|Jesus never taught that a life of faith would always |
be painless and comforting.In fact, misunderstanding that
truth can lead to warping your attitude toward God
The following is the transcript from the Sept. 25, 2016 service at the Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa.
It has always impressed me how many great hymns have been based upon various Scriptures. As I was thinking about our text this morning I read I John 5:4 where it says, “…this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” In this scripture, I recognize an old popular hymn; “Faith Is The Victory.”
That’s a great promise! God’s telling us that our faith is MIGHTY thing!
It gives us power in this world we wouldn't have otherwise.
Hebrews 11 is the great chapter of faith in Scripture tells us that as well. The author of Hebrews tells us about the faith of men like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses and several others. And then the writer goes on to say,
“…what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection.” Hebrews 11:32-35aDo you believe that? That’s the kind of power I want in my life. I want a powerful faith that can OVERCOME this world and give me victory.
But there’s a fly in the ointment. The author of Hebrews doesn't stop there with the words we just read. He goes on to write,
“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews 11:36-38Let me tell you that no one ever taught me this side of faith in Sunday school. Imagine what would happen if they did. ‘Okay, children, today we’re going to learn how trusting… God might get you torn in two, thrown into jail, hated by your friends, and will force you to drive an old beater the rest of your life.’
It would certainly thin the herd.” And I wouldn't blame the herd for thinning out. Nobody I know is interested in a faith that would lead to pain, struggling, torment and pain. Most people want a power in faith that gives them confidence – not fear.
That’s why certain kinds of preachers only dwell on something called the “prosperity gospel.” They teach their followers that all they need to believe and have enough faith… and their faith will fix everything… and everything will be OK.
It’s a popular message. It draws the crowds. And it’s often preached by TV evangelists because it is a crowd pleaser. People come, put their tithes in the mail, and buy that preacher's books and tapes.
These kinds of preachers sell a god that is channeled through visualization, positive thinking, and – a real popular one – “Name it and Claim it.”
"Name it and claim it" is all about naming what you want, claiming it before the throne of God – and then being so intense about your faith that you WILL receive what you've named and claimed, that it will be yours.
Preachers like this draw in people by the thousands because there are people out there who feel helpless in this world and they want a God who will step in and will FIX what is wrong; a god that would give them healing and security, and success.
Now, the thing is, I believe in a God who can DO all those things. Don’t you? I believe in a God, just like the God that Hebrews describes; a God who can enable me to conquer kingdoms, a God who can stop the mouths of lions, and quench the power of fire, a God who can make me strong when I am weak.
I BELIEVE in that kind of God!
But what I DON’T believe in are the false teachings of charlatans who sell a fake faith that teaches people that all they need to do is pull a few levers and punch a few buttons and God will dance to their tune/ do what they want done. They teach their followers that all they need do is follow their teachings and they can get God to bend to THEIR will – not the other way around.
And if it doesn't work… why then – it’s YOUR FAULT… not God’s.
If you had only learned to visualize success like they taught. If you had only learned to practice “positive thinking” the way they told you to; If you had only had properly named it in true faith, and then claimed it in true faith; If only… you’d had ENOUGH faith.
For these false teachers – faith fixes everything. True Faith never lets you down. It makes it so we never suffer, we never fail.
Well, if that’s true…
Did Paul not have enough faith?
He was beaten and stoned and run out of almost every town
Did the Apostles not have enough faith?
Every Disciple except John died a martyr’s death.
Did Jesus not have enough faith?
He ended up on the cross and died a terrible death.
Just before he was betrayed Jesus spent a long time at the Garden of Gethsemane praying about His impending crucifixion and death. Do you remember what He prayed?
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” Luke 22:42You see, Godly faith is different than what these other preachers preach.
Those preachers teach that TRUE faith is when you hand God a sheet of paper and it has all your requests written on it… and then you believe (actually - you EXPECT) God to do what you want.
That’s not Biblical Faith. Biblical Faith is when you hand God a blank sheet of paper, and then you tell God – not my will, but YOURS be done. Here’s a blank piece of paper. I TRUST you to fill it in with things You want done in my life. Granted, I’ll still make my requests known to God. I’ll still tell Him what I’d prefer to see done in my life. But I won’t feel like I can corner God into a promise He didn't make.
Jesus NEVER taught the “name it and claim it” kind of foolishness. Jesus never taught us that a life of faith would be filled with sweetness and light.
Jesus never taught that a life of faith would always be painless and comforting.
In fact, misunderstanding that truth can lead to warping your attitude toward God to the point that you end up building a wall between yourself and Him; a wall that may ultimately intimidate you to the point that you walk away from God.
The problem is this; we want God to do things on our terms and on our timetable.
But it doesn't work that way.
If you look at the stories in the Bible you find that God’s people sometimes had to wait years to see how God working in their lives. Think about it this way:
• Joseph waited 15 years
• Abraham waited 25 years
• Moses waited 40 years
• Jesus waited 30
If God is making you wait – you’re in VERY good company.
My point is this:
Our faith IS the victory that overcomes the world.
Our God does mighty things in response to our faith.
Our God IS faithful.
But He doesn't do things on our terms, or on our timetable, or in our way.
But let me tell you how it DOES WORK.
One of the best stories about how our faith ought to be is found in the Old Testament. It’s the story of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego.
In Daniel 3:1 we’re told that
“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.”
Everybody was commanded to bow down to this image, but Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego refuse to do that. They were hauled before the King who said they would have one more chance to bow down to his idol - or they’d be thrown into the fiery furnace… and die.
Their response was classic:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
In other words… our God CAN rescue us. But if not - EVEN if He doesn’t rescue us - we still won’t bow down.
And of course we know the rest of the story.
The king was furious and commanded that the fire be made 7 times hotter and had these three young men cast into the fire. And God rescued them from the flames.
Why were these men rescued; because their faith was the victory that overcame their world? And that is what God calls us to as well.
To have a faith that stands firm even in the face of certain loss and death; A faith that overcomes the world.
But you can’t have that faith until you first belong to Jesus Christ.
Father, when the storms of life rage, stand by us. In the midst of tribulation, stand by us. In the midst of faults and failures, stand by us. When we are growing old and feeble, and we’ve done the best we can, stand by us. Amen.