By W.H. White
There came a time in my life when I earnestly Prayed: “God, I want your power!” Time wore on and the power did not come. One day the burden was more than I could bear. “God, why haven’t you answered that prayer?” God seemed to whisper back his simple reply. “With plans no bigger than yours, you don’t need my power.
This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God
in Christ Jesus.
-Goal of the apostle Paul
Some years ago a headline told of 300 whales which suddenly died. The whales were pursuing sardines and found themselves marooned in a bay. Frederick Brown Harris commented,
“The small fish lured the sea giants to their death. . . . They came to their violent demise by chasing small ends, by prostituting vast powers for insignificant goals.” What kinds of goals do you have? Answer that question honestly for me, and I can tell you how much excitement you have in your life. Christians, of all people, need to wrestle with the concept of goals. When a salesman sat in my office to talk with me about success, he asked me to take a sheet of paper, and a pencil, and write down three goals. I did, but I would have been embarrassed had he appeared on the scene some years back. Like many Christians I know, I had no goals. And I reached all I had!
Problems of Goal-setting
“But I have problems with this thing of goal-setting!” several voices quickly say. Relax. Probably everyone either has a problem or once had a problem. But what’s yours? Problem No. 1 in Goal-setting: The problem of finding the correct concept of Christian contentment. “You want to know my problem in setting goals?” Dedicated Darla inquires. “I read the Bible quite a bit and consider myself fairly knowledgeable. I can give you three reasons as to why I’ve hesitated to set goals. My reasons are all Scripture verses.” “Be content with such things as ye have” (Heb. 13:5).
“I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4: 11). “But godliness with contentment is great gain ” (1 Tim. 6:6). Rather difficult to argue with the Scriptures, isn’t it? “So that means I should set no goals. Right?” Darla inquires. Hm-m-m. .Let’s study Darla’s situation. She is absolutely right in her desire to obey God’s Word. The Bible was written to provide wonderful instruction and one good rule Darla has learned is to always obey God’s Word. She has also learned that every rule God has given is, in reality, for her own good. Her mistake is in interpretation. Contentment does not mean what Darla has interpreted it to mean. Hence her error of setting no goals. Those who wrestle with the meaning of contentment could come up with two possibilities. So how about a multiple choice test. Which of the two would you circle as being correct? The meaning of contentment is: (circle the correct one) 1. I should have my desires limited to that which I already have, and that which I have already achieved.
2. I should have my desires limited to that which I am convinced God wants me to have, and that which God wants me to achieve. There’s a world of difference in those two ideas of
contentment! The first spells laziness, the second spells lordship! Christian contentment majors on the lordship of Christ. Lordship (having Christ in the control tower) should be the primary prerogative in the study of every Christian concept. The Christian should decide that whatever he does in the area of setting goals or not setting goals, he will do under the lordship of Christ. You can stake your life on the fact that however God meant for us to interpret those verses, the outcome would not belittle the lordship of Christ. Everything a Christian does must center around having Christ in the control tower.
If Christ is in the control tower, what will my Christian contentment mean? Contentment must not be interpreted as laziness, indifference, unconcern, apathy, prayerlessness, or failure to witness, because godliness and contentment are to be a part of the same life. However, there is a concept which will not belittle the meaning of contentment, or do away with godliness, or take Christ’s prerogatives as Lord of the life.
Allow me to submit what I believe was Paul’s concept of Christian contentment.
1. I am thrilled today with what God has given me. I am wonderfully satisfied.
2. My thrill today is by no means a guarantee that God intends I be thrilled tomorrow with the same things.
3. I want my desires limited (if need be) to that which God wants me to have, and that which God wants me to achieve. 4. I also want my desires stretched (if need be) to that which I am convinced God wants me to have, and that which God
wants me to achieve.
1There’s a picture of contentment under the lordship of Christ. Whether the desires will need to be limited or stretched will be a matter of daily wisdom achieved in time alone with God.
