We were looking at areas of weakness that God can turn into strengths in our lives. We’ve seen that insecurities, comparisons, apathy and today, I want to examine one character flaw that that really gets a bad rap in Christian circles… Doubt.

Doubt is a common experience for all of us, but in church circles it is often equated with lack of faith, unbelief and even the pardonable sin. We are people of faith, and so we do not admit to doubting, but instead shovel it under the carpet and pretend we have faith. But while I must make I clear that doubt isn’t really ever good or desirable, genuine doubt is not always a bad thing if it leads to a positive, strong and dynamic faith.

Many Bible characters struggled with doubt, and while it is never commended by God, God also was not usually offended by doubt. Job doubted God in his suffering, Abraham the father of faith doubted God, and asked for further assurance. Gideon has his fleeces, John the Baptist needed assurance that Jesus was the Christ, and Paul struggled with unanswered prayer. But the pin up boy for doubt is without doubt, Thomas.

 

FAITHFUL? I DOUBT IT

 

John 20:24-29 (ESV Strong's)

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

Jesus could have been angry with Thomas, but He was compassionate and patient, because he knew Thomas was genuinely grappling with the truth, and his doubt was genuine.  Thomas, like the other disciples, had seen Jesus crucified, seen Him buried and so was down and discouraged. He thought is was all over, that the dream was dead, that the future lay in ruins. The others are telling him that Jesus has resurrected, and he wanted to believe, but he is full of doubts.

 

The Greek word believe here is PISTEUO, which is not just mental assent of thinking something is true, but it means committing to or putting your trust in something. It was not a mental exercise but a whole hearted commitment!

 

DOUBTS VERSES UNBELIEF

 

While similar, they are actually different in the spirit that is behind them. Doubt is often an intellectual problem: We want to believe, but our faith is overwhelmed by problems and questions. Unbelief is a moral problem; we simply will not believe. We dictate a challenge to God to prove Himself and meet the criteria we set for Him.

 

Doubt says, “I cannot believe! There are too many problems!” Unbelief says, “I will not believe unless you give me the evidence I ask for!” In fact, in the Greek text, there is a double negative: “I positively will not believe!”

 

THREE KINDS OF DOUBT

 

There are three primary types of religious doubt: factual, emotional, and volitional. It is helpful to diagnose which doubt you are facing, because some doubts are easier to allay than others.

 

1.      FACTUAL DOUBT

 

Factual doubt involves honest questions about the grounds for one’s belief. It is the doubt that what you believe is built on solid ground. Once the facts are confirmed, your doubt goes away. Christian apologists such as Lee Strobel, Ken Ham, Josh McDowell and others present the case for Christ and Christianity. There is more evidence to support the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ than any other person of history before Napoleon.

 

John 20:31 (ESV Strong's)

but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

Factual doubt is easily solved… gets the facts, get rid of the doubt.

 

2.      EMOTIONAL DOUBT

 

The most common doubt is Emotional doubt, which stems from passions and moods, and is intensified by other struggles in your life, such as loss, depression, hurt, disappointment, anger or fear. There are many examples…

 

Numbers 20:11-12 (ESV Strong's)

And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

 

Moses was angry and frustrated, and that fed into his doubt and cost him dearly! Emotional doubts are what we mostly experience, and they are solved when we replace destructive emotions with godly ones. Recognising that your doubts are an expression of past or current hurts or experiences, and they can give you the right perspective to grow real faith.

 

3.      VOLITIONAL DOUBT

 

Volitional doubt is the most dangerous because behind this doubt is your will. It mainly relates to issues like your motivation to follow God and forsaking sin. This is often the end stage of doubt, when unsolved doubts lead to anger and resentment towards God, blaming God for your failures and eventually forsaking following Him. It is often fuelled by a desire to pursue sin.

 

I had a friend once in church. He seemed a solid, godly guy. I went away on Uni break, and met him when I came back, and when I asked how church was going, he said he didn’t know, because he was having a holiday from God. I told him you can’t holiday from God. In the space of a few weeks, he had left church, left Jesus, picked up a girl, moved in with her and that was that. He didn’t want to change, he didn’t want to deal with his unbelief, he wanted to sin and hence he fell away.

 

This kind of doubt issues ultimatums to God, and has often already made its mind up! The Pharisees opposing Jesus had this kind of doubt when they accused Jesus…

 

Luke 11:15-16 (ESV Strong's)

But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven.

 

While Jesus was compassionate and patient with Thomas, He was much harsher with this kind of doubt. This doubt is centred in self, and because it has its mind made up already, it is disastrous.

 

GOOD DOUBT AND BAD DOUBT

 

Ok, no doubt I really goo, but in a sense doubt can be good or bad, and it comes down to the motivation behind it. The doubt Thomas showed, while not really good, was a better doubt, a kind of open question to the Lord, seeking God to neutralise his doubts and replace them with faith. He was down and discouraged, he had withdrawn from the others which is often the case when we struggle with doubts, so he wasn’t present when Jesus appeared the first time. But his doubt was genuine, not destructive. Let’s look first at bad doubt…

 

1.      BAD DOUBT

 

Bad doubt is that which says “I refuse to believe You God unless You jump through these hoops.”  The motivation behind it is that I won’t believe, and it is demanding of a sign.

 

This is quite prevalent at the moment in Christianity. Our society is filled with people demanding signs from God.  Things like gold flakes falling from the sky, Angel feathers, jewels, coins sticking to walls and so on. We are demanding that the God of the universe, the creator who spoke and worlds sprang into being, satisfy our petty whims like a performing dog. And I’ve never met anyone who has cashed in those gold flakes or jewels for real money!  But Jesus said,

 

Matthew 12:39 (ESV Strong's)

An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign,

 

Mark 8:11-12 (ESV Strong's)

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

 

Listen, setting your own arbitrary tests for God is not faith, no matter what you tell yourself. Telling God, unless you do this, heal me, give me what I want or show me what I want to see I won’t believe is not faith, it is sin!

 

I too seek signs from the Lord at Ignite. But the signs I seek are people coming to Christ, lives set free, marriages restored, bodies healed. Those are the signs I seek, not cheap party tricks. Bad doubt makes demands and dictates terms! I believe that Jesus is Lord and God is still God, and I dare not tell Him how He can reveal His will and His presence to me!

 

2.      GOOD DOUBT

 

Look, Faith is better than doubt for sure, but good or at least better doubt can lead to world changing faith! Good doubt is genuine, and comes from the position of wanting to believe, not demanding terms.  The father of a boy with an unclean spirit came to Jesus for healing, but he struggled with doubt.

 

Mark 9:24 (ESV Strong's)

“I believe; help my unbelief!”

