By E L Thornton
Hebrews 12:32-12:1 “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,”
There is nothing as important as what you believe about God! What you believe about Him affects everything in your relationship with Him. What you believe will dictate your attitude and your actions. What you ask for and the confidence with which you ask will all hinge on what you believe.
If you believe God is austere, demanding, and generally impossible to please, you will cringe in the shadows of fear and, in all probability, you will never receive any thing from God.
If you believe God is out of touch, antiquated, and outdated, you will pace the borders of doubt, and will never be in a position to receive from God.
If you believe God is a doting old grandfather with a big white beard who doles out gifts for all his kiddies, you will abandon reverence, respect, and your revere of Him, and rush in where angels fear to tread to use Him in a selfish way to get your ever little vagary.
However, if you believe God is a merciful God, warm, full of compassion, interested in all that concerns you, merciful and forgiving, then you will come with confidence and reverence to His very throne. Heb. 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
It all hinges on what we believe about God! Do we trust Him? Do we feel His word is true? Does He care about us personally? Can He do what we need to be done?
Will He reject us? The answer to these, and other, crucial questions pivots on what we believe about God.
What you believe about God determines directly what you can receive from Him. (Heb 11:6) “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” And James gives us a little warning (James 1:6) “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”
The scripture speaks of the utter necessity of faith (Rom 10:9) “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” We must believe.
Someone has aptly stated, “There are many ways to please God but not one way to please God without faith.” Not one of His dynamic, hope-filled promises will so much as sprout in the bog of fear and doubt.
Then what is faith? Now we find the meaning to the word “faith” in (Heb 11:1) “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” But I feel the better definition is found in (Heb 11:6) “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
I. RUDIMENTS OF GOD-PLEASING FAITH:
Heb. 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him:”
I will not belabor the existence of God in this message except to say, the parade of evidence pointing to the existence of God in so dynamic and dramatic that David cried (Psa 53:1) “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” And listen to this, Ps.19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.”
It is evident that God is in existence but notice something else, the scripture didn’t say “He was,” nor did it say “He will be,” but He is. You can keep Him in the past tense of your life if you like, you can lock Him into the future, but I prefer Him in the now. Heb 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” Jesus said in John 8:58 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” Rev. 1:8 “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
We must accept and believe the ability of God . The latter part of Heb. 11:6 teaches us “He is a rewarder of them that deligently seek Him.” Which necessitates us to believe, God is able to reward us with anything He has promised. Songs of faith have always been an intergral part of Pentecostal worship. One of the first songs I learned was “God can do anything, anything, God can do anything but fail.” Teaching me, when I was just a lad, God is able. God can handle my need. He’s bigger than all my mountains, bigger than all my fears. God is bigger than anything I can or cannot see.
The Heavenly host of angels are a testimony to the ability of God, for when the angel Gabriel came to Mary, about the birth of Jesus, he said, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37.
There is a sweet fragrance which follows faith, which is receiving what we have ask for. We must believe He is able.
Faith in God’s character is necessary to receiving. It must be a terrible and a painful experience for our God to probe the deeps places of out hearts and discover that we believe He is and He can but He won’t. Our doubt slanders His perfect character and labels Him as capricious and selfish. The character of God can be explained with one word, “good.” Ps. 34:8 “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” Ps. 100:5 “For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”
Matt. 7:7-11 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
You must believe He is good.
II. THREE KINDS OF FAITH:
In my experience as pastor I have witness three kinds of faith. There is fair-weather faith. This sort of faith prospers only in blue-sky conditions. When things go well, it attends church, pays tithe, teaches Sunday School, gives a bubbling testimony of God’s goodness and love, and wears a brilliant smile. But when things go wrong, the sky clouds over, there comes a storm, or when the winds of adversity blows, or they just don’t get their way, faith withers immediately and it dies. It accuses God, it criticizes the church, and blasts the preacher. How is it, when people fail God they have to blame someone? Yes! Some people have fair-weather faith.
