Real faith is more than belief. It is trust that God is active in your life—combined with your desire to follow His lead.
[Gary Petty] God doesn’t want you to just believe in His existence. He wants you to have a relationship with Him as a child does with a loving father. He wants you to trust Him.
Jesus taught that if you have as much faith as a little seed you could move mountains. Moved any mountains lately? Have you ever experienced a time of maybe terrible grief or a terrible illness and someone simply says to you, ”Well, you just need to have more faith.” You know what does it mean to have more faith? What does that mean? I mean what does faith look like? What does it feel like? What actions are involved? What is faith? Years ago I had a conversation with a man and I was really surprised. He was a man who was famous in his church area for being a man of great faith. And I’d always admired him as a man of great faith. And we’re talking and he says to me, ”I am having a terrible crisis of faith.” He said what had happened was his wife had become ill and it had begun to affect her mind and now he was losing her and he says, ”I don’t know how to handle this.” He had experienced many, many trials of faith. He never lost his faith in God. And he didn’t this time, but he said something to me I’ve never forgotten. He said, ”What I’ve realized as I go through this and I’m watching my wife just slowly fade away,” he says that, “there are times in life when here’s what faith comes down to. It comes down to you and God, and there are no solutions.” That’s what it comes down to.
Unfortunately, the word faith has become in Christian circles many times to simply mean belief. I believe in Jesus therefore I have faith. We know real living faith is more than belief. Faith is trust when there’s only you and God, and faith is only as real is the object in which you have faith in. I mean it’s not just some vague hope that things will get better. It is trust in God that He is actively doing something in your life and listen to this, He’s actively doing something in your life and you wish to follow even though you don’t know where He’s taking you.
Well things will get better. No, it’s not that. I will follow God even though I do not know where he is taking me, as my faith doesn’t just magically appear during great hardships. Faith is developed in us daily in our relationship with God. See authentic Christianity is living a faithful life day by day. What we’re going to do today is we’re going to explore three examples from the life of Jesus Christ where we learn about living faith. And these aren’t just abstract ideas. These are actual qualities that God wants to develop in us.
Now the first example of living faith is from a very strange incident in Jesus’s life. It’s from Matthew 15. The incident involves Jesus leaving Judea where he’d spent his ministry to go into a non-Jewish area just north of Judea that was centered around two bustling seaports, Tyre and Sidon. Now we do know from the gospel of Mark that people would come from Tyre and Sidon down to Galilee to actually hear Jesus taught or teach. So His message had gone up into that northern area even though He had never been there. And so what happens here is a woman comes to him. So He’s left Judea, He’s gone outside of his own country. And here’s what we know from Matthew. ”Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to him saying, ‘Have mercy on me, oh, Lord, son of David. My daughter is severely demon possessed.’ But He answered her not a word, and His disciples came and urged Him saying, ‘Send her away for she cries out after us.’”
Now, I want you to think about this a minute. I want you to think about how she feels. She comes to Jesus because she knows He’s the son of David. That’s very important. We’ll talk about that in a minute. But she comes to Him because He’s the rabbi that heals. He’s the one God works through, and she comes to Him and He doesn’t say a word. She’s begging. To make issues worse His disciples say, “She’s annoying us, get her away. She’s causing a scene. People are looking at us.” You know I read a couple of articles as I was preparing this program of different viewpoints on this story. And I found a couple written by people who were Christians who wrote what they got out of this story, and it was very difficult for the people wrote the articles, that Jesus was racist and sexist.
In fact one person who comes in through inclusion, this Canaanite woman was used by God to teach Jesus a lesson He needed to learn. Now there’s some important background we need to understand here in this story if we were going to understand what’s going on. The Canaanites were a people that even early in Israel’s history, God has said they were evil people. He condemned them as an evil people. You know the idea that God can judge people as evil, that seems sort of primitive doesn’t it? In our enlightened world, sort of barbaric. It’s time we get to know Jesus Christ because, on many occasions, Jesus taught that there’s going to be judgment of God on evil people. You know in all honesty, and I’ve said this numerous times on the program, many Christians don’t really know the Jesus of the Bible and therefore their faith is not based in God. They have this sort of vague feeling of faith but it’s not based in God because they don’t know what Jesus taught. This is dead faith.
