How is your journey of faith?
Journey of faith… Today I want to start a series on the journey of faith. There would be few more controversial topics in the Christian world than faith. I personally have been on this journey, and most of you will realise that faith is a journey we have to go on and learn about.
I am sure to offend some, and slay a few holy cows. But if you take offence, please hear me out because I am trying to discover what the Bible says about faith, not me, not Benny Hinn, not Donald Trump and not you!
While I will not claim to hold all the aces, I do want you to open your hearts and have a thorough, thoughtful and most importantly Biblical examination of the journey of faith.
I believe that many Christians have faith all wrong. We think that God’ s job is to make us happy, prosperous, healthy and content. It is not. His agenda is to develop character in you, not meet your list of demands, no matter how much faith you think you can muster.
Faith is not about bending God to your will, however just or noble you might think it is. Faith is about asking for God’s will, then living to bring His will about, no matter what the result. Biblical faith depends not on what faith we can muster but on the object of our faith!
And today I intend to show you that true Biblical faith depends not on your faith level or on the results, but faith solely depends on the One in whom you have faith!
Your faith, my faith, true faith, mountain moving, life changing, God honouring, earth shattering faith. The journey of faith is something we all face!
THE JOURNEY OF FAITH SPECTRUM
I have met committed Christians all over the world, and have encountered varies types of faith.
At one end of the spectrum is pseudo-faith, featuring pious and religious sounding words which drain true faith from believers in the name of religion. These people pray for something, but always caveat it with, “If it be your will, Lord.” They give God an out in case He doesn’t come through for them.
At the other end is hyper-faith. These folks believe something so completely, despite facts, logic and sometimes even the Bible. If God does not perform as they have prayed, they get mad at Him and ultimately their faith suffers a devastating collapse.
Most of us, it is fair to say, are somewhere in the middle in our journey of faith. We sense there is something wrong with both extremes. So what is faith, true faith, God faith, and how do we obtain it?
While faith is described and demonstrated throughout the Bible, any examination of faith is going to have to face Hebrews Chapter 11, so let’s start there…
WHAT IS TRUE BIBLICAL FAITH?
Biblical faith is not so much defined as described… What is does and how it works.
True Bible faith is not blind optimism or a manufactured “Lord I hope-so” feeling. It is not an intellectual assent to a certain doctrine. It is certainly not believing something in spite of evidence! That would be superstition, not faith. I’d call that fake faith!
True Bible faith is confident obedience to God’s Word in spite of circumstances and consequences. Let me repeat that and let it soak into your mind and heart.
This faith is not concocted, drummed up or faked… It operates on a simple premise…. God speaks and we hear His Word. We trust His Word and act on it no matter what the circumstances are or what the consequences may be.
The circumstances may be impossible, and the consequences frightening and unknown; but we obey God’s Word just the same no matter what and believe Him to do what is right and what is best, even if it is not our desired outcome.
The world does not understand true Biblical faith, in part because it hardly ever sees it in action in the church. We’re either faithless, stale and powerless or raving, self-deluded lunatics. H. L. Mencken mocked Christians when he defined faith as “illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.”
Our church flies in the face of that. We have seen God move powerfully arranging nearly a quarter of a million dollars in one year to purchase this property. Our faith is being realised before our eyes, but it is rare among churches today.
What the world fails to realize that faith is only as good as its object, and the object of our faith is God Himself. Faith is not some “feeling” that we manufacture, some mind game that we brainwash ourselves into. It is our total response to what God has revealed in His Word.
And beware of faith based on a false premise, like it is always God will to heal everybody, or make everyone rich. It’s not, but His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9)
CONFIDENCE, CONVICTION, COMMENDATION
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
Three words here to describe faith are substance, evidence, and witness.
The word translated “substance, confidence or assurance” is HYPOSTASIS in Greek, and means literally “to stand under, to support a foundation.”
Faith is to a Christian what a foundation is to a house: It gives confidence and assurance that you will stand. So you might say, “Faith is the confidence of things hoped for.” When a believer has faith, it is God’s way of giving him confidence and assurance that what is promised will be experienced.
And when the Bible says hope for, it doesn’t mean, “Gee I hope things work out.” ELPIZO in Greek means “surety, expectation or absolute trust with joy and full confidence.”
So our foundation, the very thing that holds our lives up, is an unshakable belief and complete confidence in an absolute certainty.
Conviction is ELEGCHOS in Greek which means proof or evidence. This is the inward conviction from God, not from ourselves, that what He has promised, He will do. The presence of this God-given faith in one’s heart is conviction enough that He will keep His Word. Even if we cannot see it, even if our eyes cannot perceive it, we choose to believe the evidence of God’s Word over what our senses can pick up.
