Although you believe in God, why is it hard to trust Him when facing life’s stresses? How can you have living faith?
[Gary] The man who came to Jesus Christ was suffering a parent’s most horrible nightmare. His mute son would go into violent convulsions and foam at the mouth. The disciples tried to heal the boy, but they couldn’t.
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:23-24 Mark 9:23-24 23 Jesus said to him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.
24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help you my unbelief.
American King James Version×).
You believe in God, but have you ever faced a personal loss so devastating, pain so deep, hopelessness so dark that you’ve suffered anxiety and doubt? Today, we’re going to discuss those times in life when we cry out “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”
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[Gary] You know where I find encouragement in the troubling times of life? From the stories of the people in this Book–the Bible. I think many of us are inspired by the examples of Abraham and Sarah trusting in God to give them a child when Sarah was well beyond child bearing age. We’re in awe of the apostle Paul spreading the gospel throughout the Roman Empire in spite of persecution, shipwreck, even fighting with wild animals in the arena. We admire David, the shepherd boy who would become king, standing up to the giant Goliath. The biblical stories seem to be about bigger-than-life-people with bigger-than-life-faith.
Then you consider your faith. You believe in God. You believe that this Bible is His inspired Word. But when you face your job difficulties, your bills, your marriage problems, your illnesses, your Goliaths, you are filled with doubt and anxiety. You find yourself crying out with tears, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”
Well today, we’re going to discuss three reasons why you may find it so hard to trust God when faced with anxiety, grief, the stresses of everyday life. Faith is so much more than just believing in God’s existence. Real faith transforms your life into a dynamic child of God. We’ll show you how you can experience dynamic living faith!
Now, the first difficulty we’ll be discussing in experiencing this dynamic faith is the “hero fallacy.” This is the belief that only the men and women of the Bible could experience dynamic faith because, I don’t know, they were somehow different than us. We think that they never suffered doubts or anxiety.
Let’s consider for a moment the example of Abraham, the “father of the faithful” as he is called in the Scripture, and his wife Sarah. God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child whose descendants would be in numbers like the sand of the sea. Months went by, the months stretched into years, and Sarah didn’t have a child. That’s when the couple decided that God expected them to come up with some kind of solution to the problem. They believed that they must have misunderstood God’s instructions.
And so, Abraham, the “father of the faithful” struggled with how God would fulfill those promises. Worry and doubt began to plague his faith. So, he and Sarah arranged for Abraham to be with Sarah’s maidservant Hagar who became the family’s surrogate mother. Abraham and Sarah thought this was the answer to God’s promise.
But you know, if you have read the Bible, you know that this is not what God had planned. Abraham and Sarah believed, but decided to take matters into their own hands when things didn’t seem to be working out. Abraham and Hagar produced a child named Ishmael. God eventually caused Sarah to miraculously become pregnant and Isaac was born. Now, the sons of Ishmael–many of today’s Arab peoples, and the sons of Isaac–which included the Jewish people, are still warring today in a family feud that originated with two people struggling with “I believe, help my unbelief” (Genesis 12-23).
A powerful example of faith in my life was my own dad. To me, his trust in God never seemed to waver in the face of financial difficulties, sickness or even the death of loved ones. But you know, I’ll never forget when one day he explained to me that there were going to be times–there were times in his life and there were going to be times in my life–when a situation seemed so hopeless; the feeling of God’s abandonment so devastating; that simply waiting for God would seem unbearable. I couldn’t believe that my dad, this great pillar of faith in my life, had moments of fear and doubt. Well, I have now lived long enough to know what he meant and have cried out to God on numerous occasions, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”
Like Abraham and Sarah, or the man who came to Jesus for the healing of his son, the people written about in this Book, they were just like you and me. They struggled with their faith. Just like you they didn’t always know how things were going to work out. In spite of their doubts and anxieties, they trusted God. In their weakness they grasped that God was greater than their weakness. You know what, the Almighty God is greater than your weakness.
Faith isn’t something you and I work up because one day we decide to believe in God. Faith is our response–your response, my response–to God’s stirring in our lives. He has to start the process. Dynamic living faith sometimes involves a struggle to trust in God when all of our human reasoning tells us to do something different. In fact, to grow in faith there are times when you have to ask God to increase your faith.
