There are a number of men in the Bible that God inspired the writers of scripture to point out as outstanding examples. They have some outstanding attributes that they personify, and certainly Abraham was one of these.
For those of you who were here last week, you will remember we covered the story of Abraham. In the Bible, Abraham is referred to as an example of faith, and you find that Abraham believed God and his belief translated into action. He did something. When God asked him to do something, he didn’t say, “Well, I believe,” and didn’t do anything. Whatever God asked him to do, he did it.
There are a number of men in the Bible that God inspired the writers of scripture to point out as outstanding examples. They have some outstanding attributes that they personify, and certainly Abraham was one of these.
Turn back to Romans 4:11 Romans 4:11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed to them also:
American King James Version× . We will begin to read here.
Romans 4:11-12 Romans 4:11-12 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed to them also:
12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
American King James Version×– And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised… so Abraham had faith when he was uncircumcised; he had faith when he was circumcised… that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
I want you to notice the expression here, “walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had.” Abraham set the example and we are told to walk in the steps of faith. He had faith. He set us an example. One of the principles you find in the Bible is, if you see a good example, follow it.And that’s true among us. If you see somebody in the congregation who is a good example, maybe in child rearing, maybe their marriage, maybe in dealing with their children, whatever it might be, those are the types of examples you should follow. Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” And so, we all become Abraham’s sons if we are Christ’s; then we are to walk in the same steps of faith. Our life is to be governed by faith, in other words.
In Romans 14:19 Romans 14:19Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things with which one may edify another.
American King James Version× we read again about the example here of Abraham, and…well, in this particular case, it is not specifically just him but the example of faith…let’s notice:
Romans 14:19 Romans 14:19Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things with which one may edify another.
American King James Version×– Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.
If you remember, the problem here was there were those who were judging one another about what they ate, what they didn’t eat, whether they were fasting or vegetarians or meat eaters or whatever; and in v. 17 , he says, The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy… so they were putting the emphasis on the wrong place.
V. 20-23 – Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense, for the man who eats thinking that it is wrong and he would be offended. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. So anything that we would do that would cause our brother to be offended, meaning to stumble or to be made weak, we should avoid that. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself… Now he had mentioned earlier that some did not have faith. There were some who would not eat meat and so, therefore, they just ate vegetables. There were others who felt that they could eat meat and didn’t have a problem with that, could drink wine while others felt they shouldn’t. So he is telling them, Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. We will come back to that and focus on it, but what do you approve? What is it, according to your conduct, how you live, how you treat others, that you feel is absolutely correct and you don’t condemn yourself because of the way you are living or the way you are acting or how you respond? Notice, But he who doubts is condemned if he eats… if you doubt and you eat, then you are sinning. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. If it is not from faith, it’s sin.
The word “doubt” here—it’s interesting in the Greek language—means “uncertainty.” When you doubt, you have uncertainty. It’s “to disbelieve, be at odds with oneself, to doubt or to waver.” You’re at odds with yourself. “Well, I think this is right but I don’t know if it’s right. Maybe it is and maybe it’s not.” And you waver back and forth and you’re not really sure if it’s right or if it’s wrong. And if you think it’s wrong and you go ahead and do it, then the Bible says, Whatever is not from faith is sin.
The Complete Word Study Dictionary says “doubt” means “to be at strife with oneself, to hesitate, and to waver.” So you are conflicted. You’re in strife. You don’t know which way you ought to go.
Doubt is one of the greatest destroyers of faith that there is. Doubt has to do with feeling unconvicted or uncertain about something, or thinking that something is unlikely. It’s a feeling of not believing or not being able to believe somebody or some thing, so you doubt them. Do we ever doubt God? Now that’s part of what we want to take a look at here. Do we doubt God? Do we doubt what He says, what He promises?
Let’s back up to v. 22 again. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. In other words, what you allow.