Verse 2 says, “received their commendation” and this word is MARTYREO in the Greek, from which we derive martyrdom. It literally means a Witness, or obtained a good report, and the same word occurs several times throughout this great chapter on faith. Verses 2, 4 and 39, as well as the “great cloud of witnesses” of Hebrews 12:1.
These great men and women of God we are about to study are witnesses. They have witnessed God move in their day, and they are watching us, cheering us on that we might rise to such faith in our generation.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Biblical faith is simple, substantial and practical, despite what unbelievers say. It lets us see what others cannot see, and therefore do what others cannot do. Do you have this type of faith, despite the circumstances, despite even the results? Can you trust God that much, even if things don’t work out as you have planned or prayed?
The best way to grow in faith is to walk with the faithful. Let’s look at some of the faithful mentioned from the Old Testament. In each case you need to recognise that faith displays the same elements…
(1) God spoke to them through His Word;
(2) their inner selves were stirred in different ways;
(3) they obeyed God;
(4) He bore witness about them.
In Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Tina Turner sang, “We don’t need another hero.” Well sorry Tina, but as 21st Century Christians, we do need our heroes…
1. WORSHIPPING FAITH
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous,
Cain was not a child of God (1 John 3:10-12), but Abel was. Cain was religious but not righteous. Abel worshipped by faith, and God accepted him, not because of what he offered, but because of the heart behind it… True, pure, righteous devotion.
Do you worship the Lord with that type of faith?
2. WALKING FAITH
Enoch we are told walked with God in a sinful world. Abel died a horrible death, but Enoch never died but was translated directly into heaven. He walked with God because he had the desire and the discipline to be in step with his Lord. This pleases God…
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Do you earnestly seek Him? Are you studying the Bible daily, praying, meditating on the Word, praying constantly to Him? Is being close to God such a priority that you discipline yourself to seek Him more and more? Do you truly walk with God?
3. WORKING FAITH
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Noah, believing the Word of God about impending disaster, a devastating flood when there had never even been rain before, stood strong in the face of opposition, ridicule and attack. Noah’s faith saved his family and condemned the world.
He had faith in his God and worked hard to serve God. His journey of faith ninvolved hard work and discipline.
4. WAITING FAITH
The next section deals with the Patriarchs, who waiting for the destiny of Israel. Waiting faith.
Waiting is one of the most difficult disciplines for me. True Biblical faith learns to wait patiently for God’s perfect timing, and I for one find this extremely difficult.
Abraham and Sarah had to wait. But waiting faith does so in obedience, not sitting around twiddling thumbs waiting for God to do the sensational. Before God does the supernatural, we must do the natural.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Their waiting faith saw them step out and obey, it saw them trust God when they had no idea how He would work the miracle of a child,
And it saw Abraham trust God when he had to give up the dream and sacrifice his only son…
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac,
Joseph also had waiting faith, waiting for his bones to be carried to the Promised land.
Sometime, no make that most times, God’s timing doesn’t fit with us, but we must learn waiting faith, waiting patiently for God, trusting Him to arrange perfect timing. This is important in the journey of faith.
5. WARRING FAITH
Moses took some time to learn his faith, but it started with him refusing the enjoy the pleasures of sin but deciding to stand for what was right.
choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Look, sin has pleasure, I would be lying if I said otherwise. Take a drug you get high and for a time it feels great. Drink enough and you’ll get drunk and it feels pleasurable until the next morning. Have sex with someone outside of marriage, it’s pleasurable, it’s exciting, it’s naughty.
True faith causes a believer to hold the right values and make the right decisions. The phrase “pleasures of sin” does not refer only to lust and other gross sins. The phrase describes a way of life that we today would call “successful”–position, prestige, power, wealth, and freedom from problems.
Warring faith fights and fights hard for what is right! And who do we war against?
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. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Moses then fought to deliver his people and saw his warring faith fulfilled at the Red Sea and beyond. His journey of faith saw him fighting for what was right.
6. WINNING FAITH
Next up we find winning faith, in Joshua and Rahab. Hebrews 11:30-31.
Joshua, who went into the Promised land 40 years previously and was one of only two out of 12 spies who believes even God, spent 40 years wandering in the desert and waiting. It wasn’t his fault, but he had to wait just the same.
Then, all of a sudden, he’s the leader of the nation, he is parting and crossing the river Jordan, marching around the walls of the city of Jericho and bang, he’s a winner. His faith was winning faith.
Rahab. on the other hand, was a harlot, a prostitute, in the city of Jericho. But she believed God, helped the Israelite spies, protected her family and was saved. Her faith was a saving faith, despite her background. She was then made even more of a winner by including her in the lineage of the Messiah. For a woman in her situation this is the highest commendation. Her the journey of faith saw her become a winner throughout the ages!
