Monday, June 23, 2014

Faith: Is God big enough?

"There is a BIG difference between believing in Jesus and following Him."


-Pastor Jimmy- Journey Church, Raleigh NC


"Faith does not require an explanation; it rests on the promises of God."


-Wendy Blight


Faith is a confidence in God’s plan and provision as well as the expectation that He will fulfill everything that He has promised.


Ever have a question where you can’t find the answer?  Experience something that doesn't make sense?  I think we are wired to want answers.  We want to know how and why things happen. Unfortunately we don’t always get the answers we seek, leaving us to trust what we cannot see and practice faith. Scripture tells us without faith it is impossible to please God.


And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Hebrews 11:6

 
So how do we please Him by our faith? The simple question we should begin with is, what is faith?  Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Faith is believing in something we cannot prove and trusting it to be true.  It is the belief in things we have not seen with our eyes but have read in God’s word. We choose to trust it as truth because God said it.


This can be tough.  There are things in this world that do not make sense and stories in the Bible that seem far fetched and unrealistic. However faith steps in and God reveals Himself.


In the book of Daniel, found in the Old Testament, there is a great story that is an excellent example of faith.  The amazing story of three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and their encounter with a King named Nebuchadnezzar speaks volumes to me about faith.  Because these three men made the choice not to bow down and worship the false god that had been built by King Nebuchadnezzar, he threw them into a fiery furnace.  Their lack of obedience to the king landed all three men in a furnace full of flames in which each one emerged unscathed. Truly miraculous and beyond any scientific explanation.  


Here is my favorite part of the story and the example of their unshakeable faith:
Nebuchadnezzar: It is reported to me that you, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, refuse to serve my gods and do not bow and worship the golden statue I had set up. Is that true?  If you are ready to comply with my order and fall down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, lute, harp, pipe, and all the other musical instruments, then things will go well for you from here. But if you refuse to worship, you will be taken immediately and thrown in a furnace of blazing fire. What god could possibly rescue you from my hands then?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego:  Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to defend our actions in this matter. We are ready for the test.  If you throw us into the blazing furnace, then the God we serve is able to rescue us from a furnace of blazing fire and release us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if He does not, O king, you can be sure that we still will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue you erected.
Daniel 3:14-18


Those verses are so awesome to me.  In verse 17, the men declare even if they are thrown into the furnace, God IS able to deliver them from both the furnace and the King.  Those are strong and powerful words.  These three men clearly believe in God's power. He IS big enough. Without the answers, He alone is all they need. Notice though they do not say God will definitely deliver them but instead if He so chooses to deliver them from the furnace and the King’s hand.  These men believe in God.  They trust in His power.  They believe He alone can deliver them from King Nebuchadnezzar. This is their belief.


Now in the same passage we see the moment when faith enters the scene.  The men proclaim even if God does not deliver them from the furnace, He is still God.  No matter the outcome,  even if God chooses not to save them, the King’s gods would not be worshiped or served by these men.  Those words are such a reflection of God’s goodness because even if they were to perish, it would not change who God is.  He would still be who they believed Him to be.


So the men believed that even if God chose not to save them, He is still good.  How?  Because biblical faith is not placed in the outcome of our circumstances but instead placed in God. Their statement to King Nebuchadnezzar is so profound.  To me they are proclaiming that every battle belongs to the Lord and He alone controls the outcome.  It is a statement of faith saying God is good no matter what happens and believing He can save the day and He does work miracles. It says that following Him is not dependent on whether things work in our favor.  Faith says we will follow Him no matter the outcome!


In the book of Hebrews, there is a great passage that speaks of those found throughout scripture and their faith:


“Those who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning;  they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promise.”

Hebrews 11:33-39


Throughout the passage there are great moments of faith through both good and horrific times.  There were those who conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, and escaped the sword. However there were those who were put into prison, stoned to death, tortured, were sawed in two and killed by the sword.  What a contrast.  But no matter how good or bad, whether they received what was promised in the end, their faith in God was not shaken.  They chose to follow and obey Him even with an unknown outcome.  It was choosing faith in the character of God.


Our Faith in God’s character is what pleases Him.  It is trusting His hand when nothing makes sense.  It is knowing we can follow Him all the way to the end because He knows and has written the ending.


Faith is not a bunch of beliefs and convictions.  It is not having all the answers to the questions.  Instead Faith is trust.  Faith is walking along side the God of the Universe and knowing He is I AM.  


If we want to please God then we must choose to place every ounce of trust in Him even when we do not understand what is happening.  Do you want that kind of faith? I do! And so to have it, you must pursue and draw near to Him choosing to trust Him all the way!


“Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

James 4:8