Most of us don’t have a problem with this, but occasionally we have someone who comes into the church who believes it’s wrong to eat meat; and if you were to invite them over to your house, you would not give them filet mignon, chicken, whatever it might be, because that would undermine their faith. If they didn’t believe in drinking, you wouldn’t bring the jug out and give everybody a glass of wine. You would just simply avoid it that evening. So, back at this time, the problem was, there were some condemned for eating meat and not fasting on certain days. Now, again, the word “condemn” means “to separate, distinguish, discriminate between good and evil.” You don’t condemn yourself. You don’t, let’s say, separate yourself in a wrong way. Let me read this whole definition: “to separate, to distinguish, to discriminate between good and evil; select, choose out the good.” In the New Testament it means “to judge, to form or give an opinion after separating and considering the particulars of a case.”
Just like a judge…a judge will sit there and he will listen to the case, to the prosecutor and the defense. He will judge all the facts and then he will come to the conclusion: guilty, not guilty. OK, what it is talking about is that we, as Christians, in what we allow ourselves to do—eat or drink, actions, whatever they might be—we evaluate, what does the Bible say? Right or wrong? And if we don’t know, if we have doubt, then we need to be careful. We need not to go against our conscience, but we do need to come to a conclusion, to a right conclusion.
It goes on to say: “to judge in one’s mind as to what is right and proper and expedient.” We need to be absolutely sure that what we allow ourselves to do is absolutely right. Let me illustrate. Again, I’ve given sermons on this, on how to keep the Sabbath. For some people, to read the headlines in a newspaper would be a sin. For others, it is not. It’s keeping up with world news. Others would not dare turn the TV on and watch a little bit of news going on, check the weather out. For them, that would be a sin. Their mind condemns them for doing that. For somebody else, it might be, “I can only listen to classical music on the Sabbath.” For others, it might be, they have some other [ choice ]. “I like nice quiet jazz,” or whatever it might be. So somebody else would listen to something else. That might offend one person, but another person it would not. So if you have faith, have it to yourself before God. There are certain things that the Bible doesn’t specifically condemn one way or the other; but we need to make sure that within our own minds, we’re not condemning ourselves, that we are not doubting, as it says here.
What happens, though, when we doubt a promise of God? When we doubt what God says? What happens when we doubt His law is the right way to live? You know, the Bible is very clear that there are certain principles you should apply in marriage. Now, if you don’t think those principles apply, then you doubt what God has given. What about child rearing? The same thing could be said when it comes to child rearing. To doubt if some action is right or wrong, is what it’s talking about.
Back here, they had a problem, also, with eating meats offered to idols. There were some who thought it was wrong to eat meats offered to idols. You see, what they would do sometimes, they would go and offer a sacrifice to a pagan god, and then part of that would be burned and part of it would be sold in the meat market. Now we’re not talking about offering pigs, you know, but what would be considered clean animals. And because it had been offered to an idol, somebody going to a meat market would ask the question, “Was this meat offered to an idol?” And if it was, they would feel guilty. Their conscience would condemn them. Others would say, “It’s only meat. The idol didn’t do anything. That’s a block of wood over there.” And so, they could eat it. But whatever you allow yourself to do, you need to make sure that you have looked at it and judged it in your own mind and come to a conclusion. Now, I’m not talking about trying to decide whether you should keep God’s law or not. The Sabbath is the Sabbath, and you can reason all around about the Sabbath; but God says to keep the Sabbath. And so there is no question there.
Notice what Christ said back here in Matthew 21:21 Matthew 21:21Jesus answered and said to them, Truly I say to you, If you have faith, and doubt not, you shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Be you removed, and be you cast into the sea; it shall be done.
American King James Version× .
Matthew 21:21 Matthew 21:21Jesus answered and said to them, Truly I say to you, If you have faith, and doubt not, you shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Be you removed, and be you cast into the sea; it shall be done.
American King James Version×– So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.”
Now, is Christ giving us liberty to think, “Well, I’ve got faith. I’m going to demonstrate my faith. I don’t like going over White Oak Mountain. White Oak Mountain, be gone!” Is that what He is saying to do? No. He’s not saying you should go out and be silly with what you do; but if we have faith, whatever we are faced with, whatever problems and difficulties, that we have faith that God will be able to do it. We don’t have uncertainty. We know that He will intervene on our behalf.
So how do you build faith up? How do you build it up so that it grows and expands and it gets more consistent and more sure. How do we build it up? How does it develop?
