What is faith? How does faith work? What is our faith based on? What is saving faith? What happens when our faith is shattered? Those faith questions and others are addressed in this nine-week series simply called faith.
Pastor G takes a break from his “Just Jesus” series walk through the Gospel of Mathew.
For the next nine weeks he will be talking about faith. This is a series Greg first heard Andy Stanley preach way back in 2002. It had such an impact on Greg that he has preached it at every church he has served since.
Today is week one and Greg focuses us in on “The Foundation of our Faith.”
I’m going to take a nine-week break from our walk through the book of Matthew. We just finished up chapter 17 last week. For the next nine weeks, we’re going to be in a series called “faith.” This series actually goes all the way back to 2002. Almost twenty years ago I heard Pastor Andy Stanley teach this series. It was a huge, fundamental experience for me in understanding what true, Biblical faith is. You hear me talk about it all the time. I have several catchphrases that actually date back to this series. I’ve shared it at every church I’ve ever served since. In fact, it was the first series I taught when I started here almost seven years ago. That was before we had our current website and 90% of you weren’t here 7 years ago. So I want to teach this again.
I’m teaching you something Andy taught me. Today and next week, I want to begin by talking about the foundation of our faith. What is the foundation of our faith? What is it supposed to be and what do we mistakenly build our faith upon at times instead? That’s what we’re going to talk about today. If you are ready to hear what God has put on my heart to share with you today would you give me some encouragement and either say or type “HIT ME WIT’ IT G! I’M READY!” Awesome! Mahalo. Let’s begin.
It’s not uncommon in our culture to find people who say things like this. “I used to be a Christian, but I’m not a Christian anymore. I used to believe what you believe, but I don’t believe that anymore.” And in our Christian terminology, we would say of these people, “these are people who have fallen away from the faith.” They used to be church people. They used to be Christians. They used to believe what we believe. They used to do the things that we do. But something happened along the way. For whatever reason, they came to the conclusion “I used to believe that. I used to be a Christian, but I’m not a Christian anymore.” If you were with us at our Wednesday Night TalkStory message you would say “Ah, they decided to go even though God told them to stay.” And in most cases, as you begin to probe and ask questions, you discover that people who would say “I used to go to church. I used to believe in God. I used to be a Christian.” fall into one of two categories. They are either people who made some poor moral decisions or they are people who face tragedy in life or circumstances in life that they could not cause to mesh with what they believed. Let’s talk about that first kind of person.
Here’s a person who’s been a Christian and involved in the church and doing all the Christian things. And along the way they are tempted to get into a relationship that’s outside of God’s moral standards or they’re tempted to get involved in a financial situation that would cause them to compromise their Christian ethics or they’re tempted to develop a lifestyle or a habit that causes them to feel guilt. And so what happens is time goes by, time goes by, and all the time they’re living with this tension of I know what I ought to do, but I just can’t. I know what I ought to do, but I don’t want to give this up. There’s that big tension!
And over time, don’t miss this. Listen. Over time, if they don’t resolve the tension by changing what they’re doing, they eventually change what they believe. Let me say that again. Over time, if they don’t resolve the tension by changing what they’re doing, they eventually change what they believe. And all of us have a tendency to do this. Instead of giving up a bad habit, instead of giving up a bad relationship, instead of giving up unethical financial gain, even when it’s outside the boundaries that God has set up, there’s a tendency for us to begin adjusting our belief system so that eventually our beliefs mesh with our lifestyle. And lo and behold, we didn’t even have to adjust our behavior and we no longer feel guilty. We no longer feel bad about what we are doing. And so what changes first oftentimes is our morality. People make moral decisions and over time, as they begin to adjust their belief system to mesh with their moral decisions, they come to the conclusion that, “Hey, I guess I’m not a Christian anymore because I don’t believe God is like that. I don’t believe in the God of the Bible. I’m not in the faith.” And our conclusion is they’ve fallen away from the faith.
But let’s think about a person who goes to that scenario for just a minute. What has happened is their faith was grounded in circumstance. Their faith was grounded in experience. Circumstance and Experience were the false foundation of their faith. So, as long as the Christian experience and as long as the circumstances of life supported them and made them feel good about life, they were Christian. But when all of a sudden Christianity interfered with their experience, when Christianity began to interfere with their feelings, when Christianity began to interfere with their sense of accomplishment and self-esteem, they walked away from Christianity. They chose self.
