3f: Faith

This morning, we’re beginning a new, short series through Independence Day entitled: 3F; faith, family, and freedom.  Today, we’re taking a look at faith.

We’ll soon be celebrating Independence Day, July 4th, 1776 when the 13 United States of America declared its independence from the tyranny of Great Britain.  That declaration began the great nation that we have been so richly blessed to be citizens of.  The second paragraph of this declaration states:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

Just 13 years later, the constitution of the United States was written in an attempt to establish a more perfect union to secure blessings and freedom.  A few years later, 12 amendments were proposed to further prevent abuse of the powers granted to those who govern our nation.  Those that were ratified became known as the Bill of Rights.

The first amendment included granted us the very first amendment to the constitution of the United States still in effect today proclaims: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We can literally meet here this morning because of the sacrifice of countless people over the years who fought to gain and defend this very freedom.  We can assemble peaceably together and exercise our faith; freedoms that most governments on the earth right now deny to their people.  Right now as we meet without fear, our brothers and sisters in Christ meet in secrecy for fear of losing their very lives so that they may learn and worship together. 

As we celebrate the independence that we have to freely embrace faith, family, and freedom, may we never forget to pray for those who do not have it.  May we choose to have the same boldness and courage to live out our faith as those do whose very lives are on the line for doing so and not take our freedom for granted.

Faith.  George Michael sang that you’ve gotta have it.  Many girls are named it.  Abraham is called the father of many of them.  Lots of people have done some terrible things in the name of it.  It’s found tattooed on many bodies and it’s hung on many living room walls.  We love it when people are faithful to us and it tears our lives apart when they choose to be unfaithful.

However, what is faith?  Merriam-Webster defines it in three ways:

A. Allegiance to duty or a person

B. Belief and trust in and loyalty to God

C. Something that is believed especially with strong conviction

These are all true in reference to the faith that we are specifically learning about, but how does the Bible define faith?

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith is not blind, though it is unseen.  Faith is based on evidence, though it is not yet received.  Faith is a confidence and trust.  The faith that we’re specifically looking at this morning is the faith that us as mankind places in God.  After all, faith is the very beginning of our salvation!

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

God’s free gift of grace and our choice of faith result in our salvation.  We are saved when we place our allegiance, belief, trust, and conviction in the work already accomplished by Jesus on the cross and through His resurrection.

Peter wrote in amazement of our salvation in this way:

1 Peter 1:6-9

6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Salvation begins the moment that we place our faith in Jesus, that is the first day of our eternal lives!  Through faith, we receive every single one of God’s promises.  This may seem like common sense, but Paul reminds us that:

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.

It is by faith that we seek after God for any good thing and receive it from Him.  Over and over again, Jesus performed the miraculous and told those receiving them that it was their faith made the miracle possible.  Jesus told a parable about a judge who gave into a widow because of her persistence in pursuing him and posed the question:

Luke 18:8

…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

Faith is not about asking and instantly receiving.  Faith is about trusting and believing and pursuing until that which has been promised is received.  Faith does not come naturally.  In fact, when we are faced with the unknown, our sinful nature is more prone to move toward fear than faith.  However, the new person that God is creating us to be should be spurred onto an even greater faith and trust when encountering the unknown.

We’re reminded that nothing is unknown nor a surprise to our God.  Therefore, we can eagerly anticipate that God is going to do something great through all things, even what appear to be tragedies to us.  Even though we may suffer grief and all kinds of trials, these can serve the purpose of growing and increasing and proving the genuineness of our faith.  They are to make our faith and not to break our faith.

What gives us faith, though?

Sometimes we are like the man whose son was suffering with epilepsy caused by a demon in Mark 9.  He said:

Mark 9:22-24 (CEB)

22 …If you can do anything, help us! Show us compassion!”

23 Jesus said to him, “‘If you can do anything’? All things are possible for the one who has faith.”

24 At that the boy’s father cried out, “I have faith; help my lack of faith!”

If you feel like that father, it’s OK.  Jesus delivered that boy from all of his suffering and shame!

What gives us faith, though?

Faith can come from experiences.  As God lead His people in the Old Testament, He would often have them construct memorials and altars to serve as everlasting reminders of what God did for His people.  He reminded them to talk to their children and grand children and great grand children about the experiences that they had with God.