Let me give you very quickly three or four points and we’ll elaborate on these.1. It is a gift from God. God gives us faith.
Ephesians 2:8-9 Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
American King James Version×– For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God… So faith is a gift that God gives to us. And it is how we are saved… not of works, lest anyone should boast.
So it is by faith in God.
Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
American King James Version× tells us that it is a fruit of God’s Spirit. Remember, in Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
American King James Version× , But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…
The word “faithfulness” here is pistis, and it is the same word that is translated “faith” throughout the Bible. And it means “to be convicted, to believe in the truth; veracity, reality, faithfulness.” It can be translated either “faith” or “faithfulness,” and “faithfulness” means that you have convictions and you hold to them. You are faithful to what you believe.
Are we faithful to God’s way of life? To His calling, His plan? Do we have faith in it? You see, the two can be interchangeable. We have faith in God, and God expects us to be faithful to His calling, to His way of life. It is the faith of Jesus Christ that saves us—not our own faith. When we start out, we normally have our own faith, and we need to have that; but that’s not enough. We need to have, through God’s Spirit, the faith that comes from God.
So the first thing is that it’s a gift.2. We should ask for faith.
If you find yourself weak in faith, ask God to give you more faith. Beseech God. The Bible talks about how an individual just goes to God every day; and if you lack something, you pray. You are like the widow who goes to the judge; and because of her many intercessions, the judge finally grants her what she wants. Well, we go to God and we ask Him, “I lack faith. Help me. I need to have more faith.” And you go and you go and you go and you talk to God. It is a gift that God will give, and He will help you to grow in that faith.
You and I need to grow in faith. In other words, we need to build it up. I’ve already talked a little about that. We need to pray about it daily. You need to strengthen yourself in the inner man, and in 2 Thessalonians 1:3 2 Thessalonians 1:3We are bound to thank God always for you, brothers, as it is meet, because that your faith grows exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other abounds;
American King James Version× , notice here:
2 Thessalonians 1:3 2 Thessalonians 1:3We are bound to thank God always for you, brothers, as it is meet, because that your faith grows exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other abounds;
American King James Version×– We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other…
Are we known as a church, as a people, as a group, that our faith is growing? Is the United Church of God an organization that people can look at and they can say that our faith grows? That our reliance upon God develops and grows, that we are trusting God? So it should be growing. God gives it as a gift to start with, and it grows; and we ask God to help us to have that. Now, how does it grow?3. Faith comes through obedience.
It comes through obedience. The more you obey, the more faith you have. The less you obey, the more you pull back and hold back, the less [ faith you have ].
Hebrews 11:8 Hebrews 11:8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.
American King James Version×– By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
So how does it come through obedience? Ok, God told Abraham, “Leave your family, leave your country, go into the land of Canaan.” Now, what if he had just sat there and said, “Well, I don’t know. I’ve got a good business here. I’m well known. I’m established. My family is all here, my uncles, my aunts, people that I know. I don’t want to live in a tent and go out and live in the desert or out in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know anything about that.” And he could have reasoned himself astray. Would his faith have grown as a result of that? No, it would not. But when you trust God, when God says to do something such as keep the Sabbath, whatever it might be, you trust Him and you obey. Keep the holy days, save second tithe, you know, anything that God tells us to do, we obey that and we see that God blesses us and it works out. We do keep the Sabbath and God is able to work the situation out so that we don’t lose our job. That increases our faith. We trust God for healing; God heals us. And then, the next time we have even more faith to obey and to come to God and to trust Him.
So Abraham was the outstanding example in this. But it comes through obedience; and a lack of obedience, holding back, doubting, not being willing to step out and do what God says, that leads an individual to have a lack of faith.4. Faith develops through experience with God, through time .
Romans 5:1 Romans 5:1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
American King James Version× . We have the example here again of faith and how it’s produced. It says:
Romans 5:1-5 Romans 5:1-5 1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.
