Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Life of Faith, Pt 2: What do we do now?

I don't know about you, but I ask that question a lot. You would think that after over forty years of being a Christian, I shouldn't have to keep asking that question, but I still do. I hope that you read part one of this series and are ready to tackle this question. In that post, we learned that putting your faith in Christ means that we trust Him completely. Now we related that first to our salvation. We trust Him to be faithful to what He promises us in terms of bringing us into a relationship with Him that will go on through eternity. (Jn 3: 15-16)

We exercised faith in making that commitment, so, what do we do now? Is that the only purpose of faith, to come to a saving knowledge of Christ or is there more to it than that? Since the title of this series is "The Life of Faith, I am sure you already know the answer to that. In the book of Hebrews, chapter eleven, the writer lists several examples of people who trusted in God. The author also tells us two important details concerning faith. In verse one; he gives us a description of what faith is. Heb 11:1 says "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." The examples that are given to us demonstrate that these "Heroes of Faith" were commended because they were obedient to God even though they had not yet seen the answer to a promise God had made to them. Even so, they were sure that God would fulfill His promises.

You see, God has made many promises to us beyond just our salvation. If we are to follow the examples in Hebrews, we are to be sure that God will fulfill them, even before they happen. You might say, "I can't do that, it takes more faith than I have." You wouldn't be alone in that statement, but it is not optional. Look at what it says in verse six, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." I know, now you are really feeling guilty and maybe wondering whether or not you are even a true believer. Hang on, there is good news coming.

I am sure that you would agree that we all struggle with how much faith we have. Sometimes it seems easy to believe a promise from God and other times we just can't seem to trust Him. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said that if we have a measure of faith as small as a mustard seed, we could tell a mountain to move and it would happen, nothing would be impossible for us. That makes me feel like my faith is really puny. The question then becomes, how do we increase our faith? This is a question that has brought forth much discussion and even some controversy.

There are many people who would try to say that if you just had enough faith, God must do whatever you ask Him to do. They would use verses such as we just read to justify that position. There are some problems however with that premise. First, if God must do whatever we ask, doesn't that mean that our asking is actually a demand rather than a request? I don't think I want to demand anything from God, do you? Second, it makes us sovereign rather than God. In a sense, it puts us in the position of being God. Not a place I feel comfortable in. I have seen what happens to those who would put themselves in the place of God and it is not a pretty sight! Read what happens to Satan in the book of Revelation if you want to know more.

I think that where we go wrong, is in the understanding of what promises God actually makes to us. If he has promised something, He will deliver. That is guaranteed (2 Cor 1:20, "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us." NKJV) Ps 145:13 says that the Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. So there is no doubt that God will fulfill His promises to us no matter how little our faith is. We just need to know what His promises are. That is one reason that living a life of faith is impossible without studying the Bible. How can we know what God's promises are unless we read His revealed Word? You say, "But God speaks to my heart about these things." My question back to you is, "how can you be sure it is God speaking?" The way we test what we believe God may be impressing upon us, is weighing it against scripture and what it has already revealed to us about the nature and character of God. We must study the entire Word, not just bits and pieces, to be able to discern what He actually promises us.

Doctrines such as we discussed earlier, that leave the impression that if we just have enough faith, God must do whatever we ask (demand), usually stem from taking verses out of context and not comparing them to other parts of scripture. Also, we must study the words used and what they meant to the people that they were originally written to. This can help keep us from thinking God promised us something that He didn't. Let me illustrate.

In John 16:23 Jesus says to His disciples that His Father will give them whatever they ask in Jesus' name. Some people conclude then that if they ask for a million dollars, "In Jesus name," then God has promised they will receive it. If they don't, well then, they just did not have enough faith. This turns the phrase, "in Jesus name," into some type of magic formula. That would make me question the legitimacy of that teaching and make me want to study further to understand what Jesus meant by that statement. In so doing, I compare that statement to 1 John 5:14-15, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him. "Since the apostle John wrote both of these verses, they must go hand in hand. In fact, if you did a thorough study on the phrase "in His name," you would conclude that these phrases are really interchangeable. Asking, in His name, really means according to His will. After all, since God knows everything and He will do what is best for us, why would we want anything that is not in His will? That is where true faith is measured, believing that God does work out everything for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Ro 8:28)

So, what do we do now? We spend time with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We study His word and talk to Him in prayer. The better we get to know Him, the more our faith increases and the easier it becomes to believe in His promises to us. We learn as we go that even if we have not yet seen the completion of His promises, it will come to pass. One of my favorite promises is in Phil 1:6 "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Though this was written to believers in the church at Phillpi, it is applicable to all of us. I have yet to see the completed work of Christ in my life, but I have put my (faith) complete trust in Him to accomplish His promise!

Game Plan:

As you study the word, look for the promises God has given. Study them and see if they were specific to just a certain time and person (many are) and how God fulfilled them.

Look also for promises to all believers and ask the Lord to give you the ability to believe and rest in those promises.