God may more often require a stretching rather than a shrinking! In fact, he rebukes us for our failure to stretch, for not thinking big. “Ye have not, because ye ask not! ” (Jas.4:2). Goal-setting for the Christian is simply planned, organized, stretching under the lordship of Christ. Problem No. 2 in Goal-Setting: The problem of previous defeat. Defeated Dan has a different kind of problem. He doesn’t mind setting goals-he has just never reached any. As a result, the defeat and despair he feels within results in a downcast spirit in everything he does. It even shows on his face. Defeated Dan does have a problem-a very real problem. Dr. Clyde M. Narramore spent years as a consultant in research and guidance for the schools of Los Angeles County. Currently, Dr. Narramore is founder and president of the Rosemead (California) Graduate School of Psychology, a school which trains graduate Christian psychologists. He shares his pertinent words:
It’s not easy to be enthusiastic about the future when one has not been successful in the past. Failure dims our outlook. Tomorrows seldom look bright if our yesterdays have been marred by dissatisfaction. . . . There’s nothing like failure to kill incentive and ambition. People don’t mind working hard when the reward is accomplishment. But to work without results is no better than aimlessly marking time-going ’round and ’round in the same old rut, getting nowhere. Like a donkey on a treadmill. And that’s when Life becomes the “same old grind.” Yes, it takes more than striving to develop a well adjusted personality. It also takes some arriving. ‘
Should the defeated person be advised to never again set goals? Or is the problem not with goal-setting but with improper goal-setting? Goals Dan chose were too Big, unattainable. Not reaching
any of the goals, he soon felt he couldn’t do what others do. “I’m just a natural-born failure,” he said to himself. Parents who are perfectionists may have led to such a condition. Parental goals may always have been so big, so unattainable, that Dan felt he was never able to “just enjoy being me, for Jesus’ sake.” Or Dan may have been overly ambitious. Not praying about his goals, maybe he chose some out of pure selfishness. “I’II show them who I am and what I can do.” God just could notbless that. Result-a defeated person. The defeated and downcast person should first go to his knees in prayer. Let him lay down all his previous goals, surrendering them to the lordship of Christ. He should confess his sin of trying to “heap riches unto himself” (if that was his sin), or the sin of forgetting to use the head God gave and blundering by setting what should have been a yearly goal as his monthly goal. Let him set a goal for something he knows he can attain this week-he will have to stretch a bit – yes, but a goal he knows he can attain. At week’s end, to use Dr. Narramore’s words, he will not be striving but arriving. Next week his goal can be a bit bigger, but let him not bite off impossible chunks and develop give-up-itis. Problem No. 3 in Goal-setting: The problems of fuzziness in the financial area. Read a dozen books on goal-setting and you’ll understand
the problem Moneymad Merle developed. Half of the books convinced him that anyone who would buy the book and apply the rules should soon be a millionaire. Merle didn’t make it! He even began to blame God for lousing him up! After all, some guys were making it.
The question comes as to whether God is interested in Merle’s finances. Let’s switch from Merle to you. You may wonder if God is interested in your finances. Certainly. How do you know? God is interested in you! You have to spend a lot of time thinking about finances. If you believed in worry, you would spend a lot of time worrying about them. In other words, they are your concern. God urges you to cast “all your care [concern] upon him; for he careth for you” ( 1 Pet. 5:7). To care about your concerns, God would have to care about your finances. God is probably not at all interested in making you a millionaire. Nine of ten millionaires have no time for God-just time for money. In other words, money ruins their sense of values. it’s a rare man who is not ruined by a lot of money. God is not interested in ruining a man’s values, or home relationships, or giving him a bighead, or in making him spend all his time figuring out how to make more. God has helped a few men become millionaires, knowing their millions could be used for his glory. But interested in ruining a man? Not God. Of course, neither does God want his children to be always looking as if God cannot properly provide for them. Believers should be good advertisements for God, not bad ones.
