LIFESTYLE LEADERSHIP: Inner Lifestyle III

LIFESTYLE LEADERSHIP: Inner Lifestyle III
By: Hanna Shope

FAITH

“NOW FAITH IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR, THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS UNSEEN” (Hebrews 11:1).

“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” (Hebrews 11:6).

We are constantly beseiged by new believers about faith. What is it? What is involved? We will, in this session, discuss the leader and faith in four aspects.

First, faith means that we believe that God will provide. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7) – “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ
Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Do we trust that our God is our Father? Many people comment that they have been put to the test by God giving them cancer to learn a lesson – or that God took a young wife to heaven just to teach the husband a lesson. Would you, as a parent teach your child by this method? Why would you think that a loving Father in heaven would do such an act to one of His children? Jesus Christ told us about the care that God has for all living things and that He knows the number of hairs on our head. Why, then, can anyone think that our loving Father would bring on horrors to teach a lesson? Horrors occur on earth because we are on earth. God promises to provide for our needs! Our needs, not our wants. Our needs as He sees them in the eternal picture of life, and not in our finite frame of reference.

The second meaning of faith is that we believe that what we do for God will prosper. “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf
also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3).

We are forever under His constant watch and care. We are surrounded by the rivers of His love, mercy and grace. The psalmist stresses this point time and time again. “He will not suffer thy foot
to be moved: He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand” (Psalm 121:3-5).

Faith also means believing that God is absolutely trustworthy.  How many times do we have our children say, “whatever you think is best, Dad(or Mom)” when we have them looking for some clothes or a bike? We lose sight of the fact that God is ALMIGHTY. God’s attributes include three that man will never have – OMNIPOTENCE – OMNIPRESENCE – and OMNISCIENCENT. ALL POWERFUL – EVERYWHERE AT ALL TIMES – and ALL KNOWING. Can you picture the effect of asking God anything? God can respond with an immediate answer to ANYTHING! No
matter where we may go, we KNOW that God is ALWAYS THERE! Whenever we are in need or trouble, we know that God can SOLVE EVERYTHING!

“Righteous art Thou, O Lord, and upright are Thy judgements. Thy testimonies that Thou has commanded are righteous and very faithful” (Psalms 119:137,138). God has never done a single thing wrong! What He calls upon us to believe and do is absolutely right. Everything that He has said is trustworthy. What He decides, where He leads, and what He says is ALWAYS right. His promises are sure. His will is good, acceptable and PERFECT!

I find that the story of the father that took his child to Jesus to see if he could be helped as related in Mark 9 is of value to those of us that need to know about faith in God. This is the story that
has the father arriving at the camp of Jesus when Jesus was at the mount where He had been transfigured. When Jesus returned to the camp, He saw that the father had besought the disciples for help, but they had been unable to help. Jesus then asked the father how long the child had suffered. In verse 21, the father relates the horrors that the child had been going through, and that he was at the end of his rope. The father asked for ANYTHING and Jesus responds in verse 23 with ALL THINGS. The father said “if Thou canst do” while Jesus responds “if thou canst believe.”

The problem is never, repeat NEVER, what or how much Jesus can do. The problem is what we can believe that He can do. Matthew 9:29 confirms this.

THE INNER LIFE OF THE LEADER WILL MAKE OR BREAK HIM. If the leader forsakes the cultivation and practice of purity, humility and faith – if the leader fails to “purpose in his heart to not defile himself” then the leader will be removed by God from the position of leadership. If the leader does purpose in his heart to seek FIRST the kingdom of God, then that leader can be used by God in a mighty way.  To make leadership a lifestyle, each of us must do as Paul instructs us – “Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16).

“But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love …” (I Thessalonians 5:8).

The use of a leader, by God, in the world is for his lifetime, the use of man by God is for an eternity. What we do as leaders has an immediate implication, but it also means that we have an ETERNAL result of our actions or lack of action. “The eyes of the lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (II Chronicles 16:9).

Here are some observations on the matter of faith and the life of a leader and the BODY as a whole. I have discovered many counterfeits of faith that are created by man. Counterfeits such as Enthusiasm, Piety, Legalism, and others; However, my most impacting observation was on what faith should mean but seems to have lost in today’s church.

We need today to be reminded that the Kingdom of God does not consist of rituals, works or any outward observances of any kind or manner. The Kingdom of God consists of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. This kingdom, moreover, is a gift of God, not a human accomplishment. Its foundation is the vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ on Calvary. It was carried forward by the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

The disciples before Pentecost were only disciples. They tried to follow Jesus and His teachings as best they could, but they did not know true faith. It was only at Pentecost that they were truly made Apostles. At that time, each of them experienced the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At that time, each of them was emboldened by the Holy Spirit to bear witness of Christ in public.

Whereas previously they were disciples of the One whom they saw as the Messiah of Israel, now they were ambassadors and heralds of the risen Christ. Instead of seeking faith that is a dead work of the law, they now had the faith that empowers and redeems. Previously they had the faith of servants, now they had the faith of sons of the Living God. Previously they were plagued by timidity and fearfulness, now they were ready to die for the sake of their Master and Savior.

Faith includes intellectual assent, but its essence is a personal relationship with the Living Savior, Jesus Christ. It consists, basically, in a living union with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. True
faith means being before doing – being in the favor of God before doing the will of God. It means being grasped by the Spirit of God.

It is an opening of our inward eyes to the reality of God’s incomparable love poured out for sinners in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus Christ.