And this leads us to the second of the difficulties we face in having this dynamic, transforming faith that causes these “I believe, help my unbelief” moments.
We can lack faith because we don’t understand what it is.
I mean, how many Christians have been told that faith is simply accepting the existence of God and Jesus? Well what does the Bible teach?
Let’s look at here what the apostle James wrote: “You believe that there is one God.” Now what follows is one of the most sarcastic statements in the entire Bible. James says, You do well, you believe there is one God. And then he says: “Even the demons believe–and [they] tremble” (James 2:19 James 2:19You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
American King James Version×).
The apostle James–what he is teaching here is clear and powerful. If all faith requires is a simple acceptance of God’s existence then what makes Christians, I mean what really makes us different than Satan and the demons who know God exists? I mean they’ve been to His throne. They have seen Him in His glory.
The New Testament book of Hebrews has a lot to say about faith. Hebrews 11:6 Hebrews 11:6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
American King James Version×says this: “…without faith it is impossible to please Him”–speaking of God–”… for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Here we find the first steps in defining this dynamic, living faith.
First, looking what’s written here in Hebrews, you must first believe that God exists as a personal being. It’s not just some idea in your head. He’s not just some force. He is a personal being.
Second, you must believe that God is involved in your life, that His desire for you is good and that He will produce rewards in your life that will last for eternity.
But notice number three, you must diligently seek Him . Your relationship with God can’t be a passive acceptance of His existence without a motivating desire from the core of your being to discover who He really is and follow His instructions for life.
Let’s go back to the story of the man with the sick child who approached Jesus. He came to Jesus because he believed that God existed and was involved in the affairs of human beings. He was actually seeking God’s help to heal his suffering child. He wanted a reward.
But you know, when confronted with the enormity of Jesus’ statement, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” What did the man do? He cried out in tears, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” But notice, Jesus didn’t chastise this man for his weakness. In fact, it is when the man recognized his weakness that Jesus healed his son.
You can experience living faith in times of anxiety and doubt by actively seeking to know God, to know God and His purpose, His goodness, His wisdom, His sovereignty in your life. Dynamic faith is found on your knees in moments of hopelessness and despair, weakness and doubt. It is in these moments when everything else has failed that God actually becomes your reality.
Now to help you in your moments of doubt and weakness, we want to send you the free study guide You Can Have Living Faith . This study guide deals with the real issues of when it seems like God doesn’t answer and how can you grow in faith. You can read You Can Have Living Faith online at BeyondToday.tv . Or request your free copy to be sent to your home by calling: 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632.
Let’s face it; all of us face difficult moments when our faith response is, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Sometimes we struggle with living faith because of this hero fallacy. We see the people of the Bible as supermen and superwomen who never had moments of doubt and anxiety. At other times we struggle with faith because we don’t understand what it is. Living faith is more than belief in God’s existence. As we’ve shown, it involves trust, commitment, obedience and seeking God in those times of hopelessness and doubt.
Now this leads us to today’s third point: Sometimes we find it hard to trust God because we lack the experience of living faith in the small matters of daily life .
Now, okay, what do I mean this? What do I mean by lacking the experience of living faith in the small matters of daily life?
Well, all too often believers face the difficulties of faith like a boxer who knows he has a heavyweight bought in six weeks. He knows he should be training, but there are distractions and urgent concerns. He doesn’t worry too much because, well, there is plenty of time to train. So days go by, and weeks go by, and the day of the fight the boxer realizes to his own terror that you know, “I should have trained for that day.”
The Old Testament account of the young shepherd David confronting the brutal, physical giant named Goliath is one of the most popular biblical stories. Many young boys have wondered if they would have had the courage and faith to do what David did.
But you know there is something interesting in a conversation between David and King Saul just before David went out to confront Goliath. “Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are [but] a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.’”
Now let’s face it; David taking on Goliath seemed like folly. How could he hope to defeat a vicious, trained soldier, who by some accounts stood over nine feet tall?
“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing [that] he has defied the armies of the living God.’
“Moreover David said, ‘The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine’ ” (1 Samuel 17:33-27 1 Samuel 17:33-27
American King James Version×).