The God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills will care for his own. He always provides, but whether we spend what we have correctly is another matter. There is a vast difference between needs and wants. The promise of God is that he will supply your needs (Phil. 4: 19). Many a person has gotten in serious financial trouble because God supplied enough for his needs, but the individual used it to satisfy his wants. Need financial advice? God’s success book suggests that we (1) Put God first in our lives, not “things” (Matt. 6:33); (2) Believe God for his help in meeting our needs (Phil. 4: 19); (3) Pray about even the smallest matter of concern (Phil. 4: 6; 1 Pet. 5:7); (4) Pay debts promptly (Prov. 3:28); (5) Give God at least one tenth of our income (Mal. 3:8-10); (6) Avoid
surety, or the guaranteeing of another’s note (Prov. 11:15; 17:18; 22:26); (7) Refuse to love money (1 Tim. 6:10;) (8) Work for our income (Ex. 20:9; 2 Thess. 3:10). Should a person think of setting goals in the financial area? That depends-will God or the individual get the glory from attainment? Will the lives of others be wonderfully blessed if you are blessed? Will people be reached for Christ because of your blessing? It is not wrong to have material goals-just make sure God is the one who gives them to you rather than you giving them to God. Basically, we are all tempted to be
Pray about your financial situation. Ask God about your goals. After all, he’s the captain in charge and he would not want you to have anything which could later hurt you. Problem No. 4 in Goal-Setting: The problem of paralyzing mediocrity. Now for the biggest problem of all. More problems develop in the goal-setting area over this one hang-up than over all the rest. Whereas Defeated Dan had killed himself with setting goals too big, Easygoing Ernest sets goals so small they are dishonoring and displeasing to the God who made him. God not only has a problem with Easygoing Ernest, his kind may pose the biggest problem God has.
PATIENT: tell me Doc, in plain English, just what’s wrong with me.
Doc: You’re just plain lazy.
PATIENT: Now could you give me the medical term to tell my friends?
There is no excuse for laziness, apathy, or indifference in a believer’s life. A majority of those who have no goals may be guilty of paralyzing mediocrity.
Goals and God’s Giants
People who have power with God are not afraid of goals. They thrive on them. God apparently has no fear of them – he assigns them. Abraham’s goal was to follow God anywhere, to the end of the earth if necessary, and gather people around him who would walk by faith. Moses’ goal was to rescue all the Jews from bondage and lead them toward the Promised Land. David’s goal was to save his people from the Philistines, even if he had to fight Goliath himself. Elijah’s goal was to destroy Baal worship in Israel. No risk was too great, no odds too big- Elisha’s goal was to have a double portion of the spirit and power of Elijah resting upon him, and he would not be denied. Christ’s goal-he stated it in two ways-“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10), and “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10: 10).
A man without goals comes to the end of life only to discover that the bulk of his life history can be summarized by 20 years sleeping 5 years dressing and shaving 3 years waiting on others 1 year on the telephone 4 months tying his shoes, and 6 years watching television. Without goals the routines of life becomes the ruts of life! Even books of the Bible have goals. When God inspired
John to write several books of the Bible, the goal was established. These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” John 20:31). When 1 John was penned, a twofold goal was shared: “These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1:4); and “These things have I written unto you . . . that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (5:13).
Second John (v. 12) again shares God’s goal to the recipients: “Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full!” The goal of 3 John is “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (v. 2). The importance of goals is underlined by Dr. Howard G. Hendricks. “I have never met a Christian who sat down and planned to live a mediocre life. But if you keep going in the direction in which you are moving, you may land there.” 2
Test Your Goals
It is not enough to have goals, the Christian should also test them. Here is a “Christian’s Check List for Testing Goals.”
1. Do all my goals fit into the context of my written, stated purpose for my life (life-long goal).
2. Have I been honest enough to set goals in every area of life, believing God is interested in the total “me”-spiritual area? recreational area? professional area? social area?
educational and intellectual area? family relationship area? financial area?
3. Have I developed long-range, short-range, and immediate goals? Have I developed them in that order so the long-range goal will pre-determine my other goals?
4. Can my goals glorify God or are they selfish in nature?
5. Did I ask God for his wisdom and guidance before I attempted to establish these goals?
6. Would Jesus Christ be willing to be Lord of my life and preside over the reaching of goals such as mine?
7. If I am thoroughly convinced these are God-given goals, then cannot I expect his power to work in the achievement of these goals?
