Faith is a premier aspect of the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is the exclamation point of the Christian life! It has multiplied food, parted waters, flattened walls, dehydrated the clouds, quenched heat from flames, escaped the edge of swords, clinched the jaws of lions, paid taxes, and opened graves.
Jesus said it’s the substance that “moves mountains” and makes “all things possible.”
The writer of Hebrews said it’s so vital that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”
1 Corinthians 13 points out that only love precedes it.
Everything God created has its purpose. The Book of Revelation says “all things have been created for the praise of His glory” (4:11). Faith is no different. Faith exists to honor God and bring Him glory. That’s why Scripture repeatedly emphasizes it and then squares it in four separate passages by saying, “the just shall live by his faith.” Satan understands the import of faith and that’s why he attacks it. He causes Christians to doubt God’s willingness to intervene during a crisis or stand by His promises. That’s why everyone struggles with exercising faith. Even the Apostles struggled with unbelief. For example:
(Example) While Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the Mount of Transfiguration, the remaining Apostles were on the foothills attempting to exorcise a demon. As Christ’s disciples, they should have been experts at exorcism but they miserably failed here. And when Jesus returned to the scene He didn’t coddle them with a “feel good” speech on “How To Improve Their Self Image.” He reproved them!
It’s amazing how frequently the Apostles failed their test of faith, especially as it concerned Christ’s death and resurrection. They couldn’t imagine anything past the crucifixion, despite three years of Christ clobbering every obstacle before Him. Look what they did after His death. They found a private meeting place, locked themselves in, and huddled in fear refusing to answer a knock at the door. What had happened to their faith?
They watched Him master storms and seas.
They witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus.
They were firsthand witnesses of Him raising the widow’s son and saw Him resurrect the Centurion’s daughter.
But unable to comprehend the prediction of His resurrection, they hovered in fear after the Cross. And the reason Christ didn’t knock outside the door is because the Apostles wouldn’t have answered it. They were frozen in fear! Thus, Christ suddenly materialized! And what did He say? It wasn’t, “Now fellows, I understand your doubts. Your fears are justified.” No, He preached a scorching sermon on unbelief. And they deserved it because He had repeatedly assured them that He would rise from the grave. Jesus never excuses unbelief! The reason He deals with doubt so severely is because of what it breeds:
It questions His willingness to intervene for our needs.
It unsettles our trust in His promises.
It creates fear.
And perhaps most importantly, it obstructs our access to God. Hebrews 11:6 says: “anyone who comes to [God] must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
(Insight) I want you to notice something about doubt and faith. “Doubt places problems between us and God; faith puts God between us and our problems.” That’s why we should never lose faith in God . . . even when life overwhelms us and all seems hopeless! God, standing between you and your dilemma, can conquer anything!
Have you wondered why God makes you endure crisis, weather storms, and walk through valleys? Why He doesn’t prevent problems before they arise? If God eliminated the problems it would nullify the work of faith! Faith isn’t a magic wand that waves off trouble. It’s not a tool that eliminates problems. Faith can certainly vanquish, conquer, and claim; but it’s more. God also deposits faith into Christians for them to endure, persevere, and trust Him until the moment arrives for their deliverance. Yes, faith is often your “only” way out; but it’s not necessarily the “easy” way out.
Here’s what we should recognize about the operation of faith: The Holy Spirit is the quickening “Activator” of your faith. Your natural man doesn’t activate faith toward God any more than it activates faith for salvation or a prophetic word or a miracle—the Holy Spirit does that! In fact, the Holy Spirit’s presence is the activation-point for igniting our entire relationship with God and receiving His blessings. He energizes every aspect of Christian living.
(Illustration) Chemists understand when hydrogen and oxygen are mixed there is no reaction. But when a small amount of platinum is added to that mixture, something happens. The hydrogen and oxygen unite and a chemical change produces H2O—water. Just as platinum is needed as a catalyst to form water, the Holy Spirit is necessary to create faith. We will experience an explosive life when we understand the “chemistry” of faith. And the chemistry of faith involves the platinum presence of the Holy Spirit activating God’s Word. The Holy Spirit’s presence enables you to claim a promise from God’s Word.