 

He asked a question of God, but is was a genuine question, with the motivation being to believe. He wasn’t demanding a sign, he wasn’t dictating terms, he was in desperate need and was striving for belief, reaching out for faith. His doubt was honest, and Jesus loved his honest doubt. Good doubt leads you to build your faith, not destroy it.

 

And my experience is that a genuine questioning of God does not produce a harsh rebuke or fire raining down from heaven, it usually sees God respond with love and compassion, just and Jesus did with Thomas. You see, God loves you, and He is not afraid of your questions or doubts. He is for you, even as you struggle with doubt and feel faithless…

 

2 Timothy 2:11-13 (ESV Strong's)

The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

 

God’s is for you not against you, so if your heart is right and your desire is to grow in your faith, He will deal with your genuine doubts and build your faith if you obey Him and allow Him to.  Like the father of the demonised boy, like doubting Thomas, like so many heroes of the Bible, God sees your heart and if the doubt is genuine and striving for faith, He responds to honest, open questions.

 

ARE FLEECES WRONG?

 

Gideon is a good example of “good doubt” (not that it is really good, because doubt is still lack of faith). He struggled to believe that God had called him to save his people, and so he famously laid out fleeces to try and prove God to himself. But is it wrong to lay out fleeces? Some say yes because it’s a lack of faith, and this is true, but God clearly makes provision for dealing with this genuine doubt.

 

Judges 6:36-38 (ESV Strong's)

Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.

 

Laying out a fleece is not an act of faith. Faithful, mature believers don’t need God to prove Himself. But hey, a genuine fleece sometimes allows God to gently prove His Word to us. It’s not right, it’s not faith, it’s not the preferred way. It is doubt, but if it comes from a sincere desire to build faith, it can be good doubt. God loved Gideon so much He endures with Him and answered his prayer about the fleeces to build his faith. Gideon’s genuine doubts were overcome, because God loved him enough to prove Himself to him.

 

THE CONSEQUENCES OF DOUBT

 

It should be an encouragement to all of us to know that the Lord has a personal interest in and concern for “Doubting Thomases.” He wanted to strengthen Thomas’ faith and include him in the blessings that lay in store for His followers. Thomas reminds us that unbelief robs us of blessings and opportunities.

 

It may sound sophisticated and intellectual to question God, but if the question comes from a genuine heart, He will lead us into greater faith.

 

Some of you here today are struggling with doubts… Doubts about your family, your job, about where to go to church, about whether God will bless you. I want you to know today that God is not put off by your questions, and would rather your genuine questions than fake faith!

 

But even so, we must never forget that doubting, even genuine, honest doubting, still has consequences.

 

James 1:6-8 (ESV Strong's)

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

Doubt is the opposite of the rock of faith, and doubt can stop a flow of blessings into your life. If you find yourself doubting right now, you are missing out on the best God has for you. So as you walk through a time of doubt, whatever you do, don’t camp there, use your genuine doubt to build more genuine faith!

 

DOUBT OFTEN COMES WHEN WE STEP OUT IN FAITH

 

Doubt often comes when we decide to step out in faith. This could be the enemy trying to put us off, but it could also be the Lord testing us, trying our faith to build it. He does this not to discourage us, not to hurt us or ruin our life, but to make us strong. This is spiritual resistance training!

 

If you want to build muscles in the gym, it’s not so much about the repetitions, it’s about the weights you use. The harder it is, the more difficult, the greater the resistance, the stronger you become, and that’s how you build spiritual muscles too.

 

Matthew 14:28-31 (ESV Strong's)

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

 

Now, you can criticise Peter’s doubting all you like, but only one of the disciples got out of the boat. This is a great illustration of what our lives are like… We step out in faith, then take our eyes off Jesus and look at the wind and waves, overwhelmed by circumstances. Jesus loves us, rescues us, but also points out our doubt.

 

If you are stepping out in faith, maybe trying this church is a step of faith, then even if you doubt, even if you’re not sure of His will, the Lord has His hand outstretched to you right now.  Believe and trust Him. Feed you faith and your doubts starve to death!

 

STEPS TO OVERCOMING DOUBT IN YOUR LIFE

 

If you are experiencing doubt right now, if you genuinely struggle and have doubts about the Lord, then let’s look at the steps you can take towards overcoming doubt in your life…

 

1.      RECOGNISE THE SOURCE OF YOUR DOUBT

 

If you are experiencing doubt because your heart is hard and you are threatening or dictating to God how He should act, you are in a dangerous place, and need to repent. Do not play with this kind of doubt, get on your knees right now and get right with God!

 

If your desire is to obey and grow closer to God, but you have genuine doubts, then this could be your platform to build a real and life changing faith. God is kind and patient, and we should be too with each other, and with ourselves. As Jude prays,

 

Jude 1:22 (ESV Strong's)

And have mercy on those who doubt;

 

If you struggle with doubt, don’t be ashamed, don’t be afraid, don’t be too tough on yourself, but recognise that doubts are a part of life and if they are honest, genuine doubts, God can gently lead you to grow in your faith. Yes, there still must be repentance, because doubt is still sin, and yes there still must be right decisions made, but God is for you and loves you and will lead you to greater faith if you decide to be obedient.

 

2.      BE HONEST WITH GOD

 

Many Christians are ashamed of their doubts, and the enemy uses this to keep them under duress. We can hide our doubts from many at church, but let me tell you that you cannot hide the state of your heart from God!

 

Psalms 139:1-4 (ESV Strong's)

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

 

Look, God is not fooled! He knows your heart, your thoughts, your fears, your sins and your doubt, so why not come clean and tell Him the truth… Tell Him you have honest doubts, but you want to believe. “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”

 

3.      REPENT AND ASK FOR FAITH

 

If you have genuine doubt, God loves you and is for you, but don’t dress this up as God approving of your doubts! Doubt, even good and genuine doubt, is still sin because it is not faith. You can’t talk yourself into faith, you can’t positively confess yourself into faith, you can’t even argue yourself into faith, because God is the true source of true faith, not you, it’s the Lord…

 

1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV Strong's)

so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

 

So be honest with God about your doubt, then simply repent of your doubt and ask for faith. This is a simple formula, so today, make a decision to choose life, not death… repent and ask for faith.

 

4.      EMBRACE THE PAIN

 

Top athletes will tell you that pain is gain. Now we know that a lot of pain is not great, and that it’s not something we want to pursue. But you cannot become great by avoiding pain. In the Christian life, God often uses pain to train us and make us greater for Him, so James writes this…

 

James 1:2-6 (ESV Strong's)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

 

Pain usually causes you to doubt God, so recognise it, rejoice in the pain and take your eyes off the giant before you and place them squarely on Jesus. Take your eyes off your pain and put them on Jesus!