A few years ago T. B. Maston shared some excellent questions and tests. Although he wrote them as a gauge by which a Christian could measure his activities, I have taken the liberty to add a word or two and suggest they can also apply to goals. Three Questions:
1. How will it affect me?
2. How will it affect others?
3. How will it affect the cause of Christ?
1. Test of secrecy-is it all right if others know my goals?
2. Test of universality-would it be all right for everyone else to have these goals?
3. Test of prayer-were my goals born in prayer?
Three Sources of Light:
1. Light from within.
2. Light from without (others).
3. Light from above (God).3
The main goal of a Christian should not be to be a better Christian. Too selfish. Jesus said we should bear fruit, not be better fruit. We will not be better fruit unless we bear fruit. when we are not interested in others, we become self-centered. When we try to save ourselves, we lose ourselves. Only as we lose ourselves in service to him, can we please him. “He that winneth souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30). Even a church should test its goals! One pastor became aware his church had no goals. Then he became convicted that the fault was not with the members, but himself. He Prayed over the matter and God gave him four statements which he now places at the head of every job description. “The Philosophy of the Church,” the pastor calls it. Notice how goals are built into
The church is the biggest business in the world, not one of the biggest businesses, but the biggest. Therefore, the church should be the best run business in the world run more efficiently than any other. The church should be the most honest business in the world, never teaching that it is all right for a worker, paid or unpaid, to do less than his best. The purpose of the church is twofold, according to the Great Commission of Christ: (1) to win people to Christ, and (2) to teach them to do all things which Christ commanded them to do. People at the church now have goals in mind, are frequently speak of the exciting things God is doing. Excitement is vitally related to goal-setting. And the excitement rapidly grows with goal reaching. Ready for a dare? First, I dare you to ask God to give you some goals. Second, I dare you to apply the “Christian’s Check List for Testing goals – apply it to your goals until you can answer all seven questions in the affirmative. Third, I dare you to put your goals under the scrutiny of T. B. Maston’s “Three Questions, Three Tests, and Three Sources of Light.” Fourth, I dare you to try to keep from getting excited when God’s enabling power works through you and you begin to see your (really his) goals reached.
STRETCHING YOUR DREAMS
Make no small plans; they have no power to move men’s hearts. Unless our proposals are bold, they will be ineffective. Elton Trueblood
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Motto from football team’s locker room.
Did you read about Mr. Mivamoto from Detroit? I Like that fellow. Newspaper accounts recently said that for years this man had wanted to be a policemen, but he was too short. He would not be defeated. He tried every kind of stretching exercise he could imagine. He even had his wife put a bump on his head (most wives don’t charge for that!). He said he gained an inch and a half. I’m not sure he made the police requirements, but a guy with zeal like that is hard to beat! Stretching exercises! Who would have ever thought of that? That’s ingenuity! Many Christians are in desperate need of stretching. We’re in the biggest business in the world, so it is imperative we be big thinkers. While leading conferences for pastors in India in 1969, I heard one of the pastors share his opinion of American Christians. “You know what the problem with American Christians is? They think so small.” Imagine someone being a small thinker in the world’s biggest business!
“I Dare You to Stretch”
Satan is an expert in tempting us to withdraw into our little world and major on minors. Let the average Christian reach one other person for Christ in a year, and he is unbelievably content. If our minds were to begin to fathom the things God wants to accomplish through us, there would be no end to our excitement. One day while thinking on my favorite verse, Ephesians 3:20, God hit me with an astounding thought-provoker. “Don’t you see the challenge I am giving you?” God seemed to say. “You cannot out-ask me; you cannot out-think me; you cannot out-imagine me; you cannot out-dream me; you cannot out-do me, for I am able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think.”
Incredible! But there was God daring me to think-daring me to stretch my imagination to the farthest limits-and then telling me he could still go beyond that. And that wasn’t all-in
the same verse he showed the way he would do it – according to the power that worketh in us.” Suddenly I saw it even clearer-he wanted to accomplish through us, according to the power he had
already placed in us.
Force Yourself to New Thinking Anyone who walks with God very closely for very long is going to be involved in a constant stretching process. The stretching will always begin in the mind.