To trust God is to understand that He possesses the right to judge us. Now let’s notice what happens next here. But He answered and said, this is what Jesus says to her now, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” And then she came and worshiped him, saying, “Lord, help me.” “I have not come for you.” Jesus explained that his primary mission at that time was to Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham. That’s why people look at this and say, “Whoa, He’s racist.” But understand, this is how God had determined to save the world. Jesus who’s son of God was going to come as a Jewish man from the house of David and he was going to die for all the sins of humanity. And if you look at all the messianic prophecies in the Old Testament they all point that when He came He was going to come to His family first, His physical family, you know. He was going to come to the Israelites first. He came to the Jews first and He tells her, that’s why I’m here.
Now later Jesus would tell His disciples, you’ve got to go tell the whole world about me. Okay? This was just the first step in this but the prophecy showed that. This Canaanite woman has a remarkable understanding of something. She understands Jesus’ mission. She called Him the son of David which is a messianic title and He says to her, “It’s not time for me to talk to you. It’s time for me to come to these people.” And here’s what she said, and she said, “Yes, Lord. Yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from the master’s table.” You see right before this He had told her I am not come to talk to you, you know, because I’m not coming to talk to the little dogs. Now, there have been a lot of attempts to make that statement oh well, He just meant little dogs like she was a pet. I don’t care what it is. When you call someone a dog, it’s insulting. Jesus said to her I haven’t come to you. I’ve come to these people and, you know, I haven’t come to the little dogs. And her answer is, “Yes, Lord, but even little dogs get crumbs.” You have to understand where she’s coming from. She understood that Jesus hadn’t come for her.
Jesus says to her, “Oh, woman, great is your faith, and let it be unto you as you desire.” And it says her daughter was healed at that very moment. She understood Jesus’ primary mission at that point. His mission is to go to the world but at that point it was not. It wasn’t to go to the people of Tyre and Sidon, but you know that didn’t deter her from trusting God. Yes I understand. I understand that, you know, it’s not my time, but God still takes care of me. God still will do something. You can still do something for me. You see her faith in God is very important. She is an important example. She’s in here for a reason, okay? She’s in here for a reason. This Canaanite woman, an outcast from an Israelite society, from Jewish society, showed that she understood her humility before God.
She understood where she was. Jesus is the son of God, the son of David. Without Him she knew she was worthless. She was lost. She understood her absolute need for God. In other words you can insult me because anything you say about me is true so I’m just here to worship you. And this is the first great lesson about faith. You and I must recognize our absolute spiritual poverty before God. We have no power. We have no life. We have no hope without God. Of the three lessons we’re going to talk about today, this is number one. Living faith is a product of being humble before God.
Now we are giving away a booklet, a study aid, that is very important and I encourage all of you that are watching to please get your free copy. Just call the number on your screen or go to beyondtoday.tv where you can download this. You can read it online. But there is, in the very first chapter here, the title of the chapter is “What is Faith?” What is faith? Because we have to understand that much of the understanding that people have about what faith is, what they believe it is, isn’t what the Bible says faith is. It’s more than just belief. It involves belief, but it’s more than that.
Now our next example is also a little different example in the life of Jesus. This involves a Roman Centurion. It’s from Luke 7. The story is about a Roman officer who had converted to Judaism and he was well-respected in the Jewish community. And one of his closest servants is ill and going to die. So he goes to the Jewish elders there in that community and he says, ”Would you please go to Jesus and have him heal my servant?” And so Jesus says sure and he heads off towards seeing him. Now this is very interesting too because you know for him as a rabbi, as a teacher, to go into the house of a Roman soldier, that just wasn’t done.
We pick up the story here at Luke 7, ”Then Jesus went with them, and when he was already not far from the house, the Centurion sent friends to him saying, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself. For I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not even think myself worthy to come to you, but say the word and my servant will be healed, for I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me and I say to one go, and he goes, and to another come, and he comes, and to my servant do this, and he does it.’”