 

5.      LET’S STICK TOGETHER

 

Most people going through doubt withdraw from others, and that’s exactly what the devil wants you to do. I meet people all the time who’ve been hurt and hence withdraw from church. I know people get hurt by church and especially church leadership, but with all our faults and hangups, we are still better together. As Paul says…

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

Now obviously the opposite of doubt is faith, but the end of our doubting should be the building of our faith. Faith is part of the armour of God, the shield of faith…

 

Ephesians 6:16 (ESV Strong's)

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

 

Those flaming darts are the enemy attacking you causing doubt and unbelief. But here’s the thing we miss in our modern culture. The shield Paul is talking about was not designed to be used individually. If you go it alone the devil will pick you off, attack from behind and bring you down in your doubt.

 

A Roman shield was specifically designed for a warfare manoeuvre called the tortoise. Soldiers would link their shields together, interlocking them on the front, the sides and the back. When used together they became a mighty barrier to enemy attack. That’s faith, that’s church and that’s how we conquer doubt and unbelief… we join our faith together because we’re better together.

 

TURN YOUR DOUBTS INTO FAITH

 

You can turn doubt into incredible strength by being honest with God and  letting Him shape your doubt into faith. Everyone at some stage through a valley of doubt, an you may be there now, but it’s not ok to stay there.

 

Genuine, honest doubt might lead you to question God, but it should be with a view to building faith…  And when you let your faith roar loudly, you cannot hear what doubt is saying!

 

I know many of you have doubts about many things, but today is the day we collectively say, “Enough!” We say, “Devil, I will not fade away in doubt and unbelief, because today is the day I decide, I covenant with God and with those around me to turn my doubt into faith!

 

If you have doubts right now, I want to pray for you and let’s allow God to build faith in you.

 

If you doubt God and have wandered from Him, or maybe even don’t know Him, I want to start there.

Apathy is one of the most prevalent weaknesses of the modern age because all around the world people simply don’t care about things that were once important to them… unless it directly affects them, then they selfishly care.

The greatest danger we face in our world today is not nuclear bombs, not terrorism and not financial collapse. The greatest danger to our society is apathy!

Andrew Strom touched on this last week, and I felt to develop this whole area today. The number one tool the enemy uses to diffuse and even destroy churches is division. If he can get pastors and leaders fighting, and destroy unity, he can win. But the second biggest tool he uses is apathy among Christians, and like the rest of the world, we are so apathetic. In a sense, we spend so much time on so many apps, it’s pathetic!

 

WHAT’S YOUR TEMPERATURE?

 

I started a meeting last week with a nice, hot cup of coffee. But I forgot about it, and when I got back to it, it was disgusting. I like hot coffee, I even like ice coffee, but in between… yuck!

 

Jesus rebuked the church at Laodicea I’m this way…

 

Revelation 3:15-17 (ESV Strong's)

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

 

That’s us! We have so much, so many modern conveniences, so many comforts, and so we are content to float in our faith. We’re not cold towards God, we’re Christians, but we’re certainly not hot for God. We get passionate about other things, like work, passionate about football, passionate about our kids, passionate even about our church, but when those around us promote and condone evil, we don’t stand for what is right, we bend to try and accommodate them. The church today is lukewarm!

 

19 of the 21 greatest societies in history perished not because of external conquest but because of internal decay. They died not because an enemy conquered them, but because they rotted morally from within, and this was fuelled by the apathy of the people.

 

OUR SOCIETY ON THE BRINK

 

Romans 1 is a fiery chapter that plainly lays out the moral decline we see around us today. It talks about sexual sins, it directly addresses homosexuality and the most stunning verse comes right at the end of the chapter…

 

Romans 1:32 (ESV Strong's)

Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

 

This is our problem. This is the moral dilemma modern believers can’t figure out apparently. In the last 2 years, our society has passed laws allowing gay marriage, transgenderism among children as young as 5 and the legal abortion of babies up until birth. This is driven by a clear agenda from an organised and evil minority, with the aid of compromised politicians and a biased media. This shouldn’t surprise us. We live in a compromised world, after all!

 

What should surprise us, and disgust us is that Christians, even Christian leaders, are trying to work these changes into a Biblical fabric, trying to compromise these clear violations of Scripture and morality into Christian belief. Even if we’re not doing them ourselves, we are giving silent approval to those who are doing them. How do we give this approval. By our apathy! As long as I’m not affected directly, I will remain silent and hence safe from the attacks of everyone else.

 

I have homosexual friends, I have transgendering loved ones and I know many who have had abortions. I love them, I treat them with honour and respect and I accept them, but don’t ask me to agree with them. No, we must love these folk unconditionally, even if they hate and attack us, because you cannot hate them into the Kingdom of God, but today in the church we need people with backbone instead of wishbone! People who will stand for what is right, unapologetically, not because they’re being legalistic, or ignorant or out of date, but because God says it! But we need to be those who will do so in love and genuine concern for others.

 

Edmund Burke said, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing!”

 

APATHY IS KILLING US

 

Apathy and evil. The two work hand in hand. They are the same, really.... Evil wills it. Apathy allows it. Evil hates the innocent and the defenceless most of all. Apathy doesn't care as long as it's not personally inconvenienced. JAKE THOENE, Shaiton's Fire

 

Apathy is killing our society, it’s killing the witness of the church and it’s killing individuals, slowly, steadily almost inevitably. And tragically, we just don’t care!  And that’s the core of apathy… as long as I don’t personally suffer, let’s live and let live. I won’t rock the boat. I won’t stick my neck out, I won’t attempt to even mention the oncoming disaster, I will smile sweetly and watch you go to an eternity of hell, but hey, I’m ok, so I’m good. Many of us aim to float through life until we reach heaven!

 

Last week a crazed gunman murdered 50 odd people at a Mosque in Christchurch and it was all over the news, and rightly so. In the 21 days leading up to this, more than 100 Christians were murdered, in fact more than 90,000 Christians give their life every year, and you and I hear nothing! Last week more than 200 Christians were killed in Nigeria in one killing spree by Muslims, and we hear nothing! Apparently it’s not newsworthy!

 

Church people are more worried about trifling issues they have with each other, about the colour of the carpet or the quality of the coffee, while Christians are murdered and our society faces complete moral collapse, and we say nothing! Believers search YouTube or go from church to church trying to find teaching they like, while pastors try and preach what’s entertaining and will attract people. More than ever in church, we don’t need our ears tickled, we need our hearts set on fire!

 

2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV Strong's)

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

 

In the words of Helen Keller, “Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -the apathy of human beings”

 

OUR APATHY WILL BE JUDGED

 

Our apathy will be judged. Judgment is a fundamental theme in the Bible, but it is an unpopular one in the church.

