What is really valuable in life, in this world? It is sure not the things that we can see, the physical things of this world - the money, the houses, the cars, the clothes, the jewelry. It's the unseen things; and one unseen thing that is very valuable is our faith.
- 1 Peter 1:3-7. A person's money, gold, investments, property, have temporary value, but faith has eternal value. Indeed, your faith is infinitely more valuable than your money. And so don't be so concerned about your money or your possessions; be much, much, more concerned about your faith, about your faith in God.
Luke 17:5-6. The disciples were learning more about the demands of being a disciple, and they knew they needed more faith, and so they ask Jesus to increase their faith. Now this is such a great prayer. Each of us should be asking God to increase our faith.
- A few weeks ago we talked about how faith is trusting God. It's trusting in the person of God, in the living and holy God. It's not trusting in our self or in others; it's not trusting the world's way of thinking; and it's not positive thinking - it's not trying to work up some emotion or feeling in ourselves. "Healthy, happy, terrific" example. Proverbs 28:26
- True faith is believing in God, relying on God; it's trusting in God, and in His wisdom, His goodness, His love, His power, His mercy, and His faithfulness. Proverbs 3:5-6
A person who has true Biblical faith has a relationship with God, a personal relationship with God. And he's depending on God, looking to God, relying on God for help, for direction, for strength, for comfort, and for wisdom. J C Ryle said this about faith: "It's the hand by which the soul lays hold on Jesus Christ, and is united to Him..."
Now faith is a means to receiving what God wants to give you. For example, faith is a means to salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9. Faith is also the means to fulfilling the purposes that God has for you. In fact, faith is the means to living the entire Christian life, and without faith you cannot live the Christian life.
- It is by faith that you receive grace, that you become holy, and that you are protected
(shield of faith - Ephesians 6). It's by faith that you really and truly know the love of God. You get up in the morning and you are to believe God loves you - you are not to wait to see if God shows you His love during the day, and then say you believe it. That's not being mature in your thinking as a Christian. Example of the Israelites - Psalm 78:5-39.
- It's by faith that you receive blessings from God. And it's by faith that God leads you in the plans that He has for your life. Hebrews 11:8. Example of moving to Florida.
It's by faith that you do the work that God wants you to do. 1 Thess. 1:3, John 6:29. We live in a country where people, in general, work hard; and working hard is a good quality to have. But when it comes to the Christian life, you can't just be working hard. And I say that because you can't be working for God apart from faith, for this means you're working in the flesh, in your own strength, and this runs completely counter to faith. Trying to live the Christian life in your own strength is one of the most frustrating things to do; and in fact, it's impossible to live the Christian life in your own strength.
- Galatians 3:1-5. The Galatians were guilty of trying to live the Christian life in their own strength, which means they were not living by faith. They might've been working hard, but they were working hard in the flesh, and not in accordance with the Spirit. They were not looking to the Lord and trusting in Him. Luke 10:40-42 - example of Martha.
Living for the Lord means you are trusting in Him, and that His Word is leading you and His Spirit is empowering you. It means you're not doing your own thing in your own strength. Rather, it means that you are doing God's will by His grace and by His Spirit.
And so don't be foolish like these Galatians - live by faith. John 15:5
- Now faith is also essential if you're going to please God. Hebrews 11:6. And so when you trust in God, then you are blessed, and He is pleased, He is glorified. 1 Peter 1:7
Luke 17 tells us about this mustard seed, which was the smallest garden seed. Jesus was making the point that you need just a little faith in God. The emphasis then is not on you having this great faith in God, but having a little faith in a great God. And if you have a little faith in a great God, then in essence you have great faith. The greatness of your faith is not dependent on you per se, but on God Himself, and on you looking to God, and depending completely on Him. Examples - walking on ice, the centurion (Luke 7)
And so if you think you have weak faith, your problem may be that you are not rightly looking to God, and you are not seeing God for who He really is. But when you truly see God as being your Father in heaven, as being One who is good and powerful and wise and forgiving, as one who is personal, you then trust in Him, and then God will do great, mighty and wonderful things. Jeremiah 32:17
- Now one of God's objectives is to help you see who you really are in relationship to who God really is. You see yourself as His child, and as one who is needy, and you see God as your Father, as one who's loving and powerful, then you'll have faith. Psalm 99 - example of Moses, Aaron and Samuel.
- Indeed, the great men and women of God weren't great in and of themselves; they were ones who had faith in a great God. Learn this. ABC's of God's character. Psalm 9:10
But another ingredient for godly faith is knowing God's will. Your faith must be in line with God's will and purpose. Do you think God will answer your prayers and bless your faith if you're asking Him for that which is not His will, but is just what you want, or what you want to do? Of course not. John 14:13, 1 John 5:12-13
- God's will for your life then is based on the truths, principles and commands of God that are found in His Word. God's Word then is necessary for you to know God's will.
God's Word is also necessary for your faith to grow. Romans 10:17
- It is God's Word that tells unbelievers why they need to believe God, and what they need to believe Him for. It tells people that they're lost sinners in need of a Savior.
- It is God's Word that tells you what truths you need to believe. It's God's Word that tells you about God's character. For example, you need to believe by faith that God is good, forgiving, powerful; but you are not to go by your feelings.
- It is God's Word that tells you what you need to trust Him for. For example, prayers in the Bible help you to know what to pray for, what to believe God for. Colossians 1:9-12
- It is God's Word that gives you promises that you need to believe. Romans 8:28
God's Word than is foundational to your faith; and only as you are believing God's Word can you then be really having an active Biblical faith. Your faith must be in God, and if your faith is in God, then your faith is in God's Word. John 8:31-32, Psalm 56:3-4
- A person who is not regularly in God's Word, and who is not regularly meditating and thinking about God's Word is going to have weak faith. But the person who has a strong, growing and God pleasing faith is being strengthened and encouraged by His Word.
Trials are also a key to growing and increasing faith. God gives you trials and puts you in situations that are over your head, that are too difficult for you to handle, so that you look to Him and trust in Him instead of trusting in yourself. "Streams in the Desert"
- James 1:2. Trials are a test of your faith. If you want to know how your faith is doing, if you want to see if your faith is really growing, than just look at the trials you've recently gone through. Then you will see if you are passing your tests, if you are trusting God as you're going through trials.
- Romans 5:1-5. Trials are good for your life, for God uses them to help you grow in faith, and growing in faith is a means to growing in character, in becoming more mature, in growing in endurance, and in fulfilling God's purposes. Ex of Noah, Abraham and Joseph
But I believe that one of the most important keys to having a vibrant faith is having the desire to please God. Wanting to please God, wanting to live for the glory of God is essential if you're to have true faith. Acts 8:9-24, David - Psalm 145
2 Corinthians 5:7 says that you're to walk by faith, or as some translations say, to live by faith. Faith then needs to be an active part of aspect of your life. Your entire life and every part of your life is to be lived by faith. Every day is to be a day of faith, a day of trusting in God. But how is this faith seen in your life?
- Your faith is seen when you read God's Word and believe what it says. 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Your faith is seen in your prayers - for when you pray you are believing that you are talking to God; you are believing that He hears you; and you are believing that He will answer what you ask Him.
Your faith is seen by trusting God when you are sick, when you experience personal struggles, or when you have internal conflicts. And if your sickness or struggles or conflicts go on for awhile, than you need to keep believing, you need to keep having faith, you need an enduring faith. Colossians 1:11, Psalm 27:13-14
- And this is one of the hardest things in life, when the trial, the sickness, the difficult situation keeps on going, and you need to keep trusting, and having faith. Abe - Rom 4.
- Indeed, your faith is like a muscle that grows over time. And let me say, your faith muscles are infinitely more important than your physical muscles. 1 Timothy 4:7-12.
Your faith is seen when you are attacked and tempted by the devil, because true faith means you're trusting in God to protect you from the enemy. 2 Chronicles 18:31, Psalm 18
- Your faith is seen in your relationships, in that you are praying to God about your relationships, in that you are trusting God to fill you with love for people, and in that you're believing God to be working in the life of that other believer.
- It's by faith then that you are to live with people, love them and encourage them.
Your faith is seen when you are doing the Lord's work, when you are on the front lines, and are fighting the Lord's battles. Ephesians 6:17, 2 Timothy 4:7
- Your faith is seen when it seems that God has left you, and you don't sense His presence, or His favor in your life. It is then that you need to, by faith, know that God really is right with you, whether you feel like it or not. Psalm 13, Psalm 27:9
And so you are to walk by faith, not by sight, not by your feelings, not by circumstances, not by the ways of the world, not by your wisdom, not by fleshly desires, and not in accordance with the evil desires of people who are around you. Psalm 143:8
- Man's natural and normal way of living is to walk by sight, to trust his physical senses, to trust in that which he can see, feel, touch and hear. But the Christian is to walk by faith, to trust in God and in His Word, to trust in the One who is trustworthy, dependable, eternal, and a giver of all that is good and holy.
Now faith can relate to things that have happened in the past, or are happening in the present, or that which will happen in the future. And one of our bigger problems as Christians is when we have fears and worries about things in the future, about things we have no control over. But fears and worries are very common to us, and we need to learn to not look to ourselves but to have faith in God in these situations as well. Philippians 4:6-7, Psalm 94:18-19
Luke 17 speaks about this mulberry tree being uprooted, signifying difficult things that need to change or be overcome or removed, or signifying impossible things that we want to see the Lord do in our church, in our families or in our lives. Indeed, God wants us to boldly go to Him and ask Him to do the impossible, for indeed God is the God of the impossible. Abraham, Goliath, 2 Chronicles 14, 1 Samuel 14.
- It's important to ask God to do the impossible, to move mountains, to change our lives, to do great things in our lives, our families, the lives of people around us, and in this church. Ephesians 3:20-21. Indeed, might God cause our faith to increase, and might we all have a Christ centered, Spirit empowered, God glorifying faith.