While I’m talking about the Holy Spirit let me say this: One can insist that the Church imitates the world, lacks spiritual discernment, and preaches a “politically correct” message, but more there is more urgent need. Most importantly, the Church needs a deeper, wider, and higher presence of the Holy Spirit. While the flow of the Spirit trickles over our ankles we need that flow over our heads! We possess just enough of the Spirit to splash in but not enough to carry us away in a rushing river of glory.
The worst calamity that could strike this nation isn’t an earthquake, nuclear disaster, or financial collapse. The worse calamity possible has already struck. The church needs to reclaim the Spirit’s prevailing presence. This national crisis is a spiritual crisis. Today’s church desperately needs another filling of the Holy Spirit that reproduces what’s apparent in the book of Acts.
Answer this honestly: When is the last time the Holy Spirit’s irrepressible presence has bubbled forth from your life? When have you last awakened and said: “It’s wonderful being filled with the Spirit”? Do you remember when the Holy Spirit was explosive in your life? When you couldn’t wait to experience His activity? Do you understand my point? Many Christians have lost the Holy Spirit’s prevailing presence upon their lives. And this is a paramount reason we don’t witness greater demonstrations of God’s power today.
It’s not because God is unfaithful to His promises. He’s “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
It’s not because He lacks the ability—He’s Jehovah-Jireh, God our Provider.
This answer is this: Christians need more of the Holy Spirit!
(Transition) Let me return to the issue of faith. You have to understand something about it. Faith lifts us to a higher dimension of living.
(Example) Years ago Nancy Jones was the oldest resident of a small mid-western community. When she died the editor of the local newspaper wanted to print a caption commemorating her death. But the more he inquired about Miss Jones the more he discovered that while she had never done anything terribly wrong neither had she made a civic impression. She hadn’t married, had mingled with only a small circle of friends, had lived frugally, and chose to live in a small one bedroom apartment. Since writing an article was difficult the editor shifted the assignment to the first reporter he came across, which happened to be the sports editor. This is what he wrote: “Here lie the bones of Nancy Jones, Her life held no terrors. She lived an old maid. She died an old maid. No hits, no runs, no errors.”
That’s what will happen if we ignore faith; We won’t make an impression! And sometimes faith means we must crawl out on a fragile limb to snatch the fruit. I know some people insist they don’t have much faith. But God gives power to the wind, light to the sun, and heat to the fire, and Romans 12:3 says God provides a “measure of faith” to every Christian. You have faith!
The very people insisting they “lack faith” use this verse to bolster their misgiving. They think God doled them a minimal “measure” of faith and not great faith. That excuse is invalid for two reasons: First, Jesus said faith the size of a “mustard seed” could move a mountain! Second, it doesn’t matter if you have “little faith,” the Bible makes provision for its increase! Romans 10:17 says: “faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God.” If you really want an increase of faith saturate yourself in the Word! Quit talking about your shortcomings, summon your mustard-seed faith, and watch what happens! The decision is yours: You can observe while Peter walks on the water, while Caleb claims his mountain, while Joshua stops the sun, while David slays Goliath, and while scoops endlessly from her meal-barrel; or, you can join the “great cloud of witnesses” and triumph with “the victory that overcomes the world.”
(Humor) If you’re hungry don’t complain about hunger pains, call Dominoes—or get off the sofa and open the refrigerator! And if you need faith don’t whine about God’s failure to supply a larger portion; take your “measure of faith,” dig into the Word, and let God expand it!
Some here need God’s intervention; you need a miracle; but, Satan has stirred unbelief. In some fashion, he’s insinuated that God won’t answer or your problems have mounted past the point of hope. Stop listening to that and submit your thinking to Almighty God!
Jesus said: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” God is on your side and He’s sufficient.
Good things happen to those that believe God’s promises! That’s why you must guard your faith. And that’s what Job teaches us: never surrender your faith! Faith will eventually seize the victory.