 

There are several judgements written in the Bible. The Great White Throne judgement in Revelation 20 is for all mankind at the end of time, and this is where God with a broken heart will say to many, “Depart from me I never knew you.” The criterion is not how good you have been, how nice, or how kind, the only criterion to get to heaven, the only way to experience eternal life, is to answer this question… have you made Jesus Lord of your life? Those without Christ face eternity in the torment of hell…

 

Revelation 20:15 (ESV Strong's)

And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

 

THE JUDGEMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

 

But another terrifying judgement is for believers, it’s for you and I, not for our salvation, but for reward. It is called the judgement seat of Christ, and the Greek word for seat is BEMA, which is a raised platform, similar to what we see at the Olympics, where rewards like gold medals are given.

 

2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV Strong's)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

 

Paul said in Romans 14:10-12 (ESV Strong's) Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

 

JESUS IS THE FOUNDATION

 

So what does the judgement seat of Christ entail? Let’s look at this…

 

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (ESV Strong's)

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

 

Let me make this clear. No one is saved by their own efforts, or good works,  because it is free. Salvation is free, Billy Graham said, but it’s not cheap. We know we deserve to die, we deserve to go to hell, every one of us, and no works we do, no kindness we show, no religion we follow can save us.

 

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV Strong's)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

If you don’t know Jesus today, then salvation is a free gift, and it’s yours today if you want it. Just ask in faith and Jesus can and will save you from the terrifying result of your sins. That’s the foundation we all have, but the next question is sobering… what are we building on this sure foundation?

 

WHAT ARE WE BUILDING?

 

Now according to that passage, we can choose what we build. We can either build good things, God things, or build our own works, which will amount to little in eternity.  The Bible says fire will test our works, “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

 

You can be saved, but still useless and you might get to heaven, but you will suffer loss! And here’s the thing, what we build determines our reward. So what are you building? Is it eternal? Is it gold or silver or precious gems, or is it wood hay and straw? Do you even care?

 

What makes the difference? The heart behind what you do, that’s the difference. If you pursue things in your life just for your own ends, if you’re apathetic to what God deems as important, that’s wood, hay and straw. If you serve Jesus, do you think that’s going to be gold, silver and costly stones? Well, it could be, but it may not be. It all comes down to the motivation, why you are doing these good and godly things.

 

Jesus tackles this front on when He says,

 

Matthew 6:1 (ESV Strong's)

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

 

Don’t think going to church or singing in the worship team or turning up at church lunches or putting money in the offering is going to carry an eternal reward. If your motivation is self promotion, or trying to get people to like you, you are building something worthless.

 

But many Christians don’t even try and build anything! They say to themselves, “Well I’m saved, and that’s all I’m after.” They want heaven, they want fellowship with friends, they want a nice life with lots of love and happiness and good things. They are apathetic, they don’t care that millions are going to hell, and they don’t stand for anything that might make them different or uncomfortable. Charles Spurgeon said, “have you no wish for others to be saved, then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

 

Apathy is what robs the church of its mission, and it robs believers of the power of the Holy Spirit and it robs you of eternal rewards.  So how can God turn the weakness of apathy into a strength in your life?

 

STEPS TO CONQUERING APATHY

 

Apathy is a curse on our society, and on the church. But there are some things we can do if we feel apathetic, to transform this diabolical weakness into real strength in our lives...

 

1.      REMEMBER PAST VICTORIES

 

Discouraged people often give up and this causes apathy. Often apathy is a result of fear, and just wanting to give up and walk away!  Most people start off life as a kid wanting to be someone important, someone significant… a doctor, a fireman, a pastor, a mum.

 

But after a little time, after adults telling you you can’t make a difference really, after failures and discouragements, you just become apathetic. If apathy is based around discouragement, the first step is to overcome it is to remember the past victories you’ve had, and what God has done for you in the past.

 

Psalms 77:11 (ESV Strong's)

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

 

Look back at your life. There was a time when you had victories, when you did make a difference, and there will be that time again. Don’t settle into apathy look back and remember the potential you once had. In Jesus, you can become great in His Kingdom again if you care enough to change see it through.

 

2.      STEP BACK AND LOOK WITH AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE

 

Seeing things from God’s view gives incredible clarity. He sees the beginning and the end, the reasons why and the motivations behind everything you do, and you cannot fool Him.

 

I know when we look at our nation right now it seems bad, it seems destined for destruction. But I’m telling you, Jesus is Lord over Australia, no matter what the politicians or media say. Sometimes we get tired, we get weary and apathy grows, but listen to what Paul said…

 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV Strong's)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

 

Many things you might judge today as important just aren’t in 10 years time, or in eternity! Some things you condone and float along with right now have great importance far beyond the current agenda. Seeing things from God’s point of view shows you what is truly important in the long run, and how petty our current issues really are. Seeing this way helps you to resist becoming apathetic to important things.

 

3.      RECOGNISE YOU HAVE A DESTINY

 

If you start to see things God’s way, then you will see that you have a destiny. How can we be apathetic if we know that there is greatness within us, greatness in our future? Lose sight of your destiny, and you become apathetic. Regain it, and you can move forward towards your destiny.

 

Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV Strong's)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

 

Then in Psalm 139, David talks about how we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the womb, and then he says this…

 

Psalms 139:16 (ESV Strong's)

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

 

In you come to Jesus and make Him Lord of your life, He promises He has a great and wonderful destiny for you. You won’t feel good enough, but it’s His power and His Spirit within you. And destiny is not something that randomly happens to us, what some call fate. No, destiny is not controlled by circumstances, it is the product of choices… your choices.

 

Some of you want a great destiny, but are discouraged and apathetic because it hasn’t happened as yet for you. This is because destiny is about the right choices, the God choices. Your destiny in Christ requires your obedience to Christ. If you are feeling apathetic towards life, start today, start right now by making a choice… Lord, I choose to obey You, no matter what!

 

4.      STIR UP THE GIFTS

 

When you come to Christ you receive the Holy Spirit as a deposit on the promise of eternal life. But if you yield to the Holy Spirit, you don’t just get pie in the sky when you die by and by, but you get this incredible power to live your life in victory. And with the Spirit comes unique gifts and abilities and callings that can transform the effect you have on the world, and lead you into amazing ministries for Him.

 

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV Strong's)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, so get filled and get ready to move into something great for God. When you come to Jesus, His Spirit places gifts in your life, and these gifts are for you to bless those around you. But how can you discover your Spiritual gifts and how you can serve instead of floating Sunday to Sunday on a sea of apathy?

 

We have a course Fiona runs called 201. It’s not perfect, but it is a snap shot that may reveal your unique spiritual gifts. When you do this, our leadership then prays and opens doors for you and before long ministries will open in the area you love and are gifted in.

 

So don’t be apathetic, be ignited and get in the game. Stir up your gifts, and keep seeking God and you will move from apathy to doing something great for Jesus.

 

I read a quote this week I quite like… A. W. Tozer urged readers, “Keep your feet on the ground, but let your heart soar as high as it will. Refuse to be average or to surrender to the chill of your spiritual environment.”