Joshua and Rahab did not hide behind excuses like “I’m too bad” or “It looks impossible.” They had faith, walked their journey of faith and won!
MORE HEROES OF THE JOURNEY OF FAITH
The writer of Hebrews then goes on to mention various Bible heroes, proving that Faith can operate in the life of any person who will dare to listen to God’s Word and surrender to God’s will. That’s right, ANYONE!
Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel and others.
who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they had the faith! These passages prove that God can use anyone, including you and I if we read His Word, yield to His will and if we are careful to be obedient.
THE RESULTS OF A TRUE, BIBLICAL JOURNEY OF FAITH
Now I am going to blow your fuses with the truth. This will offend some of you, but it is the truth…
From verse 35 on we are presented with a stark truth…
Not all men and women of faith experienced miraculous deliverance.
Some were tortured and died! Others had faith, but God did not see fit to deal with them in the same way he dealt with Moses, Gideon, and David. The world would look at them and say they were failures, but in God’s economy they are heroes.
Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And all these, though commended through their faith
People pray for healing, they muster as much faith as they can, they believe and tell others and no healing comes. Is it their lack of faith? Is it God’s lack of power? Of course not!
Imagine people facing martyrdom… Stoned, sawn in two, murdered because of their lack of faith? No way! Hyper faith would tell us that if you just believe hard enough it will be done. That if you just ask and believe, God has no choice but to do what you want.
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
However, they overlook some important words here. The Greek word for agree is SYMPHONEO, from which we get symphony, meaning all working together in perfect harmony… God, each other, the church… Perfect harmony.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
What’s missing on this journey of faith? When we decide that God is going to heal us, bless us, prosper us or anything else, then ask Him to bless us, we miss the vital first step…
ASK WHAT GOD’S WILL IS!
Don’t just tell Him what you want!
The heroes of faith show us that they are commended and celebrated by God, regardless of the outcome. Whether they live or die, get healed or suffer sickness, be poor or be rich, have wins or suffer losses, they are heroes because their journey of faith was focussed on God, not on their desired outcome.
God is not your personal performing monkey! He’s not there to be at your beck and call, however righteous you think your cause may be!. Do you have faith so deep that you will trust Him even if you don’t get the desired result? Can you trust Him, even if you remain unhealed, in pain or in poverty?
I met Joni Erickson Tada at Amsterdam in 2000 at the Billy Graham Conference. She has been in a wheelchair, made a paraplegic by an accident at the age of 17. I saw a visiting African pastor pray for her, then scream at her to get out of the chair. She sweetly said should still could not. He then told her that it was her lack of faith that she was not healed. She gently replied that she had the faith, perhaps it was his lack of faith.
Joni has the faith, even if she never gets out of her wheelchair. She has the faith that God will use her, even if He chooses to never heal her.
BUT IF NOT?
Listen to this, one of the greatest examples of true Biblical faith, regardless of the outcome
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
As Christians, we believe God is faithful even during our most difficult situations. Where we struggle is in figuring out what that faithfulness looks like. We want to believe it looks like a rescue mission through which God saves us from danger. Or we want it to look like an act of justice in which the bad guys get what they deserve and the good guys prevail.
That’s where this story of the blazing furnace has something to teach us. It’s not really about what happened to the men in the furnace; it’s about what put them there.
These guys held on to their faith even when it meant certain death. They willingly faced the consequences of their actions because they believed God was with them regardless of what happened next. They spoke with the conviction of those who hoped for rescue and the faith of those who knew it didn’t matter if rescue came.
A true Biblical journey of faith focusses not on the outcome, not on the results and not on the blessings, but on the Lord Himself.
Kaileigh our granddaughter was born miraculously, not Breathing for 7 minutes. It’s a miracle, and we praise God for her survival and safety. When God does this, it’s easy to praise Him. Yet the Lord spoke to me from a Max LUCADO book and said, “If I had chose to take her home, would you still be praising me?”
What a question! Would my faith in God still be there if she died? Could I still trust God even if it wasn’t the outcome we prayed for? That is true, Biblical faith!
I have prayed, believed God and seen healing. I have prayed and believed God and seen no healing. I proclaim now that I will trust God, no matter what the outcome, whether He answers my prayer or not, whether I see it or not. I have faith in God, no matter the circumstances, no matter the success. I must believe God and have faith to the point that, if He chooses a different path, I will keep the faith!
1 Peter 1:6-7
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that 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 honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
True faith is in God, plus nothing, no matter what. That is the journey of faith!
Some of you face trials and tests of your journey of faith right now. Some struggle on the journey of faith, but you need not struggle alone.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
The shield of faith is far more powerful when joined with others. Come and let us join with you to stand in true Biblical faith. Let us support you in your journey of faith!