I assume that because you are here this morning you believe in God. Is that a safe assumption? People who don't believe in God don't often attend church. So, since you believe in God, let me ask you a very important question: What does God expect from you? Does He expect anything? I would have to say that most Christians live as if God expects nothing from them. What does God want from us? We could name a lot of things but what is number one? What does God want from us more than anything else? It is a one word answer. In one of the truly great statements of the Bible, the writer of Hebrews tells us:
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
There is no way our relationship to God can be pleasing to Him unless we trust Him. God wants us to trust Him. Apart from faith we cannot please God. So, apart from faith it doesn't much matter what we do.
A very basic and simple fact of life is this; All of our valuable relationships in life are built on trust. When a husband and wife stop trusting each other, they may continue to be married, but they can no longer have a happy marriage. When two friends stop trusting each other, they may continue to see each other, but they no longer have a true friendship. If that is true in our human relationships, how much more true in our relationship to God?
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him."Here the writer lays down an axiomatic truth. He uses the aorist tense in the in infinitive "to please." The statement is universal in its application, and timeless. The idea is; without faith it is impossible to please him at all.
It is not belief in the existence of a god that is meant, but in the existence of the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is Holy, Just, Good, Loving, Wrathful, Merciful, Sovereign. We must believe that God is who he says he is.
"He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."God rewards those who diligently seek Him. Do you diligently seek Him? Why not? Do you not want to be rewarded? Or is it that you don't believe Him? You think the reward is greater if you live your own way. "Diligently seek Him" is to seek to know Him in an intimate way. Walking with God is rewarded both temporally and eternally.
I think that it should be obvious that we can't live by faith unless we understand what faith is. Do you know what faith is? If someone asked you, " What is faith?", could you explain it to them? Before we look at what faith is, let's dispel some myths. Some say that we live by faith every day. You turn on your faucet, fill a glass of water and drink it -- that's faith. You open a can of food and you eat it -- that's faith. Or you fly in an airplane -- that's faith. Those things are not faith! That is simply putting into practice what is called the law of mathematical probability. You are saying to yourself, "Well, thousands of people do this everyday and everything is all right, so I'll do the same." I've grown up seeing people drink out of the faucet -- that is not faith.
Faith is not superstition, it's not a sort of sixth sense, some intuition into the spiritual realm, or an open sesame sort of thing.
Faith is not wishful thinking. It's not, "I want a certain thing to happen, so I'm having faith that it will." Many people are like the girl who was asked to define faith. She said, "Faith is believing what you know isn't so." That is what faith is to many. They think it is some sort of gamble. That is not faith.
Faith is always intelligent, it knows what it is doing. Biblically defined, FAITH IS: UNDERSTANDING AND ASSENT TO A PROPOSITION. If you were to ask me, "Where is my money?" And I said to you, "The check is in the mail." Now, you are either going to believe me, which is faith( you are trusting in what I said), or you are not.
Romans 4:20-21 (NKJV) He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
Abraham believed what God told him, that is faith. No matter what the subject, whether it be God or botany, the psychology or linguistics of belief is identical in all cases. Believing that 2+2=4 is arithmetic. Believing that asparagus belongs to the lily family is botany. Botany is not mathematics, but the psychology or linguistics of believing is identical. Christ's promises of salvation are vastly different from the propositions of botany. But believing is always thinking a proposition is true.
The difference between various beliefs lies in the objects or propositions believed, not in the nature of belief. Faith must begin with knowledge, you can't believe what you don't know or understand. I understand the teaching of evolution; but I do not assent to it. Belief is the act of assenting to something understood. But understanding alone is not belief in what is understood. I understand Dispensational theology but I do not believe it.
Soren Kierkegard, a Dutch theologian of the mid nineteenth century, has greatly influenced the churches thinking. He taught that it really makes no difference "what" we believe. The "what" is unimportant, all that counts is the "how." There are not different ways of believing, there are only different things to believe in. We often hear people say, "They are so sincere in their faith." If they are believing the wrong thing, they are sincerely wrong!