Yet, faith is not an almighty action of the Holy Spirit on the soul, it is also in our action in the power of the Spirit as we are sent forth into the world as witnesses and ambassadors of Christ.
Faith entails both radical passivity and radical activity. Luther once observed: “Faith … is a living, busy, active, mighty thing … so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly.”

The deficiency found in many churches today is an empty formalism or barren biblicism, either of which degenerates into an oppressive legalism. Other churches that seem more vital are plagued by perfectionistic enthusiasm or frenetic activism that borders on humanism. What is needed is a recovery – a revival – of the depth and breadth of Apostolic faith.

A revival must start in the heart of one individual – me. Each believer, with God, can work the miracle of revival – ‘Breaking up the fallow ground’ only in their own heart and life – then God can use
that person to spread His revival to the world!

It is imperative that we bear in mind that Jesus Christ is not just a moral ideal or prophetic genius – He is a LIVING SAVIOR. He is not simply the human representative of God, but God Himself in human flesh. It is not enough to know the historical facts about the life of Christ, how He lived and died, each person must know that Jesus died for them personally!

True faith does not consist of imposing our views on others, but in sharing the light given to us. In our evangelistic task we must not approach others with any pretension to greater virtue or
intellectual acumen. Instead, we present ourselves as fellow sinners whose eyes have been opened both to the gravity of the human predicament and to the reality of God’s unconditional grace and love.  The word that we proclaim stands in judgment over our lives as well as the lives of our hearers. We are beggars telling others where they can get food. As “fishers of men” we are instrumental in advancing the Kingdom of God, but it is not through our cleverness that people are won to Jesus Christ; our task is simply to let down the net of the Gospel. As the vehicle of the Spirit, the Gospel itself brings in souls for the kingdom. (Luke 5:2-10)

This is not to imply that Christians should never use apologetic arguments in defense of the faith, but our purpose in doing so is not to induce a decision of faith. (Only the Spirit does that through the preaching of the Word.) Rather, our aim is to intensify the hunger for faith in the human soul and to help those who already believe to better understand their own faith. We can show the intellectual relevance of our faith by argumentation, but faith’s concrete relevance to the human condition can be grasped only by those whose minds have been touched by the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Our witness is not to some “zapping” peak experiences of the sacred, but to the incursion of the sacred into the secular which we see in Jesus Christ.

Our appeal is not to external evidences for the faith but to evidences that faith itself provides:

The empty tomb.
The transformed lives of the disciples.
The interior witness of the Holy Spirit.

In carrying out the evangelistic mandate, we must bear in mind that Holy Scripture is its own best interpreter, that is to say, Scripture illumined by the Spirit of God, its author. Holy Scripture
in the hands of Spirit directed believers is sufficient to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)

We should never confuse religion with techniques for cultivating spirituality or programs of church growth. It is God who gives the increase, though it is up to us to plant the seed. (1 Corinthians
3:6-7) Our responsibility is to hear the Word and then share the Good News. We can serve the Kingdom of God, but we cannot build it. The kingdom is a gift from God that can only be received with thanksgiving and gratefulness.

There is a difference between believing that Christ is the Savior of humankind in general and coming to know Him as one’s own Savior.  Faith, understood as an interior awakening to the glory and meaning of the cross, is a gift of God. It is a work of the Holy Spirit within us. If we do not have this kind of faith, let us seek it. Let us pray for it as the Apostles did. (Luke 17:5) The key to discipleship is given by our Lord:

“Ask, and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

True faith is inseparable from the experience of divine holiness and divine love. Sometimes that experience will take dramatic form, such as when the apostle Paul was lifted up into the ‘third heaven.’ (2 Corinthians 12:2) Yet those who have such experiences do not dwell on them. People of faith are not spiritual exhibitionists, but heralds and ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. Living on a ‘religious high’ is not serving the glory of God and advancing his kingdom. John the Baptist furnished the model of true spirituality and faith when he declared: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Humility such as this is an indispensable mark of authentic piety. No one can be confronted by the Holy God without having a poignant sense of one’s own creatureliness and sinfulness. (Isaiah
6:1-5) What shows us the depth of our sin and the magnitude of God’s grace is not just an awareness of God as the Holy One, (which all people have to some degree) but the knowledge of the Holy Love of God reflected in the life and death of Jesus Christ. Humility is the key to the love of other human beings for God and for one another. Proud people cannot love, because love means to be emptied of self and dedicated to the glory of God and the welfare of his creatures.

The cardinal evidence of true faith is works of self-giving love which are visible to the world as shown in Matthew 7:20, John 13:35 and other scriptures. Such works, however, are not visible to those who do them, for the focus of the faithful doer is never on their deeds (to which they are more likely oblivious) but on Christ and His great, completed work of Atonement.

The essence of true religion, the righteousness of faith, is known only to God. True faith will be manifested in fruits, but before we can bear fruit we must be rooted in Christ, engrafted into
Him. We must be born again from above by the Holy Spirit. (John 1:12-13, 3:5-8, 1 Peter 1:3)

Frank Kafka once wrote: “The fathers of the Church were not afraid to go out into the desert because they had a richness in their hearts. But we, with richness all around us, are afraid because the
desert is in our hearts.”

Let each and every one of us, today, make the commitment to be His servant and to seek the knowledge of His Grace and Mercy. Let us become the vessels of His workings in this world. Let us have the richness in our hearts. Let us have FAITH that will set us apart from the world and that will make the world want to know more about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

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