The beginning concept will be for the believer to learn that God has no little assignments. That which seems small is extremely big because it is from God. Where is the employer who hires a man and starts him moving mountains overnight! Rather, the employer starts him in a back room somewhere and watches him tackle that assignment. But that back room is one whale of a big assignment. If the trainee doesn’t do that job right, he stays in the back room from now on. Many a Christian feels unwanted because he thinks he’s on God’s third team. God has no third team. Everybody he saves is on his first team. If God assigns what seems to be a small task, let him remember the Employer is watching to see if he can do little things in a big way. Jesus said, “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is much. ” God considers no assignment as a small one, but checks every job to see how it is done. Another concept to quickly learn is that no one should ever wait for special assignments from God. Every believer knows five people he could reach for Christ. Those are his God-given assignments! He needs no further word from the Lord-Jesus said “Ye shall be witnesses unto me!” By the time he wins those five, God will have put him in contact with five or ten others. The weekday world is literally loaded with assignments. Don’t expect God to trust you with what you consider to be a giant need if you haven’t even started on the sharing assignment He gave nearly 2,000 years ago.
You must also force yourself into exciting new thinking in the area of problems. God doesn’t know a single problem he cannot turn into an opportunity. For centuries God has been taking what man considered as a problem and turning it into an opportunity-an opportunity for him to work a miracle. When we are going to stretch our imaginations to realize that the fulfillment of dreams begins with the problems that are right around us? When will we see through the eyes of eternity and view problems as opportunities? ” But you don’t know the size of my problem. If you did, you wouldn’t consider it an opportunity.” No, but God knows the size of it. And he has handled problems a lot bigger than that. Problems are but opportunities in work-clothes, stepping stones
to even greater-size victories. Consider the greatest Christian you know. He has, no doubt, faced unbelievable obstacles all along the path. Long ago, however, he learned the lesson of taking those things immediately to God-not to the worry closet! Do you wonder why he possesses such peace? “I have two things I can do with what appears to be a problem,” the thrilled Christian says. “First, I can worry with it; second, I can trust it to God, If I worry, I am doubting God’s ability to handle it; if I trust it to God, I have his promise he will give me the right solution in his timing (see
Jas. 1:5- 7).” Lord he prays, “I thank you that even as I present this need to you that you are a miracle working God. I know that you know the answer and I trust it to you. I take it from my worry
closet now, and by faith, I thrust it into your hands.” When David met Goliath, the shepherd boy looked at the giant and exclaimed, “The battle is the Lord’s!” When Christ is enthroned, there is a new perspective on problems-the battle is the Lord’s! Better yet, the battle is the Lord’s and the thrill of victory is ours!
If your life is going to be stretched into the exciting life God wants it to be, you will be forced to always think of God as a big God able to meet big needs. Dr. Donald Grey Bathhouse tells of the day he was invited back to Princeton Theological Seminary to preach to the students, after being away for twelve years. One of his former Hebrew professors came to sit on the front row of Miller Chapel. At the close of the meeting the old gentleman came by to comment. He remarked that he always tried to hear each former student once. “When I hear them, I know what their ministry will be,” he commented. . . . “Some men have a little god and they are always in trouble with him. He can’t do any miracles. He can’t take care of the inspiration and transmission of the Scripture to us. He doesn’t intervene on behalf of his people, They have a little God. . . . “Then there are those who have a great God. He speaks and it is done. He commands and it stands fast. He knows how to
show himself strong on behalf of them that fear him. You have a great God; and he will bless your ministry.” Dr. Bathhouse said that old Dr. Wilson paused a moment, smiled, said “God bless
you,” and walked out.
A fifth bit of new thinking which will be required in God’s Stretching process is that we will learn to see blind alleys as bold challenges. There are two ways to view uncertainties-with fear and dread, or with the excitement of expectancy.
Practically no one wanted to go to Africa when C. T. Studd left England to go in 1910. They had no idea what was out there! Mr. Studd saw it as an exciting challenge. His biography
preserves these thrilling words: “Some wish to live within the sound, of Church or Chapel bell; I want to run a Rescue Shop, within a yard of hell.” C. T.’s motto was: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.” Contrast Abraham with the Israelites who followed Moses. Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, and “went out, not knowing whither he went” (Heb. 11:8). The thrill of the unknown led him to become one of God’s greatest men ever. Those who left Egypt with Moses, on the other hand, could not stand uncertainties. When they heard the majority report of the committee which spied out Canaan, they gave up. “How often did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert. Yeah, they turned back and limited the Holy One of Israel” (Ps. 78:41). They returned to the wilderness to die, even when the people in Canaan had already given up (Josh. 2:9-11). If only the Israelites had asked God to stretch their dreams, they would have discovered that blind alleys are in reality bold challenges. If tomorrow’s facts could all be known, life would be dull and routine, but the uncertainties of it all make for exciting opportunities. “I just can’t wait to see what God wants to do with the new day” should be our constant thought.