And it’s easy to see in a person who follows that pattern, their roots of their faith were no deeper than their most recent experience and circumstance. When circumstances made their faith inconvenient, they simply walked away. And their conclusion today would be, “I used to be a Christian, but I don’t believe that anymore.” So listen, don’t miss this. Listen. If you’re here today or if you are watching online live or later, and if you are real honest with yourself and with God right now … and I acknowledge that it is difficult to be honest about this …. but if you are real honest and your summary is this, “You know, Pastor G, you’re right. I used to believe all those things but now I’m not so sure. And to be perfectly honest, what changed first was not my belief system. What changed first was my behavior.” If you would be honest and come to that conclusion, I want you to give serious thought to that. Because you are operating your life from a faulty premise. Here it is. Don’t miss this. Listen! Here is the Faulty Premise: I will ultimately find truth by following my desires.
You may have never thought of it in that way, but, if you are not a believer, that’s basically the premise of your life. If I follow my desires, eventually they will lead me to what is true. The problem is, don’t miss this, the problem is, your desires are going to change from day to day. Your desires are going to change in different stages of your life. Desires are NOT a good test for truth. Wanting something, no matter how badly you want it, that doesn’t make it the will of God. If you’re a person who would admit today, “Yes, my morality changed before my belief system changed.” Then you, listen, don’t miss this. You, might admit today, “Yes, I am a person who has abandoned the faith, in pursuit of fulfilling my own desires.”
Maybe you would say today, “You know Pastor G, you’re right, I used to be a Christian, but I have fallen away from the faith. I’m not a Christian anymore. I don’t have faith anymore.” If that’s you today, then my summary of your faith is this. Your faith roots were very shallow. You had a very fragile faith and it was doomed from the start. It never had a chance. Because all it took for you to abandon the faith was for there to be a better offer. Not an offer that’s been tested by time, but simply an offer that felt good in the moment. You see, a person who abandons the faith for moral decisions is not a person who says something like this. “Well, yeah, the reason I’m no longer a Christian is, you know, I did some historical studies and I studied the original New Testament documents in Greek and I really researched this thing. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there are some flaws in the Christian faith.”
That’s not what you hear. What you hear is this: “Experience, experience, experience, circumstance, circumstance, circumstance, feeling, feeling, feeling. And when I put my circumstances, my experiences and my feelings together, I came to the conclusion there must not be God, or if there was, that God couldn’t be trusted. Because the God of the Bible doesn’t act the way I want Him to act and the God of the Bible tells me not to do what I really want to do.” The other category of people, and I’m sure, especially with our large internet presence, there’s some of you who have had this experience. You used to be a Christian, you used to walk with God, but something painful, something awful, something tragic, happened that did not fit within the framework of your Christian faith. You thought only good things were supposed to happen to Christians. Maybe you were always taught that. But then this painful, awful, tragic thing happened.
That experience rocked your world and you said “How could a God who is all-loving and all-powerful allow this to happen? It just doesn’t fit. So you have felt forced, you have felt compelled, to just walk away from the faith because you couldn’t get your life experiences, you false expectations of God, and the Christian faith to mesh together. You couldn’t get them to add up. And you would say today, “Yeah, I’m a person who’s abandoned the faith. I used to be a Christian, but something happened. There was a tragedy. We prayed and prayed and prayed. And supposedly God who’s out there somewhere ignored our prayers and that loved one died.” Or maybe it was some other tragedy. A car accident or a heart attack and suddenly your loved one was gone. And your response was “I had no other conclusion than this. God is not there, or at least he’s not the good God that the Bible speaks of because He let this bad thing happen to someone I love.”
And once again, we find a person whose roots go no deeper than their experience, whose roots go no deeper than their own feelings, whose roots go no deeper than circumstance. They have circumstantial faith and that’s the foundation of their faith. Now, you know something? If the truth were known, many of us in this room, many of us watching online, maybe most of us, I don’t know … many of us who have walked with the Lord for a long, long time. Maybe we’ve read the Bible a lot. Maybe we’ve sang hundreds of hymns and praise songs. Maybe we’ve heard or even written hundreds, thousands of sermons, songs, Bible Studies. Still, truth be told, fo many of us today, our roots go no deeper than our circumstances.
