The Defeat of Faith? Walking in the Hall of Fame of Faith Series #21
Dear Visionary Leader:
We can’t live the Christian life apart from faith, for the Bible says clearly and plainly that we live by faith. The just shall live by faith. Lord Jesus said, “According to your faith be it unto you.” The writer of Hebrews says, “Apart from faith it is impossible to please God.”
So, we need not only to possess faith; we need a faith that possesses us. But what happens sometimes when faith seems to fail? Sometimes we pray. Maybe we’re going to have an outdoor event and we say, “Lord, give us beautiful weather,” and the bottom of the sky falls out. Has that ever happened to you?
Sometimes you pray and you say, “Lord, I want to marry that man. Give him to me as a husband,” and he marries your best friend. You say, “Lord!” On a more serious note, sometimes we have a loved one who is sick, and we come to God and we say, “O God, heal my child. Lord, heal my wife. Heavenly Father, touch with Your healing hand,” and they don’t get better; they get worse. It seems like some greedy malady is just eating away at those that we love the best, and we see them wind down to the grave.
We have tried to believe, tried to trust and faith seems to fail. We’re ready just to throw in the towel, and say, “What’s the use? It’s not working.” Have you ever been there? There are times where the answer doesn’t come exactly as we think that it ought. Sometimes trials, temptations, tribulations, heartaches, tears, fears – they come, and faith doesn’t seem to remove them.
The main reason Chapter 11 of Hebrews is written is because there were some who were ready to throw in the towel and were walking or running away. There were some who were ready to hang it up. They had been serving the Lord and there was great persecution. Actually, to get a running start on Hebrews chapter 11 we need to go back to Hebrews chapter 10:36, for the writer there says, “For ye have need of patience that, after ye have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” We have to learn to endure.
In Hebrews 11: 32-40 we read, “And what shall I more say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; and of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets [now listen to this], Who, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had a trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment; They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented. Of whom the world was not worthy; they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and cave of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise.”
God said, “What do they get on their report card? A+.” How did they do it? By faith. Did they escape? No, they did not escape; they endured. Some escaped by faith, some endured by faith. All had faith, but sometimes it seems like faith seems to fail.
Many people have a superficial faith and a superstitious faith rather than a strong faith and a spiritual faith. So, if you’re about ready to throw in the towel, if you prayed for your child and your child didn’t get well and you’re ready to quit coming……And, by the way, we have people that come to church until the crisis comes, till the bottom falls out, and they quit. They don’t endure. They say, in effect, “It’s not working,” and so they quit. They have an immature faith, a superstition faith.
Message Continues In Visionary Coaching
Mature Faith Believes in the Supernatural Power of God
If God doesn’t do it, it is not because He cannot. Look again in verses 32 through 35: “And what shall I more say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; and of David also, and Samuel, and the prophets, Who, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women receive their dead raised to life again…”
Daniel in the lions’ den. Don’t you love the story of old Daniel? They said, “Daniel, don’t pray. We’ll throw you in the lions’ den.” He prayed anyway. They threw him in the lions’ den and God gave the lions lockjaw. And old Daniel pulls up a fluffy lion and fluffs him up and uses him for pillow, gets his Old Testament out, and begins to read between the lions. We love those stories.
We love the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar said said, “Bow down to the pagan idol or we’ll cast you in the fiery furnace.” The three men said, “We’re not going to worship your filthy idol.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace. They wouldn’t bow. They wouldn’t budge. But they wouldn’t burn. And the king looks in the fiery furnace. He said, “I thought we threw three guys in there. There are four in there, and the fourth is like the Son of God.” And Jesus walked through the fire them and they came out, the Bible says, without the smell of smoke in their clothes. What a mighty God they served!
What about David and Goliath? David slew Goliath. We’ve heard that story since we were children. Goliath over nine feet tall. The NBA would love to have him. Everybody else was afraid of Goliath, except young David. David was a young man. The Bible said he was fair and of a ruddy countenance. Everybody else thought that Goliath was too big to hit; David thought he was too big to miss. Everybody else was thinking look how much bigger Goliath is than we are. David was thinking look how much smaller Goliath is than God is. And God gave David the victory over this giant. Are God is able to deliver us!
