I want to talk this morning about faith; trusting God. Berean's family has had a difficult week as we hurt, as we greave with Gary and Brenda as they suffer with Brenda's stroke. So I thought it would be profitable for all of us to talk about our trust in Yahweh.
As believers, those who have trusted in the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua, we have assurance that we will go to heaven when our days here are over. But have you noticed that you are not blessed with having to never go through the same pain and difficulties that unbelievers face? Christians still have bad marriages. Christians still go through financial difficulties. Christians lose their jobs. And they go through physical suffering. Christians get sick and have accidents just like everyone else. Becoming a Christian does not mean that you will never lose your job. Becoming a Christian does not make you immune to cancer, or tornadoes, or financial failure.
Why is it important to understand this truth? Isn't it obvious that everyone suffers with the pains of life? We need to understand this truth so we can learn to deal with it when disaster hits. What does God expect from us when we are dealing with disasters in our lives? 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 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:
And 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 seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 NASB
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?
"And without faith it is impossible to please Him"—here the writer lays down an axiomatic truth. He uses the aorist tense in the 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.
The author of Hebrews is writing to Hebrew Christians who are suffering great persecution from the hand of their Jewish brothers. They are discouraged and on the verge of turning away from Christianity and going back to Judaism. He is exhorting them to endurance in their Christian lives:
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. Hebrews 10:35-36 NASB
In the midst of trials and persecution a person's faith may waver, or they may even turn from their faith.
If we understand that this letter of Hebrews is a call to go on believing in the truths of Christianity, then chapter 11 makes a lot of sense. It's not an explanation of how to be saved. It is rather a call to perseverance in faith, whatever the odds.
Hebrews 11 gives us many examples of men and women who had grown strong in their faith, and because of their faith lived victorious lives. In verses 32-35a of chapter 11, we see the victories of faith. These believers overcame every imaginable type of adversity through faith. Samson defeated 1,000 men, David killed Goliath, all because they trusted God.
The dominant thought in all these examples is triumph over adversity-victory and accomplishment in spite of trial. This is one great side to the experience of faith, but there is another. And verses 35b-38 give the other side of the picture:
Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; Hebrews 11:35 NASB
The rapid transition to the thought of unrelieved suffering is very effective. Faith is not always rewarded in this life. In my opinion, this is an even greater manifestation of the power of faith. Faith's power enables those to suffer what other wise they could not have suffered. Here is a group of people that didn't gain great victories out on the battlefield. They didn't perform great feats for God, but in my opinion, these are the real heroes. They trusted God when the day was dark, when the night was long, the suffering was great, and when there was no deliverance for them at all.
"For he who comes to God must believe that He is"—it is not belief in the existence of a god that is meant, but in the existence of the God of the Bible—Yahweh! The God of the Bible is Holy, Just, Good, Loving, Wrathful, Merciful, and Sovereign. We must believe that God is who He says He is.
"He is a rewarder of those who seek Him"—God rewards those who seek Him. Do you 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. "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. And today the many conflicting voices could confuse the subject. 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 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 me in what I said), or you are not.
yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Romans 4:20-21 NASB
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 that 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:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 NASB
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 judgment, trusting in Yeshua 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. I've never seen Yeshua. 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 walking by faith.
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.
In my opinion the Church today is so impotent. What is it that distinguishes Christians from their unsaved neighbors? What is it that makes us different? I think the answer 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:
yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Romans 4:20-21 NASB
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:
"But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Matthew 6:30 NASB
Speaking to Peter, Yeshua said:
Immediately Yeshua stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:31 NASB
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?
Yeshua said that the centurion had "great" faith:
Now when Yeshua heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. Matthew 8:10 NASB
The disciples asked Yeshua to increase their faith:
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" Luke 17:5 NASB
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:
Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Yeshua had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. John 4:46-47 NASB
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?