When something really bad happens or God doesn’t answer a prayer the way we wanted Him to, we find that thing within us going, “God, IF You are there, God, IF You love me, God, then why DON’T You? Why WON’T You?” Right? And the reason is, without ever meaning to, our roots oftentimes go no deeper than our own ability to understand the circumstances around us. And that always brings us to a point in life where we have a very fragile, fragile faith. And it doesn’t take much temptation, it doesn’t take much tragedy, it doesn’t take much pressure to move us away from the faith. We stop attending church. We stop reading our Bible. We stop praying. And all of us with that kind of faith have the potential, unfortunately, of coming to a place in our lives where we would say “I used to be a Christian. I used to believe that, but I don’t believe that anymore.”
Circumstantial faith is so toxic, so dangerous, for (Two Reasons Circumstantial Faith Is Toxic) two reasons. Number One: “It is dependent upon my ability to fully understand everything God is doing.” My faith, is conditional upon my ability to interpret all the events of life correctly and completely understand God’s will. And as long as can do THAT then my faith will stand. But the problem is, we are TERRIBLE interpreters of life’s events. Often, what looks bad to us is good to God and what looks bad to God looks good to us. And we are just bad when it comes to looking at a circumstance or an event and measuring the value or the impact of that event from God’s economy. A simple illustration is ask a six-year-old in the car with his father on the way to the dentist whether or not his father loves him and the six-year-old says “NO!” Why do you say that?
“Because he’s taking me to the dentist!” Ask the father, “Do you love your son?” He says “Yes.” Well, how do we know you love your son? “Because I’m taking him to the dentist.” You see, it’s the exact same circumstance. It’s the exact same event, but it’s two different interpretations. And we have a terrible track record as human beings. And even if we think of our lives in the context of our own experience, we are just not any good at interpreting the events of life. And if your faith is no deeper than your ability to accurately determine and interpret the events of life, you have a fragile faith. What may be good to God seems bad to you. And what seems bad to you may actually be good to God.
Our tendency is to measure and evaluate the faithfulness and oftentimes even the existence of God based on our summation of our circumstance. And if you never go further than that in your faith, then your faith is very fragile. Most of us who have been Christians for very long have had the experience of something we think is bad happening and saying, “Oh God, why did this happen? No, no, Lord, what am I going to do? What are You doing to me? Where are you?” And then a month goes by, or six months goes by, or a year goes by, and all of a sudden. we’re singing a different tune. “Ohhhh thank You Jesus! Lord, I’m so grateful that happened. Lord, thank You for letting him walk out of my life, Lord. Thank You for letting me lose my job. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You’ve blessed me. Thank you. That was a good thing. Life is so much better now!” And you know the angels in heaven go. “Lord, what is the deal with these people? I mean, first they’re mad at you, now they’re happy with You?” What’s the problem? We are terrible at interpreting circumstance.
And as long as your faith is grounded in circumstance, it’s fragile. And yet oftentimes as Christians, that’s as far as we go. It is dependent upon my ability to fully understand everything God is doing. Another reason, circumstantial faith is so toxic is We have a very short frame of reference when it comes to time. We might live 100 years on earth if we are really fortunate. God is eternal. Yet, we pray on Thursday night and then we’re wondering why God hasn’t solved it by Friday morning. “Ok God! I’m going to give you another 48 hours, OK? I’m going to give you a week at most and then I expect this to be solved.” Then a month goes by, six months go by and it doesn’t seem like God has done anything to solve the problem. And we’re like, “How could God leave me hanging like this? Where is God? I wonder if there even is a God. Maybe this whole God thing is a hoax.” Our faith is washed away because our frame of reference is so short.
