water. Then I'll never be thirsty again and have to make this long trip out here every day."
Jesus went on to tell her about her life, and He knew everything she had done. She left her water, went back to her village to tell everyone what had happened, and invited them to meet the Messiah. Because of her efforts, many came to know him.
Dana says, "I had an affinity with the woman at the well because she suffered in silence and was judged for things that being married to the men she was married to turned her into. They say bad men turn good women sour. Women had to fight so much harder back then. My mom was married four times, and people misjudged her without getting to know her and asking the 'why' questions. I think that's why I identify with her. I'm empathetic to her plight. Being raised by a man-hater, I understand how she felt. Like this woman, I am excited to know Jesus and thankful He helped me get my life back on track."
Peter was a fisherman along with his father and brother. That's how they made their living in Caper. Peter and his brother, Andrew, were among the first chosen to be Jesus' disciples. As we get to know him, we discover Peter is quite a character with a complex personality that ranges from humility and love for Jesus to a feisty side that produces anger and frustration, such as the time he responded to Judas and his men by cutting off Malchus', the high priest's servant's, ear. (John 18:10).
Peter is probably best remembered for saying that he would never deny Jesus. Then before the rooster crowed the next day, Peter did just that.
William says, "I can identify with Peter because I, too, love to fish. His emotions often got the best of him. But when he decided to get something done, he got it done. He loved Jesus with all his heart as I do. We both want to love him more every day."
When we think of Martha, we usually think of hospitality. Martha was one of the women who supported Jesus and His disciples on their journeys. When Jesus and His disciples came to Martha's village, she opened her home to them. We can only imagine how excited she was to have Jesus there and introduce Him to her friends.
Martha is often remembered for her comments to Jesus and her sister Mary. "But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me." (Luke 10:40).
Jesus kindly tells her that only one thing is needed. "Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42).
Kathryn identifies with Martha. "I feel that for the past year, the Lord has been doing some extraordinary things in my life. With so many people moving into our area from other places in the country, I have been privileged to meet so many new Christian sisters in Holy Spirit-led ways. Several women (new to the area and the church) close to my age have come to sit by me on different Sunday mornings, directed by the Holy Spirit to "sit there." One especially has become a very close friend, and I think the Lord is using me to make new people feel comfortable and included. He has also made me more outgoing and unafraid to talk to people I meet outside of church. And I've enjoyed having Bible study sisters in my home for a social time. I would identify with Martha. I, too, have the problem of busyness when I should be lingering at the feet of Jesus."
According to Acts 11:23-24, Barnabas was a man full of joy and encouragement. "When he arrived and saw the wonderful things God was doing, he was filled with excitement and joy and encouraged the believers to stay close to the Lord, whatever the cost. Barnabas was a kindly person, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. As a result, large numbers of people were added to the Lord."
Barnabas had many good qualities. Many associate him with Paul, his partner in ministry. Paul was often considered Barnabas' mentor, but indeed Barnabas had his own strong qualities. He learned well from Paul and went on to lead many to Jesus. Barnabas was also very generous and supported the ministry of Jesus.
"I feel like a Barnabas in a Paul world," says Ted. "Sort of like playing rhythm guitar behind Jesus. I am bold and gregarious and start conversations with total strangers. I intentionally encourage people at church, servers and members, children in recitals, sporting events, etc. I am bold enough to empathize with people with heavy hearts, not only in hospice houses, nursing homes, and doctors' offices. Wednesday, I met a man in an elevator who had been a bad man but was now saved. We talked in the parking lot for an hour, after which we prayed with arms around each other for the public to witness and thanked the Lord for crossing our paths.
My pastor introduces me to others as an encourager. Being blessed financially allows me to be generous and sense where I can be of help. Many strangers have affirmed my efforts with tears and saying our meeting made their day. Of course, the credit is the Lord's.
I wear my Veterans hat as it generates many comments that lead into deeper conversations. The loss of our house in a fire generated comments about how calm my wife and I were while watching the fire. I tell people that when I lost my first wife years ago, I was totally devastated. When I gave myself to Jesus, he gave me the peace that is beyond comprehension. Therefore when the house was burning, I had faith!
I have met so many people and my witness has generated so many meaningful stories. Our fire has blessed many, certainly Kathy and I."
5. The Woman Who Touched the Hem of Jesus' Garment
Luke 8:43-48 tells us the story of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had so much faith that she knew if she just got close enough to touch the hem of His garment, she would be healed. Jesus was traveling around and always had large crowds, so getting to Him was difficult. She was able to reach through the crowd and touch just the hem of His garment, which startled Him. "Who touched me?" He asked. Jesus had felt the healing power go out from Him.
When the startled woman fell on her knees, Jesus spoke to her directly. "Daughter, He said, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."
Rose says, "When I was recovering from major surgery, I realized I needed that kind of faith. The kind that will make you dive through the crowds just to touch the hem of His garment. I began to pray, "God, teach me how to do that today. Obviously, I am nowhere near His garment."
As I prayed, I realized the garment really wasn't an important part of her story. It was her faith. Lying in bed one night, I changed my prayer. "God, I am going to hold on to the corner of my sheet and use that as a substitute for His garment." He honored that, and when I pray now and hold that sheet corner, I feel like my prayer is more effective. It has certainly increased my faith, especially when I think of that nameless woman in the Bible who went to such extremes to put her faith into practice."
We often wait until we are in a dire situation before we turn to God. But identifying with these folks in the Bible gives us an opportunity to learn from them and grow our faith. There has never been a better time to identify with Bible characters. As we read and learn more about these men and women, let's live in such a way that Jesus will say to us, "Daughter, Son, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."
Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Her passion is helping others discover the joy of writing and learn to use their writing to make a difference. Linda recently released Articles, Articles, Articles! and is the author of over a thousand magazine articles and 19 books including the new Quick Guides for Personalities. She loves every opportunity to share her testimony, especially through her writing. Linda’s favorite activity (other than eating folded potato chips) is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material!