Defining Faith

Sermon Titled “A Conquering Faith” (Hebrews 11:6) – Week 7 of the Experiencing God Study – Sunday 28th February, 2015 

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  • Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God!

At first glance, the above words are not so intimidating; we are after all Christians, and Christians believe in an unseen God, so of course we have faith. Faith becomes intimidating however, when we hear from God and immediately surmise that what’s being asked of us is too much or too difficult.

When God told Moses that He had heard the cry of the Israelites and that He was going to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians, He also added, “So now, go. I am sending you!” (Exodus 3:7-10) Moses was shocked to the core; he replied, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He reacted that way because a) God’s directive led him to a crisis of belief where he doubted at first that God could do through him what He purposed to do, and b) because the mind cannot perceive what the heart is able to; Moses perceived with his mind instead of his heart (God’s Spirit resides in our hearts) – Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your hearts, and lean not on your own understanding.” 

In stark contrast to Moses’ reaction, Simon (a fisherman) responded quite differently when asked to do what seemed impossible. After a full night of work and failing to catch any fish, Jesus sent Simon back to the ocean and told him to let the nets down for a catch. Skeptical that any fish would be caught, Simon nevertheless acted in faith and chose to simply trust. He said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything, but because you say so, I will let down the nets (Luke 5:5). 

Any time God calls us to act, we will always be led to a crisis of belief; how we respond reveals what we believe about God, and whether our understanding of faith is flawed or flourishing. A flawed understanding of faith will present itself whenever we use our non-spiritual minds to try and make sense of eternal matters, or when we have convinced ourselves that our faith has failed because previous situations did not turn out as we had hoped.

Steve Penney, a minister from Queensland, Australia, had much to say about faith when his eldest son Andrew lost his fight to cancer in 2003. Having grown up in a Christian family (Steve’s father was also a preacher), Steve took hold of his faith during the months that his son battled for his life, and clung to all the scriptures that he believed would bring to pass a miracle of healing. When Andrew died, Steve was left with a faith dilemma that needed to be dealt with.

Steve could have believed what others were saying – that his faith had failed him – but despite his pain and anger, he knew that couldn’t possibly be true. “Faith is a gift from God,” he said, “therefore it cannot fail.” But there had to be more to it, he thought, and so he searched the scriptures for further answers. What Steve came up with, is what he believes the Lord revealed to him, and what he hopes will help others develop their faith in God.

The key verse that Steve was led to, was 1 Corinthians 13:13 – “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.” The first thing Steve realized that he needed to do, was to return to the Father’s love and learn to trust Him again. “Trust,” said Steve, “is the implicit, essential ingredient of love.” You cannot say you love your spouse, for example, and in the same breath say that you don’t trust him or her.

From the loving arms of the Father, and with a renewed trust, Steve learned to hope and believe once more, eventually emerging with a faith even greater than before. In last week’s Experiencing God study, I recall Henry Blackaby saying that the struggles we face and overcome are like “God’s highway over which He intends to do much larger things.”

Steve’s revelation of faith, hope, and love didn’t end there; he went on to explain that the way to truly increase our faith is by doing three things:

  1. Sit in the Father’s arms: whenever you are faced with a crisis of belief (and you will be), run first to the loving arms of your Heavenly Father.
  2. Stand up in Christ: it’s okay to remain in the security of God’s arms – for a while – but you can’t stay there forever. You need to find hope once more, because hope strengthens the heart (Psalm 27:14), and from the heart will you find the courage to stand up in Christ and believe that He will equip you to do great things.
  3. Walk in the power of the Holy Spirit: now that you believe that God is who He says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do, you can put aside your fears and start walking in faith.

So now, you have all three members of the Triune (the Holy Trinity), working in your life and empowering you to go out and do whatever it is that God calls you to do. You may still have questions, and you may never understand why certain things have happened in your life, but you trust God anyway. You trust Him because you know that nothing is lost or wasted in the purposes of God, and that every trying circumstance is a cross-bridge to a higher level of faith.

On that note, let’s not forget the ending in Hebrews 11:6 – that God is a rewarder of all those who trust and follow Him!

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