 

BEING APATHETIC IS JUST PATHETIC

 

This world wants to conform you into its own image. It doesn’t want you to have an opinion different to theirs, it doesn’t want you to think, or rock the boat. It wants you apathetic, consumers living and dying with barely a ripple. But I don’t want to be like that, and I hope you don’t either!

 

It’s time for us to rise up, to believe big, to be unashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of salvation for all who believe.

 

 

I’m not content to float along, earn an income have a nice family, a nice house, nice kids, nice grandkids and then die. I want to go to heaven, and my aim is to take as many people with me as I can. If you are happy being apathetic, then you’re in the wrong church, because Ignite is filled with people who want to change the world!

 

I for one will not go quietly into the night. I will not stand by and watch the country I love descend into moral anarchy without standing up for what is true and right and honourable. If you are apathetic, then this is your opportunity to change.

 

This is our moment, and we are the people to join with to make a difference. This is our moment, and we stand at a pivotal time in history… it’s not a time to float along. This is not the time to cower in the corner, it’s not the time to float from Sunday to Sunday asking God to bless us.  No, today is our moment, our piece of history, our time, the moment that future generations will look back on and say, “This was their finest hour!”

 

Make no mistake..

Romans 14:12 (ESV Strong's)

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

 

We will all be judged, at the Great White Throne or the Judgement Seat of Christ. If you don’t know Christ, the Bible says you are going to an eternity in hell, separated from everything good forever. Remembering all the times you could have come to Jesus for eternity is like the hell of hells, and I cannot finish this message without inviting you to come to Jesus. Don’t live a worthless life in mundane apathy and conformity, come to Jesus now and change the world!

 

For the rest of us, I’m going to challenge all of us to stand for what is right, to step up and become all we can be in Christ, wherever we are.

 

David once said, “I will not give to the Lord that which costs me nothing.” I’m sick of hearing about people treating God like a celestial Santa Clause. To paraphrase JFK, “Ask not what your God can do for you, ask what you can do for your God!”

 

If you want to float along in apathy, that’s your choice, but there will be consequences. If you want to make your life count for Jesus,  come forward and stand for Him!

Comparisons is the next area of weakness that God can transform.  In this series on how God can transform our weaknesses into strengths we are going to have to confront a few uncomfortable aspects of our characters, believing God can change them.. Last week we talked about insecurities, and how these are planted by the past and things that have been said and done to us, watered by current circumstances, but can affect every aspect of our lives.

Today I want to talk about one of the most subtle but destructive weaknesses that we all have, and rarely discuss… comparisons. Comparisons are not in themselves destructive, because we compare brands, cereal, or cars, or other products all the time, so in that sense comparisons are good. But apply them to people, and you can create a destructive mix in so many ways.

COMPARED TO YOU, I’M OK!

 

Galatians 6:3-5 (ESV Strong's)

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

 

In this passage Paul is speaking against comparisons with others, saying test your own work, so your reason to boast is in your own self, not comparing yourself to someone else.

 

Comparisons are rarely constructive and almost always destructive. They give rise to envy, and envy is the daughter of pride and the mother of all kinds of evil.

 

Think about it… if you compare yourself with someone worse than you, you feed your pride. If you compare yourself with someone better than you, you feel discouraged. Where’s the win in comparisons? It’s lose, lose.

 

COMPARISONS LEAD TO ENVY?

 

Comparisons inevitably give rise to envy, which the dictionary defines as “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.”

 

Harold Coffin said, “Envy is the art of counting your neighbours’ blessings instead of your own.”

 

Socrates elaborating on its effects said, “Envy is the daughter of pride, the author of murder and revenge, the begetter of secret sedition, the perpetual tormenter of virtue. Envy is the filthy slime of the soul; venom, a poison, a quicksilver, which consumeth the flesh and drieth up the bones.”

 

In the Bible, envy is what tore families apart… look at what Jacob’s children did to Jospeh in Genesis 37 when Jacob favoured one child over another. Comparisons and envy drove Saul to attempted murder, David to adultery, and the Pharisees to prideful arrogance.

 

So let’s make the origin of comparisons and hence envy clear. Envy is listed as a fruit of the flesh, not the Spirit in Galatians 5:19-21. James goes further and describes it as demonic…

 

James 3:14-16 (ESV Strong's)

But if you have bitter jealousy (envy) and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

 

Comparison gives rise to envy, and envy dark and diabolical, it is never good and never God. So what causes us to compare ourselves to others and hence envy or despise others?

 

1.      INSECURITIES

 

Last week we looked at the incredibly destructive power of insecurities, and these same insecurities cause us to feel threatened or envious of someone else’s success. Don’t tell me you don’t struggle with this, because we all do.

 

1 Samuel 18:7-9 (ESV Strong's)

And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,

“Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.

 

It was this comparison that drove Saul to try to murder David. Envy is a poison that every one of us must fight, and it is fuelled by our insecurities.

 

How do you feel when someone gains success that you want? How do you feel when the other guy gets a raise, or when someone else gets an award? Can you genuinely feel happy for them without comparison or envy.

 

I recently was part of the Father of the Year awards, and we had 5 finalists. I heard their stories, and honestly I would say at least two of the contestants were more worthy of the honour than I. Even though I won, comparisons and even envy of what they had achieved were impossible to avoid.

 

2 Corinthians 10:17-18 (ESV Strong's)

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

 

2.      GREED AND COVETING

 

When you compare yourself to others, you inevitably find someone who has something you want or desire. I go to conferences at other churches, visit the toilet and experience toilet envy. I compare beautiful urinals at beautiful churches and think, “we have two hundred year old holes in the ground.” I drive into their car parks and compare them with Max playing car Tetris every week! My friend Bill Newman paraphrases Exodus 20 when he says, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbours Crystal Cathedral!”

 

I have a nice house, but it’s not a luxury mansion, and it’s not on a canal. I have a nice car, but it’s not a Tesla. I have some good computers, but there’s always better out there. I have some money, but someone else is always richer than me. Comparisons of material things are never helpful!

 

Deuteronomy 5:21 (ESV Strong's)

“‘And you shall not covet your neighbor's wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.’

 

Comparisons lead to greed and envy that breaks one of the Ten Commandments.

 

The richest man in modern history is not Bill Gates or Richard Branson, it was oil tycoon JD Rockefeller. He was once asked by a reporter, how much money is enough and he responded, “Just a little bit more.”

 

An often misquoted scripture is this…

 

1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV Strong's)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

 

Money isn’t evil, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Why? Because of greed, and comparison and envy. Listen, if you don’t compare yourself with what others have or have not, and you can go a long way to avoiding the problem of greed.