And then you read the Scriptures. Here’s Joseph, who for 15 years didn’t hear anything from God, who for 15 years saw no circumstantial evidence that God was even alive, yet alone working in his life. And if we had shown up at that stage of his life, watching him sitting there in the pit or later sitting there in the prison and if we had said, “Hey, Joseph, what’s your faith based on? You know, why do you continue to believe in God? Why do you continue to trust God?” He would not have been able to point to ANYTHING circumstantially. And yet his faith remained because there was a guy whose faith went deeper than his ability to evaluate circumstance. And then there’s us, you know, OK, Lord, by this Saturday, Lord, by next month. Lord, by Christmas. And if God misses these deadlines we’ve set, we’re wondering if God is really there, if He really exists, if He really cares, if He’s forgotten about us and our faith is just demolished!
And only a week has gone by. Only a day, an hour, or twenty minutes and we’re already giving up. Our frame of reference is so short. That’s why it is imperative that we need to refuse to evaluate God’s faithfulness. We need to refuse to evaluate God’s existence. Are His interventions based on a timetable so short that leaves out the issues of eternity? I mean, think about it. It’s almost impossible for us to evaluate the significance of an event within the context of our whole lifetime and yet, we don’t even think in terms of a lifetime. We think in terms of stages. It’s almost impossible for us to evaluate anything within the context of our lifetime, much less eternity.
God sent me here this morning to tell you “Look, don’t let your faith in Me be based on your ability to measure and evaluate circumstance because you don’t think like I think. Your time frame is not my time frame and you don’t understand what’s going on behind the scenes.” We talked about Joseph earlier. We could also talk about adults that Jesus healed who had been blind or deaf or crippled or sick or possessed their whole lives before Jesus finally healed them. We could talk about the first Christian martyrs who would not renounce Jesus to save their lives. But listen. We don’t even have to go back to Bible times to see a great example of this. Did you know there was a group of men and women who sacrificed and risked their lives so that you and I could have the Bible written in a language that we can understand? Back around the time of Martin Luther and in that period of history, which is just a few hundred years ago, there was a group of people who sacrificed their lives so we could have the Bible written in our language. If you had shown up back then and found those people and said, “Hey, what are the circumstances upon which you’re basing your faith?”
They would’ve looked around, and said zero because many of those people went to their deaths and NEVER saw God’s faithfulness, NEVER saw Him provide for them or rescue them. I mean, they went to their deaths. How did they stay firm in the faith while being martyred for it? It was because their faith was grounded in something other than circumstance. And at some point in your maturity and in my maturity as Christians, we’ve got to move beyond circumstantial faith and plant our faith deep into the foundation that God originally planned for our faith to be rooted in.
Be honest. Is this sort of your pattern? “OK, Lord, it’s Tuesday. And I’ve been praying this for a whole week now. Lord, I’ve been praying for a whole month. Where are you?” Maybe you’re here today and you say, “Pastor G, you’re speaking to me because I’ve about had it with God. A year has gone by. Or two years have gone by and still nothing! My circumstances are the same. Or maybe they are even worse! What the heck God?!” Could it be that you are trapped in this loop of evaluating God’s character, His faithfulness, His presence, His existence based on your finite ability to interpret circumstance and you have no grasp on the timetable of eternal purposes? Is that the pattern of your thinking? Is that the pattern of your life? If so, I want to challenge you to listen today and these next few weeks, because that is NOT God’s will for your life. Listen, don’t miss this, listen. As long as your faith is rooted in nothing more than your evaluation of circumstance, you have a fragile faith and you can take this to the bank. Listen now. Listen. Don’t miss this. There will come along, a temptation. There will come along, a better offer. There will come along, a tragedy. Something will come along and rip you up by those shallow faith roots.
And you and I all have the potential of being a person who would say tomorrow, “You know, I used to be a Christian. I used to believe that but I wasn’t able to put the circumstances of my life together with what the Bible teaches about Christianity. So I left the faith.” Listen. I want to do my very best to make sure that never happens to any of you. To protect you from that I need to make sure you know the true, Biblical foundation of our faith. I need to make sure you know the true foundation of our faith so you can bury your roots down deep. It is not circumstances, or feelings, or experiences or opinions or desires. So the question then is what is a proper foundation of our faith? If it’s not circumstance, if it’s not how we feel, if it’s not our ability to evaluate and interpret things, what is the foundation of our faith?