It has been said that David faced Goliath once, one time. Saul faced him a thousand times. Imagine the guilt, the anguish, Saul felt as he relived David’s victory over and over and thought, “It should have been me. I should have trusted God and I would be the hero.” Think of the times he must have bolted out of sleep in a cold sweat from the nightmare of hearing Goliath’s taunts and remembering his fear and lack of faith.
Saul couldn’t face Goliath because he lacked faith training. David’s faith had been strengthened by daily faith training. David learned to trust God by facing lions and bears long before he faced Goliath.
I guess all of us would like to be spiritual giant slayers, right? I’d like to think that I’d confidently rush into battle against every Goliath, wouldn’t you? Well the truth is, if we’re not focused every day on seeking to know God and exerting faith to walk His path in these “little things” of daily life, when you find yourself facing a Goliath it’s going to be one of those, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” moments.
When I find myself struggling with daily faith training, I have a prayer that I pray. I go to God in different ways but it is always these three points:
“Father, today help me to fulfill your purpose in my life. Today, help me to treat everyone I meet the way Jesus Christ would treat them. And today, help me to experience the fruits of your Spirit.”
Now, in this prayer I try to make faith applicable to the happenings of that day.
And God has answered this prayer many times but do you know how He answers it? Well, He gives me opportunities to follow His purpose when it seems like everyone else is going a different direction and I find myself having to swim upstream. He’s gives me opportunities to help someone whose actions or words make them difficult to tolerate. And I often find myself struggling in situations where I must exercise the fruits of His Spirit–“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
American King James Version×).
It’s a prayer that always gets answered. Now I have to admit, it is not always answered in the way that I would like. I find it is answered in the way that I need.
You see faith training requires doing. Earlier we read the verse where the apostle James wrote, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe…” (James 2:19 James 2:19You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
American King James Version×).
Now here’s what he says in some previous verses leading right up to that, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says [that] he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and [James says] I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:14-18 James 2:14-18 14 What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yes, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
American King James Version×).
James isn’t teaching that we can somehow earn salvation through works. Now what he is teaching is that faith without corresponding works is meaningless. In fact, claiming to have faith and not living by the actions of faith he calls “dead” faith. And James, he gives us the perfect example. A brother is hungry, we have plenty to share, but we declare our faith by telling him “be filled, God will take care of you” and we do nothing to help our brother. The brother stays hungry and our “faith” is worthless.
Do we have “dead faith” or are we living by real faith?
You know that there are four great enemies of living faith and you can learn how to combat these four destroyers in the free study guide: You Can Have Living Faith . This study guide answers questions like: why do we lack faith, what is the relationship between faith and works, and how do you live by faith among the faithless?
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We welcome Darris McNeely and Steve Myers to continue our discussion about what James calls “living faith.”
One of my favorite characters of the Bible is the apostle Peter in the New Testament. Here’s a man who is a great example of faith but the Bible also shows the times when he failed. There were times when he struggled and that’s the reason, one of the reasons why I like to read about him. I can relate to him because here is a man who struggled and yet God helped him, and God helped him succeed.
[Darris] One of my favorite examples of faith is the prophet Jeremiah, who prophesied against Judah and Israel for over 40 years before its fall. Jeremiah was a very faithful person to God and he actually wrestled with God at times and even got, in a sense, kind of angry with God I think. He said, I’m not even going to speak your name any more. He was thrown in prison. He was reviled by his own countrymen because of what he said would happen to the city. And at one point God said to him, Jeremiah, if you cannot run with the footmen, how are you going to run with the horses? And he has always been an example to me of some of the frustrations that you have to deal with but it’s an example of faith to even work through those frustrations.
[Gary] What are some of the obstacles that we face as human beings that keep us from having that dynamic living faith?
[Steve] I think sometimes remembering this belief that we have. It’s not just believing in God but it also entails believing God. Faith is having that absolute trust and confidence that what God says is so and He is powerful enough to make those things happen. And so sometimes it is personalizing the Word of God and realizing He is talking to me! He is talking to you! And so, I put in a bunch of scriptures together just kind of quickly and it is amazing how many there are that deal with the promises of God. And how encouraging and inspiring they are when we think about the fact that God is talking to me!
