Faith: Next Step

Faith: Next Step

Last week, God took us back to the firm foundational basic of living by faith.  Faith is where our salvation began.  At some point, each one of us heard the good news about Jesus; His sinless life, death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, and His resurrection again to eternal life.  We chose to accept this truth and this salvation by faith alone.

After choosing to put our faith in what we heard, then we experienced the grace of God, the forgiveness of our sin, the weight of our shame and condemnation lifted, and so much more!

When it comes to God’s word coming to pass in our lives, it begins with our faith.  It begins with our faith, endures by our faith, is spoken and prophesied by our faith, manifests by our faith, and is freely given away to others by our faith.  It is all God at work in cooperation with us through our faith.

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Jesus is alive and well and still desires to seek and save the lost, fill them with the Holy Spirit, and cooperate with them to continue to do all of the works that He did in the flesh and even greater things!

As we saw last week, however, there is one thing that can stop these things from happening to the degree that God has planned and purposed them to; our faith.  Even Jesus, God, Himself in the flesh, could not do any miracles in His own hometown among His own family and friends for one reason:

Mark 6:5/Matthew 13:58

He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them because of their lack of faith.

It was not only the faith of those intended to receive miracles from Jesus, but also His own disciples ministering out in His name who had issues with their faith.  Right after the transfiguration, we find this account:

Matthew 17:14-20

14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

According to Jesus, it does not take much faith at all for the impossible to be possible for us.  The disciples discerned that it was a demon causing this boy’s seizures.  However, they could not drive it out. 

It was an issue of the faith of this boy’s father and also the little faith of the disciples that caused them to be unable to drive out that demon and bring healing to the boy’s life.  

The father cried out to Jesus, “I believe, but help my unbelief.” according to the same account recorded in Mark 9.

And again, this was one of the concerns that Jesus had about His return:

Luke 18:8

…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

Unfortunately, we don’t have to look very far in history beyond the death and resurrection of Jesus to see why He was concerned.  In fact, the very same day that He rose from the grave, He dealt with the issue of the lack of faith of His own disciples.  The very same people who lived and ministered with Jesus and were firsthand eyewitnesses of His power and authority still lacked faith in Him.

Mark 16:9-20

[The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20.]

9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

All of us need this rebuke from time to time.  When our doubt is running high and our faith is running low, we need each other to correct our perspectives.  When, like Abraham and Sarah, we begin to see only our facts and lose sight of God’s promises, we need each other to remind us of those promises and that the God who made them is faithful.

When we begin to look within our own abilities or resources to accomplish God’s word such as Sarah and Hagaar, we need each other to correct our thinking so that we continue walking in faith and not by sight.  So that we trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and do not begin to rely on our own understanding.

We need each other to build one another’s faith and to encourage each other to remain in it until every promise comes to pass in our lives.  Better than just having each other is that simple little phrase found in Mark 16 that God works with us.

Mark 16 also reminds us that God confirms His word with signs that accompany the preaching of it.  Anyone can read and memorize and quote words from the book of the Bible and remain completely unchanged.

It is faith that transforms these ancient words to what they truly are; now words that apply to our lives today.  Either historical accounts that we can draw principles and learn lessons from, or prophetic, living words that we can stand firmly upon and speak into our own and each other’s lives with high expectation that God will honor and fulfill it.

If we read the Bible just for the sake of reading the Bible, we’ve missed the entire point.  God has preserved His word and provided translations for us to understand so that we read and apply His word.  God’s word does not consist of ancient texts, but it is alive and active even as the Spirit who authored it is alive and active in each of our lives as is Jesus, the Living Word of God!

Faith comes first.  It is our faith in what God says that leads us to act in obedience to what He says that proves our trust in Him.  Faith first.  We speak God’s word in faith first, then the actions follow; signs, wonders, and miracles.

Lately, I’ve often pondered the thought of all of the promises of God that we’re waiting on.  Is it possible that we’re waiting on God and all the while, He is waiting on us?  More often than not, God did the miraculous as His people obediently did what He was calling them to do.

At the parting of the Red Sea, God’s people were trapped in an impossible situation and they faced death on every side.  The people were understandably distraught and panicked.  Moses told the people to stand still and to watch how the Lord will rescue them, that He would fight for them if they would just stay calm.  Moses had great faith in God’s ability, but he chose to just stand there and wait for God to destroy the Egyptians.

God asked Moses why they were just standing there crying out to Him.  God told Moses to tell the people to get moving!  He told Moses to raise His hand over the sea and to divide the waters.  When Moses did this, an angel moved to the rear of the people to protect them from the Egyptians until they crossed safely.  That angel twisted up the Egyptian’s chariot wheels and caused all kinds of confusion in their camp.

God’s people were waiting on Him to act and He was waiting on them to move!

What move is God waiting on you and I for?  What is the next step of faith that He is calling us into?  Our provision and salvation and healing and deliverance and whatever other promise of God we are waiting on could be that close.  Just one step of obedience taken by faith.

The woman with the issue of blood reaching out for the hem of Jesus’ garment for healing, behind healed of leprosy by washing seven times in the Jordan river, marching around the walls of Jericho for seven days to bring them crashing down, blowing trumpets and smashing jars to defeat a Midianite army, striking a rock with a staff to release a river of water to drink, throwing a bowl of salt into a well to fix the water, walking into a flooded river to cross on dry ground.

I could go on and on and on of all of the miracles found in the Bible that God did, but as people did something in faith in God and what He told them to do.  Faith and works go hand in hand.  You can’t have one without the other.  If we have faith in God, that faith will be proven and revealed by our actions.

James 2:14-26

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

A living faith at work exists as obedience done in trust.  Our faith is shown and revealed and proven genuine by our works.

So again, what move is God waiting on you and I for?  What is the next step of faith that He is calling us into?

Let’s take that next step and choose to walk obediently by faith and not be sight and become personal eyewitnesses of the miraculous power of our great God!  Then, we’ll have a testimony to share of God’s goodness and inspire others to take their next step as well!