American King James Version×– Therefore, having been justified by faith… all of us are justified, made right with God by faith… we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations… so we go through tribulations… knowing that tribulation produces perseverance in us, so we persevere, we endure ; and perseverance develops character in us ; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Our experiences that we go through help us to develop character. What is character? It is knowing what is right and it is not just knowing it, but doing it, to the point that it becomes a habit. It becomes what we are; it becomes who we are. It is written in our heart. It becomes a part of us. So you find that our experiences help us to develop character.
What did we read last week about Abraham when he went through all of this period of time, over 25 years, waiting for a son? God finally gives him a son, and then He says, “Go sacrifice him.” So Abraham goes up, he gets the knife, he’s got him tied on the wood, he’s ready to do it. In his mind, he has killed him. He’s bringing the knife down, and God says, “Stop!” Well, he obeyed God to the point that God knew that he was willing to give up the most precious thing in his life, the thing that was the most dear to him.
What did God say about Abraham? “Now I know.” What is it that God is looking for in us? He wants to bring us to the place…we go through all these experiences, all these trials, all of our life, and the tests that we go through, and finally God needs to [ be able to ] say about us, “Now I know that he will put Me first. He will obey Me no matter what comes up.”
So our experiences help us to develop that character, and character is knowing what’s right and doing what’s right, which is, again, faith in action.
Much of what we call the “faith chapter,” Hebrews 11 , deals with some of the ancient patriarchs. It deals with Abraham and the qualities that he had that helped him to build faith. We need to be reminded of what faith means and come to understand it.
Hebrews 11:1 Hebrews 11:1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
American King James Version×– Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. So this is the definition of faith— the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
The word “substance” is an interesting word. It’s from hupostasis in the Greek. Hupo is a word meaning “under” and stasis means “to stand.” Something that stands under, that holds up, like a foundation. Moulton and Milligan in their writingsreport, “It is used as a legal term.” If you buy a house, you sign a deed, they do a search, nobody else owns that home. Nobody has liens against it. You’ve got a title. You pay it off. It’s your house. You have legal documentation that it belongs to you, that it’s your property. So hupostasis , and it talks about, it’s the substance. It’s what we have that’s proof that we’re going to receive what God promises, no matter what it is, that God will do it, that He will give us eternal life. He will give you a position in His Kingdom.
And then they go on to say, “Faith is the title deed,” another way of expressing it. “Faith is the title deed of things hoped for.” It is the title to what you hope for. I have faith, so therefore, I have it, you might say, in writing. I have the deed. I have it. It is a guarantee to us of the possession. It is the foundation of all of our actions. It is the foundation on which we build.
Christ said that a man who builds his house on a rock, it will stand. If you build it on sand, it will fall. So we need to make sure that our house, spiritually, is being built on Christ, on the Rock, and on faith. That’s the title deed, so to speak. And it is also the evidence of things. You will notice, it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen . There are a lot of things I haven’t seen, but yet, if you have faith, that’s the evidence that it exists. You know that it exists. It’s the evidence.
The word “evidence” means “an inner conviction about unseen things.” The word “evidence”is a word that means “a proof by which a thing is proved or tested,” that invisible things are proved and we are convinced of their reality, that they are real. It is the comprehension and understanding that there are ideas, that there are beings, that there are realities that we do not see with the human eye.
You see, science today basically says, “If we can’t see it, if we can’t prove it, taste it, smell it, feel it, whatever, with the five senses…,” then they don’t believe in it. And yet, we have faith. We have never seen God, and yet we believe. We’ve never seen an angel, and yet we believe there are millions of angels. I’ve never seen a cherub. I’ve never seen a seraphim. I’ve never seen the throne room of God. I’ve never looked at a law. I know they [ laws ] work, but I’ve never seen them. There are many, many things that the Bible talks about. There’s a whole dimension that we don’t see, that is not subject to the physical detections of smell, taste, feel. That is the realm that God lives in. And how do we know that it exists? Well, we can prove it. God gives us proof. He says, “Look up to the heavens.” We can prove that there are laws, a Designer, Creator, these types of things; but we’ve never seen it. Faith is the conviction that it is real and we know that it is real. And faith is what motivates us to obey.
V. 3 – By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
So we have faith that the original creation that God made, that it was made out of things not seen, and yet we see it.