The church has taken Kierkegard's teaching of "how" and come up with "head" and "heart" belief. They ask, "Do you believe it with just your head or heart?" The Bible makes no such distinction. Scripture never contrasts the head and the heart, but frequently contrasts the heart and the lips.
The Christian life starts with an act of faith. We believe that Christ will save us if we trust in Him alone for our redemption.
John 3:16 (NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
That is a promise; when I believe in Christ I am given everlasting life. When I come to the living God as a guilty sinner, who deserves hell, trusting in Jesus Christ and Him alone for my redemption, I am engaged in an act of faith. I've never seen God. I've never seen this place called heaven, or this place called hell. I've never seen Jesus Christ. But by faith those things which I cannot see become realities to me. They take on substance for me, and by faith, I gain assurance and conviction about things that my eyes cannot behold. That is what faith is all about. But trusting God for my eternal salvation is only the beginning. It is the start of a journey that cannot be traveled successfully in any other way but by a growing faith. We must distinguish between saving faith and the faith of obedience.
Thousands of believers have trusted Christ for their salvation, but are not living in faith, trusting God in each and every area of their lives.
Several weeks ago Vince and I were discussing the fact that the church today seems so impotent. Vince asked me what it was that distinguished Christians from their unsaved neighbors? What is it that makes us different? After thinking about that for several weeks, the answer that I came up with is FAITH. We should be people who live by faith. Everyday and in every way we should be trusting God in our daily lives. But are we? Do we really trust God? Do you trust Him to provide and care for you?
Do you understand that there are degrees of faith? We often think in terms of you either have faith or you don't. But the Bible talks of various degrees of faith.
Romans 4:19-20 (NKJV) And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,
The New American Standard puts it this way:
Romans 4:20 (NASB) yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,
Abraham didn't have "weak" faith, his faith was "strong." This shows that there are degrees of faith. Our Lord charges the disciples in general, and Peter in particular, as having "little faith." They had faith, but unlike Abraham's, it was deficient in strength.
Matthew 6:30 (NKJV) "Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Matthew 14:31 (NKJV) And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
As Peter focused on the circumstance around him instead of on Christ his faith grew weak. I'll bet that most of you can relate to this, can't you? When you are focusing on the circumstances doesn't your faith grow weak?
Jesus said that the centurion had "great" faith.
Matthew 8:10 (NKJV) When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!
The disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith:
Luke 17:5 (NKJV) And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
In Acts 6:8, Stephen was said to be "full of faith." The Greek word for "full" is pleres, which means complete or mature. In 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul said he wanted to perfect that which was lacking in their faith. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul said, "Your faith grows exceedingly." James talks about "dead" faith in 2:17 and 20, and he talks about "mature" faith in 2:22.
So the Scriptures speak of; little faith; great faith; weak faith; strong faith; lacking faith; perfect faith; dead faith; full faith; growing faith; and increasing faith. There are degrees of faith. All believers don't have the same amount of faith. Some believers are weak in faith. Some believers have dead faith.
Let me show you an example of strong faith:
John 4:46-47 (NKJV) So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.
If you had a child that was dying, what would you do? Would you trust Christ no matter what happened? Do you trust Him to do what is best?
John 4:48 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe."
Jesus was concerned that the man's faith was based only on signs and wonders.
John 4:49 (NKJV) The nobleman said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies!"
The nobleman compelled Christ to act, but Christ simply spoke the word.
John 4:50 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives." So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.
The man believed what Christ said, "Your son lives." He understood what Christ was saying and he believed it.
What would you do at this point? Would you run all the way home? That would be weak faith, looking for proof.
John 4:51-52 (NKJV) And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, "Your son lives!" 52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him."
The man asks when his son got better and he was told, "Yesterday." Cana and Capernaum were only a short distance apart, the journey could have easily been made in four hours. It was one o'clock when Jesus pronounced the boy healed. Such strong faith had the nobleman in Christ's word, that he didn't return home until the next day. That is strong faith!
The more you walk in faith, the more you walk in victory and joy, so we need to learn to live by faith. Faith pleases God.