 

3.      EGO AND PRIDE

 

Pride is the basis of all sin, because pride makes you disobedient to God. And trust me, pride is alive and well in our world, and even in the church!  I stopped going to certain Optometry conventions because they were all about your car and house and practice size and success instead of treatment regimes. Pastor’ conferences can be similarly about church sizes, facilities, successes, all couched in a pseudo humble vocabulary. They gave me a badge for humility, but they took it off me because I wore it!

 

If insecurities and coveting involve you comparing yourself by looking up to others, ego and pride are you comparing yourself looking down at others. Jesus shared this parable…

 

Luke 18:10-14 (ESV Strong's)

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

When we see someone less fortunate and less successful, we should be moved with compassion and love, and we should endeavour to help them, not feel superior! Comparison in this case causes pride, and Jesus is scathing in His judgement. He hates pride, especially religious pride!

 

Ecclesiastes 4:4 (ESV Strong's)

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

 

 

 

4.      FRUSTRATION

 

Psalms 73:3 (ESV Strong's)

For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

 

It’s frustrating to see someone else prosper, especially if they are wicked, while we are still waiting for God to come through for us. God’s timetable is inevitably longer than mine. We lost all our money but kept trying to serve and honour the Lord, and we saw out and out crooks growing rich ripping other people off!

 

Habakkuk was a frustrated prophet. He starts his book in the Bible frustrated at how long God is taking to prosper His people, and says,

 

Habakkuk 1:13 (ESV Strong's)

why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?

 

Comparisons is what fuels frustrations that lead to envy and all kinds of evil.

 

5.      SELF-VICTIMISATION

 

In modern Australia victimisation is rampant. Comparison leads to many people thinking they are constantly victims. Victims of their past, victims of circumstances, victims of society. People play the victim card because it absolves them of any responsibility. It’s not my fault!

 

Get on Facebook for 2 minutes and you will see people playing the victim card again and again. “Look at what’s happened to poor old me, I never get a break, my life is lousy.” No mention of the bad decisions, the bad attitudes, the continued failure to repent and change, it’s just woe is me!

 

I went to my psychiatrist to be psychoanalyzed

to find out why I killed the cat and blacked my husband’s eyes.

He laid me on a downy couch to see what he could find,

so this is what he dredged up from my subconscious mind.

When I was one, my mommy hid my dolly in a trunk;

and so it follows naturally that I am always drunk.

When I was two, I saw my father kiss the maid one day,

and that is why I suffer now from klep-to-men-I-A”.

At three I had the feeling of ambivalence towards my brothers,

and so it follows naturally I poisoned all my lovers.

But I am happy; now I’ve learned the lesson this has taught;

THAT EVERYTHING I DO THAT’S WRONG – IS SOMEONE ELSE’S FAULT.

 

But the Bible calls us to be victors, not victims…

Romans 8:37 (ESV Strong's)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

 

So stop comparing yourself to and then blaming everyone else, step up, and take responsibility for what you say and do. Our world is full of people comparing themselves and telling themselves it’s ok to feel like a victim. It is not ok, the victim mentality is one of the sins that result from comparing and self victimisation.

 

A CURE FOR COMPARISON DISEASE

 

So how can we counteract this common and destructive character flaw, and how can God make this weakness into a strength? Comparison is the root from which envy, coveting, and seeing yourself as a victim grow.  Now, let’s look at how can God transform this far reaching weakness into a strength in your life? Here are 3 ways you can transform the weakness of comparisons, envy and discontent and turn that weakness into a strength in your life.

 

1.      A CONTENTED SPIRIT

 

We live in a world that is steeped in marketing, and the first step of marketing is to make you discontent. I remember 30 years ago standing in a slum in Mumbai meeting people who had nothing, but were so happy. I noticed that they plugged a power cord into next door’ power and ran cables throughout the entire slum, and that ever little shanty or bit of tin had a TV. An Indian with me said that in one year, everyone would be miserable, because they see on TV what everyone else has and they didn’t have. Comparison breeds discontentment.

 

Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Wealth is like seawater: the more you drink, the thirstier you become.” Comparisons are the basis of being discontented with your lot in life.

 

1 Timothy 6:6-8 (ESV Strong's)

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

 

Paul’s perspective… you brought nothing into the world, you started as a naked newborn. And you take nothing out of life, as Dr Colin shared recently, Two kids sitting on a hill watching a funeral. One says to the other, “Whose funeral?” “That’s the local millionaire,” said his friend. “So how much money did he leave behind?” The answer… “All of it.”

 

Step back. Look at all the wonderful blessings you have in life. In this country, even the poorest have so much to be thankful for, yet we are probably the most discontented generation in history!

 

God blesses us. And we should be content with His blessings. Look at what you have, look at the people who love you. But comparisons rob us of our contentment. I was feeling content with my guitar playing ability until I saw Joe Walsh and Stuart Smith play live at the Eagles concert last week, and now I’m very discontent!

 

Now remember, there is a difference between being content and settling for less, so you can be content with what God has done and is doing, but still have ambition to become greater.

 

 

2.      A GENEROUS SPIRIT

 

The second antidote to comparisons, envy and coveting is having a generous spirit. Even in our darkest financial hours, Fiona and I have always been determined to remain generous. Those of you who know us well realise that I am always the first to try and pay when we go out to dinner. I often lend my stuff out, even my car or computer, because I don’t want to grasp at things.

 

Often we refuse to be generous because we are fearful of loss, but the Bible says,

Luke 6:38 (ESV Strong's)

give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

 

If you measure out what you give with a tea spoon, God will spoon it back at you. If you measure it with a shovel, God will shovel blessings back to you. If you measure your giving with a dump truck, look out, you’ll be overwhelmed with blessing!

 

A generous spirit counteracts the envy and coveting caused by comparisons. If you don’t value stuff to the point where you can freely share it, then it has no hold over you, and comparisons lose their power to distort your view of life.

 

 

3.      A GRATITUDE ATTITUDE… THE PLANE TRUTH

 

Comparing yourself with others, noting what you lack and what you have more of, is never a productive thing, yet if we are honest we all struggle with it in some way, even if we seem rich, successful and outwardly content.

 

There is always someone better off, someone richer, someone more successful for you to be envious of. There is always someone less well off than you for you to feel superior to.

 

 

Both results of comparison are wrong, and both, frankly, are sin. Before you rush out to find a better job, a better house, a better car, a better church or a better wife, stop and have a gratitude attitude about what the Lord has already given you.

 

The greatest sin of the western world is an ungrateful spirit!

 

When flying an airplane, the angle of the plane to the horizon is called its attitude, and is measured by the Attitude Indicator or artificial horizon. The height above the ground the plane is flying at is called the altitude, measured by the altimeter. There is a terrific saying that is true in an airplane or in your life… attitude determines altitude.

 

The angle of your plane determines the altitude you can reach, so our attitude needs to be one that points us up. Stop comparing yourself with others, take your eyes off your circumstances and surroundings and life your eyes to the Lord.