We love the story in the New Testament of Simon Peter being cast into prison by wicked Herod. An angel comes in and leads him out of prison, and says, “Wake up, Simon, get dressed.” That is, we’re not sneaking out; we’re going out in first class. The doors open and he walks out of that prison, a great jail break. As a matter of fact, as you read the Bible, Simon Peter had more difficulty getting into a prayer meeting afterward than he had getting out of jail. We love those stories!
If you have walked with Jesus for a long time, every one of us have a story like that, where God miraculously, supernaturally, inexplicably worked in our heart and life. There is no way to explain it apart from God, and you say, “Praise God.” The supernatural power of God is available to us. Mature faith believes in the supernatural power of God. Don’t ever say that there is something God cannot do. God can do anything, except fail.
Mature Faith Bows to The Sovereign Purposes of God
There is God’s supernatural power, but also there is God’s sovereign purpose. Sometimes God’s ways are mysterious, but that doesn’t mean they’re weak.
In verse Hebrews 11:35–40 we read: “Women received their dead raised to life again, and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had a trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment; They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented. Of whom the world was not worthy; They wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise.”
We love the exciting victories, but sometimes they don’t seem to come. The Bible says, “And some were stoned…” Zechariah the prophet, ah, was stoned to death. Stephen was stoned. Some people may say, “He must not have been right with God.” No, he was filled with the Holy Ghost. Simon Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost. He got 3,000 souls. Stephen was filled with the Holy Ghost and got 3000 stones. Both of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.
In verse 37 we read, “that some were sawn in two.” Most likely this verse refers to Isaiah. Isaiah was put in a hollow tree, according to tradition, by king Hezekiah. King Hezekiah had the prophet that he hated put in a hollow tree and the hollow tree was then sawn down. He thought that would be a way to mock God’s prophet. Can you imagine being cut in two with a crosscut saw?
The Scripture also states, “…they wandered about in skins,” and so forth. The ancients used to make delight and fun out of torturing godly people. The early Christians were sometimes dressed in animal skins and then turned lose in the woods so the dogs would bay after them in the hunt. Sometimes they were fed to the lions. In Rome Christians were tortured in the Coliseum. In the Circus Maximus, where bloodthirsty crowds would sit up there and say, “Bring on the Christians! Bring on the Christians! And they would seal their fate with their lives.
Warren Wiersbe said, “You’d better not try to get your theology from circumstances. If you do, you’ll come to the conclusion that God doesn’t love you.” For example, John chapter 11:5, the Bible says, “…Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Lazarus gets sick and then he dies. In John chapter 11:14-15, we read, “And Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead, and I’m glad….”
Did you read that right? In verse 5 He loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus. In verses 14-15, it states “…Lazarus is dead, and I’m glad…” Now, friend, if you tried to reconcile those without knowing the whole story, you’d say, “Hey, there’s something very confusing here.” Yet, God had a greater plan for Lazarus.
God has not promised that we would not know difficulty. As a matter of fact, what He has promised is we will know ultimate victory. In Romans 8:35-37, we read, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
He doesn’t say you’re not going to have these things. Don’t get the idea that somehow these things happen to those who don’t love the Lord. No, these are things that happen to the victorious. He has promised never to leave us, never to forsake us, but He has not promised that we will never have difficulty.
If difficulty comes, you may be ready to quit. This happened to John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a great man. I suppose the greatest compliment ever given to a human being was paid by the Lord Jesus of John the Baptist. You know what Jesus said of John the Baptist? “…not a greater born of woman…” Pretty good compliment, right? Yet John the Baptist had a season of doubt. John the Baptist was perhaps ready to hang it up, ready to throw in the towel, ready to quit. Why is this?
John the Baptist had been out there by the River Jordan preaching. He had a rock for a pulpit and a babbling brook for a choir. He preached repentance. He called some of the people a bunch of rattlesnakes. He said, “Come to God,” and he’s pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s an outdoorsman. He was a rugged prophet, a man of God. However, he is taken and put in prison. Can you imagine John the Baptist now in prison? It will not be much longer before he is going to have his head taken off. Now he’s a man of God. He has been preaching a victorious Christ, a Christ whose winnowing fan was in his hand blowing away the chaff and burning it, baptizing with the Holy Ghost and with fire, a Messiah, and now he’s in prison.
