Steps to a Deeper Faith Pt. 3

I’ve mentioned in the past how our convention’s purpose statement is “giving ourselves away for the kingdom of God.” This means we are to live our lives involved in kingdom work by serving others. In Matthew 14, we read the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. Now we generally focus on the miracle of how Jesus took a young child’s lunch and multiplied to feed everyone. But I also believe one of the keys to the story begins when the need is presented to the disciples. Jesus had just finished teaching everyone when He points out the people’s situation. They were hungry and needed to be fed.

The disciples were presented with a need. As overwhelming and impossible as it seemed, Jesus provided the means. When God reveals to us a need; whether it is the homeless people outside our church, the prostitute down the street or the kid sitting by themselves at lunchtime at your school, or even someone in our own congregation, how do you respond? According to Jesus, you meet it! And in doing so, He will give us the means; practically or otherwise to do it.

I think the hard part for us when it comes to giving ourselves, and that includes our stuff, away is we are like the rich young ruler Jesus met. He wanted to follow Jesus. He did all the right things and obeyed all the commands. But his only flaw (other than pride) was his attachment to his stuff. He couldn’t let that go at the request of Jesus. In the end, he walked away, no closer to heaven than before.

The early church was known for their charity. In Acts 2 we read that Christians were selling their excess and helping others. I know most of us don’t have a lot of excess, but how many of us have extra? How many of us are willing to give up some comfort for the kingdom? How many of us are willing to risk and get out of the boat and take a walk on the water. We are called to be counter-cultural, to live not like the world. And part of that is living in a way and doing things that are outside of what the world thinks.

One of the hardest things we are asked to do is to get out of our comfort zones. I mean, really, who likes to get their hands dirty, sleep in an uncomfortable environment or put our health and lives at risk? Doubt and uncertainty are often tools by which God uses to stretch our faith, to prove our faith as the Bible says.

To not risk is a lack of faith because we doubt God’s ability to follow through or accomplish something. Think about the times where you have felt the nudge to serve… what stopped you? Was it desire or was it doubt? Do we believe the Word of God which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me?” And this leads to the last tool God uses to expand our faith and that is how God uses circumstances in our lives to deepen our faith.

As I mentioned above, we like comfort. I know for me sleeping in other beds is hard because my bed fits me just right. That is why when we go on short trips, we bring our pillows… suffering isn’t something any of us look forward to, is it? But sometimes in life, things happen that rattle us and take us out of our comfort zones where we need to lean on God rather than on ourselves. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Consider it pure joy”? Really? Is James crazy? Like many of you, there have been times in my life when I questioned what was going on? Vertigo was my most recent struggle. Even after 5 weeks, I still periodically feel the effects of it. Why is this lasting so long? In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul shares about his struggles but in the end, God tells him, “My grace is sufficient for you.” You see, when we allow God to work, we discover that He is using these circumstances to challenge and transform us. It may have been something like failure, an illness or even a death. Regardless, my hope for us is as we face these kinds of circumstances, we would lean on God for our strength and by doing so, our faith in Him will grow.

Yes, there are things that happen in our lives that cause us to think, “I didn’t sign up for this”. When these things happen, we have two choices: we can turn away from God or we can lean on Him. Here is a statement some of you may take offense to: Jesus creates negative circumstances to give faith. Did that rock you a bit? God uses all circumstances including pain to change us. Let me show you from the Bible.

In John 9, there is a story of where the disciples and Jesus met a blind man. The disciples asked Jesus why he was in sense cursed with blindness. They tried to pin it on him or his parents. Jesus responded by saying, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” What? God caused this? Look at Later in chapter 11, we find the story of Lazarus. Jesus intentionally waited before going to see him. Strange as it may sound, it gave Lazarus time to die and in the end, for God to be glorified in the miracle that occurred. Afterwords, Jesus tells His disciples the reason this happened was so “they would believe.” Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I know we want to grow and one of God’s tools for that are things that come into our lives that purify and challenge us. We need to remember that God can take any circumstance and redeem it. So, when we find ourselves facing challenging circumstances, the reason may be for our growth and faith.

Deepening faith requires it to be challenged and tested. God will use His Word, other people, our service and difficult circumstances to refine and purify it. Our role is to trust Him through these things and allow His Spirit to bring the work He has begun in us to fruition (Philippians 1:6).


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