 

Psalms 121:1-4 (ESV Strong's)

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

 

Let me ask you, are you content, or are you comparing? I want you to think about one major lack you have noticed compared to others. In a moment we will pray and give it to the Lord.

 

But first I want to ask who of you feels they have been compared to a sibling or someone close and chosen against? This could be particularly relevant for divorced people, where they kids compare the performance of the two parents. If someone you love, your kids, your parents, your spouse adversely compares you, this is for you.

 

You need to know that you are not an accident, and not a second class citizen, you are fearfully and wonderfully made, before you were born, the Bible says, God set you apart. Let’s give that hurt and pain to the Lord right now.

 

It’s time to stop comparing and start living the life God has destined for you. But you cannot live this life if you don’t know God, or are far from Him.

 

Comparisons in your hands, drop them.

 

If you struggle because you compare yourself to others, or because someone you love adversely compares you to another, I want to pray with you.

 

Insecurities are something we all face!

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (ESV Strong's)

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

When I am weak, I am strong, but you know what, I don’t feel strong! My weaknesses still feel like gaping holes in my life, massive eyesores on the landscape of my existence, and I struggle to see how any weakness of mine can be considered a strength in any way.

In this series I want to look at many of the weakness we can plainly see in ourselves, and discover how in God we can see those weaknesses transformed into real strengths in our life and character.

 

In that passage, Paul says that he is glad and content in his weaknesses, because he sees the power of Christ resting upon him. So your weakness, however powerful, however distressing, however big a part of your life and your character your weakness may seem, it can and will be your greatest success if you seek God first.

 

SEEK GOD IN YOUR WEAKNESSES

 

Over the last month or so we have talked about success in life, and overcoming giants. We all have giants, and many of these giants are weaknesses that seem to defeat us over and over again, that control us and how we grow, how we develop. We will not become all we can be in God until we confront the giants of our weaknesses and let God transform them.

 

The thing is, we need to take our eyes off the weaknesses and place them firmly on Jesus. Usually when we recognise weaknesses we either ignore them and hope they go away, or we try and overcome them ourselves. But neither of these responses will truly see you overcome your weaknesses.

 

We are so ashamed of what we see as weaknesses, but it’s about time we changed how we view them, because out of what we see as weakness God can make great strength grow. Paul wrote,

 

2 Corinthians 12:5 (ESV Strong's)

On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses—

 

The Greek word for weakness actually means “want of strength,” and that’s why Paul could boast in it. It’s not about our weakness or feebleness, so much as it’s our lack of strength, and that’s why we need to change how we see our weaknesses… can we see that they’re not inadequacies in us, they are opportunities to let God transform us!

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“We must form our estimate of men less from their achievements and failures and more from their sufferings.”…

 

The first weakness I want to speak about is insecurity…

 

INSECURITY- POOR SELF WORTH

 

Insecurity is a common weakness, and it happens in varying degrees. The fact is, outside of God no one is truly secure, because we all crave approval from our loved ones, friends, fans or peers. From a movie star to a Prime Minister, from a millionaire to a footballer, to a pastor to a skid row drunk, all of us want to be loved and approved by someone, and we feel insecure if we are not affirmed.

 

Paradoxically, often the most successful people, movies stars, pop stars and even dictators, are still hopelessly insecure. Bono, one of the most successful rock stars on the planet can write, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” and Joseph Stalin, one of the most powerful and evil dictators in history, executed thousands of loyal friends in purges in the 1930s, because he worried if they might turn on him. Stalin was incredibly powerful, but hopelessly insecure.

 

Job 11:18 (ESV Strong's)

And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.

 

Security is ready, but Insecurity is a full time job! Insecurity makes it almost impossible to experience inner peace, and in the end it all comes down to who you can trust. I meet people all the time that sabotage their relationships because of their insecurities. The opposite of insecurities is obviously security, which gives rise to peace and rest. If you are insecure, you never get peace and rest, you’re constantly on edge, constantly worrying!

 

PLANTED BY THE PAST

 

Your insecurities are always a product of what you have experienced in your past. If you were rejected by your parents, you fear that you’ll be rejected by someone now. If you were abused, you fear that someone now will abuse you. If you tried something in the past and failed, you will fear that if you try something now you will fail again. Memories, especially bad ones, beget insecurities.

 

Your current insecurities are products of what was planted in your past. But today is the day we can make our past past at last!

 

Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong's)

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

When you come to Christ, whatever hurt you’ve experienced, whatever sin you’ve committed, whatever rejection you’ve endured, however strong their hold might seem upon you, you are a new creation, and unless you give them permission they can’t control you! Listen to this verse,

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

The old is gone, it’s dead to you, so if it is dead, buried it, don’t prop it up in a corner and cuddle it every night!

 

WATERED BY THE PRESENT

 

Our past may be where insecurities are planted, but it is current circumstances that water and fuel their power over us. If you struggle with insecurity, your default position is fear, fear of loss, fear of embarrassment, fear of being betrayed, and you will find it hard to trust others, and also to trust God. But God says…

 

Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV Strong's)

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

 

He might as well say, do not be insecure, because despite how things look or how you feel, ultimately God is in control. So how do you connect with and trust God when everything seems to be far from secure, when everything seems to be falling apart, when you find it hard to trust anyone? Well, it starts with a choice…

 

CHOOSE LIFE

 

Listen, circumstances do not determine destiny, choices do. Joseph was in a pit, then became a slave then was thrown in prison. Pretty grim circumstances, but Joseph had a dream, and he realised that if he maintained integrity and obeyed God, that God could and would change circumstances to prosper those who serve Him.

 

If you’re insecure in any area of your life, the best thing you can do is make the choice to listen to what I say, and then choose to respond and trust God. The antidote to insecurities is faith, and faith is about knowing someone and trusting them.

 

If we struggle with insecurities, we almost always cover them over, and explain them away. This gives temporary relief, but does not ultimately see you more secure. If you are insecure, worried about life, circumstances, loss, people you love, jobs, anything, you can start along the road to faith and true security with one simple decision. Take a few moments now to say Lord, I decide right now to trust You and be blessed.

 

Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV Strong's)

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

 

So let’s get practical and talk about…

OVERCOMING INSECURITIES

 

As individuals in our own strength it is almost impossible to overcome insecurities. Even as believers with God’s Spirit living within us, it is difficult. You could have 10 positives, and one negative, and guess which one you remember!  But there are steps we can take in overcoming insecurities…

 

1.     IDENTIFY YOUR INSECURITIES

 

Everybody experiences different insecurities, often dependent on what we have experienced in the past. If you’ve been hurt or rejected or betrayed by a relationship in the past for example, you will often find it hard to trust your new partner.   This can cause many people to sabotage their current trustworthy and positive relationship, by creating insecurities that simple are not there! This is why hurt people hurt people.