Do you realize that Jesus only marveled at two things in His ministry? He marveled at: (1) Faith and (2) unbelief. That’s it! And wherever He traveled people experienced His miracles in direct correlation to their faith or unbelief. Let me tell you something about unbelief. The Bible shows that faith is empowered to move mountains, but it also shows that unbelief exerts tremendous negative power! For example:
Notice what unbelief did to the Jews of Christ’s day. Their knowledge of the Scriptures was profound; yet, they rejected Jesus! Consequently, the Emperor Titus rolled in and toppled Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The unbelief emanating from Christ’s hometown so stifled His miracles that Mark says Jesus departed “amazed at their lack of faith.”
Do you see why it’s dangerous to persist in unbelief? Doubts inhibit Christ’s miraculous entry into your circumstance.
(Transition) Let me mention something else about faith: All faith is tested!
Isn’t that comforting? Don’t you wish God had one virtue of grace to bestow that He didn’t test? But all of them—love, the spiritual gifts, His anointing—everything of value gets tested. And the Bible says, whatever measure of faith you have, your faith will be tested! That’s what Jesus meant when said in Matthew 7:24, “when the storm comes,” not “if the storm comes.” Jesus assured us that our faith would be tested. But He also assured us He would “never leave nor forsake us.”
(Illustration) I attended college with a naturally funny fellow. Roy Stone could turn a funeral into Saturday Night Live. I’ll always remember a prayer he offered as the professor distributed an examination for which he was unprepared. He bowed his head and loud enough for those nearby to hear, he prayed: “Oh God, please bring all things to our remembrance that we have and have not studied!”
(Example) Tests are necessary because they determine the worth of things. A bridge is tested, either in theory or by experience, regarding its structural integrity. Medicines are tested, before being released to the public, to prove their worth. Students are tested to determine how they grasped the three ‘R’s. And Believers are tested to determine the worth of their faith.
(Example) Joseph’s faith was tested as much as anyone’s in Scripture. You remember the dreamy promises God gave him of ascending to a leadership position. Once Joseph shared this revelation to his family he was the most despised of Jacob’s children. His brothers hated him, rejected him, and sold into slavery. And after arriving in Egypt, Joseph was falsely accused and imprisoned. It’s nearly an understatement when Scripture injects “the word of the Lord tried Joseph.” “Tried him?” God’s testing seared Joseph! But Joseph never stopped believing God’s Word. With steadfast faith he claimed his destiny and delivered two nations from famine—Egypt and Israel.
(Transition) In closing I want to illustrate the testing of faith from John 6 when Jesus fed the 5000.
John 6:5 says: “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (6) He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” This was an outright test that Jesus gave Philip. And what was Jesus testing? Philip’s faith! He didn’t want food from Philip, He wanted faith. This was Philip’s golden opportunity to impress Jesus. It was his defining moment. Imagine how he could have responded: “Master, forget buying bread. Elisha took a few loaves and several ears of corn and fed the entire Prophetic tribe. Your power infinitely transcends his.” But he didn’t say that. Had Philip been strong in faith he could have remarked: “Master, Moses fed Israel manna forty years in the wilderness. But you’re the Messiah, just command it and manna will pour from the sky.” But that wasn’t his reply. Philip could have asserted: “Lord, I have no idea where enough bread is to feed this famished multitude. But if you’ll speak the Word this host will be fed without visible bread and without opening their mouths.”
Sadly, Philip didn’t say this. He began calculating and said, “Lord, eight months wages wouldn’t be sufficient to feed this crowd.” Can you believe Philip’s incredible accuracy? It’s amazing how well-acquainted he was with dollars and cents. He instantly knew how much capital it would take to feed the multitude. And his earthly calculations caused him to fail his test of faith. Had it been up to Philip thousands would have stumbled home hungry. But don’t be too critical of Philip. How many have failed the same test? We encounter a trial and rather than looking to omnipotence we investigate our “borrowing” power. Always remember, it’s not lack of resources that limits Jesus, it is lack of faith. Jesus can multiply all your lack with a tiny mustard-seed of faith. That’s why I ask: What are you doing with faith? It’s the “victory that overcomes the world”!
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