So Yeshua said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe." John 4:48 NASB
Yeshua was concerned that the man's faith was based only on signs and wonders:
The royal official *said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." John 4:49 NASB
The nobleman compelled Christ to act, but Christ simply spoke the word:
Yeshua said to him, "Go; your son lives." The man believed the word that Yeshua spoke to him and started off. John 4:50 NASB
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:
As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." John 4:51-52 NASB
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 to five hours. It was one o'clock when Yeshua 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:
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 NASB
We need to study the Word that we may know Him. It's hard to trust someone you don't know. The more time you spend with Him, the more you will trust Him.
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:
Now on one of those days Yeshua and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." So they launched out. But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. They came to Yeshua and woke Him up, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, "Where is your faith?" They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, "Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?" Luke 8:22-25 NASB
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 Yeshua, "We're going to die." He said to them, "Where is your faith?" They had seen Yeshua do the miraculous, they should have trusted Him:
Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Yeshua gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:12-15 NASB
They saw Yeshua 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:
But David said to Saul, "Your servant was tending his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. "Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God." 1 Samuel 17:34-36 NASB
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:
David took these words to heart and greatly feared Achish king of Gath. So he disguised his sanity before them, and acted insanely in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva run down into his beard. 1 Samuel 21:12-13 NASB
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:
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU," Hebrews 13:5 NASB
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:
Then they spoke against God; They said, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? "Behold, He struck the rock so that waters gushed out, And streams were overflowing; Can He give bread also? Will He provide meat for His people?" Therefore the LORD heard and was full of wrath; And a fire was kindled against Jacob And anger also mounted against Israel, Psalms 78:19-21 NASB
Why was it that God was so angry with them?:
Because they did not believe in God And did not trust in His salvation. Psalms 78:22 NASB
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 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:
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You. Psalms 9:10 NASB
Those who know Your character will put their trust in You. To know God's character is to be able to trust Him. Do you know God well enough to trust Him? Do you know Him well enough to have such 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? 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. True peace and true freedom from anxiety can only be found by faith in Yahweh:
"The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. "Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock. Isaiah 26:3-4 NASB
Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God. Psalms 20:7 NASB
What the psalmist is saying is that we are not to trust in our own strength, but in God. We are able to trust in Him when we remember His name; i.e, His character.
Who is among you that fears the LORD, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. Isaiah 50:10 NASB
Isaiah exhorted the servants to walk by faith, trusting in the name of the Lord, trusting His character. The name of God reveals His character. This is why God is known by so many names in the Tanakh. Each name revealed an aspect of His character and the benefit of that to us as believers.
Let me share with you just some of the compound names of Yahweh that reveal something of His character and His work on our behalf:
Yahweh-Raah (Psalm 23:1) means: "Yahweh, my shepherd." Like a shepherd the Lord gently leads and cares for His people, the sheep of His pasture. This name is also used in Genesis 22:14 where it is translated: "Yahweh will provide." As He provided for Abraham at his point of need, so the Lord will provide for us at our point of need.
Yahweh-Nissi (Exodus 17:15) means: "Yahweh, my banner." He is the standard under which we rally as the people of God. He is our rallying-point.
Yahweh-Rapha (Exodus 15:26) means: "Yahweh heals." He heals in every way, not just physically, but emotionally, and spiritually.
Yahweh-Shammah (Ezekiel 48:35) means: "Yahweh is there." God is there when you need Him. There is no place where He is not.
Yahweh-Shalom (Judges 6:22-24) means: "Yahweh is peace." Through Him we find true inner peace, which is there even in the midst of the storm.
Yahweh-Tsidkenu (Jeremiah 23:6) means: "Yahweh our righteousness." He is our righteousness. Through Christ He imparts His righteousness to us.
As you can easily see from the meanings of the names of God given in the Old Testament, each name not only reveals something of the nature and the character of God, it also reveals something of the provision of God promised through His name. If we are going to trust God, we must first know His name. We can only come to know His name as we spend time in Scripture.
In the written Word, God has displayed Himself to us, manifesting His glorious perfections: His matchless attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence; His moral character of holiness, righteousness, goodness, and mercy. He is also revealed through His blessed titles: the Rock of Israel, Him that cannot lie, the Father of mercies, the God of all grace. The more we know Him and walk with Him the more we will trust Him:
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10 NASB