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20

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9:30 AM to 10:20 AM
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The Truth About Faith

The Truth About Faith

Have you diligently prayed about a request- and believed for it with all your heart-and it didn't happen? Even worse, the very opposite happened? A loved one was not healed. The desire of your heart was not granted - at least, not to your satisfaction. The miracle you needed has not yet come. Time drags on, and the problems are still there.

We read the promises: “All things are possible to them that believe.” “Ask, nothing wavering, and it shall be done.” “All things whatsoever you shall ask in faith, believing, you shall have them.” We set out to claim those promises. We know God is not a liar, and He would not tease us with unreachable goals. Yet, try as we may to believe - really, truly believe - we often are left confused, because the answer is either delayed or not in view.

Heb. 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

According to the theology of some, there are only two reasons why we did not get what we asked for. Either our faith is faulty or there is sin in our life. We are made to believe that God had to withhold the answer until our faith improved enough to satisfy Him. Either the quality or the quantity of our faith did not come up to God's criteria for answered prayer.

Furthermore, we are made to believe that God is obligated by His Word to answer every request the moment we reach the proper pinnacle of faith. That includes removing from our vocabulary any negative thoughts, words, or confessions. After all, we dare not offend God. He may have been almost ready to grant our desire - but, oops! We made a negative confession. We said the wrong words, so God's taking it all back! Now we have it - now we don't!

While speaking words of faith is a good testimony, that kind of theology is silly, as if God is hanging on every word His children say, tiptoeing around, and ready to slap a penalty on everyone who speaks out of line.

Nevertheless, Christians throughout our nation are having their faith shipwrecked because they are listening to a “faith” teaching that makes them believe that getting every desire of the heart depends simply on getting their formulas correct. They are challenged to believe God for prosperity, perfect health, and whatever else their minds can conceive. “Conceive, then believe,” or “Name it and claim it,” they are told. They are urged to blot out of their thinking all thoughts of suffering, pain, poverty - or anything negative. They are carried along by the testimonies of those around them who are getting new cars, homes, jobs, fur coats, diamond rings - whatever their hearts desire - all through positive faith.

But when none of these things happen for them - when, instead of prosperity, there comes accumulating bills - when, instead of healing, there comes a time of testing, tears, and sorrow, - they end up confused! What happened? It worked for the evangelist. He prospers. He gets anything he wants - right when he wants it. “It works for others-why not for me?” “What am I doing wrong? My faith must be weak. Maybe there is a secret sin blocking the answer.” So they become focused upon themselves and their faith, leaving them depressed.

Let me share with you some truth about faith. I believe every promise in God's Word and that God works miracles in answer to the prayer of faith in Him. But, God is not obligated, nor is He motivated, to act according to our faith alone. God is love, and love is what motivates Him to act. Therefore, our faith is to be in God, who loves us and will do what is best.

Suppose my child was caught in an animal trap in the woods near our home. I hear his cry for help. He is hurt, bleeding, and calls for me with all his might. As his father, do I stop first to analyze the quality of his faith? Do I ask myself the question, “I wonder if he believes I'll answer him? Does he have faith enough in me to enable me to help him?”

No! A thousand times no! I run to my child’s side - no questions asked - no faith involved - because I am motivated by a father's love for a hurting child. His faith doesn't motivate me. I respond simply because he called for me and I love him. What kind of an earthly father would leave a child bleeding and hurt in the woods - simply because the child didn't voice some kind of faith in him? Likewise, God will never leave one of His children to suffer alone. He will never shut His ear to their cry - simply because their faith in Him is weak. If we have faith enough to call on Him, that is all the faith that is necessary for God to respond.

Our faith must not rest on the strength of our faith. Christianity is not faith in our faith. My faith, your faith, all faith - must rest on the lovingkindness and concern of our Heavenly Father.

Jer 9:23-24 This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.

God so loves His children, He even hears BEFORE they call, like a mother who anticipates her baby's cry. He loves us and comes to our rescue when our faith is weak, when we don't deserve any answer from Him - all because of His love and kindness. He will come to our rescue and do what is right - in every situation of our life. Weak faith or not, He still loves us and nothing can hinder that love.

Ps 103:8-14 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 

A right confession is no guarantee of an answer to prayer. Neither does a wrong confession hinder an answer! Job's wife voiced the world's worst confession. Do you remember it? She said to Job, “Curse God and die!” Don’t be too hard on her.

Job's wife had stood weeping over ten caskets, containing all of her children. No hope of grandchildren. No more holidays together with the family. The only family left now was Job, and he, too, appeared to be dying. What despair must have come over her. She must have thought faith in God was useless. I don't excuse what she said, but I can understand the kind of grief and pain that staggered her to say that to Job. She could not fathom what was happening. All she knew was that all was lost. She thought there was nothing left to live for. And that is why she suggested Job curse God and die. Yet, in spite of her words, she benefited from the very same blessings that Job received.

After the troubles passed and Job was healed, did God hold her wrong confession against her? Did He hold back any blessing from her because of her very human outburst of grief? No! God blessed that lady with more than she had before! He knew she didn't mean what she said! God looked beyond her frailty and saw the cry of her heart - and He blessed her along with Job in spite of her bad confession.

James 5:11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Psalm 130:3-4 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

Psalm 72:12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.

