… And 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 seek Him.
… All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb. 11:1-2, 6, 13-16; please read all of this chapter)
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.
…Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:7-12, 16-18; please read all of this chapter)
Dear saints, all those who have the Light of God shining in your hearts, and have beheld the glory of God shining in the face of His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Cor: 4), we thank our Heavenly Father for all of you in this momentous hour. And we exhort you all in love and in Christ to fix your eyes and hope squarely on the only Savior who has come into this world, and is able to preserve you until the time of His appearance. Hold on and hold fast my brethren, and grip ever tighter with all the strength and determination His grace provides, for the testing of our faith in this hour will either weaken it or make it stronger and more steadfast.
Now as we consider further the topic of faith, we propose that it is nothing more or less than fixing our eyes on the Faithful One – the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Faith is simply turning our attention to, or fixing our eyes on Jesus – the Way the Truth and the Life, the Author and Perfecter of Faith, the Beginning and the End of all the plans and purposes of the Most High God. We fix our attention on Him that we might, by the grace of the Father through the Holy Spirit, come to know Him and to follow Him wherever He goes. It is by faith alone that we enter most fully into His very life and experience as the All-holy and Almighty One who always pleases the Father in Heaven.
In this message, the Lord willing, I would like to examine this further, and consider why our faith might be so important to the Father. Please reflect on the passages listed above, if you have not done so already. I believe that it is essential in this hour that we truly comprehend these matters, as the days ahead may prove to be very unsettling to our place in this world; and our faith in our God and His Word, will largely determine our spiritual condition at His coming.
The first thing I would like to mention regarding faith is that it seems, by all indications, to be extremely important to our God. He takes it very personally, in other words, when we are willing to invest all that we are – past, present and future – in Him alone, and in all that He has communicated to us by His word. In Hebrews 11:7, we see that when a man steps out on God’s word in obedience and trust, it is accounted to him as nothing less than righteousness. It is pleasing and precious to God when we take Him solely on His word; when His word, standing on its own, is sufficient for us. For all that He is, and is doing, and will do, is bound up in the word that He has communicated to mankind through all of His various means and instruments. And by this word, we most definitely mean all that the Scriptures associate with it, including the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Word made flesh (see John 1).
Have we therefore settled on the fact the Lord our God cannot fail to do all that He has planned and communicated to us through His word? He alone is faithful, and the veracity of His word must never be challenged or questioned. The enemy is forever sowing seeds of doubt and confusion, but if the Lord has declared something, it is so. PERIOD! Although, in the course of our lives on this earth, we see many things with our eyes, hear many things with our ears, and touch much with our hands, we are not to live by any of this, but by –
EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD. (Matt. 4:4)
Now when the Lord communicates His Word, either through His Son, the Scripture, His messengers, or directly through the still small voice of the Spirit, it is often in diametric opposition to everything that our eyes and experience know to be so. We are to have absolute assurance that everything He has promised will be, but that assurance will by no means come through empirical evidence or the “things which are seen.” It is within this conflict between what the Lord says will be and what appears to be where our faith is tested and refined over time as we wait for His promises to be fulfilled. For not only does the Lord give us His word, but embodied in that is His expectation that we will be willing to wait for Him to perform it in entirety, precisely as He has declared. His Word is given, therefore, not just to communicate His plans and purposes, but to bind to Himself all those who will receive it by faith.
Notice how Austin-Sparks addresses the whole business of faith and experience in terms of times of trial and testing –
Now you see what happens. In the hour of temptation, God’s goodness is always impugned, and God’s truth is always brought into question, and all other tokens of His love, His veracity, are always obscured. The obvious answer to anybody alive and awake was, Oh no! look, look everywhere; everywhere there are evidences and tokens of God’s love: I have plenty of proof of the love of God if I like to contemplate it, if I like to sit down and think about it and weigh things up. But how many of you have ever done that in the hour of trial, and found your escape that way? Is it not true that, in the hour of trial, of temptation, of stress, of assault, all the blessings that have ever been are obscured? Somehow or other, a mist is spread over them, a fog bank, a smoke screen, and you only see your present adversity and the difficulty of the moment. You are obsessed with a question about God and His love and His faithfulness, His truth. I believe that this is why Jesus, in the final revelation, is called “Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11). It is the great title of triumph in man; the triumph in man over all this work of Satan which raises for ever and aye the question as to God’s love and God’s truth. (from, The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus)
Brethren, as we all know, it is a relatively simple thing to confess that you believe in God; It is quite another matter altogether to believe God, especially in the midst of trial and confusion; when His word seems to be at odds with reality. And most certainly, He must know that we will believe Him, and trust Him, not only in the isolated or high moments of our lives, but beyond that such that we will be willing to entrust Him with all that we are, and forsake all things in this world. We then will be prepared to wait however long it takes for Him to restore all things and to fulfill all things in His Beloved Son.