No doubt he is wondering if He can heal the sick and raise the dead, and I’ve been true to Him, why can’t He get me out of prison? Thus, he asked a messenger, “Would you go ask Him if He’s really the Messiah or should we look for somebody else?” This is the one that Jesus said, “…not a greater among men than John the Baptist.” Never mistake the moment for the man. This wasn’t the whole story of John the Baptist. But he did have doubting season.
I want you to listen to what Jesus says to him. In John 11:4–6, “Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” In other words, “Now, John, let me tell you something. I can open blind eyes. I can unstop deaf ears. I can cleanse lepers. I can raise the dead. And, John, if I have not taken you out of prison, it’s not because I can’t. Now, John, don’t get offended at me.”
If you prayed and asked God to do a miracle for you and He’s not done it, it’s not because He can’t. It is not because He does not love you. We must not become offended. A wise man once said, “Faith is not receiving from God so much what we want as it is accepting from God what He gives or what He allows.” That is faith. Therefore, we need to have an “if not” clause in our faith.
We earlier highlighted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king says, “Look, if you don’t bow down to this image, you’re going to be cast into the fiery furnace. Now give me your answer.” Here’s the answer, in Daniel 3:16-18:
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve they gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.'”
Notice they had a settled faith. Their mind was already made up. They had a sure faith – “Our God is able.” But they also had a steadfast faith that, “Even if He doesn’t, even if we’re turned to bacon in that furnace, we’re not going to worship your idol. Our God is able, but we know that if He doesn’t, we’re still not going to worship your idol.”
Are you ready to quit just because God doesn’t do the thing that you ask Him to do? You’d better have an “if not” clause in your faith. It doesn’t mean that your faith is weak. It means that it is stronger than ever. “God, I know You’re able. But if You don’t do it, Lord, I’m going to serve You anyway. I’m not going to make bargains with You.” Sometimes we don’t understand why God does things. What I’m talking about is a mature faith bows to the sovereign purposes of God. Let me give you another example.
Wicked King Herod took James, put him in prison, and killed him. Everybody thought that was a good thing to do. So he took Simon Peter, put him in prison. Well, he’s going to kill Simon Peter, but God miraculously delivered him. I already told you the story how the jail gates just swung open and he walked out of there. Here is something for you to ponder: Herod takes James and puts him to death. Herod takes Peter and he’s delivered from prison. Was James wrong and Peter right? Did God love Peter more than He loved James? No. God has some sovereign purposes in life.
Are you willing to let God be God? Are you? Are you willing to have a “if not” clause in your faith? Are you willing to dwell among the “and others” if necessary? That’s not to diminish the supernatural power of God. You say, “Well, I want faith to escape.” I hope you have it, but if you don’t, do you have faith to endure? I want you to have faith to be healed, but if you don’t, do you have faith not to be healed and still serve God and praise God, and say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” I will serve You, no matter what. Habakkuk 3:17-18: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
Mature Faith Is Based on The Settled Promises of God
Every promise of God is yea and amen in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now notice Hebrews 11:39-40: “And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promises [that is, they haven’t received it as yet], God having provided something better for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”
Now what does that mean? God has such a wonderful plan, and God is working on that plan. This plan not only these Old Testament saints and these early Christians, but it includes all of us. One of these days God’s going to bring it all together and God is going to fulfill His promises to them and to us. God will keep His promise. God cannot lie. God cannot fail. These people had faith, and if they did not have the answer in their hand, they had it in their heart. They are basing their faith on the steadfast promises of God. That is, they had an eye to the future.
Sometimes we expect too much of life and not enough of God. We measure life by eat, drink, and be merry and then the Stock Market caves in and craters and some people jump off building, and so forth, because that’s where their faith was. Even the good things of this life are going to ultimately fail you, I don’t care what they are. You fall in love and get married. Sooner or later you may sit in an empty family room looking at pictures on the wall. Life is fickle. If you’re looking for everything in this life, you’re not going to find it. You need to rest on the great eternal promises of God. And if things go upside down on you and all of your money is lost, remember that’s not your greatest treasure anyway. If you never, ever become known and famous, it’s what God thinks about you that really counts. If you have a loved one in Jesus who dies, there’s a homecoming in heaven.