Let’s look at Hebrews Chapter four. In this passage of Scripture, the writer of Hebrews, and we don’t know who that is by the way. Best guess is someone who was closely connected to Paul. The writer of Hebrews tells us in no uncertain terms what the foundation of our faith is to be. Now, this is a C.I.E. moment. Can you call out what C.I.E. stands for? Right! Context Is Everything! It’s always important to know the context of the passage that we’re looking at, and that is especially true in the Book of Hebrews. So listen, the Book of Hebrews was written to Christians who had come from a Jewish background. They had grown up in Jewish tradition. They had been taught all their lives to keep the law. And then as they were confronted with the claims of Christ, these Jews became Christians. The problem was they still lived in Jewish communities, basically, where everyone knew each other and hung out together and went to synagogue together. They had all grown up together, all from a handful of families.
And as these little pockets of Jews became Christians, they found themselves alienated from their culture, alienated from their society. Nobody would buy products at their stores anymore. Nobody invited them to weddings. Nobody wanted to date their children. Nobody wanted to promise their children to these families to be married anymore. Everything that made their life work was suddenly beginning to shut down because of their professed faith in Jesus. They were paying a price financially. They were paying a price socially. They were outcasts. People looked at them as dangerous people, like they had joined a crazy cult of some kind. “Hey, don’t go near them. Don’t send your kids over there to play. You know, they’re Christians now. They are weirdo cult people. They’re following that dead Jesus guy.” They were outcasts.
Not only that, when they became Christians, they were told that Jesus was coming back soon. When they heard soon they thought that meant like this fall or maybe next summer or possibly the year after that, but certainly soon and definitely within our lifetime. So they lived with a daily expectation that Jesus rose from the dead. So he’s going to be back any minute now. In fact, you know, it’s fall already. He should be here by now. And so they lived with this expectation. And a year went by, and then two years and then several years and still no Jesus. So they begin to evaluate their circumstances and interpret those circumstances. And the conclusion they were coming to is this. “We have made a mistake. This Christianity is a hoax. Jesus never rose from the dead. It’s all a fake. We would be much better going back to our Jewish ways. And certainly there are problems there, but at least we’re accepted in the community and at least we don’t look like total idiots.”
So some of these Jewish Christians had begun going back to Judaism. They were abandoning the faith. They were the first ones to say “I used to be a Christian.” So the writer of Hebrews wrote this book expressly to motivate them to recapture and to reaffirm the faith that they were abandoning. And he takes a very unique approach which just so happens to define for us and describe for us what the foundation of our faith is supposed to be. So here is some more context. The Book of Hebrews, written to these Jewish Christians who are beginning to abandon the faith, begins by explaining the superiority of Jesus Christ over Moses and the superiority of Jesus Christ over Abraham, (the two primary heroes of the Jewish faith.)
In those first few chapters he just talks about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Not so much of what Jesus did. The Gospels do a great job of that. The author of Hebrews focuses not on what Jesus did so much but on Who Jesus is and where He sits in position to God and who He is in terms of His identity and authority. He talks about the fact that Jesus died on the cross and was able to pay for all of our sins because He was the perfect lamb of God, the only human without any sin. He talks about how Jesus rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. He just focuses over and over and over and over on the identity of Jesus.
Then in chapter four, Verse 14, look what we find: Therefore…. Hebrews 4:14 What we have to do whenever we see a therefore in Scripture. Stop and ask “What’s that therefore, there for?” This particular therefore is a really big therefore because it takes into account everything he said thus far about Jesus, three plus chapters of stuff. In fact, there have been other therefores that occurred before this therefore. He is building a mountain of evidence here. 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God … ~ Hebrews 4:14a That’s a summary of all that Jesus did in his life, and it culminated with His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. He is now sitting at the right hand of the Father. Jesus, the Son of God, our High Priest, has ascended into heaven. Because of alllllll that — Here’s the application. … let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. ~ Hebrews 4:14b
Let us hold firmly to the FAITH we profess. “No, wait a minute. Wait a minute. WHY do you want us to hold firmly to the faith we profess? God doesn’t look like He’s doing anything. He’s not answering our prayers. We’re worse off now that we’re Christians than we were before. Jesus was supposed to be back already and He’s a no show. Now, WHY should we hold firmly to the faith we profess?” The author of Hebrews answers and says “Because of who Jesus IS, THAT is the foundation of your faith.” He would say to them, “The foundation of your faith is not your ability to evaluate circumstance. The foundation of your faith is a person, the person Jesus Christ.”