Brethren, we see spiritual things through faith. God gives us a pair of glasses. He says, “Put these on. They’re faith.” And we are able to see things that we could not see before. We are able to believe things. Not hokey-pokey, but we’re able to believe in the spirit realm, the unseen things, because God has given us faith.
If you want a definition, in one sense, faith is “real” seeing. Human beings think physical senses and what you can see, that’s real. That’s real to them. But faith allows us to really see things and to understand things.
V. 4 – By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
So he had experience with God. You read through the whole chapter here—we’re not going to do that—but you find each one of the individuals pointed out here, God asked them to do something and they did it. They had faith and they obeyed. Abel based his whole life on what was going to happen 4,000 years in the future, because he offered up a sacrifice. Who told him to sacrifice? Who explained how to sacrifice? He realized that there was going to come in the future a Savior who would give His life, shed His blood; and so he looked forward to that. You and I look back to it. He had confidence in the future promises of God. You and I likewise have faith in the future promises of God.
We have faith in God’s protection. We have faith in the prophecies of the Bible. We have faith in the millennium, the white throne judgement, new heavens, new earth, eternal life, the resurrection, all of these things. We take these by faith; and when we lack faith, then we begin to stumble.
Now, do you know where our difficulty comes in? It’s not so much, “Yeah, I believe there’s going to be a resurrection because that’s off in the future. It’s not here yet.” Do you know where our difficulties come in? Living by faith daily. Living every day by faith, because that’s where the rubber meets the road. We have to live every day, do everything, and do it by faith, convinced that if God tells us there’s a way of life He wants us to live—and that’s what the Bible is all about—that it’s the right way and we’re going to live that way.
We realize as v. 6 says here, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
So we can’t please God without faith. And that’s why we need faith.
A lot of people only have partial faith. They believe there is a God, but they do not believe that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. You know, the expression “diligently seek Him” means to search out, to search Him out. Not to just sit back but to be active in the process. Faith leads to obedience. It leads to seeking God out or [ seeking ] God’s will in our life. If we have faith, we’re not going to sit back and think, “Well, I sure hope God doesn’t show me something else I need to do.” No! We stick our noses in the Bible and we study it. We go through it. We’re looking for God’s will. “What is it that God wants me to do? How can I obey Him more perfectly, more completely, totally?” And we seek to be obedient. As Jesus Christ said when He was here as the Son of God, “Not My will, but Your will be done,” talking of the Father.
Remember in James 2:19-20 James 2:19-20 19 You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
American King James Version×: You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
Do the demons obey God? They know what God says, what He taught. They lived that way for who knows how long, but they rebelled. They know there’s a God. They believe. So human beings, a lot of people walk around saying, “Yes, I believe there’s a God,” but do they believe that He is a rewarder? How does God know that you believe that He will reward you? Because you diligently seek Him out. You diligently seek after God, to please Him and to learn His way more perfectly. This whole Christian life is a process of digging into the word of God deeper, asking God to help you to understand it so that you can more clearly obey.
Faith is more than belief. It is trust. We trust God. Again, the word pistis , the Greek word for “faith”means simply this: “the character of one who can be relied upon.” We can rely upon God. God has told us what His character is. God is love. God is faithful. God is full of grace and mercy, forgiveness. So we know what His character is like. You can trust God. You can have confidence in someone; faithfulness, reliability.
You can rely upon God; but you know you cannot totally rely upon a man, can you? Why? Because men don’t always keep their word. Men forget. We don’t always have the power to do something. You go out of here and say, “I’ll meet you at your house this coming week on Wednesday at 6:00,” and at 5:00 you have a flat tire. At 5:30 your engine blows up. At 6:00 you’re sitting somewhere trying to buy a new car. Whatever might happen. Things change with human beings. But God’s character is always there. It is faithful, reliable. God is committed.
Dead faith doesn’t affect a person’s behavior nor does it develop trust. It’s just a dead faith. If I had a dead body…if we had a casket and there’s a dead body there, and we both come up and we look at that dead body and we say, “You know, there’s a dead body. I bet that dead body can set up the hall after we leave and turn out all the lights and lock the door.” That dead body is not going to do anything. It’s just dead. It’s just there. So it is with dead faith. It is inactive. It’s not doing anything. It’s dead, just like a dead person. So dead faith doesn’t affect behavior. It is living faith, faith that is alive, that does. We trust in God. We rely upon Him.
