Faith Under Attack

Speaker: Pastor Darin Browne

1 Thessalonians 3:2-5 (ESV)
and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labour would be in vain.

Here’s Paul, in the last days of his life, as he prepared to step into eternity, worried about those he loved, and their faith which was under attack. Paul had a heavenly perspective, he knew where he was destined for eternity, and that kept him going even in the face of execution, but he also recognised that the faith of his friends was being attacked by the enemy.

Today, everywhere we look, we can see our Christian faith being attacked.  We are constantly demeaned in the press, called prejudicial bigots, and mistreated when it comes to money and opportunities. Today I want to look at how the enemy attacks, and how we can stand, hold ground and indeed, even triumph over the enemy!

1 John 5:4 (ESV)
overcome the world – even our faith.

WHAT IS FAITH?

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is the absolute surety that God will do as He has promised. It’s what saves you in the first place, and what keeps you going when all around is dark. Faith in Greek is PISTEU-O, which means to have faith, trust or be firmly persuaded as to something.

Some pastors would say that is means the mental assent, to believe. Therefore, if I can muster more faith and believe more, then what I am praying for will happen.

This is not what the Greek suggests. In Greek, PISTEU-O faith is always accompanied by action. It isn’t just thought, it is always followed through with obedience.

1 Thessalonians 1:8 (ESV)
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. (Word and action is what impacted the world)

YOUR BELIEF CHANGES YOU

When someone believes something, regardless of what it is, that belief changes them and results in an action or behaviour that is characteristic of the belief. If you believe in the occult, you read horoscopes. Or, if you believe in climate change you have three garbage bins, buy solar panels and an electric car. If you believe in humanistic values you will water down morality to suit the loudest complainant, and if you believe Jesus Christ and have faith in Him, you should act in obedience to His Word. As James said…

James 2:17-18 (ESV)
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

The Word for dead is NEKROS, meaning a corpse. James is graphically saying that if you say you have faith but don’t demonstrate that, you’re not just fooling yourself, you are the walking dead! Chuck Swindoll writes, “Works-based theology uses this equation: Faith plus works equals salvation. Grace-based theology, by contrast, teaches this instead: Faith equals salvation, which results in works.”

WHY IS OUR FAITH UNDER ATTACK?

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)
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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

When we come to Christ we are saved by faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9). You are not saved by your works but works of obedience and service are the natural outflow of being saved by faith.  So Satan cannot steal your salvation, and he knows that, but what he can do is neutralise your faith to such a degree that you become useless for the Kingdom of God.

Satan attacks our faith because that’s how he can stop us bringing others to Christ and bringing glory to God. If you are saved and not living a life of faith and obedience, you are useless to the Kingdom.

Hebrews 3:12 (ESV)
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

HOW DOES THE ENEMY ATTACK OUR FAITH?

Any way he can. He’s attacking some of you right now because he wants to take you out. The Bible instructs us to flee temptation but resist the devil.

1 Peter 5:8-9 (ESV)
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

If you truly love Jesus, the devil will attack you. You’re not the only one having your faith challenged, having your faith stretched. That’s why Paul teaches us…

Ephesians 6:11-12 (ESV)
Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The enemy is out to destroy your faith, and here’s three ways the devil attacks our faith.

1: AFFLICTIONS

As a people we don’t like suffering, do we? Some people believe that God will never let you suffer, but that’s not only untrue, but it’s also unscriptural. Read your Bible, almost everyone of faith suffered in some way, and God allowed this created character.

James 1:2-4 (ESV)
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.

Satan will try your faith by afflictions. God doesn’t do it, so don’t blame Him, Satan does it. But right now, some of you are being attacked by Satan through affliction. It might be pain, suffering, a disease, a diagnosis. It might be lack of money, people talking against you and slandering, or it might be a feeling that everything is going wrong for you.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ESV)
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

If you can recognise Satan attacking your faith, like Paul you can choose not to be overwhelmed by the affliction, or to rejoice in it.

THE WHINE, OR THE WINE?

This week we were in Exodus in the Bible Reading plan, and the Israelites were thirsty. So, having just seen the plagues against Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, witnessed the pillars of cloud and fire, having just received manna, and quailed from heaven, their default position was not to be thankful and have faith in God, but to whine and complain.

Exodus 17:2 (ESV)
Therefore the people quarrelled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

This is a stark lesson for of us. When we face testing, affliction, pain, fear, or anything else, do we see disaster or God’s hand? Do we see the wine of the blessing of the Holy Spirit, or do we whine about the situation? Whenever we face affliction, we also face a choice.

I am changing how I view affliction. I’m endeavouring to stop whining to God about how hard it is, and I’m not letting Satan win by crushing me under a blanket of despair. I choose to face afflictions and trials as opportunities to shine for Jesus. Thank You Lord for this pain this suffering, this difficulty, because now I have a chance to show you what my faith is made of and show others my faith in You.