You see that this Roman Centurion had the same humility as the Canaanite woman, but he also shows something else. He acknowledges, openly acknowledges, God’s authority over his life. You know we live in a world where too many people think something like, “Well you know, I have faith. I believe in God. I believe in Jesus and God loves me so God wants me to be happy, so he’s going to be okay if I live with my boyfriend and we’re not married.” That’s sort of the way people reason around what God wants in our lives. Trust in God, and I want you to really listen to this, trust in God is based in a dramatic lack of trust in yourself. When you accept Jesus Christ as your savior you see you no longer are owned by yourself. You are owned by God, and faith is ultimately based on submission and surrender to God because you believe in His goodness and His greatness and His wisdom and not your own. Because having faith in ourselves fails every time and that’s what a lot of faith is, is having faith in ourselves and people think that’s faith.
You know what this means,? It means we are required to obey God. If He has authority over our lives we are required. Our faith drives us. It motivates us to say, “Yes, Lord, what do you want?” And let me say this too, any Christian message about faith that doesn’t involve obedience to God, is not the faith taught by Jesus Christ. And eventually it’s a dead faith.
Let’s finish here, this story, ”And when Jesus heard these things, what the centurion had said, He marveled at him and turned around and said to the crowd that followed him, ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.’” And it says from that point on his servant was healed. Because of the Centurion’s faith he had confidence in the power and authority of God. You know confidence is a sense of assurance because you believe that God is going to work out things for your ultimate good.
Now I want you to think about that statement again. It’s you must believe that He’s going to work things out for your ultimate good. And that means you and I, and I don’t like this by the way, what I’m about to say, okay, I just admit. It means you and I don’t get to determine what our ultimate good is. “God, why don’t you do it my way?” You know and He says, “Because your way is not actually that good” “No, but I think it is. I really do believe my way is.” And maybe the rest of you don’t have that problem, and that’s nice, but I do. I always want to tell God, “No, no, no, no. Just do it this way.” Faith is okay, I may suffer, I may not understand, but I believe you’re doing what’s good for me.
You know to really experience this kind of assurance there is something you and I have to do in life that’s important to our development of faith. You and I have to disengage from the stress and the clutter and the activities of life. You and I have to spend time praying to God. He is the object of faith, right? He’s the object of faith. So you and I have to spend time praying to Him. You and I have to spend time in this Book right here, the scripture, letting Him talk to us. And in this daily time with God as our Father and Jesus Christ as our elder brother we begin to learn to trust, and that brings us to the second point. Living faith produces the confidence to submit to God.
So you see obedience is part of our Christian life. You know, faith plus nothing. You know, faith does something, it’s living. It’s powerful because of whom we have faith in. Not us, Him. It’s all God-centered and so much of the time our faith is us-centered, and then we can’t figure out why we fail. There’s a point where you get to realize we’re just not that strong.
Now our third example involves Jesus’ interaction with a family, and he was very close friends with this family. Jesus had a special relationship with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. And Lazarus got sick and when Jesus heard about it He delayed going to see His friend, and while He delayed, Lazarus died.
So let me pick up this story now and we’ll look at this one. Now, Martha, remember Jesus is coming into a scene here where people are grieving, people are gathered around the family, they’re grieving because a brother has died. Now, Martha was, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming went and met him. But Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” And Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” And Martha says to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection of the last day.” Now this is real important. She’s grieving. We’ve all lost loved ones. We know what that grief is. She’s hurting and yet she’s not focused entirely on that hurt and grief. She says, “I know he will rise in the resurrection.”
You see in spite of her pain she centered in on, “God promises me a future.” Jesus responds to her. Jesus says to her, “I am the resurrection and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” And she said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Christ, the son of God who is to come into the world.”
Yes, I do believe there is a future and I believe there’s a future because of who you are. When we have faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ you can have faith and hope in the future. You know hope is something there’s not a lot of in the world today. Hope is a positive expectation and living faith produces a positive expectation. I’ve known any God’s interaction in our life today because, you know, a lot of things don’t work out. Do they? Some things do, some things don’t. Life’s a mixed bag. But anticipation in His plan for your future. You know with this kind of positive expectation and hope we can face the difficulties of life, you know, they still hurt. It’s still troubling but we can weather them because it’s part of a spiritual journey. We know we’re on a journey and we can know that God is guiding us and God is helping us and God is giving us comfort and teaching us even in the darkest hours.