ASSURANCE! CONVICTION! HOPE! Did you notice these running through the passages above? Clearly, all of these are rooted solely in His word and all that He has determined for our future. Our faith must bring us to the place where we know that He is more than just God, but to the point where we trust Him to fulfill everything that He has said He will do. That He is faithful and true (Rev. 19:11). That He is a God who always and forever keeps His word. That His word cannot fail; that it will endure forever. That His word is sure and certain, and perfect in every way, flowing out of the very attributes of God that are the foundation of all we believe. That the same Word that breathed life into the physical universe, and created (from nothing) the very planet we are living on, and the environment that sustains us, will also bring forth every other promise that He has uttered.
Folks, I am sitting here now looking out the window on a clear morning, at trees, and grass and birds, and cars driving by. This is very real to me, as my eyes convey them to my experience. And because my eyes see these things, I have an assurance that they are real; that they are so. No one in fact needs to convince me otherwise because I trust what I see. In other words, I require no other witness to prove the veracity of what I see with my own eyes.
In similar fashion, the Bible speaks of a reality made available to us by faith; and it is a faith based on a word. But not just any word from any source. This is why we must believe that “He is” and that “He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Such faith in Him joins us to Him in a very personal and poignant way. It is our personal pledge to the Father who gave that which He loved the most so that we could even begin this life of faith. And I do believe He smiles down on us whenever we simply trust Him with child-like faith, and when He knows that we are ready and willing to live by His every word. In fact, He attributes this to us as righteousness, as something pleasing to Him. This is the point, dear Christian, where our faith moves beyond mere doctrine or religion. Here is where it becomes quite intimate and personal, and we make that vital connection with the Personality that created and sustains all life. For we have determined deep in our hearts (in the inner man) to trust Him unequivocally, to abide in His promises, to endure however long it takes for all of His promises to be fulfilled.
Indeed, the Lord of All Life must know that we will not equivocate, that our love for Him and our faith in Him is certain! He must test and refine this faith throughout our lives, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, as a means for us to come to know Him and revere Him, and abide in Him! He must know that our faith is resilient and steadfast; that though our experiences will often seem to contradict His Word and leave us perplexed and distressed, we will in fact hold fast to Him; that we will not leave Him nor forsake Him.
He must know that we have come to the place where all that we are is fully invested in eternity (for this is in fact our ultimate habitation); that we place little relative value on things which pass away, and have no real life in them. He must know that we are willing to endure hardship, confusion, perplexity, pain, loss, suffering, whatever it takes – and that such testing will not loose the bond of faith and love that binds us to Him.
He must know that we agree with Him in all things, and actively seek a reward that is out ahead, established under better promises, a “better country” offering an “eternal weight of glory” far beyond anything we could ever compare or imagine.
Now as easy as this is to write, I know that in our daily walk it is hard; so very hard it seems. And I don’t ever want to suggest it to be otherwise. I know that many of you are, at this very moment, being afflicted, perplexed, struck down and persecuted, and in many ways being brought to the end of yourselves; that your faith is undergoing tremendous trial and testing. I also have a prophetic sense that as the “birth pangs” (see Matthew 24; Romans 8:22) marking the end of this present age increase and become ever more numerous and convulsive, we will be tested even more.
Yet I also know that His grace is more than sufficient for us, and that from these broken vessels of clay, the power and majesty of the Living God can come forth as a testimony of His grace, glory and power to all with eyes to see.
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
It is nothing short of His grace and our faith in Him that keeps us from giving way to despair, abandonment, and ultimate destruction amidst such intense trials and the seeming contradiction of our circumstances with His promises. We must learn to look out farther than the moment, or our own lives even, for His plans and purposes encompass all the world, and the reconciliation of all things in Christ. It is a perfect plan from a perfect God and it cannot fail! He has declared it and invited us by His grace to share in its execution, fulfillment and enjoyment!