There is also foul-weather faith. It’s a strange variety of faith indeed. It only blossoms when the ominous clouds of death and destruction have blocked every ray of hope. When hopelessness appears it runs to God and spews apologies dripping with tears and remorse, only to wither quietly and die when the first beams of hope shine through. You’ve seen it haven’t you? When tragedy strikes, it repents and becomes ultra religious, then declines and perishes in prosperity. Remember a scripture already used, (James 1:6-7) “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”
Then, there is all-weather faith. Here and here alone is God pleasing faith. It blossoms most beautiful when it is tried and flourishes after the storm. It doesn’t lapse into shock or expire when the winds of doubt blow, and it doesn’t turn casual and decline in balmy weather. It just constantly clings confidently to God in every condition. It finds peace in conflict, comfort in sorrow, and strength in hardship. It sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible. Someone said, “Faith doesn’t explain the wind, it hoist a sail.”
III. THE FACETS OF FLOURISHING FAITH:
The disciples lamented their anemic faith in Luke 17:5 and asked the Lord, “increase our faith.” But how do we have an increasing faith?
Faith is given to us by God, for Romans 12:1-3 speaks of a foundational faith, or starter faith, being given to every man by the Lord.
(Rom 12:1-3) “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
I have preached many years that the same faith you had when you received the Holy Ghost is the faith which will get your other needs fulfilled. But after close study of this I may have been wrong. (that’s hard to admit) I do believe the scripture said “the measure of faith” letting us know that we were given faith.
But why does it seem that others have more faith than we do?
Faith is developed by the word of God. The Bible tells of developmental faith built by studying God’s word. I am absolutely convinced that people are dying every day in the church because of their casual and negligent attitude toward God’s word. Not to build on the foundation of faith would be like trying to live in a house with just the foundation. God has given us the foundation but we must build on that foundation. You will never be happy nor stable in God until you do.
(Rom 10:17) “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Faith is also developed through trials. First Peter 1:5-9 says that God has given an eternal inheritance to those “—-Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ——- Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
When you step out of trial on the victory side, you look back and see what God has done, And know without God you would have never made it, is a faith builder that no one can deny. I’ve heard people say, “well, if it was me,” but there is a big difference between bragging in the barracks and bravery on the battle field. Step into a trial and watch your faith grow.
We must not overlook what excise will do for our faith. The muscle is there all the time but it needs excise to be developed.
My little grandsons are real funny when you ask them to show you their muscle. You may not see them but they are there just the same. You working men have bigger and strong muscle than I because of excise.
Your faith will be developed more when you excise it. Without a trial just start praying for, or about, something and believe God for it, excise your faith. 1 Tim. 4:8 “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
Our faith is also developed in a relationship with God. No action will be as productive or as important as praying. (Jude 1:20) “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Prayer is the ultimate expression of relationship with God.
I heard a fable which went like this, There once was a traveler making his way up the side of a steep mountain. As he traveled, the sun and the wind argued about which was more powerful and in their argument decided to make the traveler their point of contest. “Whoever can make the traveler remove his cost is the most powerful,” they decided. So the wind began to blow. He rushed around the peak of the mountain and blasted the traveler with all his proverbial might. But because the wind was blowing from the north right off an ice cap, the traveler grasped his coat ever more intensely and leaned hard into the icy breath of the cold north wind. The wind returned to the sun out of breath and beaten. The sun then pushed away the storm clouds born by the wind and ever so quietly and gently sent its warming rays to bathe the bone-chilled pilgrim. Soon the pilgrim unbuttoned his coat and a short distance later removed it completely.
In the believer’s journey from earth to glory, we must allow neither adversity nor prosperity, sickness nor health, good nor bad, force or coax us to remove the garment of faith. One writer called it the shield of faith. Let us have faithful faith. “———–seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, ” The parade of evidence is saying that God will reward faith.