I heard something years ago. I lived in Texas at the time and we’re close to the coast and they’re always alligator stories. And this was on the news. And the story was about a little boy who was out playing by the water. An alligator come out and grabbed him by the leg and was dragging him out into the water. Because once they get you in the water, they drown, you know, and it’s very hard to get out of their grip. His mother had run up and grabbed me by the arms and the reporter described as tug of war. The mom’s screaming, the boy screaming, and the alligator is trying to bring him in the water. And finally the alligator let go. So the reporter said he went to the hospital to visit the boy, you know, and he said of course, you know, I can imagine because when I was a little boy I had been doing the same thing. “Look at the alligator bites on my legs, you know,” and he was showing him these big bite marks on his legs. And then the little boy said, “Now, look at these in my arms.” Bruise marks, terrible bruises. The boy says, “That was from mom.”
You see living faith is not God making sure you have no spiritual alligator attacks. That’s what this is. Living faith is you know God won’t let go of you. I’ll never forget that story because at the end, that’s what God is. He just won’t let go. We live in a negative world folks. This is an anxious society. You know what the cure for all this anxiety is? Faith in God. What are you going to have faith in? Political system? What do you have faith in? It’s faith in God. To be constantly negative means we forgotten and lost our faith. You’ve lost faith in God’s purpose for your life. We must seek God and trust that He is working out His good in our lives that has an ultimate future. Hope comes from consciously looking for God’s Hand in your life and spending time thinking about it, thinking about His promises and going to Him.
Third point, last point. Faith, living faith, produces hope in the future. Now in this study guide there’s an interesting little box in here on page 22 that I want to draw to your attention when you get your copy. It’s called enemies of faith, enemies of faith. And it lists four of them. Worry, fear, doubt, and you and reasoning without spiritual understanding. And let’s face it, all of us suffer from worry, fear, doubt, and we just reason ourselves out of what God wants us to do. That’s why you need to get this. Call the toll free number or go to beyondtoday.tv
So let’s recap what we’ve talked about here. The first lesson, living faith is a product of being humble before God. One of the great reasons there’s so little faith in today’s world is because, and that leads to a lot of empty religion, is because of a lack of humility before God. Churches are permeated with false concepts about who God really is. He is judged. How dare He slay the people of Sodom? Jesus is judged. He’s a racist. He’s a sexist. No, God judges us and living faith is a trusting God and it’s founded on the realization of our absolute spiritual poverty without Him. He is the creator. He is the sustainer. He is the only hope for eternal life, the only solution to the problems of our lives.
The second, living faith produces the confidence to submit to God. We can have a lot of different motivations for obeying God. You know, fear. We can obey God because we think we’re going to get rewards or that we feel we have no choice. You know our faith, this submitting to God doesn’t mean that we get grace from God because we’re good. We become good because of His grace, understand. And so to say, “I believe with no corresponding acceptance of God’s authority in your life is not saving faith at all, is not living faith at all.”
And then the last point, living faith produces hope in the future because we’re going to have despair and suffering and problems and it can be overwhelming.
In the example of Martha we see the power of hope in God’s promise future. Jesus told His disciples that He would go and prepare a place for you and, “I will come again and receive you to myself.” And so real faith involves the absolute belief in the return of Jesus Christ. It is the hope of the world. He will create without poverty, without war, without hatred. And that is our motivation for obedience. That is our motivation for obedience.
One last time, this is important. This explains what we’re talking about. Get your free copy. Go to beyondtoday.tv or call the number on your screen. God doesn’t want you to just believe in His existence. He wants you to have a relationship with Him as a child does with a loving father. He wants you to trust Him so that He will bring about His goodness in our lives even though we don’t understand it, even though we struggle, even though there are times when we feel like He’s not there, we’ve all done that. We have to admit it. In fact we all have to have those crises where there’s me and God and no solutions. And when we do the greatest blessing that He will bring into your life is that right now you will have living faith.
[Narrator] Call now for the booklet offered on today’s program, “You Can Have Living Faith.” Many Christians struggle with faith even after years of trying to follow Christ. What is missing? How can you grow in faith? This free study aid, “You Can Have Living Faith,” will help you discover just what faith is. You’ll use your Bible to strengthen your confidence in God and your dedication to Him and you will start to discover the many wonderful things that can happen in your life as a result. This easy-to-read booklet deals with the real issues we face like what to do when it seems like God doesn’t answer. It also shows you how to spot the enemies of faith in your daily life and how to combat them.
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