In the SAME WAY, here in 2021, do you know what you and I are to sink our roots into? NOT into what’s happening around us, NOT into our circumstances, NOT into how we feel, NOT into our opinion of God’s consistency in terms of when and how He answers our prayers the way we want Him to and making life go our way. No. The foundation of our faith, the foundation that we need to sink our roots into, as Christians, is a person, the person Jesus Christ. The reason we pray, the reason we praise, the reason we worship, the reason we trust, the reason we obey, is not because things go our way.
It’s because we believe in documented, testified history that many people were willing to give their lives to preserve and protect. Listen, don’t miss this. Listen. A man showed up who claimed to be the Son of God, and though that seemed like an unbelievable claim, He gave ample evidence that He was, in fact, the Son of God. And He walked on this earth and He spent time with people and they touched Him and believed Him and they followed him. And then He said, “I’m going to die, but don’t worry, because I will raise myself back to life soon after.” And this man, Jesus, allowed himself to be crucified for our sins, then He actually died and actually rose from the grave. In His resurrected form He was seen by over five hundred people. And then, as a grand finale, in their presence, He ascended to be with the Heavenly Father and now sits at His right hand.
That’s why we believe what we believe. That’s why we pray the way we pray. That’s why we worship the way we worship. That’s why we obey. That’s why we trust. That’s why we follow. That’s why we walk the Christian walk. It’s not because things always go our way. They don’t. It’s not because we can figure all of life out. We can’t. It’s not because God consistently answers our prayers the way and in the timing we want Him to. He doesn’t. It’s not because husbands always come back to wives and children always come back to parents. They don’t. It’s not because everybody’s always healed. They aren’t. Even if that were the case, and we know by experience it’s not. Even if that were true, that’s irrelevant. The reason we trust to Christ is because He was a real person who really lived in history, who really died on the cross, who really rose from the dead, and who really went to prepare a place for us to join Him one day to live eternally with the father.
Now, He is sitting at the Father’s right hand, waiting for the designated moment to stand and welcome us into eternity with Him. THAT is the foundation of our faith! Not our ability to piece it all together, not our ability to always interpret the circumstances of life in a way that’s satisfactory to us. Jesus is the foundation of our faith. What’s interesting about this book of Hebrews is he never even tries to explain to them why they’re going through all the troubles they go through, at least not in any detail. He never says. “Here is why all these bad things are happening to you so hang in there because soon everything is going to be better.” It is Paul who tells us in Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28
I’m sure the author Hebrews agrees with that but listen, don’t miss this. He isn’t presenting that as the foundation of our faith. True as that might be, that’s not WHY we have faith. He says “You are to hold firmly to the faith you profess for one reason and one reason only. Because of Jesus. Because He really came in history, really lived, really died, really rose again and really ascended to heaven where He really sits at the right hand, of the Father. And THAT’s why you can hold on for dear life, because He is a faithful God.” Regardless of anything else that happens in your life, sickness, injury, persecution, pain, even death, He is still a faithful God. At the cross, Jesus settled the question of His faithfulness and His love for you once and for all. At the cross, we lost the right to doubt God. We lost the right to question His goodness and His faithfulness. At that empty tomb we lost the right to question His power.
An empty cross and an empty tomb settles all of that for us once and for all. There is a God and His son is Jesus. And God loves you and God cares about you. And God is involved in your life even when you can see Him, hear Him or sense His presence. When it makes sense, we should praise Him and when it doesn’t make sense, we should praise Him. When everything goes our way, we should trust Him. When everything falls apart, we should trust Him. Because the foundation of our faith is a PERSON, not our ability to discern and to sort out circumstances in life. And you see many of us, maybe like some of those that have gone before us, we may go to our grave and NEVER see HOW all things work together for good, for those that love God and are called according to His purpose. I mean, things ARE going to work together for good because God promised it. But WE may never see it. WE may never understand it. WE may never be able to explain it. WE may only be aware of trials and troubles and tragedies.