Stretch Your Dreams into Realities One of the toughest jobs we face is the task of discovering just exactly how to turn our dreams into realities. Napoleon Hill, in his book, Think and Grow Rich, lists six steps which “turn desires into gold.” I heard the pastor of a fast-growing church, Dr. Bob Moore, tell how application of these same principles (as he revised them to apply to his spiritual life) had greatly helped in goal-setting and goal reaching. He dared us to try our hand at revisions, making spiritual application.
The six steps listed by Napoleon Hill are as follows:
1. Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire. It is not sufficient to say “I want plenty of money.” Be definite as to the amount. (There is a psychological reason for definiteness which will be described in a subsequent chapter).
2. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire. (there is no such reality as “something for nothing.”)
3. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.
4. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.
5. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
6. Read your written statement aloud twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. As you read-see and feel and believe yourself already in possession of the money. Now be realistic. If these six steps work in the financial area, would they not also (with slight revision) work in the spiritual area? Make your own revisions, or try mine-
1. Fix in your mind the exact goals (after prayer) you believe God would have you achieve. It is not sufficient to say, “I want to be a good Christian.” Determine specifically what God has convinced you he wants you to do, and let those things be your goals.
2. Determine exactly how much of yourself you would be willing to give and how many sacrifices you would be willing to make to achieve the desires God has given you. God cannot honor the life which wants something for nothing. (“Faith is doing everything I can do and trusting God to do what I cannot do. God can do what I cannot do, but he will not do what I can do if I refuse to do it.” )
3. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the goals God has given you.
4. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put the dreams God has given you into action.
5. Write out a clear, concise statement of the goals you intend to acquire, name, the time limit for the acquisition of these goals, state what you intend to give in return for the reaching of these goals, and describe clearly the plan for accomplishment.
6. Read your written statement aloud twice daily, praying about it, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. As you read see and feel and believe yourself already in possession of what God has revealed to you as his dream for your life. That’s faith
Don’t listen to your doubts. Doubts will destroy what God wants to do through you. Remember that if God gives the goal, and if God wants you to reach it, then God has a date in mind for the accomplishment and God has a plan in mind as to how you can do it’ then God would expect you to make sacrifices to attain it would want you to write it down and go to work on it
and would be thrilled if twice a day you envisioned him doing it.
Stretch that imagination, and ask God to give you big dreams. “Lord, what would you like to see accomplished in the town where I live? What would you want achieved through my life? Let my
imagination become a God-impressed goal factory. Even as you reveal goals you want me to have, I thank you that Christ in me has enough power to carry out those goals.” Human goals in the spiritual area will invariably be impressed by the negatives we’ve had since childhood but divine goals could change the world.
THE EXCITING ROLE OF FAITH
The pilgrims, then, especially Christian, began to despond in his mind, and looked this way and that but no way could be found by which they might escape the river. Then they asked the men if the waters were all of a depth. “No,” said they, “you shall find it deeper or shallower as you believe in the King of the place.” John Bunyan Pilgrim’s Progress
All things are possible to him that believeth.
Faith is believing God. Someone has spoken of “the magic of believing.” Faith is not magic but it works just that wonderfully. Faith is the one principle on the human side without which God will not move from the divine side. What one word in the Bible separates the men from the boys? Faith. Why has God chosen to bless some of his people considerably more than others? Faith. What have the great achievers possessed in their makeup which most of us have missing from ours? Faith. Faith, or the lack of it, is the stock-market barometer of our confidence. When our faith is right, we are right. We possess enthusiastic confidence, a God-given sense of expectancy, an inner peace which cannot be swayed by the circumstances of the moment. Pick out the greatest Christian you know-and no doubt he excels in faith. Pick out the greatest Christian in Bible times-and faith was a dynamic he possessed. Check your faith pulse? Are you satisfied with it? Has faith become a life-style for you? Faith plays a giant part in success. If success is the continuing achievement of being the person God wants me to be, and the continuing achievement of established goals God helps me set, it is imperative I recognize the role of faith. In fact, I can ask God’s guidance in giving me goals, I can write them on paper and read them aloud twice daily, I can even pray over them, but until I believe, nothing will happen. Only when I believe do I begin to achieve.