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)
Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

2: DISCOURAGEMENT

Satan loves to discourage you because discouragement can destroy your faith big time. The waiting for God to move, the lack of surety is often used by Satan to attack our faith. It’s sometimes the death of faith by a thousand cuts.

Proverbs 13:12 (ESV)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Many times, it’s possible to have faith in the short term, but over time this fades away. In my life, it’s often not even something wrong, or something testing, it’s just so long persevering, and after a while I feel tired and overwhelmed.  But Moses reminded us…

Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV)
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 discouraged.”

Paul, someone who knew the fight against discouragement well, said this…

Galatians 6:9 (ESV)
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

FENDING OFF THE ATTACK OF DISCOURAGEMENT

If your faith is being attacked by discouragement this morning and you are weary, God has something for you. He is actively moving in your situation, so don’t get down or give up…

James 1:12 (ESV)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Some of here need to be reminded of this, that God does not delay, but the He is on our side, in our corner, working for us, and importantly in us, for His glory.

Romans 5:3-4 (ESV)
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

Don’t give up, persevere! I remember hearing Bear Grylls talk about his time training for special forces. They were forced to hike over a mountain with full packs, all night, until they arrived at their destination. As they approached the truck that was to carry them home, the truck drove off, and they were told they had to hike all the way back. Many at this point complained and gave up, but Bear and a few others turned and started back as ordered. Just around the first corner, the truck was waiting for them. They kept going, as weary and discouraged as they were, because salvation was at hand. Don’t quit at 11.59 when God is about to bless at 12.00!

3: TEMPTATIONS

A third way our faith is under attack is by temptation.  Temptation is not wrong or sinful, it’s how you respond to it that becomes sin.

James 4:7 (ESV)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

When tempted, recognise your opponent. It’s not the money itself, or the girl, or God, it’s the devil who tempts. James says…

James 1:13-15 (ESV)
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

The enemy will tempt you, and you have to resist him, because if you give in to that desire it ultimately leads to death. This attack on our faith often comes when we are on top, successful, doing great, and, dare I say it, complacent or arrogant!

This is HOW FAITH STANDS UNDER ATTACK

Your faith is going to be attacked in the ways I have just mentioned. If not currently, imminently. So how can our faith stand against attacks in 2024? Here is a four-step process to standing firm in your faith when under attack…

1: STEP BACK AND RECOGNISE IT

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Recognise attack against your faith for what it is…the devil trying to bring your faith down. If he can neutralise your faith, he can minimise your life for Jesus.

2: STEP UP AND ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY

Proverbs 19:3 (ESV)
When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.

(or in the Message Bible)

Proverbs 19:3 (MSG)
People ruin their lives by their own stupidity, so why does GOD always get blamed?

We live in a world where people blame everyone else except themselves when things go wrong. My upbringing, my friends, bad luck, God! If your faith is under attack, recognise it for what it is and act responsibility for whatever is needed to stand true! Ultimately, you stand before God by yourself, not with your wife, husband, parents, friends, or anyone else you’d care to blame.

3: STEP ASIDE AND BE TRANSPARENT

In the pandemic, we all complained about mask wearing, but long before COVID, Christians have been wearing masks. When we come to church people ask, “How are you doing?” We usually want others to think that we have it all together, so we don’t reveal any struggles we have.

I believe we need to become more transparent with others.

Proverbs 28:13 (ESV)
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

James 5:16 (ESV)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

We need to be more open with each other because that’s how we can be set free instead of carrying everything ourselves. Find someone you trust in the Ignite community and share openly your needs, fears and yes, even sins.

4: STEP IN AND JOIN TOGETHER

Following on from that, if your faith is under attack, open up and share your struggle with other believers, because our faith is amplified when we join with others. So often I see people whose faith is under attack isolating from church, which is exactly what the enemy wants from you. If you pull away from church and from the community who loves you, you stand alone against the onslaught!

Ephesians 6:16 (ESV)
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

In the armour of God, faith is the shield, but we need to understand that a Roman shield was never intended to be used in isolation, by yourself. The devil will pick you off if you try and isolate. The Roman soldiers joined their shields together to create an impenetrable barrier against attacks, which they called the tortoise formation. Your faith is stronger when you recognise the enemy, take responsibility, become transparent with others, and join their faith with yours.

FENDING OFF THE ATTACK

Our collective faith as a church is like a fire hydrant. It looks small yet produces a massive gush of water far more than something of its size. Why? Because underneath the ground it has a powerful, endless supply. Ultimately, it’s not about our faith so much as the one our faith is in!

1 Peter 1:7 (ESV)
the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Don’t despise the testing of your faith. In ancient times, the goldsmith would heat gold up with fire to transform it into the final product. Gold would undergo heating and removal of dross up to seven times. And how did the goldsmith know when it was fully refined? When he could see his reflection in the Gold. When Jesus looks at your life, does He see Himself reflected in you, or do you need more refining?

If you are struggling with your faith today, let’s be transparent. Don’t hide away, open your heart to the Lord and to your church family, and let’s join our faith together to build faith.

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