I mean one of the ones, probably the most famous scriptures in the Bible, John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever [should believe] in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” We know that passage, but often times we don’t realize that’s talking to me! It’s not that God just loved the world, but He loves you. He loves me. And so when I realize He gave His Son for me, does God love me? Does He care about me? Does He want the best for me? Can I gain some inspiration and encouragement from that passage? I mean, it’s amazing when you realize that’s God’s heart. And He does care about us and He wants to see that through. And that is inspiring. It’s wonderful and can we have faith in that? I think we certainly can.
[Darris] I think one of the greatest enemies of faith that I think people have is fear. Fear of, usually other people. Fear of not having people’s esteem, not having their affection, not having their approval where there is a parent, a friend, whatever it may be and we fear man. And God says don’t fear man. One of the key scriptures I think on this is really where Jesus said, “Don’t fear him who is able to kill the body. Fear Him who is able to kill both body and soul in Gehenna” (Matthew 10:28 Matthew 10:28And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
American King James Version×).
And what he’s talking about there is don’t be afraid of man. Fear me in a right way because that is the first step toward faith–the living faith that we’re talking about. And let’s not fear people, let’s not fear any aspect of a relationship with anyone else. Fear God first, have faith in God, people will take care of themselves in our relationships there will build and grow.
[Steve] One of the things that I think go hand in hand with fear is just uncertainty and doubt. Because they play off of each other and when we don’t take God for His Word, boy that uncertainty can get at you. I think of not long ago, I was taking a walk and this little dog started coming after me. It was constantly trying to bite at my heels and suddenly I am more worried about that dog than where I am heading. And I think, you know, that’s the way life’s trials are sometimes. They keep nipping at us and it gets us off our stride. And if we remember some of the things that God says, do we really believe it? Do we see what God’s intention is for us? So we can have that confidence. That is the heart of God speaking to us, that we don’t have to worry about those little dogs in life that are nipping at us. That when we have trust in God, He is going to lead us and we’re going to win!
[Gary] You know this is interesting, we are offering You Can Have Living Faith today and in one section here it talks about the enemies of faith and fear and doubt are two of the ones that are mentioned.
[Gary] Let me ask you Darris, someone comes to you and they are having one of those “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” moments. What information, what do you tell them? How do you help them in just that little bity introduction to how to deal with that? How do you do it?
[Darris] I let them know that the giants of faith that we look at in the Bible were first weak. There is a scripture, a wonderful scripture, in Hebrews 11–“the faith chapter,” that says that all those people, those examples, out of weakness they were made strong. Abraham was a liar before he was the father of the faithful. Sarah was a schemer. Moses struggled emotionally, he had anger problems and that kept him out of the Promised Land. Sampson was a jerk for most of the story we have about him before he finally mustered the courage and the faith that put him into the faith hall of fame. And so, remember that. It is out of our weakness that we then begin to grow toward faith and God makes us strong.
[Gary] Right. Someone said once, something so profound, “Faith is only as strong as what you have faith in.” So our faith, if it is in ourselves, we are going to fail. If our faith is in God how can we not succeed?
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“Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”
To experience dynamic, living faith first let go of this hero fallacy. The people of the Bible were just like you and me. They had moments of anxiety and doubt, but God was greater than their weakness. And remember, He is greater than your weakness.
Study the Bible to understand that faith is more than belief. It involves total commitment, trust and obedience to your Creator.
And learn to daily live by faith in the “little things” of life. This faith training will prepare you for the bigger opportunities of life.
I’ll be back right after this:
[Narrator] “You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for generations to come” (Exodus 31:13 Exodus 31:13Speak you also to the children of Israel, saying, Truly my sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am the LORD that does sanctify you.
American King James Version×).
The Sabbath is a key to the Kingdom of God. The New Testament book of Hebrews says, “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”
Jesus and His followers kept the Sabbath and they still do today. God commands us to pause and reflect on His way of life. Take a break from the fast paced action of this world. Experience a rejuvenation of the mind and grow closer to Him. Join us as we explore the Sabbath and show how it is a key to the Kingdom of God.
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[Gary] Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
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