The Importance of Faith
Earlier we noted the word “faith” is in the New Testament 234 times, and the word “believe” 251 times. Since “faith” and “believe” are from the exact same root in the original Greek (the only difference being in the verb or noun ending), then this one idea appears in the New Testament 485 times. This is astounding evidence that God places unusual importance as to where we stand in the arena of faith. To read the New Testament record of Old Testament heroes is to again underline the emphasis of faith. By faith, Able By faith, Abraham By faith, Enoch By faith, Joseph By faith, Noah By faith, Moses are common expressions in the book of Hebrews. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, and through faith God’s men have subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, and stopped the mouths of lions (He@. 1 1:33). From the lips of Jesus came frequent expressions about faith. “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed . . . nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matt. 17:20). “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:22). “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29). “Great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt” (Matt. 15:28). From the other side, the Bible comments that “without faith it is impossible to please him ” (Heb. 11:6). This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith (1 John 5:4).
God provides the power which enables Spirit-filled believers to accomplish, but faith is the key which unlocks the power. Faith is operative regardless. When everything about us seems downright bleak. . . When the heart is broken almost beyond repair When others would point us in another direction When needs are so gigantic as to be unreal When it seems Satan’s whole army is marching against us When an inner voice says, “What’s the use” When the understanding is unbelievably weak Faith goes right on. Things don’t change faith. Faith changes things. And the power of God is called on the scene.
The Definition of Faith
Hebrews 11:1 is excellent for its definition of faith. Try checking the verse in the different versions. Kings James Version – Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
American Standard Version – Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen. The Living Bible, Paraphrased – What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. The Amplified Bible – Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title-deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality-faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.
Faith is complete confidence, wonderful assurance, seeing that which God has convinced us he wants us to accomplish as being accomplished. Faith is believing him so much that we believe he is definitely going to do it. Anyone can believe a previously established fact. Faith is believing the advanced assurance God has given us as much as we believe established fact. Faith is envisioning-and here Webster’s dictionary fits faith exactly-to have a mental image of, especially in advance of realization. How could you better describe faith? That’s the quality God’s great men have always possessed. They have looked to the future, seen God’s goals, believed so much as to envision God accomplishing the task through them-and rejoiced both before and after God did it. God’s greats find a thrill in even thinking about faith. Trouble approaches, and it is but an opportunity for God to perform a miracle. A problem arises, and there is praise that God is doing such great things Satan had to attempt interference. A burden afflicts and prayer is offered, thanking God he is our great burden-bearer. Personal suffering approaches, only to find the believer saying, “Lord, I thank you that the sufferings of this world are not even worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed hereafter” (see Rom. 8:18),
Believe God for the Big Thing
Had someone said to Caesar, “Speak to the Roman Senate over a radio – a machine that can throw your voice across the airwaves,” Caesar would have said “Impossible.” Had someone said to Homer, “Write your Iliad on a typewriter” and then explained it, Homer would have said, “Impossible.” Had someone said to Nero, “Ride from Naples to Rome in a machine that flies through the air, ” he would have said “Impossible.” Had someone said to the Wright brothers, “A jet engine can carry your plane even faster,” they would have thought, “Impossible.” History has now recorded that the very things thought impossible in centuries past are realities in our day. Things have a way of seeming impossible for awhile, and then some time passes, and God’s man of accomplishment comes along. If an ordinary person desires to be used of God and will pay the price to be used, God can afford to work through him with tremendous power.
We are too often content with little when God would give us much. Who said the great things of God have all been accomplished? In our hearts we should believe the best songs may
yet be written; the best poems may yet be penned; the best sermons may yet be preached; the best lives may yet be lived; the best soul-winner may yet be found; the best man of faith may
yet be uncovered. This is the most exciting day of history, but we must believe and achieve. God wants you: Believe God for the big thing! God has so many lives he could change because of your life: Believe God for the big thing! God has dreams and goals he knows could be accomplished for his glory through your life: Believe God for the big thing!
