A practical faith

Practical principles on service, church life and marriage.

Juvenal Santos de Moura

"Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me. I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another" (Neh. 4:17-19).

In this passage we have the principle of teamwork. Here are the brothers working together on the wall, and Nehemiah is with them. He was a very practical man. If you go back to the first chapter of the book, you will see that when he heard that things were not going well in Jerusalem, he sat down, and wept and wept; He fasted for a few days and got up. Then he went to do the work.

Nehemiah was not alone praying, weeping and wailing, but he got up and worked. We need practical men; we need the practical ministry of all the saints.

I think there has never been as much science as there is in our time. In the history of the church, we see that the last century was the century in which the Lord brought the greatest amount of knowledge of the word of God. Therefore, we are full of knowledge.

We need the exposition of the Word, and we also need the practice of it. Nehemiah says that beside him there was one who played the trumpet. So, we need the practical person, and also the one who plays the trumpet. If the one who blows the trumpet is alone, everyone will be full of knowledge, but they will not build anything, because knowledge puffs up, but love builds. We need both ministries.

A practical man

In Acts chapter 4 we see another practical man: "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul; And none said that they had anything in common, but that they had all things in common ... So there was no needy person among them; Because all those who owned estates or houses, sold them, and brought the price of what was sold, and put it at the feet of the apostles; And distributed to each according to his need. Then Joseph, whom the apostles called Barnabas ... as he had an inheritance, sold it and brought the price and put it at the feet of the apostles."

Barnabas was a practical man. He saw that there were brothers in need, and then he went and sold his property, and deposited the price at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to the needy.

Do you want the practical ministry of all the saints? If you are in a good financial situation, you can be quite practical. The Lord has blessed you in a practical way. Imagine if the Lord only gave you dreams that you are going to have a lot of money. Would you like God to give you that dream, and then for it never to be fulfilled? You would want that dream to be palpable. God is very practical, he does not give you virtual money; He gives you real money. Then you have to be practical and real.

If I have a big house, that house is not just for my own pleasure. That house is for the kingdom of God, it is to host the brothers, it is to receive those who are going to be evangelized. This house is a house of prayer, it is a house that receives the Lord, and receives as many as the Lord sends there.

A house in Bethany

There is a house in the Bible that became a figure of the house of the Lord. It was a simple family. And we see that the focus now was not in Jerusalem, but at the house of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Where did Jesus go to sleep? That house became referential, because it always received the Lord. Therefore, whoever receives the one whom God sends receives the Lord himself. "... as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me," says the Lord.

"And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers den.”

And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.  But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant  and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?” And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there." (Matthew 21:12-17).

The Lord left the very temple that had been built for Him. The prophet Daniel had the vision that the time of rebuilding had come, because the kingdom of God was going to come. The kingdom of God was represented in the person of the Messiah. Then Daniel thought, 'The temple must be rebuilt, for the Messiah is going to enter the temple.' And indeed, the Messiah came and entered the temple. But it was not fit to be His house. And He, having observed all these things, departed from there and went to Bethany, His house.

John says, "But as many as received him ... He gave unto them power to become the sons of God." When the Lord arrived at Bethany, Luke says that there was a woman called Martha in that village. Up to that moment, she was an ordinary woman, nothing more. But she received the Lord in her house, and from then on, she was no longer an ordinary woman; now she was a special woman: in her house, the Lord would form his own house.

In John chapter 12 we see the house of the Lord. Mary is seated at the Lord's feet and pours ointment on His feet. Martha was serving and Lazarus was seated at the table. The Jews came to that house because of the testimony of the resurrection of Lazarus; they did not come only because of the Lord Jesus: "And Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus" (John 11:5). Here is the heart of the Lord Jesus towards that house. At first, Mary was at his feet, for she was a woman with more devotion. Martha, a very practical woman, wanted to do everything to please the Lord. To start with, she kept getting it wrong; However, she was transformed, she submitted to the Lord, her house was to become a blessing, and the Lord could give testimony concerning it.

Vessels of clay not crystal

We need to learn to be practical. We need devotion, but we also need practice. We have a nice house, and it gives us pleasure to talk about it to everyone. We bought a new armchair and put it in the living room; then we cover it up so it does not get dirty. Is it there for sitting on or is it only an adornment?