These personal, first-hand encounters with God build our faith.  If God did it then, He will do it again.  If God was able to do amazing thing then, then surely He can do this small thing for me now.  If God was able to use someone like that, then surely He can use me!  If God healed them of this, then surely He will heal me!  If God delivered them from even that, then surely He is able and willing to deliver me!

Testimonies build up our faith.  Hearing the mighty deeds of God encourages us and increases our believe and trust in Him.

After Satan was thrown out of Heaven and cast to the earth, God declared:

Revelation 12:10-11

10…“Now have come the salvation and the power

    and the kingdom of our God,

    and the authority of his Messiah.

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,

    who accuses them before our God day and night,

    has been hurled down.

11 They triumphed over him

    by the blood of the Lamb

    and by the word of their testimony;

they did not love their lives so much

    as to shrink from death.

The word of our testimony has the power to triumph over Satan, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others.

Our faith also comes from hearing the word of God, knowing His promises and memorizing them and meditating on them.  Even those around us who are not saved gain their faith through us sharing the simplicity of the good news about Jesus.

Romans 10:13-17

13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of God.  When we have the word of God to stand firmly upon, it doesn’t matter what comes our way in opposition to it.  We stand firm on it and we are not moved and we are not shaken!  We persevere through the storm and we persevere through seasons and we are even willing to persevere for decades because we know that the God who promised is faithful. 

His word will certainly come to pass in our lives.  It may not be when we want it to or how we want it to, but it will certainly come.  Faith rises and grows as we hear and memorize and meditate and proclaim and praise and pray the word of God.  Faith swallows up all fear and doubt and results in worship in the God who is able and willing.

Faith fades away when we stop believing the word of God.  When we start believing lesser things or outright lies, faith is pushed aside.  When we believe the whispers in our minds like this just not God’s will for me.  That’s great for them, but it’s just not for me. 

When we start believing lies like that God is punishing us or that we deserve our bondage or sickness or disease.  When we start believing that we aren’t worthy or that our bad choices have earned us our suffering, our faith is driven away. 

When we begin doubting that God is willing for any reason or even begin doubting His very Presence near us, we are setting ourselves up for a self-fulfilling prophecy of receiving nothing.  Doubt rejects God, faith enthrones Him.  Doubt drains us, faith fills us.  Doubt oppresses us, faith frees us.

We need to cast off every pre-conceived notion that we have about God and start letting Him speak for Himself!  We need to start believing God for even greater things!  God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine according to His power that is already at work within us. 

Don’t stop the work of God short in your life through doubt!  He started something good, let Him finish it.  Priceless masterpieces weren’t thrown together in a moment, so patiently give God some time to work in your life.  He’s building something great!

Before we can be those beautiful feet that bring the good news to those around us, before we can preach the good news about Jesus, before we can tell people to believe in Him, we need to first do it ourselves. 

I think that if we were honest with ourselves, each and every one of us here this morning have faded in our faith in God in some area that once was our strength. 

We’ve stopped believing in Jesus’ burning desire to seek and save the lost.  We’ve stopped believing that they will respond to His invitation to save them.  We’ve stopped believing that Jesus will heal every sickness and every disease.  We’ve stopped believing that every chain of bondage will be broken at the name of Jesus.  We’ve stopped believing that God’s Kingdom can come and His will can be done here on earth even as it is in Heaven.

The good news is that today is the day of His salvation and it will be always!  Today is the day to start believing once again.  Today is the day when we throw off the veil that has began to numb us and make us dull to God’s Presence and allow the glory of God to burn passionately within our lives once again.  It’s time to return to our first love with child-like faith back to our own salvation.

Faith is rising and it is coming by hearing the word of God and believing it anew!  Who here this morning is ready for a fresh word of God for themselves?

Paul teaches us:

1 Corinthians 14:1-4

1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.

It’s time to start having some fun in the Spirit again and do some church building!  We’re going to stir up the gift of prophecy this morning.  We’re going to listen to the voice of God and speak out what He has to say. 

Today, there will be words that strengthen and encourage and comfort us, the church, the bride of Christ.  Faith is about to be unleashed here in this place like never before.  Mountain-moving faith – faith that transforms lives in an instant!  Faith that will enable us to persevere all things and be fruitful in every season!