Thursday, October 20, 2011

Maintaining Faith in Times of Trouble

What is Faith?
Hebrews 11:1-3: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of ‍things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by ‍the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of ‍things that are visible.

By defining faith (Gk. pistis) as “assurance” and “conviction,” the author indicates that biblical faith is not a vague hope grounded in imaginary, wishful thinking. Instead, faith is a settled confidence that something in the future—something that is not yet seen but has been promised by God—will actually come to pass because God will bring it about.

“Maintaining faith” assumes one has faith.

What constitutes saving faith?
Jesus told Nicodemus “You must be born again.”

Our natural birth is of the flesh the new birth is of the Spirit.

We are brought to faith by understanding certain facts:
1) All have sinned
2) The penalty for our sin is death
3) Jesus died to pay the penalty of our sin
4) Jesus calls us to come to salvation
5) Repentance should be our response
6) Jesus promises: All that ‍the Father gives me will come to me, and ‍whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

How can we know we have saving faith?
But to all who did receive him, ‍who believed in his name, ‍he gave the right ‍to become ‍children of God,
“For ‍God so loved ‍the world, ‍that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not ‍perish but have eternal life.” Remember the promise in 6) above.

Leon Morris can say, “Faith, for John, is an activity which takes men right out of themselves and makes them one with Christ.” He understands the Greek phrase πιστεύω εἰς to be a significant indication that New Testament faith is not just intellectual assent but includes a “moral element of personal trust.”
Saving faith causes the believer to be more aware than ever before of sin. A person who has such faith cannot sin and get away with it. The indwelling Holy Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness and judgement. Such conviction causes the believer to be uncomfortable with sin in their life as well as in the lives of others.
At the same time we still have all the bad memories and habits of the past that pull us away from faith. We also have an active enemy who works to make us ineffective in our faith.
The new birth gives us new resources that have to be used to be effective.

There is a definite change in the life of the believer beginning on the inside. The Holy Spirit begins his work in the believer.
“In him you also, when you heard ‍the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, ‍were sealed with the ‍promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is ‍the guarantee‍ of our ‍inheritance until ‍we acquire ‍possession of it, ‍to the praise of his glory.
We have the assurance of the Bible. John wrote: “but these are written so that you may ‍believe that Jesus is the Christ, ‍the Son of God, and that by believing ‍you may have life ‍in his name.”
We have weapons given by God. Read Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 and Hebrews 4:10. Weapons are only good if they are used.
The Bible is the source of faith. The Spirit works with the word to give us the ability to live a life of faith. “Let me ask you only this: ‍Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by ‍hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? ‍Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by‍ the flesh? 4 ‍Did you suffer‍ so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and ‍works miracles among you do so ‍by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as ‍Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
God gives us angels who minister to us. (Gen. 19:16; 28:12; 32:1, 2; Judg. 6:11; 13:3; Ps. 34:7; 91:11; 103:20, 21; Dan. 3:28; 6:22; 10:11 and Matt. 18:10) Peter was taken from prison by an angel. Phillip received directions from an angel. Cornelius was given precise instructions by an angel. Paul was given confidence by the words of an angel.
God gives us people to encourage us. In fact we are urged in scripture to encourage our fellow believers: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish ‍the idle, ‍encourage the fainthearted, ‍help the weak, ‍be patient with them all.”
Why Do Believers Have Trouble?
Jesus said we would: “I have said these things to you, that ‍in me you may have peace. ‍In the world you will have ‍tribulation. But ‍take heart; ‍I have overcome the world.”
Paul said: “all who desire to ‍live a godly life in Christ Jesus ‍will be persecuted,”
Everything in life serves a godly purpose. Romans 8:28 should be memorized: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together ‍for good, for ‍those who are called according to his purpose”
When a believer confronts trouble several things should be taken into consideration: 1) Everyone has problems; 2) Jesus has overcome the world; 3) All things work together for good; 4) We really deserve death and hell everything is uphill from there.
The Book of Job tells us about a man who got what he did not deserve. He was blameless and upright yet he lost everything including his wealth, health, children and the support of his wife. His friends failed him in his time of need. He understood that everything came to him from God and did not understand what he had done to bring this disaster on himself.
“Why me?” is a fairly common reaction when trouble comes to people of faith. Job had that reaction and expressed it in chapter 19 verses 1-24. However, he immediately spoke his faith in the face of his troubles in chapter 19 verses 25-27. At the same time he was overwhelmed by the troubles that came his way.
Job seems never to have known anything about spiritual warfare that was going on around him. He only knew that God is sovereign and though he resented God’s treatment of him he knew that God is just and will ultimately vindicate him.
His friends took the common, human, response. If Job would just identify his sin and repent of it then God would stop the suffering.
God does not take Job to task for all that he said, in fact, God calls his words “right” in chapter 42 verse 7.
How we React to Trouble Reflects on Our Maturity
In scripture we are told specifically how to react. Romans 5:1-5; 1 Peter 1:6-9 and James 1:2-4
James and Paul are both direct in urging rejoicing in trouble, or suffering.
Paul first shows that by faith we have peace with God, grace to stand and hope of the glory of God.
James, on the other hand, dives right in with “Count it all joy, my brothers.”
Both speak words of encouragement to those who are suffering. Paul lists the positive outcome of suffering: “we ‍rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering ‍produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and ‍hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love ‍has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Peter adds to Paul by saying that trials refine our faith like the furnace refines gold. He adds the concept that our faith is more precious than gold because gold will perish but our faith endures forever. Later Peter gives us assurance that God’s power grants us everything that pertains to life and godliness.
Joni Eareckson-Tada, who is a quadriplegic, was part of a Billy Graham Crusade many years ago. She sat in her wheelchair and told her story. If I remember correctly, she ended with these verses. “So we do not lose heart. ‍Though our outer self‍ is wasting away, ‍our inner self ‍is being renewed day by day. 17 For ‍this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 ‍as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
On a recent radio program she quoted from Colossians 3. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek ‍the things that are above, where Christ is, ‍seated at the right hand of God. 2 ‍Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For ‍you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ ‍who is your‍ life ‍appears, then you also will appear with him ‍in glory.”
We have a responsibility to:
1) Listen to God daily – remember where faith comes from.
2) Talk to God often – He is not offended by our talk (but the devil is).
3) Praise God for his grace and goodness and listen to godly music.
4) Fellowship with other believers – refuse to withdraw.
5) Tell others about our faith – even when we do not feel it.