How can we increase our faith? There are two main factors which determine the strength of our faith. First, is our knowledge of God. The main explanation of the troubles and difficulties which most Christians experience in their lives is due to a lack of knowledge about God, theology proper. We need to study the revelation that God has given of himself and of his character. That is how to develop strong faith. The more you know God, the more you will trust Him.
Martin Luther said to Erasmus, "Your thoughts of God are too human." I think that is true of most Christians.
Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
We need to study the Word that we may know Him. It's hard to trust someone you don't know.
The second element is the application of what we know. A knowledge that never ventures out upon what it knows will never be a strong faith.
Luke 8:22-25 (NKJV) Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, "Let us cross over to the other side of the lake." And they launched out. 23 But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. 24 And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 But He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, "Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!"
The disciples in the boat during the storm were failing to apply their faith, and that is why our Lord put His question to them in that particular form. He said, "Where is your faith?" They had faith, but where was it? Why weren't they applying it to the situation that they were in? Their problem was they did not use the faith they had, they didn't think.
They were looking at the waves and the water coming in the boat. They were bailing it out, but still more was coming in and they cried out to Jesus, "We're going to die." He said to them, "Where is your faith?" They had seen Jesus do the miraculous, they should have trusted Him.
Luke 7:12-15 (NKJV) And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.
They saw Jesus raise the dead and they were worried about drowning? They weren't applying their faith. In addition to our knowledge of God, there is this very important element-- we must apply what we know.
At times, we do apply what we know and we come through the problems and difficulties victorious. Like David when he faced Goliath. And yet at other times, we become consumed with our circumstances and we do not apply our faith like David before Achish the king of Gath. David was scared to death, and he changed his behavior and pretended he was crazy. He began to scribble on the doors and drool all over himself (1 Sam. 21:13). What happened to the giant killer? He wasn't applying his faith. He forgot about his God. Have you ever done that? You think your faith is strong, then you have a trial, a situation that causes you to panic and drool all over yourself. At those times, we need to focus on God, to meditate on Him and apply what we know.
Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV) Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
That is a promise from the sovereign God of the universe. He is always with us.
When we fail to trust God we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness. God views our distrust as seriously as He views our disobedience. When the children of Israel were hungry, they spoke against God:
Psalms 78:19-22 (NKJV) Yes, they spoke against God: They said, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? 20 Behold, He struck the rock, So that the waters gushed out, And the streams overflowed. Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people?" 21 Therefore the LORD heard this and was furious; So a fire was kindled against Jacob, And anger also came up against Israel,
Why was it that God was so angry with them?
22 Because they did not believe in God, And did not trust in His salvation.
In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith. Faith pleases God.
Many folks have reduced Christianity to a bunch of rules, do this and don't do that. They think they are pleasing God by doing things and not doing other things. Listen, the thing that pleases God is our faith in Him. We are to live by faith, trusting Him in every situation of life.
Ann Sullavan was born in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts in poverty and in affliction, and she was also half blind. When her mother died, she went over the hill to the poor house. But later, at the Perkins institute for the blind, an operation restored her sight, and from that day on she devoted herself to the care of the blind.
Meanwhile, a baby was born in the south, a little girl who, after early childhood, would never hear or speak or see Her name was Helen Keller. And in due time Helen came under the care of Ann Sullavan. In two weeks Ann taught her thirty words just by spelling them out by touching her hand. And under the tutelage of Ann, Helen rose to national prominence and fame. Teacher and pupil became companions and they were inseparable until the day of Ann Sullavan's death.
In her darkness Helen had found a companion who could teach her and whom she could trust. And believer, if you really want it, you can have a companion along the pathway of life, and though you cannot see Him, you can trust Him and He can teach you and be with you. And by faith, you can walk with God and please God, for without faith, it is impossible to please Him.
In order to trust God, we must know Him in an intimate, personal way. David said;
Psalms 9:10 (NKJV) And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
To know God's name is to know Him in an intimate personal way. Do you have such a relationship with God and such a confidence in Him that you believe He is with you in your adversity, even though you do not see any evidence of His presence and His power? Without faith, it is impossible to please Him.
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