HOW STRONG IS YOUR FAITH?
As the title of our sermon suggests we are going to be examining how strong our faith is in God. But, before we can determine this, there are some things that we must learn about faith. The first thing we need to learn about faith is where it comes from? Paul gives us the answer starting in,
Romans 10:13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."† 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?† 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!"† 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?"† 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. †
Based on what Paul has said, having faith means that you believe in something and† the only way that you can believe in God and be able to know what is involved in being saved is by hearing the Word of God. The Word of God is the foundation of our faith as Paul said in,
Romans 1:16 †For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
We are very fortunate today because we have the privilege of having† access to everything we need to know about having faith in God as Paul tells Timothy in,
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,† 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
This teaches that faith in God is not simply based upon a feeling or our imagination because our faith can and must be grounded in the Word of God. Unfortunately, there are many in the religious world today who do not understand this basic principle about faith and that is why you will find them talking about how they know they are close to God and how they know the things they are doing in their life and their worship must be ok because they feel that God is pleased with them. They use this way of thinking to justify any and every thing they practice in their life or in the worship to God, but friends this is not the kind of faith that God will be pleased with because it is not based upon his Word. I believe Jesus makes this clear in,
Matthew 7:21" Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.† 22 "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'† 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
As Paul says in Eph. 4:5 there is only 1 faith that is pleasing to God and that is an obedient faith to his Word and this the same kind of faith that the writer of Hebrews is talking about in,
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Notice, he only rewards those who diligently seek him, and as you read that entire chapter it gives example after example of those who had an obedient faith and followed Godís Word, and that is exactly what we must do today. One of the ways we can determine how strong our faith in God is can be based upon how well our poorly we follow his Word and how much trust we put in the Lord.
Another thing we learn about faith is some people have a weak faith while others have a strong faith and the Bible is full of examples of each. For instance, during Jesus ministry, His apostles had a weak faith sometimes, and Jesus pointed this out to them on several occasions. Lets look at one of those examples.
Matthew 8:23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.† 24 And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.† 25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!"† 26 But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
Now these men had been with Jesus and saw him work miracles, but it didnít stop them from having a weak faith. In this instance, they were afraid of the storm and Jesus rebukes them for having such a weak faith. The problem with having a weak faith is that person has not learned to trust in God all the way, and when your faith is weak you become vulnerable to worldly influences. But we all know that the his apostles didnít keep their weak faith because from the day of Pentecost to the end of their lives they became very strong in their faith, which led them to do great things for the cause of Christ.
We also have an example in the book of† Hebrews of† some Christians who were not growing in their faith. Notice as we read about them in,
Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.† 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.† 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. 6:1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,† 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
These Christians were not growing in their faith as they should. As the writer said, they should be teachers by now but instead they have not went beyond their basic understanding of God. This is great way for us to determine how strong our faith is. As you examine your life, do you find yourself satisfied with what you know about the Bible? Are you making any effort to learn more so that you may teach others? Friends I donít care how much you know about Godís Word, if you ever get to the point where you become satisfied with what you know and you are not trying to grow it is a sign of a weak faith and the longer you have this type of attitude the more danger you put your soul in, which leads us to our next point.
Why is it important to have a strong faith?
I believe everyone knows the answer to this question, even those of the world know that if you are going to be committed to what you believe in, you must have a strong faith. If you only kind of believe and only make a half hearted attempt at what you have put your faith in, then it not going to take much to break your faith in whatever it is you believe in. This same principle applies to our faith in God. If we do not commit ourselves to God all the way, then it is not going to take a great deal to move us from God. Peter tells us,
2 Peter 3:18† grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Again, we come right back to the source of our faith, the Word of God. If we do not spend time studying Godís Word and live by it, then it is going to make us easy prey for false teachers and worldly influence. We cannot expect to be strong in the faith if we donít have a clue what the Bible says about it. Now in Eph. 4, Paul teaches us about the importance of unity and how we must use our knowledge of God to remain strong in the faith. Notice what he says as we begin in,
Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,† 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,† 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;† 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
I want to stop here for just a second because Paul is letting these people know that when they have the unity of the faith, which I believe is referring to the fully revealed Word of God, these Christians should no longer be able to be deceived by every crazy man made doctrine that comes along because their faith will be grounded in the perfect Word of God. Notice what else he says,
†15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ --† 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.† 17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,† 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;† 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.† 20 But you have not so learned Christ,† 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:† 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, †23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,† 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
This is why it so important that we learn to be strong in the faith. The Word of God tells us to grow so that we can move beyond where we were in the past, so that we can keep our commitment to God and not be easily swayed to go back to our former life. The writer of Hebrew warns us what will happen if neglect our source of faith in,
Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.† 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,† 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, described in,
If we continue to be satisfied with half hearted faith we could find ourselves drifting from God as the passage said, how will escape if we neglect our God through a weak faith. On the flip side of this, when we work at having a stronger faith, our confidence level in our salvation will be higher because we will know that we have a living a faithful life unto God. Paul had this confidence in his life as he shared with the Philippian brethren,
Philippians 1:23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
As far I can tell from the scriptures, Paul never doubted his salvation because he was striving to be strong in the faith and not only did he have this confidence in himself he also had for all those who we faithful to the Lord. We can see this expressed in,
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.† 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Now that we have seen the importance of having a strong faith, I want talk about some reason why some Christians have problems in developing a strong a faith.
I would say the number 1 reason is because they didnít count the cost of discipleship. They hear this wonderful message about a God who loves them and wants them to be saved and that is about far as they want to go. They donít want be bothered with the details of what it means to be a faithful Christian. Since they donít invest their time in growing, itís not important to them and they could care less how things should be done.
Jesus talks about people like this who have not counted the cost of discipleship in,
Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.† 27 "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.† 28 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it --†† 29 "lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,† 30 "saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'† 31 "Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?† 32 "Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.† 33 "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
First of all, I want to point out that Jesus is not saying that we must hate our mother and father and so on to be his disciple in the way we think of this being used today, all he is saying all these verses is that you must put him first in your life above mother and above your farther. Your first responsibility should be to God. This shows us there can be a great cost involved in following Christ especially when it goes against a love one or means that we have to give up some worldly hobby or entertainment that we used to be involved in. It takes a great sacrifice in our personal life to be a follower of Christ and some are not willing to do this, so they never try to become strong in the faith.
Another reason some never grow is because of doubt. In their mind they want to believe the Word of God, but because of their own personal doubts they simply refuse to learn anymore. I wish people like this would take the time to investigate their doubt because I feel confident if they did, they would soon discover that their doubts are unwarranted and they could begin to grow.
Another reason some never grow is because of lack of trust in God. Some Christians want to be in full control of their lives and they donít want help from anyone including God. They only rely on God in desperate times when† they canít figure out away to take care of their problem themselves. Usually this type of Christian is very prideful and has not learned to turn their life over to God and because of their lack of trust in God their faith will be weak. Oh how wonderful it would be if they would learn to trust in the Lord as David declares in,†
Psalm 143:8 Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.
Of course there are many other factors the keep Christians from becoming strong in the faith, but until they are willing to make a commitment to serving God and studying his word they will remain weak in their faith.
For our last point this evening I want to ask you series of questions that will help you determine how strong you are in the faith.
1. Do you base your faith on gut feeling or do you base it upon the word of God? If you base your faith upon feelings instead of Godís Word then will make it possible for everything from A to Z to be acceptable to God as long as it feels right to. A strong faith that will be pleasing to God can only come from the Word of God.
2. How much time do you spend studying Godís Word during any given week? We need to remember the source of our faith is found in Godís Word. Everything we need to know about living a Christians life and being pleasing is found their and so it very important that we take time out of our busy lives to sit down and feed ourselves spiritually from the Word of God so that we can grow. If we neglect the Word of God our faith cannot be strong.
3. How often do you pray? If we only pray once a week or when we feel desperate can possible say that we are strong in the faith? Of course not. When we fail to pray to our God on regular basis we are showing a lack of trust and lack of love toward God. Even we donít think we† have something to pray for in our lives there is always someone to pray for and there always something that we can give thanks for on daily basis. So, if you have inactive prayer life again you cannot possible be strong in the faith.
4. Do you have the confidence that if you died right now that you would be saved? If you are strong in the faith then there should be no doubt of your salvation but if you hesitated or if said to yourself, ďI hope soĒ this is indication that your faith isnít as strong as it should be. You shouldnít have any doubts in your salvation just as Paul had no doubts in his salvation.
5. Do you have the courage to say no when your friend or your loved ones try to get you do something that is not Christian like? A person who have weak faith will go with the flow but a Christian with a strong faith will speak up and will not allow those around them to entice them to sin.
6. When Paul went around the country he taught them
Acts 26:20† that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.
The question is, are you willing to work for the Lord? Are you willing to participate in events that may win people to Christ? Are you willing to learn to teach? Are you willing to talk to others to about Christ? If we love God and we want to grow in our faith, then we need to trust in God and allow him to direct our path.
7. One finally question is do you attend the church services faithfully? A person who is strong in the faith will make it to †every Bible study and worship service that is possible for them because they love God and they love to learn as much as they can from his Word. They also love being around their brethren so they can encourage them and be encouraged by them. But a person who is weak in their faith wonít see the importance of faithful attendance even though we are commanded to forsake the assembling of the saints in Heb. 10:25.
There are more questions I could ask, but these are enough to give you a general idea of how strong your faith in God really is. If you have found that you are weak in your faith, I hope my lesson this evening has shown you the importance of having a strong faith, and how that faith is found within the Word of God and hope that you will make the necessary changes in your life so that you can be committed to following God. I think its important that we test ourselves from time to time to see if we are on the right track. Let us never forget to continue to grow in our faith in God on a daily basis.