May the Lord increase your faith as you continue to spend time with Him, Coach    

PS: Next up will be Pt 3 in this series "Practical Issues in Living The Life of Faith"

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Life of Faith, Pt 1

Well, here we are in the New Year 2011. Wow, sometimes it is hard to believe. It seems like just yesterday that it was January 1st 2000 and we were all breathing a sigh of relief. The dreaded "millennium bug" was declared dead on arrival. You may recall that there were many people who were convinced it would be a disaster of untold proportions, affecting every aspect of our lives. Some even went so far as to buy years worth of food supplies and even generators for their energy source. It was really a pretty crazy time.

So, you are wondering, why I would be bringing this up? Oh, you weren't? Sorry, maybe it was just me wondering why I was bringing this up. I guess I was just remembering that time, when we not only transitioned into a new year but a new millennium and I thought to myself, why did so many people get so wrapped up in believing that the so called "Y2K" bug was going to bring calamity upon us? Was there evidence that we could look at to be sure what might happen or did we just listen to people that we thought knew a whole lot more than we did? Some so called experts seemed very convincing.

Well, that same question comes to mind for many when they are thinking about God. They want to know if there is any real evidence concerning the existence of God and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, or are most believers just listening to other people who sound convincing. I could turn that around and put the shoe on the other foot. The other night, I was listening to a leader of an atheist organization, who was being interviewed on the most watched cable news show in the country. He said, "Everyone knows that all religions are just a scam." When challenged by the interviewer to support that statement, he could bring no evidence whatsoever. He just indicated that it's a well known fact. Pretty lame, don't you think?

It occurred to me that often, when Christians talk about their faith, many non-believers think we are doing the same thing. They hear people say, "you just have to take it on faith" as if we had no evidence whatsoever to support that faith. Some of our so called spokespeople don't help much. I have heard many Christians being interviewed on national television or radio say things like "I can't really explain this to you, I just believe it." My heart is grieved when the Christian faith is represented so poorly. In order to live a life of faith, we need to have a clearer picture of what faith really is.

Let's begin by defining what the word faith actually means. The Oxford Dictionary defines faith as "complete trust in someone or something." This is important because it points out that faith must have an object. We can put our faith in many things. When you sit down on a chair, you put your faith in two things. One, you believe that the person who built the chair knew what they were doing. Two, you trust that the chair will not break when you sit down. Let me ask you a question. The last time you sat in a chair, had you seen or known the person that built it? I am going to take a wild guess and say the answer is no. Why then did you trust that the chair would hold you and not break? Most likely it is because every time you sat on it before, it was just fine. You based your decision to trust the chair because you had good evidence that it would hold you. Your evidence, however, was not complete. You did not know everything there is to know about the chair. You didn't know who made it and how trustworthy they might be. You didn't know if someone else had done something to the chair that might have damaged it and caused it to break. Again, your evidence was good but not perfect, yet you chose to trust the chair.

This is similar to the person who puts their complete trust in Jesus Christ. We have very good, if not overwhelming evidence of the existence of God and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but we don't have all the answers or understand everything there is to know about God. So we have to come to a conclusion based on what we do know. By the way, with honest historical scholarship, we have an unbelievable amount of accurate information. The Bible has been proven over and over again to be historically and scientifically accurate. There are numerous books and websites you can go to and check it out.*

The dictionary also makes this statement about the word faith, "strong conviction in the doctrines of a religion based on spiritual conviction rather than proof." I would have to take some exception to that in the case of Christianity. This again might lead someone to believe that there is no proof that leads to faith in Christ. But there is a sense in which the statement is true. Ultimately, we do make a confession of faith based upon spiritual conviction. In fact, we do not come to salvation by just believing the evidence. There has to be a conviction based upon the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

In Matthew 16, Jesus was asking the question, "Who do men say that I am?" After receiving a couple of different answers, He finally asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answers in Matt 16:16,"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (ESV) I want you to pay close attention to what Jesus says next. "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matt 16:17) Now Peter had been around Jesus for about three years. He had seen Jesus perform numerous miracles, not the least of which was walking on the water himself. He had heard Jesus teach and present evidence from the scriptures of who He was. Ultimately though, he had to have the truth revealed to him by God Himself.

Our minds can be filled with knowledge and facts, but true salvation happens when our hearts are changed by the Spirit of God. Just knowing the truth isn't enough. Salvation comes by the grace of God, through faith. (Eph 2:8) Remember, faith is complete
trust in someone or something. We put our complete trust in Jesus Christ for salvation with great evidence, but more importantly by the work of the Holy Spirit revealing Him to us. (Jn 15:26) When this happens, our lives are changed forever and we begin a journey. We can now testify along with the apostle Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20 NIV)

Game Plan: If you have not already done so, ask the Lord to help you put your complete trust in Him. Study the verses in this post and begin looking up other verses that have to do with faith (there are at least 250 of them!)

In the next few post, we are going to look at different aspects of living the Life of Faith. Until then, may God bless you in your journey of living by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, Coach

*For great resources on the accuracy of the Bible, creation vs evolution, life death and resurrection of Jesus, check out these sites: