How Real Is Your Faith?

faithWe are all about trusting Jesus. We love to sing about how great is a our God. We nod in devoted agreement as our friend encourages us to, ‘keep believing.” And, we get squeamish when someone mentions how hard their family life is. More Faith!

We often associate faith with passionate prayers, faith healings, and moving choir solo’s. Those who trust do incredible and noticeable things for God. But according to the Scriptures that greatest displays of faith come during the normal moments of life. Those who are truly trusting in the sovereign rule of God are those who obey God regardless of their circumstances, who love others well, and who faithfully share the Words of God.

While Israel waited for their new king to appear, Samuel was living out the gospel. In 1 Samuel 9:15-27, we encounter one of those occasion where God peals back the edge of heaven to give us insight into his plans. He tells Samuel that Saul is coming his way by divine order. The lost donkey’s were no accident; they were a divine instrument of God designed to accomplish his will. God tells Samuel that his replacement is coming. And Samuel responds to God’s revelation with obedience, love, and proclamation.

51YR+MUIt2L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Though Saul’s inauguration would end Samuel’s political rule, crushing the Prophet’s hope for a family dynasty, he submits to God’s commands. Samuel obeys God and installs Saul as the King of Israel. Friends if we believe as A.W. Pink said, “that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that he is on the Throne of the universe, directing and working all things after the counsel of his will (Eph 1:11),” then we will obey God. We will attend church even if that means our son will go from starting point guard to professional bench warmer. We will tithe even if that means we can’t afford that new sports car or that vacation rental. We will share Christ even when our cousins and uncles mock us for being prudes. We will obey even when its costly because we understand that God reigns. We understand that God gives talent, money, and good friends.  Real faith produces unconditional obedience. Those who trust God will obey God even when obedience diverges from their feelings and appears costly.

Next, Samuel loved Saul. He prepared choice food for Saul and his servant. Samuel gave the soon-to-be troublesome king lodging. Samuel cares for Saul because he knew Saul arrived by God’s design. If we share the same knowledge, we will not see the wayward children, the cranky bosses, and the annoying church member sniffing a few rows behind us as divine aberrations that must be avoided at all cost. We will not seek to drive away unpleasant people. Rather, we will love them. We will speak well of them. We will encourage them. We will bring them meals. We will pray for them. We will invite them into our homes. We will love them.

Friends this is one of the greatest signs of true faith. If our heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh, we will love those who hurt our platforms, who disrupt our lives, and who set us on edge. Recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:43-44

  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Friends if we have faith, we will love our enemies. We will not attack those who attack us. We will love them because we realize God has placed them in our lives by his decree!

Lastly, we will share the Word of God. Samuel tells Saul all that the Lord has told him. If we trust in God, we will share his revealed Word with our friends and family. We will long to see the single-mom with the five loud kids come to faith. We will long to share the gospel with the guy who has a Mohawk, tattoos, and cutoff khaki shorts, and we will continue to share the gospel with our rebellious daughter who routinely mocks our faith. We will embrace the challenges that come with caring for a single-mom who will bring a life-time of financial struggles into our church. We will welcome the guy whose very presence will challenge our suit and tie sensibilities. And we will welcome our daughter back into our church even if that means people will talk and question our wisdom. Why? We do these things because we trust in God’s sovereignty. We trust that the gospel we hold is the same gospel that will give these and thousands of others hope. So, we preach the gospel accepting all the challenges that come with new converts.

Do we trust God? Do we obey God when obedience is convenient and inconvenient? Do we love the loveable and the unloveable? Do we share the Word of God? Do we have faith?

The Faith That Moves Mountains: Do You Have It?

faith-mountainsDo you have faith? Do you have life changing, mountain moving faith?

When Jan Crouch was twelve years old, her pet chicken was run over by a car. She and her friend prayed for the little bird in Jesus name, and the bird was resurrected. The famous teacher and healer, Benny Hinn, told people on October 19, 1999 that he would raise their loved ones from the dead if they would roll their loved ones’ caskets infront to a T.V.

The saga continues. Everywhere we go, we hear that our problems can be solved by having more faith. If we have the faith to move mountains, then we can be certain will we get our dream home, our spouse will return, and we will overcome our cancer. We can do all this and more if we have the mountain moving faith that Jesus talks about in Mark 11:20-25. Jesus told us in Mark 11:23 “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” This is an incredible faith. This is a faith we should all long to have. But if we do not have this great faith, this faith that can bring chickens back to life, we must ask, “how do we get it?

But before we answer that question, we must answer another more pressing question. What is our faith in? What are we to believe in? The text tells us in back in verse 22: “Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.” The object of our faith and the power behind this mountain moving faith is God. It is not us, but God.

Often we misunderstand this fundamental nature of faith. Instead of placing our faith in God and his work on the cross, we place our faith in ourselves. We trust in our ability to manipulate God. We think that great faith equals some sort of mental disposition often expressed through prayer that will force God to work. We trust in our ability to persuade God to give us a new home, an awesome spouse, or a miraculous healing. We view this great faith like the hit-bell game found at state fairs. We grab the black harmer of faith and slam it down on the metal platform sending the little ball flying upwards to the bell. If we do not hit the bell, we swing again and again. We may take a brief break to go to one of the religious conferences held in the main pavilion on positive thinking or prayer in an effort to exercise our faith muscles. Then we come back and start swinging until that metal balls finally zips upward with enough speed to ring the bell for the world to hear. We ultimately believe that if we have enough faith in ourselves to force God to work, he will work.

To put it another way, we keep putting quarter after quarter into the vending machine believing that our efforts will eventually cause the machine to give us an ice, cold Coke. In both instances, the object of our faith is not God. The object of our faith is our ability and our works.

But Christ is not talking about such man centered faith.  He is not talking about raising chickens or about showing revivals in mortuaries. The faith to move mountains is not based upon us and our works but upon Christ.

What does the faith to move mountains truly look like? What does trusting in Christ look like? Those who have the faith to move mountains believe God’s words are true and regularly forgive others.

The whole conversation about faith is set against the back drop of Jesus’ words coming true. Jesus curses a fig tree in Mark 11:14 and Peter remarks that the fig tree is dead in verse 21. The remark about Jesus’ word coming true causes Jesus to launch into a discourse on faith. Jesus is placing mountain moving faith within the context of his word coming true. Jesus is not promising us that we will get everything we selfishly desire (new car, dream home, great health, kind spouse, beautiful kids) if we have enough faith. This is not his point at all. He is saying that if we trust in him, his word will come true.

Given a predisposition to charismatic thought, we tend to think that claiming God’s Word can be still be a name-it and claim-it endeavor. We can claim our mountains and have faith in God that he will throw them into the Sea.

Again this is not what Jesus is telling his disciples. He is speaking hyperbolically. Though there is some debate about which mountain Jesus is referring, the text seems to indicate that he is speaking about the temple mount. He was walking into Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives. The temple mount would have clearly been in view. He is saying that the temple could be tossed into the sea if we have faith. Jesus is not speaking literally. Jesus could have tossed the temple mountain into the Sea. He created the world and sustains the world. All of nature obeys him (Col 1:16-18). Every bird, mountain, and star awaits his command. But Jesus never tossed any mountain into any sea or ocean during his lifetime. Jesus is not telling us to command literal mountains, illness, or people by faith.

Jesus is commanding us to trust his Word. He is saying that believing in his Word trumps the sacrificial system. The temple is no longer needed and can be cast into the sea because God reigns and lives. God’s Word comes true.

True faith consist in believing the words of God up to the point where we know they will come true. True faith is the porn addict trusting God for purity and receiving it. True faith is the worry wart trusting God for all her needs and receiving confidence in the character of God. True faith is the liar trusting Christ for the power to speak truth and becoming truthful. Truth faith that moves mountains results in men and women becoming more like Christ.

We can recover from cancer without Christ working miraculously. We can manipulate our spouse into coming home without Christ doing a work in our heart. And, we can get the promotion at work without faith in God’s sovereignty.

But we cannot grow in our faith without Christ. We cannot grow in our love without Christ. We cannot get victory over our pride without Christ. We cannot become new creatures without the help of Christ. True faith is a faith that trust Christ to makes us into his image. True faith is a faith based upon the work of God that is defined by a confidence that God’s Word will come true.

And true faith lacks doubt. The word to doubt in verse 23 meanings to weigh or measure. To doubt means we are still analyzing God’s Word comparing it to Dr. Phil, Buddha, humanism, and the spiritual advice of our coworker who is really into yoga these days. Doubting means we give God a chance, but we are not sure if his word will come true. We are not sure if God really can help us overcome our drug addiction and our poor money management skills. We doubt that God’s Word will come true. We doubt that the power to change, the power to move the mountains in our life rest in Christ. We doubt, we second guess, and we are quick to mix in all kinds of worldly ideas into our quest because we do not trust God.

We are not supposed to doubt. We are supposed to believe. And we believe on the finished work of Christ. The fig tree is dead. Christ died for our sins and is alive. His word has come true. We should believe it without doubting. And when we do, we have all that we ask. “It will be done for him.” Christ will accomplish his word. He will change us. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”(vs. 24).

He may not remove our cancer, but he will give us the patience to walk through the trial well. God make not change our spouse, but he will grow our love. Christ may not give us more money, but he will grow our contentment in him. He will do the impossible. He will makes us more into his image.

To have the faith that moves mountains is to have the faith that believes God’s Word will comes to pass.

But our faith will not have just a vertical dimension. True faith has a horizontal element; it effects how we interact with our friends and neighbors. Those who have the faith to move mountains are quick to forgive. Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (vs.25). The presence of the faith that moves mountains is not found in how many Chickens you bring back to life. The faith is evidence by Christ radically changing your life and in your radically choosing to forgive those who sin against you.

If you have the faith to move mountains, you will be quick to forgive others. When we forgive others, we are not saying we have not been hurt. We are not saying that harsh words, that infidelity, that betrayed trust, that stolen money, and dashed hopes do not hurt. We legitimately have been hurt. We have something against the one who has offended us.

Rather, we forgive in spite of the hurt because we desire to be right with God. We forgive because we have been forgiven much and because we desperately want God to continue to forgive us. We forgive because we realize that we (like the people who have sinned against us) our sinners. We realize that we are not morally superior than those who have hurt us. Like our enemies, we daily sin. We daily offend God and others. We daily need forgiveness. Those who have been redeemed understand this reality. They understand that their best thoughts and works apart from Christ are filthily rags. They understand that they are sinners who daily need and experience grace. And because God has forgiven them, they forgive others. They have seen God forgive them and radically change their lives. They know that God must continue to work in their hearts for them to have growth.

Thus, they forgive others because they daily need the grace of God.

Truth faith is not measured by the number of cancer patients we cure. The faith that moves mountains is not measured by our ability to attain money, health, or success. The faith that moves mountains is based upon Christ. This faith is a faith that believes that God’s Word will come true in our life. It is marked by spiritual mountains being moved and by us having forgiveness. This is the faith to move mountains.

Do you have it? Is God’s Word at work in your life and are you forgiving others?