Life is too short to be content with mediocrity. It is not enough to be what others are, or to do something because everybody is doing it. In the extraordinary age in which you live, when men are dreaming extraordinary dreams, carry life’s Textbook by your side, and lifes greatest companion in your heart as your constant source of strength, and-be something besides ordinary. Believe God for the big thing. Noah dared to believe God for the big thing, and built an ark. But what if Noah had not? Abraham dared to believe God for the big thing, and left Ur not knowing whether he went. But what if Abraham had not? Joseph dared to believe God for the big thing, and believed God would deliver him from plots as well as prisons. But what if Joseph had not? Moses dared to believe God for the big thing, and headed toward Egypt to rescue the Jews.
But what if Moses had not? David dared to believe God for the big thing, and marched boldly out to meet Goliath. But what if David had not? Hezekiah dared to believe God for the big thing, and on his knees Prayed for an extension of lifespan. But what if Hezekiah had not? Jeremiah dared to believe God for the big thing, and went out to buy a field to prove it. But what if Jeremiah had not? Daniel dared to believe God for the big thing, and opened his windows three times a day to pray toward Jerusalem. But what if Daniel had not? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego dared to believe God for the big thing, and asked him for protection from a burning fiery furnace. But what if they had not? If these men had not believed God for the big thing, God would never have worked the big thing in their lives. Someone else might have stepped in willing to be used, but these would have been forgotten and buried in the sands of time.
Attacks on Faith.
Faith is a positive; hence, negatives will attack and seek to destroy it. C.S. Lovett tells of the time he and Dewey Lockman and Dr. Franklin Logsdon went to see Dr. Charles E. Fuller, preacher on the “Old Fashioned Revival Hour.” In the course of the conversation, the name of a prominent Christian leader was mentioned, one who was then attacking Fuller Seminary. “I shall never forget Brother Fuller’s response to the comment this man made about his school. ” Yeeesss,” he drawled, `God bless him.’ “Dr. Logsdon was the quickest to respond, `You don’t seem too upset, Brother Fuller!’ “Then came an astonishing reply: `Why should I let someone else decide how I am going to act!’ ” When faith gets attacked, it will often be attacked by temper, or hatred, or strife, and just enough to give you a good case of the “disgruntles.” Just enough to block all your advances in the area of faith.
Watch for the negatives. A sign appeared on a city bus in downtown New York: “Doctors tell us that hating people can cause: ulcers, heart attacks, headaches, skin rashes, high blood pressure, and asthma.” Someone had scrawled beneath it’ “It doesn’t make the people you hate feel good either.” Faith is the road to big things; hence, fear will seek and destroy it. Fear makes faith flounder. Faith that flounders has lost its power and, of course, accomplishes nothing. Floundering faith will appear to be going somewhere and of course, goes nowhere. God cannot bless a life once fear has occupied God’s throne chair. “God hath not given us the spirit of fear,” Paul admonishes Timothy, “but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). Faith is the road to success; hence, defeated friends will seek to sidetrack you.
When God wishes to do something big, he often gives the dream to only one person. If that one person gets defeated, the God-given dream is gone. Jack Taylor has wisely admonished, “If
Satan cannot defeat you, he will defeat someone whose defeat will defeat you.” The attack on faith may come from well-meaning friends who simply have no desire to be used of God themselves, or even from family members. The one who walked by faith must expect to sometimes walk all alone. Faith refuses to base itself on feelings; hence, feelings will attack from all sides.
Great Christians refuse to major on feelings. They major on faith. Any Christian always interested in his feelings will never amount to much for God. Until he gets his eyes off himself
and on Christ and a needy world, he will miss all the big goals God has for him. When Thomas said, “If I can see, I’II believe”; he was not exercising faith, but doubt. When a Christian moves
by feelings instead of by faith, he too has chosen to exercise doubt.
Faith refuses to acknowledge doubt; hence, doubt does everything possible to gain inroads through the questioning process. Just about the time you’ve set your goals, stretched your dreams, and begun to believe God for big things, expect to be attacked on all sides by questions. “What have I gotten myself into?” “What if it doesn’t work? Wow, am I in trouble!” “Do you suppose God intended that job for someone else, and I just thought it was for me?” Always remember, if God gave you those goals after prayer, then faith will look far beyond all question marks and believe. When that happens, extraordinary power will begin to flow.