Now, let’s go back to Romans 4:19 Romans 4:19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:
American King James Version× .
Romans 4:19-21 Romans 4:19-21 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:
20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
American King James Version× – And not being weak in faith, talking about Abraham again , he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief , so he did not vacillate back and forth , but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God… Now, I want you to notice that you can be strengthened in faith, as I said earlier. You can grow in faith. You can have additional strength and power because of faith. You’re strengthened in faith… giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
God promised a son. He was going to be able to perform it. And so he [ Abraham ] believed that. So brethren, we should not waver. The word “waver” here is the same word as “doubt,” and it means “to be in strife with oneself, to be hesitant, to waver.” You see, you and I shouldn’t doubt, shouldn’t waver. We should be fully convinced.
James 1:2-5 James 1:2-5 2 My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraides not; and it shall be given him.
American King James Version×– My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. So our faith is tested, and it produces patience in us. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect, or mature completely, and complete, lacking nothing. So we go through our trials, we trust God, and we develop patience. Then we mature, and we lack nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom… now here’s something you might lack. You might lack wisdom.. .let him ask of God. I might put in there, if you lack faith, ask of God. So if you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
So here’s a promise. If you lack wisdom, go to God and ask God to give you wisdom. I ask God for wisdom every day because it’s something that all of us are confronted with. We need wisdom in how we live; and sometimes in the job of the ministry, you need a lot of wisdom in knowing how to advise and guide and direct people. But I want you to notice v. 6 :
V. 6-8 – But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, again the same word, no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. Now, we’ve all seen waves going back and forth, tossed to and fro . For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord… so if we’re going to go to God and ask Him, it’s got to be in faith, not doubting. ..he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
The word “double-minded” here means “pertaining to being uncertain about the truth” of something. You’re double-minded. “Well, it could be this, could be that,” and so you’re just not sure. He’s not certain about the truth of something. He’s double-minded; he’s doubting; he is a doubter. In a number of languages, doubt is expressed by means of idioms, such as “to have two thoughts,” or “to think only or to believe only a little,” or “to question one’s heart about” what you’re doing. Whatever we do, we need to have conviction and faith. If God says it or if you read it in the Bible, in the scriptures, we don’t question what God says. You just believe it and you do it.
James 4:8 James 4:8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
American King James Version× – Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. So again, the word being “double-minded.”
James 1 refers to the doubter as being one who wavers. Here it is talking about a person who has divided loyalties. On one hand, he wishes to maintain that “I’m religious. I’m doing what’s right.” And on the other hand, he’s got one foot in the world. So it says here, purify your hearts, you double-minded .
You know, too often we have not decided, we have not studied enough, the right and wrong of a situation. And in a case like that, it’s so easy to reason ourselves astray. Notice how it is described in Hebrews 5:12 Hebrews 5:12For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
American King James Version× :
Hebrews 5:12-14 Hebrews 5:12-14 12 For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
American King James Version×– For though by this time you ought to be teachers, and he is correcting them because here they were, still drinking the milk of the word. They should have come to the point in their spiritual development at this time where they were mature and they had grown and they could be teachers. …by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God… we need to be growing and developing… and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. Are we a teacher or are we a babe? But solid food… notice, solid food—meat, not just milk… belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use, by reason of practice or use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
You and I are to grow to the point where we can discern good and evil. “No, that’s not good. That’s wrong. That’s evil.” You know, there are some things that are not just clearly spelled out in the scriptures; and you have to determine, based upon principles, whether it’s right or whether it’s wrong. Years ago, Mr. Armstrong said this about smoking. In the Bible you won’t find where it says, “Thou shalt not smoke.” But yet, there are principles in the Bible about harming yourself and about the example you are setting, and we’ve come to realize, since he actually first made those judgments, that smoking is very harmful. It can cause cancer and all kinds of problems. So is it wrong? Is it bad? Well, as we grow spiritually and we have more of the mind of God and we see principles in the Bible, we are able to take a principle here and a principle there, and we can apply it to a situation and say, “Yes, that’s what I should do,” or “No, that’s what I should not do,” and live by it. Those are things that we can do, that we learn. So we have to, as it says here, have their senses exercised, through use, through practice; and that takes time, experience, and we grow, we develop… to discern both good and evil. And we should be able to say, “This is the way. This is what we should do. This is NOT what we should do.”
