1 Apr 2014
In the past few weeks there have been multiple times that the principle of faith has been brought into focus by the Holy Spirit. In fact faith has been on my mind daily. It is my hope that together our interest in faith, the expansion of the expression of our faith, and our understanding of the critical nature of faith will be strengthened and stretched by the work of His Spirit.
How critical is faith? I’m afraid that our thoughts and discussions regarding this question may perch on a somewhat higher plane than our practice. For example, we are instructed: “Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].” - 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 (AMP) (bold added)
Apparently the core competency required to follow Jesus is faith. Jesus taught His disciples …. “And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked privately, Why could we not drive it out? 20 He said to them, Because of the littleness of your faith [that is, your lack of firmly relying trust]. For truly I say to you, if you have faith [that is living] like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to yonder place, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.- Matthew 17:18-20 (AMP)
From the verses above we might also conclude that faith is critical for the accomplishment of the will and direction of God.
“The apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith (that trust and confidence that spring from our belief in God).
6 And the Lord answered, If you had faith (trust and confidence in God) even [so small] like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, Be pulled up by the roots, and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you.” - Luke 17:5-6 (AMP) (bold added)
I have found myself recently crying out like Jesus’ disciples … “Lord, Increase my faith.” It seems to me that the extent that a man or woman, a boy or a girl can be used by God is the degree to which they place their faith and trust in God and His Son Jesus.
Consider this passage briefly. Acts 16:31 (AMP)
31 And they answered, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ [give yourself up to Him, take yourself out of your own keeping and entrust yourself into His keeping] and you will be saved, [and this applies both to] you and your household as well.
I find the Amplified translation very graphic. “Take yourself out of your own keeping and entrust yourself into His keeping.” For me this seems to be very near to the place where the rubber meets the road. I am personally strongly bent to hold on desperately to my own keeping. I desire to provide for myself and look out for myself and become the chief planner for myself. This is my flesh; my flesh opposes faith.
It seems that virtually everything in our Christian lives hinges on our faith, both here on this side and for all eternity. The catch is apparently we only have the opportunity to express our faith on this side of heaven. Yet this opportunity is without doubt the most amazing and powerful leverage system known to mankind, faith for a few years here resulting in amazing and indescribable benefits for all of eternity!
So how do we grow in our faith? Certainly we know that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” ( Romans 10:17) There is no doubt that this scripture is true! However perhaps a legitimate question would be; why when we have so many Christians sitting under the preaching of the Word for decades do we not end up with thousands of giants of faith?
It is my perspective that the key is in the hearing. Hearing first implies listening. Listening implies a concentrated desire to learn, not for knowledge but in order to obey. When your mother shouted you had better LISTEN. She was not talking primarily about the functioning of your ears, but rather she was without doubt focused on the obedience of your heart.
Is it possible that this scripture has been neutered to some extent over the years by the gradual “frog in the pot” moving of the Body of Christ toward knowledge without obedience? Knowledge for the sake of obedience provides for growth, whereas knowledge for the sake of knowledge begets primarily a big head.
Lying behind our collective shift away from obedience is hiding pride! Jesus, the birthplace of our faith, exhibited the gold standard of humility. He is the One we are called to follow. Conversely, pride says it will figure out what to do and with its superior strength will do it. Humility says I need the power and work of God in every part of my life and I will not depend on myself, but I will depend upon God alone for all my needs. We see an example of this contrast in the passage below:
2 Chronicles 12:1-7 (NASB95)
1 When the kingdom of Rehoboam was established and strong, he and all Israel with him forsook the law of the LORD.
2 And it came about in King Rehoboam's fifth year, because they had been unfaithful to the LORD, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem
3 with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen. And the people who came with him from Egypt were without number: the Lubim, the Sukkiim and the Ethiopians.
4 He captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem.
5 Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and the princes of Judah who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and he said to them, "Thus says the LORD, 'You have forsaken Me, so I also have forsaken you to Shishak.' "
6 So the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, "The LORD is righteous."
7 When the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah, saying, "They have humbled themselves so I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some measure of deliverance, and My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by means of Shishak.
“Take yourself out of your own keeping and entrust yourself into His keeping.” This can and will be done only by the individual who humbles himself placing his faith in Almighty God. Our lives are changed only by a faith that is deep enough to float obedience. Many of our obedience boats have gone aground and are tipped over sideways going nowhere due largely to the lack of the depth of our faith.
Paul in the Book of Romans begins by telling his hearers that his purpose is to engender a faith deep enough to float obedience. Romans 1:5-6 (NASB95)
5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; In the verses above the idea from the original language is a faith that is sufficiently strong and deep so as to naturally evoke obedience.
Summary: God is primarily about relationships not performance. Real faith is faith in a Person not a process or a plan. Real faith will bring forth performance but performance will rarely bring forth real faith. We must strive to keep the horse before the cart.
God’s word should first be seen as a means to become more intimate with Him. Faith [trust] will invariably flow from an intimate relationship. In the final analysis the extent of our faith will approximately mirror the depth of our relationship with God.
We gain significant potential to grow in faith when we recognize and internalize that we are in ourselves nothing and God is everything! God help us to default to this perspective!
The intimacy of our relationship with God has its foundation in our personal humility. "GODIS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." - James 4:6b
When we grow in faith fueled by intimacy through humility, we also grow significantly the effectiveness of our prayers. Are you ready to ask God to show you His personal plan for the increase of your faith? God is a God of covenants. He delights in commitments. Are you willing to change anything in order for Him to grow the depth and strength of your faith?