Don't ever be condemned by the things you said in haste or in fear. We serve a Father who forgives and forgets every doubting, fearful word that has been spoken in despair. Be honest with God. Job's wife was. Don't fake it. If you can't understand why your prayers aren't answered, or why you have to suffer - if your heart is full of questions, fears, and confusion - tell it to God! Spill out your innermost feelings, negative or not. Our Father will let you cry it all out, listen patiently to your complaints and fears, and not once will He condemn you for it.

Then, after you have cried unto Him, turn to Him in faith and pray, “Now Lord, help me overcome my unbelief. Take away my fears and confusion. Show me your love, now that I need it so much. Help me to trust you and to submit to your will.”

I hear it said, “You have sin in your life; therefore God is hiding from you.” And surprisingly, multitudes of Christians have convinced themselves that God is either mad at them, hiding from them, or at least holding back answers to prayer - because of sin. God holds no grudges. If you have confessed and forsaken your sins - they can in no way hinder God's work in your life.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Yes, Is. 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” However, that is our condition and relationship with God before believing in Jesus as Savior. That is our relationship with God if we have not confessed our sin. But if Jesus is our Lord, and we have confessed our sin, how can God hide from sins already paid for by the blood of His own Son? If we have truly confessed the sins, they are forgiven, under the blood of Christ, and no longer counted against us! For the Christian whose sins are blotted out, suffering, tests, and trials are usually the result of loving discipline, or training, or a special ministry, and not sin.

Heb 12:5-11 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 

I hear people say today, “Yes, the Lord disciplines, but not by way of suffering or pain. God wouldn't do that. Proper faith wouldn't allow it.”

The truth is - all through history, to this very day, godly people have suffered and are even now suffering. To deny that is to deny the truth. Paul tells of the suffering of the early Christians. Shall we accuse them of not having faith?

The truth is that some of the saintliest people living today suffer from cancer, ulcers, arthritis, heart trouble, etc., etc. I cringe when I hear people say, “They don't have to be sick. Their faith is weak.”

Oh, the growth, the depths of God's love discovered, the true values and rearranged priorities that have resulted from suffering. Those who have not suffered with Christ are shallow, self-centered, and they lack the compassion that only comes from having met the Lord in the midst of some fiery furnace of trial.

There is also an impatient kind of arrogance about people who have never suffered. And that is because we have strayed so far from the realities of Christ's Gospel. We are so spoiled, so self-pampering, we forget that the call of Christ is to separation, tests, trials, and yes even to suffering. God does not cause us to suffer. The devil hates us and he causes our suffering through the hate he has filled unbelievers with. They treat us like they treated Jesus.

Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." 

Heb. 11:24-25 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.

Phil. 1:29-30 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Therefore, stop evaluating or focusing your faith. Instead, focus on God, who is love, and evaluate your love for God. Do you love God or do you only want what He can give you?

Perfect love is the rest God has for His people. He wants us to rest in His love, trusting that He will always come to our aid as a father to a hurting child, regardless of our faith. He also wants us to love Him, regardless of our suffering.

If God does not answer of our prayers as we believed, we can be sure He has some great eternal reason for not doing so. It boils down to this: God has all power and can do anything. Nothing is impossible to Him. He has promised to answer every prayer in Christ's name. So we must ask, in full assurance of faith - expecting an answer. But - should God delay that answer or choose another path for us - He must have a mighty good reason for it all. And we must believe that whatever God permits in our lives - it will one day all work to our good. That is faith.

Rom. 8:28 And we know (we are sure, certain, we have faith) that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

The demonic forces may bring us suffering, but God uses it to our good and His glory. Our Heavenly Father knows exactly where we are going, what we need, and He will give us what is best - in proper timing.

The Christian faith is not a feeling. It is a real relationship with a real person—Jesus Christ. Christianity is about Jesus, the Creator and Lord of the universe, who desires us to know Him intimately. Our desire should be like Paul’s, who said, Phil 3:10-11 “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

The Christian faith is not just about salvation, but transformation. We are to become transformed on a daily basis from one degree of glory to another, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through God’s disciplines. We are to grow in holiness, and become salt and light in a tasteless and dark world. By God’s grace, we are to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world. If we are, we can expect to suffer by the hands of those who hate Jesus.

Faith is a gift of God. It is something which God, through His indescribable grace, gives to us-even for salvation.

Eph. 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.

Faith is God’s gift by which we believe and by which we can endure our sufferings. If we were called to suffer without the gift of faith, we could not bear it. The more faith we have, the greater we see the Holy Spirit at work in us through suffering.

Philippians 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 

We can see that both faith and suffering bring the fullness of Christ into our lives. If we never suffered, we would lack faith, as we would have no reason to continue to put our trust in God. If we have no faith, then we would not have the Holy Spirit, and our suffering would overwhelm us and crush us. So God gives both these gifts of grace to us to conform us to the image of Christ.

Since faith is a gift, let us quit evaluating our faith. Let us focus on Jesus Christ, our Savior, the object of our faith, the giver of faith, and love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. By His power and grace, let us also love one another and those who don’t know Jesus yet.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, and the Holy Spirit is convicting you of sin, righteousness, and judgment, then He is also giving you enough faith to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who gave His life on a cross to atone for your sin. We encourage you to yield to the Holy Spirit and give your life to Jesus today by repenting of your sin and submitting to baptism. Then you will be born again of the Holy Spirit and your faith will increase every day as you walk with Christ.