What undermines faith? Doubt does, wavering does, fear does, lack of obedience does, compromising does. All of these areas can weaken our faith. What builds our faith? What strengthens our faith? Well, it’s a gift from God through the Holy Spirit. The faith of Christ. We ask for it daily. God can increase our faith. Every time we obey, we show God that we believe and that we are willing to follow Him. We grow in faith.
The opposite is true of dead faith. Dead faith doesn’t do anything. It’s just there. It’s not able to do anything.
We have experience with God, like we have the example of Abraham. His life is laid out in front of us. Abraham was tried by God. So are we. We have to develop our character and endurance. And as Romans 10:17 Romans 10:17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
American King James Version× says:
So faith comes by hearing, by studying the word of God, hearing it expounded. Why? Well, again, John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
American King James Version× , Christ said His words are spirit and life. These words are spirit, they’re life. They give us life. They help us to have more of God’s Spirit.
God has called us to follow the example of Abraham when it comes to faith—not to doubt, but to believe. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:7 2 Corinthians 5:7(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
American King James Version× :
Do you know what the problem was with the Israelites and why they failed? They walked by sight and not by faith. That’s why. I mean, even after they saw all of the stupendous miracles being performed—the Red Sea being parted, the cloud. Forty years they walked; they had a pillar of cloud over them by day and a pillar of fire at night and manna every day. They saw these miracles. Their clothes did not wear out; their shoes did not wear out. Water coming out of rocks. You know, all of this was taking place. You would think, “Well, boy, they had faith.” No, they walked by sight; and as soon as something else came up that seemed to be bigger and greater, they crumbled.
You and I walk by faith. Faith is stronger than sight when it comes to obedience. Let me quote something to finish the sermon here from Baker’s Encyclopedia of the Bible that I found interesting, about faith.
Faith and faithfulness are logically and linguistically one in the Old Testament and the New Testament. That is, the major word for “faith” in both testaments also connotes the concept of “faithfulness.” So faith and faithfulness. This indicates that faith is more than momentary assent to the truth of God. Momentarily thinking, “Well, yes, I believe what God says.” It is commitment to that truth. In other words, what is truth? The Bible. And it manifests itself in continued obedience. Faith accepts the truth of God and manifests itself in continual obedience . It’s not a matter of a trial comes up and, “Boy, I hope I can work up faith. Oh boy, I wish I had enough faith. I’m going to start praying and studying now.” No, it is something that should continually be there, a continual obedience. And then they mention, Abraham’s life in this regard is instructive. He assented to, relied upon, and acted in conformity with the revealed word of God. He received God’s revelation as true, demonstrating faith. And his subsequent actions proved his faithfulness. He had faith and he was also faithful. He left home and country, settled in a strange land, offered up his son Isaac as God commanded. His willingness to sacrifice his only son is an unparalleled expression of faithfulness in the Old Testament. It is no surprise, therefore, that Abraham is commended for his steadfastness and is set forth in the New Testament as one whose behavior should be imitated by Christians. Faithfulness, then, must not be viewed as an isolated act. Rather, it is an attitude that should characterize the entire life of those who say they have faith in God.
Let me read that again. Faithfulness, then, must not be viewed as an isolated act. In other words, on our part. Occasionally something comes up and we say, “Boy, I handled that. I had faith.” Rather, it is an attitude… it’s an attitude we should have… that should characterize the entire life of those who say they have faith in God.
Brethren, God has called us to live a life of faith. Don’t forget Abraham and his example. Don’t forget the example of many others who were examples of faith. But he is the one who was selected and pointed out in the Bible by the writers of scripture and by God’s inspiration as a man of faith, and it is his steps of faith that we should follow.