But we must be ready! Yes, we must be made ready! We must prove ourselves faithful and steadfast to Him! Our bond to Him cannot be broken! This is why, I believe, our faith is so important to our God. This is why He takes our faith in Him very personally! This is why all of the champions of faith in Hebrews 11 are preserved there forever in honor. They were all willing to leave all and lose all in the present life, such that they might enter into His promise of something better; out there ahead beyond the horizon. And it is so comforting to know that they were mere human beings – jars of clay – like you and I.
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:8)
Notice in this passage how faith in, and love for God are brought together. Clearly, we cannot go all the way with God in faith, regardless of what we are made to endure, unless we know Him, and love Him, and live by every word that He has breathed into this world. Note how James also suggests (in James 1:2-3) that the testing of our faith produces endurance, and that this endurance is considered blessed (see James 5:11 below) by God. Brethren, I am starting to see that the reason endurance is so highly esteemed by our Lord, is that it is the ultimate testament of our love for Him; that it reinforces over time the choice we have made to believe Him. And our willingness to endure with Him, and to be bruised and broken by Him (as He deems necessary), conveys to Him so much more than mere words or anything else that religion esteems. It affirms most genuinely that we truly do love Him and have joined with Him in all of His eternal plans and purposes.
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. (Jam. 5:7-11)
I may be mistaken here, but it appears to me that our Lord most definitely returns or reciprocates our faith in Him with His grace and mercy. As surely as He has imposed the hardship and trial, He will also supply the appropriate measure of grace, peace, wisdom and encouragement (whatever He knows we need really in order to endure and learn what must be learned). I must say that in my own personal experience recently, I am starting to see how wonderful this is, and I praise God for His kindness. I also know on another level that all things, including our faith, begins with His choice to claim us as His own. He will indeed complete all that which He has begun in our lives with Him, and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! Amen and Praise God for that.
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” (Matt. 4:4)
Dear brethren, the Holy Spirit seems to be emphasizing this need for a more fuller, life-sustaining faith for all of us in this hour – this sense that to go further and deeper into the life of the Lord requires so much more than anything we can naturally supply, or even anything that the Spirit has previously given. Clearly, the faith that is sufficient to come under the covering of blood, is not sufficient to withstand the rigors of the wilderness and entrance into the land. We can think of this as the faith that follows, after what Caleb said to Joshua at the end of his life –
I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart. “Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully. (Josh. 14:7-8)
The many melted with fear, but Caleb followed His God fully! I have been asking the Lord what makes a Caleb and a Joshua; what is this faith that follows? Consider the many times the Lord Himself enjoined the people to “follow me”. What did Caleb and Joshua see that all the others did not? Why did they alone see the challenges before them within the scope and shadow of their God when all others shrunk back, and did not trust their God to advance before them?
I have determined that, as yet, I am no Caleb – that much of my spiritual walk is still carried out in the soul, based on what I see and know from my experience. To live, to actually and fully live by every word of God, to receive it and be changed by it through this advancing and possessing faith, this is what I need. For – “… whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23).
Why? For all of the reasons we have mentioned and so much more. Because without this faith, the Word of God and the life of God cannot advance. His purpose is stifled, and the fullness of Christ is limited. Life comes forth from His Word; this is the first thing we see in Genesis and the Gospels – that His Word came into the world, that the Word was made flesh to fulfill His living and dynamic purpose. For us creatures, when we speak, our word is an expression of many things – our personality, our mood at the moment, our opinion perhaps. Yet for God, the Creator, His Word is an expression of His active power and volition – it is a thing that brings forth something so much more than His thoughts. It is an agent of life and change in demonstration of who He is as the Creator! His Word is life and we enter into this life through faith, by believing everything He says, and living by every word breathed into the world by God. Experience means nothing! Though every indication in this world is that He is false, it is a lie. If He has said it, it is so! Nothing else matters to those who will follow their God fully in faith!
Israel of old believed just enough to cover their doors with the blood of the Lamb and to remain inside their homes until the morning. Yet this must lead onward to a faith that follows outside and beyond, across the sea, through the wilderness, and into a land inhabited by giants. Faith, not will power or human courage or tenacity! Faith believes and follows, and allows reality to be defined by the Word of God and not what we see and know. It is faith made certain. It is the life and power and will of God made manifest in the actual by all those who trust Him and believe Him and place all of their confidence in Him. Our faith doesn’t change God, as some suggest, but rather it acknowledges all that He is already. It opens the door to a new reality where He alone presides over all things in His creation.
Oh Lord, we ask humbly for this faith; this faith that follows; this faith made certain; the faith required in this dark hour to trust You alone; to wait for You to fulfill all that You have spoken by Your Word. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.