But, again, all of that is irrelevant when it comes to the faithfulness of God. It says something only about our ability to discern, our ability to put things together. It says something only about our short frame of reference. We live in a broken world. Circumstances will often go south. Bad things will sometimes happen even to the most faithful of Christians. Tragedies and heartaches and trials and temptations are always going to be part of this broken world until Jesus comes again. He Himself told us: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”~ John 16:33b Trouble, tragedy, temptations, trials? None of that is a reflection on the faithfulness and the goodness and the presence and the intimacy of God.
It’s only a reflection, oftentimes of our inability to fully understand Him and to fully know His ways. You see, I’m like you. I like to hear those great miracle stories. You know, the guy has a huge tumor and he goes in for surgery and they do an x ray and suddenly the tumor is just gone and the doctor is like, where did it go? And the doctor, who was an atheist, now becomes a Christian and all the nurses do too and they all start going on medical missions and they save lots of lives and lead a bunch of people to Jesus. And, you know, I love those stories, same as you. I believe that stuff happens sometimes. Awesome, miracle things like that. You know, you hear those stories and you get chicken skin yeah? God is still in the miracle-working business, no doubt. I love those stories about the husband who runs off with the younger model and divorces his faithful Christian wife. But the wife prays and everybody prays and he has a major come to Jesus moment and he repents and he comes back humbled and asking for forgiveness and she forgives him and they’re restored and they get remarried. They go on to launch a major marriage restoration ministry and they save hundreds of marriages. Those are great stories. I mean, it’s wonderful to see God work that way. I believe that kind of miracle happens from time to time. For sure I believe it. Miraculous healings.
But you know something? That’s no more a reflection of God’s goodness and faithfulness than the people who DON’T have those stories to tell. You know, who really challenges me? You know who the people are that really just make me sit back and go, “Oh, Lord, now that’s a REAL Christian?” It’s the people I meet that have been praying for their prodigal son for fifteen years and God still hasn’t brought their son home and the son still hasn’t put his faith in Jesus.
And yet their faith is just as strong today as it was when they began praying fifteen years ago. It’s that wife whose husband is gone and won’t divorce her, but won’t come home to her either. And yet her faith is just as strong today as it was years ago when everything was going good. It’s that couple who lost that baby in pregnancy or who buried their child, or their adult child and God did not answer their prayer to miraculously save the life of their child. God did not answer their MANY heartfelt (full of faith) prayers the way they prayed them. And yet their faith is just as strong today as when they began praying. Do you know why those are the people that bless me the most? Because when I’m in the presence of a person with that kind of story, I know I’ve met somebody with the real deal. I’ve met somebody who has gone beyond simply circumstantial faith and has become a believer who trusts in God even when things are not going their way. I know I’ve met somebody who has no positive circumstance in which to place their faith. Their trust, their faith, their confidence, is in a person, Jesus Christ.
Regardless of their personal circumstances they continue to believe as fact, that He died for them and rose from the dead and ascended to heaven to prepare a place for them. The question of His love is settled. The question of His care is settled. The question of His concern is settled. The question of His power is settled, regardless of what does or does not happen in their life. Those are men and women who have their faith deeply rooted in the person of Jesus Christ and the circumstances of life are unable to uproot them. Their faith is strong, not fragile. That’s the kind of person I want to be. That’s the kind of people God wants us all to become. Because listen. Don’t miss this. Listen. You can take this to the bank.
As long as our faith is grounded in circumstance, it’s just a matter of time until the pressures and the pleasures of life come and sweep our faith away. What’s your faith grounded in? Are you only going to trust God when things go your way? Or are you willing to move beyond that? And are you willing to refocus and refasten your attention and passion on the person of Jesus Christ come what may in the circumstances of your life. Because He is the foundation of our faith and all that we believe. The only way for our faith to endure the realities of life is for our faith to be grounded deeply in the person of Jesus Christ, and NOT in the circumstances of life, good or bad? Where is your faith? Where is it grounded? God’s desire for you and God’s desire for me is that we would sink our roots deep into the person of Jesus Christ, because he is the foundation for all that we believe and all that we do. There is A LOT more to learn about faith and I hope you will all make it a priority to be here for the next eight weeks as well.
~~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~~