God has not forgotten His promises. God gave the land of Israel to Abraham and every grain of sand belongs there in the Holy Land to Abraham and his descendants. They don’t have it now, but they will. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Be meek today and see how much of it you get. We pray for our loved ones to be healed and they die. Was that prayer lost? No, it was heard. Those in heaven are whole; we are sick. They’re made like the Lord Jesus Christ.
You get in the average prayer meeting. What are we praying for? We’re praying for the sick more than we’re praying for lost, more interested in keeping the saints out of heaven than the lost out of hell. Jesus is praying, “Father, I pray for those whom thou hast given me, that they may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.” We’re the bride. He’s the bridegroom. Don’t you think the bridegroom wants the bride with him?
Paul said, “For me to die is gain…” We get things upside down sometimes. Sometimes people look around and they say, “Well, the church is failing. There’s scandal and there’s this and there’s that.” Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is not dead, and we’re not presiding over the funeral of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The promises of God are yea and amen.
John C. Hutchinson, Jr., in 1981 wrote:
Why I Follow Christ
I’ve not seen clearer statistical evidence that fewer Christians die of cancer than non-believers, or that they are immune in greater degree from the diseases that afflict the human race. Some of the kindest, most selfless persons I have known have had more than their share of bad health. The fact that they belong to Christ did not insulate them from disease. Therefore, I will not follow Christ for promised healing. I will not deny or dispute evidence of restoration of health. I will rejoice at every recovery from what seems to be hopeless threatened death. I will not hesitate to pray for recovered health for my loved ones and acquaintances. I will set no limits on what God may do, but I will not follow Christ for promised healing.
I see no sign that Christians escape disaster and accident more often than others. I’ve helped dear friends empty muddy water out of dresser drawers and new appliances after a disastrous flood. I remember as a child taking clothes to a widow with five children whose house had burned to the ground. A bullet makes no detour around the body of a believer. Therefore, I will not follow Christ for any promised protection from disaster. I will not scoff at amazing survivals nor deny that providence has and continues to work for the good of God’s own. I will continue to pray for protection from wicked men and tragedy, but I will not follow Christ for promised protection from accident or catastrophe.
I do not observe that Christians and especially are especially favored with prosperity like James. We’ve all seen the rich oppressing the poor and justice is rarely perfect in this world. The psalmist has said that he had not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread, and in the deepest needs of this life that is certainly true. But all of us have known people of integrity who have not prospered. Therefore, I will not follow Christ for promised freedom from physical want or hope of affluence.
I’m not sure the Christians have stronger personalities or fewer neurosis than non-believers. I do know that there is no bitterness like religious bitterness and no arrogance more insufferable. I have watch Christians suffer emotional and mental disabilities. And though it may seem heretical, I am not sure that I would really enjoy living in the same house with either the apostle Peter or Paul. God wills that the mind of Christ be formed in us, and there is no doubt in my mind that the Christian’s attitudes and actions will be improved by his Christianity, but I will not follow Christ for any promise of personality enhancement or perfection.
Why then follow Christ? Why become a disciple of Jesus when life may become more complicated as He so often warned? For one reason alone in Jesus we behold the face of God. He is the truth, the everlasting truth, God in the flesh. I know that in this, that in His life, death, and resurrection I am reconciled to God, the giver of life. I believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He has all power and goodness and I trust Him and His promises. To Him I offer my life, damaged or whole, brief or full of years, it matters not. He is the one certain thing in an uncertain world. He is to be worshipped not so something will happen to me or to the world – something already has happened to me and the world – but because He is God who through Christ has reconciled the world to Himself. He saves me. He is my justification.
He is the center that holds. To worship the God of our salvation, to offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, that alone is our vocation. We offer our lives to God, not so as to be healthy, wealthy, or wise; not even so to gain the strength to do great things for Him. We offer our lives to Him because He alone has claim upon us. God is not a means to an end.”
It may be that you’re asking of God what He never really intended for your faith. Real faith is to center your life on Almighty God. Mature faith believes in the supernatural power of God, the sovereign purposes of God, and the steadfast promises of God.
Until The Last Person Has Heard,
Dr. James. O. Davis
Global Church Network
Cochair / Global Networking