There are houses like this, full of adornments. There are brothers who on the day of their wedding received crystal wine glasses and put them in a piece of furniture for a special occasion. Then some visitors come to their home and they do not realize that the special occasion has arrived, and they bring out the ceramic glasses.

That's why we are clay vessels. The Lord didn’t make us to be vessels of crystal but vessels of clay. The clay cup can be used on any occasion. And if it breaks, the Lord takes it to the potter's house, puts it on the wheel and rebuilds it.

People know of many workers who wanted to get it right and made a mistake. They failed whilst trying to serve, they poured out their lives, but they got it wrong, and they broke. But they cried out to the Lord's mercy, he took them again, brought them into the potter's house and made a new vessel, filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with the treasure of God. That treasure is in clay vessels, not crystal vessels.

When the brothers come to your house, you have to serve them, you have to give them the best. We are vessels of clay, for the glory of the Lord. Many brothers of the past would have left us no legacy if they had been glass vessels. But since they were clay vessels, they offered up their lives everywhere.

We know the story of David Brainerd. He went to evangelize the Indians in the United States, and slept out in the open, in the middle of the forest. He was very young when he left, but when he returned he was twenty-four, and he had his fiancée whom he was going to marry. He had left her to go to that mission. He returned ill, and died in her arms. He had literally given up his life. He was a clay vessel, but the Lord recorded in eternity what he did. On the Day of the Lord, he will receive his reward.

Daniel could not leave Babylon for Jerusalem. He was very young when he went to Babylon. He was zealous for the Lord, he had a heart for God. Daniel remained in Babylon, but he prayed every day, looking toward Jerusalem. He wanted to see the glory of the Lord again, and he paid the price praying. When he was deported to Babylon, he was perhaps about fifteen years old. But now he was over seventy, and he was physically weak. He could no longer return to Jerusalem and cooperate with Nehemiah. But the Lord said, 'Go, Daniel, and rest, for your reward will be given to you at the end of days.' So Daniel had his reward, because he loved the Lord, and the Lord loved Daniel: "And he said to me, Daniel, man of high esteem ..." (Daniel 10:11). Daniel gave up his life to prayer; He did not count his life as precious. He may have slept very little, spending his life in prayer. He wanted Jerusalem to contain the glory of the Lord again.

God of the impossible

The most important thing is not the size of the house. We see in the book of Haggai that the greatest thing is the glory of the Lord of the house there. And we give thanks to God for the promise that the glory of this time will be far more excellent than all the glories already seen throughout the Bible.

God does impossible things. I know, because it was impossible for me to be converted. All of us were impossible. But the Lord saved the impossible! And now we cannot resist the hand of the Lord. The Lord works with us. Thank God for the Lord's ministry in our lives. God is practical. Starting today, your home is never going to be just a showcase to show what you have. Use it for the work of the Lord, because it will become a treasure in the heavens.

Transforming money into heavenly riches

In Acts chapter 4 we saw that Barnabas was a practical man, who transformed his money into heavenly riches. Nehemiah was a practical man, and beside him was one who played the trumpet. Practical men cannot walk without those who blow the trumpet, and those who blow the trumpet cannot walk without practical men; If not, the church will have many deficiencies. In Acts 11, we see that the Lord united Paul with Barnabas.

Paul was a learned man and Barnabas was a very practical man, and the Lord joined them both.

"The news came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem; And they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with purpose of heart. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith" (Acts 11:22-24).

Barnabas had material possessions, and not only that, he was a man of kind heart. But there is a difference between Barnabas and a rich person in this world. A very rich brother is not enough; he may have many possessions, but he needs something else, which Barnabas had: he was "full of the Holy Spirit and of faith." That makes the difference.

Sometimes, we are full of possessions, we have enough money, but we are not filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. And when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we can have all things, but we are not full of those things. However, we are filled with the Holy Spirit and we are filled with faith, to put everything into practice, to share it.

We need to know what it is that the Lord demands of us. It is not enough that we have things. If we are empty inside, we will fill ourselves up with those things; But if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we have everything, but we possess nothing. There are brothers who had everything, they supported many in the work; But when they left to be with the Lord they had nothing, because they gave everything up to the Lord.