 

If you’ve had a business failure in the past, this fuels sensitivity and insecurity in the financial area. If you’ve had a bad experience in church, then you tend to be insecure and very sensitive to your new church. These insecurities cause us to be more sensitive than we should be in certain areas, and this means that the new pastor needs to work harder before you trust him!

 

So identifying your insecurities can help to guard you against their effects right now, because if you can identify your opponent, you can often combat them and deal with your negative thoughts.

 

2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV Strong's)

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

 

If you can identify a thought that is creating insecurities, take it captive and dispense with it.

 

2.     STEP BACK AND LOOK OBJECTIVELY

 

It is one thing to just identify insecurities, but it is another thing entirely to see them from God ’s perspective. True faith is seeing things God’s way, and His ways are higher than ours.

 

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV Strong's)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

God brings good out of bad, and He makes lemonade out of life’s lemons. If you take your eyes off your circumstances, off your insecurities and fear and place them on God you change perspective.

 

Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong's)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

The Weaving

 

My life is but a weaving

Between my God and me.

I cannot choose the colors

He weaveth steadily.

 

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;

And I in foolish pride

Forget He sees the upper

And I the underside.

 

Not ’til the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly

Will God unroll the canvas

And reveal the reason why.

 

The dark threads are as needful

In the weaver’s skillful hand

As the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern He has planned

 

He knows, He loves, He cares;

Nothing this truth can dim.

He gives the very best to those

Who leave the choice to Him.

 

3.     REFLECT ON YOUR SUCCESSES

 

When David faced an impossible situation, when he stood before Goliath, he had every opportunity to be insecure. The whole army had run, and this guys was enormous, but note what David said…

 

1 Samuel 17:37 (ESV Strong's)

And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

 

David has previously beaten lions and bears, and these past successes gave him reason to be secure, even in the face of great danger and imminent defeat.

 

So if you are feeling insecure, stop for a moment and look back on some of the victories you have experienced. I once wrote a songs called “Trophy of My Grace,” for Fiona, because I believe that as she has triumphed over many difficult situations, She became like a trophy to God. He sits her on His mantelpiece and says to the devil, look at this one, she is a trophy of my grace, because she triumphed over what you tried to do to her, and I’m so proud of her!

 

Whatever problems, whatever pain, whatever abuse, whatever defeat you’ve suffered, think about the triumphs you’ve had. I once heard it said that if the devil tries to remind you of your past, try reminding him of his future.

 

4.     ASSESS YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES IN FAITH

 

Feed your fears and you’ll fail, feed your faith and your fears starve to death. Insecurity is all about fear, and last I heard,

 

2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong's)

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

Fear is often described as false evidence appear real, because the vast majority of what we fear never actually happens!

 

Let me talk for a moment of the opposite of fear, which is faith. If you are insecure you need faith, but you need real faith, not the fake, blab it and grab it kind of TV evangelist faith.  The great Biblical example of faith is Abraham, and when I was struggling to understand faith God led me to him. He showed real, genuine faith, not fake name it and claim it faith.

 

I had been told that faith was positive confession, it is calling things that are not as though they were, and indeed faithful people speak positively. But there is a difference between telling God what He needs to do for you and positively confessing that, and hearing from and obeying God.

 

I saw people trying to convince themselves that God was going to do something, and they talked about raising their faith level. Listen, faith level does not appear in the Bible! Faith is not something you drum up, it’s not something you convince yourself of, you don’t have to raise it to a certain point before it comes true. In fact true faith has less to do with you and everything to do with the object of your faith, which needs to be Jesus!

 

Romans 4:17-21 (ESV Strong's)

as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. (God does this, not you) In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

 

Abraham did not try and convince himself that he was virile, he did not ignore the facts, but he looked squarely at them, acknowledged they were bad, but said, “My God is bigger than you!”

 

5.     NEVER WALK ALONE

 

Why come to church? You can see better preaching on God TV or YouTube, right? But what you don’t get is fellowship, people who know and love you walking with you. And as good a preacher as TD Jakes or Joyce Meyer may be, they don’t know you from Adam.

 

The Bible commands us to meet together because God knows that we can love and support each other to overcome our fears and insecurities. Most people going through a hard time isolate themselves, but we need to share the burdens with those who love and walk with us.

 

Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV Strong's)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,

 

Whoever you are, whatever you’re going through, come meet with us at Ignite and let us share the burden with you.

 

6.     FILL YOUR MIND WITH GOOD THINGS

 

We say this often, but in computer terms, garbage in leads to garbage out. If you fill your mind with junky TV shows, dodgy websites, negative songs and horror movies, don’t expect to think godly thoughts when you need to.

 

Philippians 4:8 (ESV Strong's)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 

There’s so much junk out there, but so much goodness in the Word of God. This is why I keep urging you to read the Bible Reading Plan. If you don’t have it, get it, or download it from out website or app. Putting God’s Word into your mind daily renews your mind, washes it clean and washes out many of the insecurities you face.

 

 

7.     COMMIT TO INNER PEACE

 

As the Eagles once suggested, we live life in the fast lane. I find myself rushing from appointment to appointment, taking little time to slow down, and this promotes stress rather than peace. The problem with being in the rat race is that, even if you win, you’re still a rat! Yet our flat out, hyper stressed, 100 mile an hour, adrenaline ladened lives crave… peace.

 

People go to India, contemplate their navel, do yoga and take holidays searching for peace. And we Christians have it here, right at our fingertips, right here in our hearts, peace with God, with man and with ourselves.

 

We just looked at the verse about thinking good things, but the 2 verses before it are telling…

 

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV Strong's)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

As we pray, as we read the Bible, as we commit our lives to the Lord, His perfect peace guards our hearts and minds.   Instead of being insecure, instead of being fearful of what may come, instead of worrying about life, ask God for peace… perfect peace.

 

Isaiah 26:3 (ESV Strong's)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

 

ANTIDOTE TO INSECURITIES… FAITH

 

The antidote to insecurities is faith, and the way you can overcome even deep seated insecurities is to grow your faith in God. Faith comes by hearing and by the Word of God. But when you strip it all back, faith is not something you have to drum up, convince yourself of or fake it until you make it, real and genuine faith is simply knowing God, and trusting Him no matter what!

 

Faith is not what you know, it’s who you know. Kathryn Kuhlman once said, “I am not a woman with great faith, I am a woman with a little faith in a great God!”

 

You no longer have to feel insecure when you face any situation. No matter what has happened in the past, no matter what scars it has left, today is a new day, and you are a new creation.  When you face anything with God, you plus Him is always a majority. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil!” God says,

 

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV Strong's)

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

Today, if you struggle with insecurities, if you have fear because of your past, if you struggle to face situations with genuine faith, I want to pray for you.

 

Your insecurities can create mountains in your life, but faith can move mountains!