We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. Sometimes we think that there are many things that have to be restored. Do you know what really needs to be restored? Faith to see how God sees. We need faith to believe in what the Lord Jesus says: "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." We need to be filled with faith. If we are filled with faith, we will be very practical and we will allow the Lord to work through us.

"And a great multitude was added to the Lord" (Acts 11:24). Barnabas was a man filled with the Holy Spirit and of faith, he was full of worldly possessions, but the people did not join themselves to Barnabas, but to the Lord. It is necessary to be filled with the Holy Spirit and faith so that people will be joined to the Lord.


"Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; And finding him, brought him to Antioch. And they assembled there a whole year with the church, and taught many people..." (Acts 11:25-26).

Although Barnabas was full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and many people came to the Lord, it still was not enough to allow Christ to be revealed in that church. Barnabas was a practical man, but he needed Paul, a scholar who had knowledge of Christ. Then, when Barnabas saw Paul, it was as if he had seen Christ, and he left for Tarsus to seek him out to complete the work.

Here we see teamwork. You want to bear fruit, but you only have one talent. If you join with another, then you are going to be two talents, and you can multiply. If you like learning a lot, you will naturally look for someone with a lot of studiousness; both are going to stay in a corner studying the Bible and will never do anything. So then, you need to find a practical brother and join him. If you like learning, and you study so much that you cannot even hug the brothers, or you read the bible so much that you cannot even visit a brother, join with someone who visits the brothers a lot or who often preaches the gospel.

We need to form teams. The body must function in this way. There is an interesting experience in 2 Samuel 18:19-29, from which we can receive help. Joab sent a man to carry a message, and another also wanted to do it, and ran ahead of the one who had the message. And when he came, the king asked him, 'What is the report of Absalom?' The reply was, 'I do not know the news, but the one who’s coming behind me has it.'

We need to walk together. Sometimes we run ahead. We are practical, we want things to happen quickly, we go ahead, and when we get there, we do not know what to do, because the message is with the one who’s coming after us. What should we do? Sometimes the practical ones run too much; they need to be next to someone who has the knowledge, to know what to do. The Lord is teaching us to walk as a team. He always sent them out two by two. Always go together, go as a team.

Marriage and family

A husband and wife are a team. Your wife has to go with you. We have great difficulty hearing our wives. They are a blessing. When we rush, they assure us. In Brazil there is a saying: 'Man is like the accelerator of the car, and the woman is the hand brake'. He speeds up a lot, and her job is to pull the hand brake. Thank God!

Husbands do not like to listen. The wife tells us something, but because of our pride we do not hear it. If she stays quiet in front of me, I will be throwing away the primary means of help that God gave me. Husbands have to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ hears the voice of his bride. Marriage is the expression of Christ and the church. The Lord wants to show this world what Christ and the church are. When someone goes to your home, the Lord wants to show them Christ and the church. The husband hears the voice of the wife and the wife hears the voice of the husband, and both complement each other.

In Judaism it was different; but the church is not Judaism. In Judaism, the woman had to be quiet, and the man did what he wanted. But it shouldn’t be like that today. Since marriage is the image of Christ and the church, both work together. It is an unbeatable team. They have to remain united, they have to stand firm in the faith, and the unity of their marriage will cause the children to submit and, as they look at that example of Christ and the church, they will be transformed.

The Lord wants to work with us. So, we have to be an example of Christ and the church, and therefore we will have our family in the Lord. You and your husband are a team. And if the Lord adds children, the team grows. Then the Lord will add other families to see that testimony, and the church will grow.

We cannot go to the meeting with hypocrisy. We need to be reconciled to one another. Husbands need to ask forgiveness from their wives and their children, and wives need to forgive and also ask forgiveness from their husbands and children.

It is very difficult to take up the cross because of pride and humble yourself in front of your children; But the Lord has to do that work in our hearts. We need to be in harmony with our children; husbands need to be in harmony with their wives, and wives need to be in harmony with their husbands.

Synthesis of a message given at the ‘Rucacura’ Retreat, January 2007.
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